Resurrecting a Forgotten Gem
We’ve all heard of someone who scores a barn find, or gets an old, long-forgotten bike that belonged to a distant family member or a barely-known recluse. I’ve never come across one, but I’ve heard about them. Even if I did manage to find one, I probably wouldn’t have the money to buy it. Then, it hit me a while back. I actually had one of my own. That’s right, I scored my very own barn find, from my own barn! (It’s not really a barn, but close enough.)
I should probably back up a little and start at the beginning. Sometime around 2001, I picked up a 1996 Yamaha FZR-600. I got it used at a dealer who was basically looking to get rid of it. The odometer read 7,500 miles and it was in surprisingly good shape. I mostly got it so I could take it to the track on occasion, and I didn’t think I could go wrong for $1500. I took it to the track more than just occasionally, and rode it on the street regularly for a couple of years. Then I just stopped. I parked it for the last time in 2005, and it sat in my garage for the next 15 years.
My dad started bugging me about it in 2020, and got me thinking about getting it back on the road. I couldn’t remember if there were any problems with it, or why I really parked it in the first place. It had been sitting inside all that time, and still looked good. The title had long since been misplaced, but I figured it was worth at least the cost of a new battery to see if it would even start.
Though I was looking forward to having what would seem like a new bike to ride, I was dreading the whole process of figuring out what would need to be repaired, dealing with the Department of Motor Vehicle, insurance, etc. It ended up not being nearly as bad as I was thinking. I picked up a new battery and gave it to my father, who seemed more excited about getting it started than I was and started working on it without me. I got a text from my dad about an hour after I dropped off the battery.
“It’s alive!” was the short message from my dad. I was tempted to go straight back just to hear it running, but I had too many other things to do. It was exciting to hear that it was running, and I was looking forward to getting it road worthy again.
The first order of business would be to clean out the gas tank. We took off and drained the tank, and though it didn’t look too bad, there was a little bit of rust inside. I read online about a variety of ways to clean it. Seemed like the easiest and cheapest way would be to fill the tank with vinegar and let it sit for a few days, then rinse thoroughly. Surprisingly, that was all it took! Well, mostly.
A day or so after we put on the tank, we found it was leaking. We thought it was just the petcock at first, but when we went to replace it, we found a small pin-hole in the bottom of the tank. I looked online to see if I could find a used tank, but there was nothing available that looked any better than what I had. New tanks were no longer available, so we decided to have a go at fixing it. Enter my coworker, Charlie, who can fix nearly anything, whether it’s broken or not. He grabbed a soldering iron and took care of it for me in a matter of minutes.
OK, new oil in the engine, repaired tank in place, new tags and insurance in place, so let’s take it for a ride around the block and see what else would need to be done. We pulled it outside, started it up, and it stalled as soon as I put it in gear. A little head-scratching later and it was determined the kickstand safety switch was at fault, but that was a quick fix. I gingerly took a ride up the street. I didn’t go far, nor fast, as the bike was in desperate need of tires.
Amazingly, everything checked out fine. I got a new set of tires, did a thorough cleaning and rode it for the next couple of months, until an unusually harsh New Jersey winter sidelined motorcycle activity. It currently sits hooked to a battery tender, waiting for the first warm days of spring.