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In this multi-part series, we’ll show you how get a bike back to a rideable state on a limited budget

We’ve all eyed off a bike that needs a bit of work; whether it’s your own bike that’s been damaged, a bike that’s been stored for a long period of time, or even a bargain bike that you wish you could procure for a project but felt you didn’t have the know-how to overcome its state of disrepair. Here, we picked up a BMW R 1150 GS that was involved in a crash three years ago and, after initial and unsuccessful attempts to repair it, has been sitting under a tarp in the owner’s back yard.

If you are acquiring a bike in a similar situation there are a few things to confirm before agreeing to take the bike. Firstly, is the bike a statutory write-off? If it is you will not be able to re-register the bike, so give it a miss. You should also eyeball some paperwork to confirm you are not receiving stolen goods.

Having established the BMW was neither of those, we loaded it onto a trailer and headed for the shed.

Decide on the required outcome and a budget before spending money on a long parts list. You’ll need to confirm the bike is salvageable and no major components need replacing. Our aim is to end up with an old school adventure bike that owes us as little as possible, without compromising safety or reliability.


The fuel tank is half full of what will be contaminated or well out of date fuel, so we will drain it completely for proper disposal


Now we can remove the petrol tank mounting bolts and disconnect the electrical connector to remove the tank from the bike, placing it on a soft surface to protect the paint


Blow out any crud or rust from the spark plug holes with compressed air before you remove the plugs, so it doesn’t end up getting into the cylinder heads


Next we removed the crash bars to gain clear access to the spark plugs so we can remove them – the weather exposure is obvious. We are doing this to reduce the cylinder compression, which will help make it possible to move the pistons if they are not seized in the heads


Here we are spraying a small amount of penetrating lubricant into the cylinder bores to help things start to move


There are several techniques to turn the engine over but in this instance we have selected fifth gear and will gently turn the rear wheel


After some initial reluctance we were able to work it through a partial stroke, but there is significant resistance. Rather than try and force it, we have sprayed more lubricant into the head, as well as a small amount of thicker engine oil, and will leave it to soak for a full day before trying again


Success! After the longer soak the engine is now turning quite easily through multiple strokes. This is a big win and, after looking through the spark plug holes at the top of the pistons and part of the cylinder walls, we will assume that there is no rust or other damage in the heads. Now we can continue with other work to see if the engine will actually fire up

 Words & photography Tim Munro

To be continued…