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How to Resurrect a '96 Ninja 500?

9654 Views 29 Replies 19 Participants Last post by  dirtha
Raj's Dilemma

Raj is facing what many newbies face; a percieved bargain. But is it?

This bike has a Kelly Blue Book value (average selling price, in perfect running order, at a dealership) of $2410. But this bike will need:

-Tires. Sure, there's lots of tread, and maybe the sidewalls aren't cracked, but you need to replace them. More than 5-6 years old=replace!

-Fluids. You need to replace them all. Dirty--even slightly dirty oil with 900 miles (assuming a break-in service)--motor oil has corrosive acids in it that break down internal surface parts and perform other mayhem. Brake fluid is no good after sitting two years, and I assume this is the original oil. Same with coolant and speedometer fluid.

Battery: It's a paperweight after two years, unless it was on a trickle charger.

Gas: you need to have the tank cleaned out and checked for rust. A good radiator shop can do this, but you need to drain the gas and dispose of it properly.

Clean and lube the chain, and all other lubrication points; lever pivots, brake caliper sliding pins, etc.

Title: Did he register it or register it Planned Non-Op (I don't know if that's just a California thing; it's $20 a year and it just keeps the bike on the books without legally registering it for use on public roads). If he just let the reg run our three years ago, you could be looking at $500 to register it.


Tires: $300 w/labor and tax

Service: $300 minimum

Battery: $40

Reg: $100-$500

We're looking at a grand plus whatever your friend wants. You can get a nice, clean, nice-running late-model EX500 for $2800-3500. He paid $6000 otd for the bike ten years ago; if he's like most first-owners, he'll squeal like a pig if you try to offer him KBB less refurbishment: $1500.

If he says OK to $1500, he is a friend doing you a nice favor. If not he's a greedy d%$# trying to take advantage of your newbie-ness (and you can't be a squid until you actually have a bike to ride!).

In any case, take the MSF course first and then make sure you fully understand what you are getting into with whatever bike you buy. The Ninja 500 is a great bike; that's a good choice.


Gabe Ets-Hokin

Senior Editor

[email protected]
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Re: Raj's Dilemma

Something else to consider is what this deal could do to your friendship is something goes wrong. I'm not saying don't do it, but make sure that you both understand your expectations before agreeing on anything. You can end up feeling betrayed by having a different idea of what you are agreeing to. I had a relative do some carpentry work for us, and, besides having to have it redone by someone more competent, I really don't care to talk to him anymore. I think he misrepresented his experience and ability to do the job. God knows what he thinks about our dissatisfaction--he wouldn't return our phone calls.
Re: Raj's Dilemma

Gabe hit the nail on the head here. His estimates are really the best case scenario, too. If soemthing went awry during storage, you could be looking at expensive repairs, as well.

I have ressurected a few older bikes, and problems like leaking seals or sticking rings from disuse are common.

I'm not trying to scare you off, but just go into this deal with your eyes open.
As a newbie you are facing a great chance to learn. Buy the bike, get a service manual (not the owners manual) get some good basic tools (don't buy that cheap Chinese/Indian crap). Then start taking things apart. Get those carbs off and clean them. The pilots, needles, mains and float bowls will need cleaning and adjusting. You won't have any idea what I'm talking about here but that is what the manual is for. The forks may work fine but there is a good chance the fork seals will have dried and will need replacing. The seals are inexpensive but replacing them is a right of passage. If the bike has an o-ring chain, throw is out and get a new one. If both sprockets are in good shape, keep them. If the front sprocket shows wear, replace them both.

Do all the usual service stuff yourself. If you don't know what that entails, read the recommended service intervals in the shop manual and get busy. Since the bike has been sitting for a while, get three cans of WD-40 and spray every nut and bolt on the bike before you start to remove anything. Have fun with the education. Compare this education with the price of three college credits. You will learn a lot more with this project than you would in any class.

If you just want to ride, go to a dealer, buy a bike with a warrantee and have fun. But the 500 is a great bike, is very reliable and should be fairly easy to put back on the road.

