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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey everyone, this might be better located in one of the model specific forums, but they move kind of slow, and I feel I can the quick response that I need here.

93' Suzuki Katana 600 (Price Reduced!)

I'm thinking about making this my first bike. I was pretty deadest on a ninja 250/500 but I almost feel like I can't pass this opportunity up. I'm pretty mechanically inclined, I've had my car engine apart to replace con rods/bearings, pulled transmissions out, done several timing belt jobs etc, so I don't think this will be over my head to replace the crank and bearing, and whatever else is damaged. Worst case scenario puts me buying a separate used engine for ~$500 and selling this one for $200 as a parts only engine.

Is it a terrible idea to purchase a project bike like this, when it can't be test ridden or anything? I love tearing into mechanical bits as a hobby and I think this could be a fun way to save some money, get a decent bike, and get to know it a little before I actually start riding. I hear that these engines are pretty bullet proof (ironically this one has a spun bearing, go figure) but after fixing it I'm sure this would be a sturdy little bike, and one that I could ride for a couple years before moving on to something a little nicer, or possibly get rideable, then trade it for a ninja.

What do you all think about both the idea of making this purchase, and the concept of this as a first bike? Thanks in advance for any input!
 

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Is it financially an option to buy this bike AND a early 2000s 250/500 that runs?

Looking back at my first year of riding, I am glad I wasn't learning to be a bike mechanic and a rider at the same time.
 

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why waste the best part of a riding season working on an old junker bike that is not a great bike to start with? The katana is an ugly, heavy bike, why not get a 250, 500 or 650 and be able to ride?
 

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Mexican Hard Shell Taco
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New parts do not depreciate, you're going to need tons of gaskets, o-rings and other little bits that will nickel and dime you, and you dont' really know for sure what is wrong with that engine. It could have more problems than the seller is saying:

I bought this bike hoping to fix it up as my first bike, but due to my new job, and spending all my free time/ money on my new car, I've lost interest in this project.
The seller didn't even see it running, for all you know the transmission can be blown. It doesn't make sense, you're better off just getting a new engine:

1995 Suzuki Katana GSX 600 F 91 97 Engine Motor Transmission Head Crank Runs 11K | eBay

And you could have a running Katana for less than $1000.
 

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Unlike cars, where i think every one should have to buy a $500 clunker that they drive for as long as they can keep it running, clunker bikes do not make good starter bikes.

I started on an old 600. it broke down and stranded me a couple 100 miles from home on several occasions.

Opening the throttle was always an adventure, you never knew if the bike would die, surge, or do nothing.

the old pressurized front struts were... well even after rebuilding them they still aren’t good.

the brakes sucked.

the bearings all needed replacement, and a bad steering bearing leads to fun when trying to steer.

in the end all of these lead to a very unpredictable bike. not good for learning on.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for the replies everyone!
Regardless of whether or not I buy this bike, I won't be riding until next season anyways, so that's not an issue. I have to get my endorsement still and I just got married last month so I'm not in the most financially abundant time in my life :lgh2. I only have about $500 to work with right now, so I can either buy this and make it ride right for the spring, or just save up and get a ninja in the spring time. I was just thinking that for $300 I could have at least a straight frame bike that needs a $500 engine. I can sell the blown engine for $150-250 as a parts engine and only be in the bike for about $600-700, then spend $50-100 to re paint the plastics myself, and then see what else needs replacing after it's rideable. Not too worried about "learning", I understand that bikes are different than cars, but if I throw a known good engine in the bike I'm sure I won't have too much trouble. Even if it isn't a perfect bike for a starter after it's running, I could potentially make a couple hundred bucks by fixing and selling it, or trade straight across for a smaller displacement ninja right?

Potentially a slight bias, but the guys on katriders seems to think the katana 600 is a fairly decent starter bike. I'm not at all concerned with appearance, it's not the only bike I'll ever own, and it will probably make me appreciate a newer bike all the more when I upgrade. I just wanted a couple opinions on the potential that this thing had.

Any guidelines for things that should be checked for when buying a non running bike? Not trying to be stubborn or anything, just want to be absolutely sure of what I'm getting into before I buy something.
 

