When an old bike has been sitting around unridden for a while, it’s a good idea to take a methodical approach to getting it running again.
Here are the steps you should take so that you won’t have to be afraid of what will go wrong when you take that first ride on your resurrected machine.
1. Tires. You need new ones. Even if they were new when the bike was parked, they are likely to have a flat spot from sitting or cracked rubber from aging. While the wheels are off getting new tires, check the wheel bearings. Do they need grease? Should they be replaced?
2. Brakes. Before you change the brake fluid, check to see if the front caliper works. If corrosion has seized the caliper or fluid is leaking, you might as well rebuild the system before putting in new fluid. Also, check the brake line for cracking and examine fittings for leaks. Now might be a good time to upgrade to a braided steel line and new pads. If you have a rear drum brake, make sure the linkage is operating the brake smoothly and the shoe is not worn out.
3. Suspension. Fork oil is the forgotten fluid. Change it if you don’t know its age. Oily residue on the fork sliders means leaky seals that need to be replaced. To keep the budget under control, you may be able to keep the same fork springs and rear shocks, if they’re not sacked and the shocks aren’t leaking.
4. Controls. Lube and check the cables for fraying or sticking.
5. Fuel system. Drain the tank and look inside for corrosion. If you see rust, you’ll have to treat the inside of the tank to keep it from getting into your carbs. Don’t immediately fill the tank to the brim. Put a little gas in and make sure the petcock flows fuel and turns easily. Replace the fuel line if it shows any signs of cracking or damage.
6. Engine. That old gas probably gummed up your carbs. Remove and clean them with carb cleaner, making sure the small orifices in the jets aren’t clogged. Check the rubber parts in the carbs to ensure they aren’t cracked. Be sure the floats move freely. Also, check the air filter. Better yet, install a new one.
After you change the oil and filter, try to spread some of that fresh, clean oil throughout the engine before starting the bike for the first time. You can remove the plugs and spray a small amount of oil in the cylinders to help the process. Then cover the plug openings with a rag, so oil doesn’t spray out, and, with a new battery installed, turn over the engine a few times to circulate oil through the motor. This also lets you check that the pistons are moving freely.