Motorbike Restoration - A basic Guide

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Restoring old bikes is something that has been enjoyed by many over the years. From the British boys tinkering in sheds to the new breed of Japanese classic enthusiasts rebuilding bikes, there's plenty for everyone to do. But is there any money in it and is it worth the time and effort? In this guide I'll attempt to let you know.

Will I make any money if I sell it?

From my experience I've found that in restorations there probably isn't a lot of money. It can take real time, effort and expense to get that bike back up to scratch and on the road. Some classics are worth a hell of a lot and if the jobs a good one you could get decent money for it but like I say if you've spent weeks and months rebuilding her and spent thousands on parts then the profit margin comes down a fair bit. So I'd say this is more of a love thing unless you've got an extensive backroom of parts.

How do I go about getting started?

Firstly, you'll need a bike. Make a decision on what make and model you feel like doing. If it's your first time out try and pick something that you're familiar with and that perhaps doesn't need a huge amount doing to it. If you've got the shell of a Honda Superdream with no engine, no wheels and no electrics, it's going to be a damn sight harder to get that back on the road than something that's bashed up but in semi-working order.

Search Ebay, local dealers, breakers and the rest of the internet for a machine that's worthy. Once you've picked a suitable bike check out the availability on parts. It's pointless buying a bike that you can't actually fix. Original parts are always going to be better than pattern ones; they'll also keep your value up, saying that though pattern parts will do the job if you just want her to look pretty and work. Once your research is done and you're happy, make that purchase!

Got the bike, what next?

Right so you've got your new project, first things first; give it a good clean up. If it's been sitting in a shed or worse it'll be covered in muck and grime. Give her a good once over and you'll be able to see more of what's going on and won't get your hands dirty doing it.

Test if she goes

Get a battery on her. Breathe some power into the beast, got ignition? If the electrics spring into life you're onto a winner. Check your engine fluids, oil, coolants etc. Now try and get her started. On the whole you shouldn't have to go into the engine unless the bike got laid up because of it. If you can get it going without a full strip down you'll save yourself a lot of time.


So she's running. Badly yes but she does go. Good news. Now it's time for the big strip down, working from the outside in remove every piece of equipment on the thing. Try to reverse engineer it and make sure you lay out your bits in an order that you will remember how they go back. As you are taking bits off assess if you can use them again or if they will need to be replaced. Once she's in bits and just a frame you can begin painting.

First paint

Depending on what sort of job you want to do you can either send your bits away to be powder coated or refurbished or do it yourself. Old rusty frames and bits will need to be rubbed down and prepared from painting. The longer you spend in prep the better the finished item will be in most cases. Kits for doing a proper spray job are available just make sure you do it in a well ventilated area. Do as many coats as required and give the paint adequate drying time.


Right now you can start to reassemble. Usually the best place to start is the wiring loom. Hopefully you noted down how it fitted to the bike and the order the wires ran in. Give the loom a good check over replacing any damaged wires and fixing any dodgy connections. You'll want to find a circuit diagram as that will be invaluable when putting her back together. Haynes manuals will usually have them in or a workshop manual if you can get hold of one. I myself have used the net to track them down before; you'd be surprised what's on there!

As parts are returning to the bike make sure they are all clean and painted when they need to be. It's much easier to work on parts when they are off the bike. Replace damaged or missing nuts and bolts, as well as any missing parts.

As for the panels and tank, they'll probably want a special paint job by a professional. There are plenty of options out there, have a look on the net and pick which one is best for you. Companies will often sort out dents and scratches for you as well.

Service and go

Now she's starting to come back together, give her a good service. Changing all fluids, replaceable parts etc. Give the engine a good sort out, checking valve clearance and timing. You may want to give the carb a service too. Make her ready for the road in line with MOT rules and regulations and get her tested. Tax, insurance, and you're ready to ride!

I hope this basic guide to restoration has helped. If you need further details don't hesitate to get in contact with me on my Facebook and I can offer advice!

Ride on and happy restoring!!

27.06.13 - Big Ed

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