Motorcycles are a lot of fun. They can also make for cheap and convenient transportation. I will try to describe a few easy steps to revive (salvage) most old motorcycles. You would not believe how many motorcycles are ridden for 5-10 years and then just parked in a shed or barn to rust. In my experience, I've been able to save about 80% of the old bikes I get, with about $25-$75 in parts and 3-6 hours of work. I've been given several old bikes because someone just wanted them out of the way. I've bought others for less than $250, and ridden them thousands of miles. Hopefully this instructable will give you the information you need to do the same.
NEW NOTE: The response to this instructable has been really good. I hope to do another one related to slightly more advanced/unusual issues related to saving old 2-wheelers. I've had a lot of good suggestions (Tires, exhaust,points, etc.) that I hope to include next go round. Thanks for your enthusiasm and your continued patience!!!
Step 1: Choosing Your Bike : Better Safe than Sorry!
First of all, any free bike is a good bike, even if you just use it for parts. When it comes to actually buying a fixer-upper, you need to check a few things before you lay your money down. The three things (put simply) that a bike needs to run are fuel, fire and compression. These suggestions are for when you purchase a non-running machine.
1. Is it all there? Many broken parts can be repaired easily and cheaply, but missing parts must (usually) be replaced. Pay special attention to gauges, side covers, carbs, sprockets, and brakes. Lots of these parts "walk away" while a bike is lying around unused.
2. Is the engine seized? A seized engine may or may not be a big deal. If you buy one with a seized engine, only pay scrap prices as the engine MAY (or may not) be ruined. I'll show in a later "Ible" how to deal with a seized engine.
3. Can you shift through the gears? Transmission work is no small undertaking (but not impossible) for the newbie!
4. Does it have compression? If you can kick it over (or crank it), check for compression.
5. Consider buying a semi-classic, as these machines are easiest to deal with when searching for replacement parts.