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Forget the learning experience offerered by getting an old non-functional motorcycle. Unless you enjoy frustration, tell your buddy that you will take a pass. Maybe there is a really good reason the bike has 1400 miles on it in ten years. One that you won't find out until you are elbow deep in grease, surrounded by a bunch of parts on the floor, and out a couple grand. Been there, done that. Bad way to start a riding career. I think Gabe's estimates are probably low, and is a best case scenario. It's likely the bike will need lots of work and money. Not worth the trouble unless it's a donor bike and you know what you are doing and how to do it. If you take a bike like that to a dealer, bust out the Vaseline and the checkbook. Just go buy a mechanically sound used bike, and learn how to ride. You can always bust your knuckles later, if you feel the need. Too many nice used bikes out there to buy to take a chance on that one.
Re: Raj's Dilemma

Well said!

Being a habitual bike buyer/seller, I have a comment on the price.

I am not sure about other places, but EX500's go for more money than KBB in the Northeast. The registration and tax are always on top of KBB, so you can't really deduct this to get to a fair price. Plus, the average used bike is not really in top condition either and there is always something that needs changing. I believe that $1800-2000 would be fair. Fix it up, ride it until spring, sell for $2000.

Used EX500's are simply an awsome way to ride somewhat decent bike on the cheap.
Re: Raj's Dilemma

Don't forget a probable carb-cleaning: if there was gas in the carbs, it won't be a pretty sight.
Ok. The first thing you do is punch your friend in the face.

Then, take your remainig money and find a good, clean, used example of this same bike.

Take the MSF course and you're done.
I've done the buying an old stored bike thing before and I don't recommend it at all. I've encountered rings rusted to the cylinder walls in bikes that haven't been run in a few years, leaky seals, etc. Some guys like mscuddy are gluttons for punishment and do this sort of thing regularly, but unless you have lots of tools, resources and experience I can pretty much guarantee you'll end up spending far more $ than you would by finding a decent low miles 500 that's still running.

I've encountered rings rusted to the cylkinder walls in bikes that haven't been run in a few years, leaky seals, etc.

If you want to try it I wouldn't give more than $500-600 for it. That way you won't be out so much if the project fails.

Your buddy really should have ridden the bike every once in a while. Too bad for him he let it go to seed like that.

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Gabe, speaking of old bikes, when can we expect the next installment on resurrecting your old Honda cafe bike?
You ever encounter rings rusted to the cylinder walls?
We don't need no stinking proofreading!

Get that Duck GT yet?

are we not men for gods sake? Dude, before you do anything remove the float bowls and get all the dried up gas gunk out. then drain the gas tank and put in fresh gas. Then jumpstart that pig off your `68 El Camino and if it starts and runs good u just got a great deal. Change the oil if it fires and runs. You won't know until you fire the thing up will you?

Probly fine.
Pushing it off a cliff solves the problem much faster.
I'm in FL right now so I'm a safe 2000 miles from the San Diego Ducati dealer.

The two they had in were already sold so I might head back down when they have one I can ride.

Those Brutales sure are pretty.
Fl? Did you fleece KP's grandparents?
I'm a vintage racer so Im prejuduced here,but the answers simple......if you are reasonably mechanically inclined and you can get the bike appreciably less than blue book;buy it. If your plan is to buy it and tow it to a dealer to get it straight ,bend over and drop your skivvies...its gonna hurt. Gabe's summary plus the requirement to clean the carbs is pretty accurate....except mounting tires its all work easily done by a novice with basic tools;well you can mount the tires too,but its not my favorite job....Im to the point I only do it when absolutely necessary
If going JB's route, take out the plugs and spray some mystery oil into the cylinders the day before. Clean the carbs and your ready to see what you have. If there is air in the tires you should be able to bump start it from there. It will smoke for a while but should be ok, if not leave it where you found it.
And as a result my hands look like those of a chain-smoking 75 year old Skoda mechanic...

But hey, it keeps me out of trouble...can I intrest you in a basket case ACE 90?

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