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A guy on a scruffy bike
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Thanks for the replies everyone!
Regardless of whether or not I buy this bike, I won't be riding until next season anyways, so that's not an issue. I have to get my endorsement still and I just got married last month so I'm not in the most financially abundant time in my life :lgh2. I only have about $500 to work with right now, so I can either buy this and make it ride right for the spring, or just save up and get a ninja in the spring time. I was just thinking that for $300 I could have at least a straight frame bike that needs a $500 engine. I can sell the blown engine for $150-250 as a parts engine and only be in the bike for about $600-700, then spend $50-100 to re paint the plastics myself, and then see what else needs replacing after it's rideable. Not too worried about "learning", I understand that bikes are different than cars, but if I throw a known good engine in the bike I'm sure I won't have too much trouble. Even if it isn't a perfect bike for a starter after it's running, I could potentially make a couple hundred bucks by fixing and selling it, or trade straight across for a smaller displacement ninja right?

Potentially a slight bias, but the guys on katriders seems to think the katana 600 is a fairly decent starter bike. I'm not at all concerned with appearance, it's not the only bike I'll ever own, and it will probably make me appreciate a newer bike all the more when I upgrade. I just wanted a couple opinions on the potential that this thing had.

Any guidelines for things that should be checked for when buying a non running bike? Not trying to be stubborn or anything, just want to be absolutely sure of what I'm getting into before I buy something.
Do you have a decent motorcycle salvage yard in your area? That can make a big difference. I got my start like you're considering, in 1987 with a 1976 Honda CB360 that I got at a garage sale for $25. Hitting up the wrecking yard got me an exhaust, mirrors, lots of little bits for $110 that would have cost several hundred at the dealer.

You can expect to need tires, fuel lines, maybe brake lines, maybe cables (clutch, throttle), any other rubber bits. Expect to need to clean out the carbs (or FI); that may take a few tries and some fiddling to get all set up right.

The Katana isn't an ideal starter bike, but it's not a terrible one either. I'd say go for it.

PhilB
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
No bike wrecking yards that I know of, but I'll check on that. I have all winter to get her fixed up though so I'm not extremely worried about it. I'm sure I'll be able to find decent cables on ebay. I'll make sure to check the condition of the fuel system when I check the bike out tomorrow. I'll post back and let everyone know how this goes down. Thanks again for all the advice
 

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Giant on a Motorcycle
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I couldnt find a 250 or 500 so my first bike was a 2002 Katana 600! It was perfect to learn on. Riding position wasn't too aggressive, there was some decent power there but it didn't rip your arms off and mine was dead reliable. A lot of the criticisms of the bike come from ppl that haven't ridden one before. Yes its heavy and yes its pretty ugly but its your first bike and not your last.

This was her

 

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Think twice before buying a 21 year old bike with known mechanical issues.

You may very well be quite the mechanic, however unlike a car, if your motorcycle craps out at speed you don't roll safely to a stop, pissed off about having to fix something *again*.

Buy a 250, 500, 650 etc. You will have plenty of opportunities to wrench on it (valves need checked/adjusted fairly regularly).
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
So here's what I found yesterday:

Engine is about 50% disassembled, with dust and cat hair in the head and transmission.

The bike is in more pieces than I expected, it's almost a scary thought to have to put it all back together. All the parts seem to be accounted for, but I could not load all of the boxes into the truck I brought. Will probably be back Sunday to purchase.

It doesn't have: battery or windscreen

The fork seals seem to have very slight leaks, which my buddy said won't be difficult to fix.

Tires look good, no worn or flat spots, and the tags are good for another year.

The paint on the plastics is kind of rough, and it looks like a hungry pit bull tried to eat part of the lower fairing.

Fuel lines looked nice and pliable, but few feet of 1/4" line can be had for under $10 so I'll probably replace it just to be sure.

Frame appears straight, rotors looked nice, pads had some meat left on them too.

Chain was dry and dirty, probably from sitting for a while, will be replacing that as well.

Overall, not an unmanageable amount of work to get done over the winter. I'll need to buy a $500 engine, $20 windscreen, buddy of mine has a spare battery, purchase a chain $(???), do some minor body work on the plastics, then plastidip with an undecided color ($100 max), and do se general clean up and maintenance like tuning/syncing the carbs and stuff. After selling the engine for parts, total investment should be right around $800-900. I'll keep track of this in case I exceed my budget and need to warn someone else not to undertake this kind of project

Should be an adventure to remember, which I will be completing in a storage unit, because my apartment doesn't allow us to work on vehicles on their property.

Wish me luck :)
 

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I would have run a mile from that bike. I do wish you luck. you are going to need it.
 

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A guy on a scruffy bike
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So here's what I found yesterday:

Engine is about 50% disassembled, with dust and cat hair in the head and transmission.

The bike is in more pieces than I expected, it's almost a scary thought to have to put it all back together. All the parts seem to be accounted for, but I could not load all of the boxes into the truck I brought. Will probably be back Sunday to purchase.

