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What it costs to rebuild a modern 250cc two Stroke MX bike, from top to bottom end.

By Matt Cuddy

Now that we have uncovered the unbelievable high costs that a Japanese 450cc four stroke MX bike costs to maintain, and rebuild, it’s time to take a look at what a 250cc two stroke MX bike costs to rebuild. Our target bikes will be a 1991 CR250R Honda and a 1991 YZ250 Yamaha, since there seems to be so many of these bikes still around, being indestructible and all that.

Once again we called a few local places around the greater Los Angeles area, and disguised our voices; this time we used an effete French accent to disguise ourselves against discovery, and possible retribution from the big Japanese factories. Don’t want a Mitsubishi dropping a stink-bomb down our chimney any time soon.

The first call was to a Honda shop in the burg of Glendale, California. We finally got through to the service department after being put on hold for about 20 minutes, and spoke with some guy named “Dave”.

Us: “Yes, I am, how do you say, looking to renew zee upper end such as zee piston, and zee rings on my CR250, nineteen ninety one vintage, along with zee, how do you say, gaskets and this pin bearings?”

 Dave: “As long as the cylinder’s not in bad shape, we can get you into a new top end on your CR for about two hundred and fifty dollars, installed and ready to go.”

Us: “And what if, how do you say, zee cylinder, she is shot?”

Dave: “About another hundred bucks for a new liner.”

Us: “And zee cranking, um, how do you say? The cranking shaft?”

Dave: “The crankshaft is discontinued, and it’s a one piece crank. We could go to some aftermarket places that would most likely charge around five hundred bucks for the crankshaft, bearings included, if we can find one.”

Us: “So then, uh, how do you say, zees whole motor, to rebuild from zee bottom to zee top, a total cost of about one thousand Francs, I mean dollars?”

Dave: “Yes, that’s a good ballpark figure, depending on the breaks.”

Us: “But zee brakes are OK? Do we have to rebuild the brakes too? What does that have to do with zee uh…how do you say…motor?”

Dave: “No, I meant depending on if anything else needs rebuilding, not much left to do on your 250, except maybe the water pump, the radiators, and the side case if you’ve been running water in the cooling system.”

Us: “Thank you very much Mr. Dave.”

Dave: “You’re welcome. Can I schedule you for a time to bring your CR in?”

 Us: “No, we will, how do you say, be in touch, Ciao.”

 And with that Dave hung up. What startled us was how much more accommodating Dave seemed to be, discussing working on a two stroke, versus repairing a new four stroke MX bike.

So let’s see, to completely rebuild the motor on a 1991 CR250R (less the transmission/clutch assembly) would run us around one thousand dollars, including parts & labor. Quite a bit less than the $3,500.00 to rebuild a new Honda or Yamaha four stroke MX bike. Not to mention this rebuilt two stroke would last for a few years, not a few hours, like the new four strikers. 

On a side note you can get a one-piece crankshaft rebuilt by a few shops that know how to deal with a crankshaft constructed from sheet metal (!?). One of them is SG Cycles, 5635 E. Baseline Road, Mesa, AZ 85206, 602/705-5876. Stephen Gautreau, who runs the place can get new bearings slapped on a one-piece Honda or other Japanese one-piece crankshaft for around two hundred bucks. Seems to be a very delicate procedure that doesn't involve brass mallets or large hydraulic presses.                                                       

We called a Yamaha shop in Hollywood, California, and got roughly the same price, one thousand dollars to rebuild the motor from top to bottom, less the transmission/clutch assembly. And again, with a rebuilt two stroke, the first suggested maintenance was after the first couple of races, to check the piston rig-gap for excessive clearance. Not to rebuild the whole damn thing, like the four strokes, with parts/labor expensive enough to balance the national debt.

And just for fun, we called another Honda shop in Santa Monica California, and asked the same questions to rebuild an old CR500R two-stroke, 1987 Vintage, the best year in my opinion.

Guess what? It was a hundred dollars CHEAPER to rebuild a CR500, than a CR250, maybe because of the steel cylinder that has a 9th over ability, and a cheaper piston & rings. So parts and labor to rebuild both the top and bottom end on a 1987 CR500R was about seven hundred and fifty dollars. Shocking!

Now the above prices were quoted on the shop doing all the work, i.e. stripping the motor from the frame, disassembling and re-assembling the motor, coolant, gaskets, etc. So it’s pretty damn obvious if you rebuilt the motor yourself, you could cut at least four hundred dollars off for labor and the price drops down to a lot less just for parts. Here’s a little breakdown on the parts prices:

1991 CR250R Honda MX parts prices:

Piston: $85.00

Rings: $50.00

Wrist Pin: $15.00

Bearing: $15.00

Gaskets: $45.00

Crankshaft: Discontinued, cost not available ($500.00 aftermarket unit)

Coolant: $25.00

Crank seals (x2) $30.00

Tube of Honda bond (case sealer) $15.00

Total: $780.00

There you have it. Around eight hundred dollars for a total rebuild on a 250cc two stroke, that you can do yourself with standard hand tools, and a puller or two. Even with the aftermarket crankshaft.

Versus three thousand five hundred dollars to rebuild new Japanese four stroke MX bike. And that new exotic four stroke will only last another 15-20 hours before you have to do it all over again. Not to mention because of the complexity of the machine, a shop has to do all the work. Madness.

Well I think it’s pretty clear that Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki have made the decision to screw the dirt rider for as much money as possible, when they purchase one of these new four stroke MX bikes.

And because of that, the price of a used decent running 250cc two stroke is holding at around three thousand dollars, all day long, with two year old four strokes being sold for peanuts, because they are worn-out. Shot. A two year old throw away dirt bike, ready for the salvage yard.

Now that we have exposed the gigantic difference in maintenance costs between the two and four stroke MX bikes of today, we have to ask “why” it happened. The environmental issue not with standing, there must be some other reason the big Japanese motorcycle factories did this to the sport, and that is where we’ll be going next, in our quest to find out what the heck happened.

Our spies inside the AMA and the Japanese factories are willing to spill their guts on this issue, on perhaps the most bizarre and troubling thing to happen to dirt bikes since the release of the Suzuki Cyclone in 1971.

Stay tuned. It’s bound to get ugly.