It doesn't have: battery or windscreen

The fork seals seem to have very slight leaks, which my buddy said won't be difficult to fix.

Tires look good, no worn or flat spots, and the tags are good for another year.

The paint on the plastics is kind of rough, and it looks like a hungry pit bull tried to eat part of the lower fairing.

Fuel lines looked nice and pliable, but few feet of 1/4" line can be had for under $10 so I'll probably replace it just to be sure.

Frame appears straight, rotors looked nice, pads had some meat left on them too.

Chain was dry and dirty, probably from sitting for a while, will be replacing that as well.

Overall, not an unmanageable amount of work to get done over the winter. I'll need to buy a $500 engine, $20 windscreen, buddy of mine has a spare battery, purchase a chain $(???), do some minor body work on the plastics, then plastidip with an undecided color ($100 max), and do se general clean up and maintenance like tuning/syncing the carbs and stuff. After selling the engine for parts, total investment should be right around $800-900. I'll keep track of this in case I exceed my budget and need to warn someone else not to undertake this kind of project

Should be an adventure to remember, which I will be completing in a storage unit, because my apartment doesn't allow us to work on vehicles on their property.

Wish me luck :)
Good luck. Don't let the naysayers drag you down.

Check the tires for sidewall cracks or other signs of aging (or find out how old they are from the owner -- more than 3 years you probably should replace them).

If you're going for a $500 used engine, it might not be a bad idea to keep the old engine parts around for spares and repairs for a little while, just in case the "new" engine has some unforeseen problems.

Have fun.

PhilB
 

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Imagine that they gave the teapot the legendary moniker of katana in the US. That is serious marketing desperation must have tried to make it sound cooler d so it sold better than its Europe wide fail.
 

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If you get it running and make it nice, down the road, I'm pretty sure a GSXR750 motor from that era will fit and I think you can fit a bandit 1200 motor in there. Good luck. You're brave.
 

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Mexican Hard Shell Taco
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Overall, not an unmanageable amount of work to get done over the winter. I'll need to buy a $500 engine, $20 windscreen, buddy of mine has a spare battery, purchase a chain $(???), do some minor body work on the plastics, then plastidip with an undecided color ($100 max), and do se general clean up and maintenance like tuning/syncing the carbs and stuff. After selling the engine for parts, total investment should be right around $800-900. I'll keep track of this in case I exceed my budget and need to warn someone else not to undertake this kind of project

Should be an adventure to remember, which I will be completing in a storage unit, because my apartment doesn't allow us to work on vehicles on their property.

Wish me luck :)
Luck sent your way. Start a build thread so we can check on your progress.

It is not an unmanageable ammount of work and Katanas were pretty simple to work on. The engine iself is DIY friendly, but you won't be wrenching on the engine innards. The next thing to worry about are the carbs, don't you ever think of removing the airbox and installing pod filters, you'll be in a world of pain and it will never run right, been there, done that.

If you get it running and make it nice, down the road, I'm pretty sure a GSXR750 motor from that era will fit and I think you can fit a bandit 1200 motor in there. Good luck. You're brave.
B1200 engine can be done. GSX-R 750, not neeeded, the only difference are the camshafts.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
No plans for engine swap or upgrade madness, I'm a new rider and the power available from the factory should be more than enough to scare my right hand. I started a build thread over on katriders, but I'll post it here too and keep the SBN thread updated as well. Maybe I'm brave, maybe I'm stupid, maybe I'll do the unthinkable and actually come out ahead of my investment, maybe I'll spend $500 more than I'm expecting. Who knows what will happen. It's life. The way I'm choosing to look at it is now I don't have an excuse to be bored this winter :p

Picking the bike up in a couple hours, plans for this week are to get it all cleaned up, reassemble and begin the process of selling the old engine, and hopefully strip and respray the frame. Thanks for the support from the couple that offered it, from those who said stay away, sorry I couldn't resist. I'll have proving you wrong in the back of my mind for the next few months!
 

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I think you are missing a critical step here. Power is not the only thing that makes a bike user friendly. Confidence is huge...if you're always worried it will slow your learning. Hit up a bike shop and sit on old stuff and see what fits you. The weight should be pretty high on your list as well. Mistakes are magnified 10-fold with a heavier bike. You lock up the rear, lean wrong in a low speed turn, fish tail, put your foot down wrong, etc...it's a lot harder to recover instability with 450-500lbs under you than 300lbs. 300-lbs is enough to set any man off balance, but recoverable. Sure throw your leg down making a U-turn to save it. 500-lbs nope, your leg will prolly give out.
 
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