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Building a classic motorbike - What you should know


There’s nothing quite like the thrill of owning and riding a classic motorbike, especially if you saved it from the scrapyard.


Not only will you have a fascinating hobby and a real insight into how the machine you ride has been put together, you’ll also be preserving an important piece of motorcycling history for future generations.

Making a start

As a bike enthusiast you probably already have a passion for certain marques. Whether it’s their particular styling or a fondness for the era in which they first appeared, these will be the ones that most tug on the heart strings. Find out as much as you can about them. Consider:

  • Which models are best?

  • Do any suffer from particular problems?

  • Are there enough parts still available for them or is there a company manufacturing replacement items?

Take your time, gather as much information as possible and speak to an owners’ club. With their assistance you should be able to track down a decent basic model which is in good enough shape to be considered as a restoration project. Before parting with your cash you must be clear about what is achievable. Ask yourself:

  • How much work are you prepared to do?

  • How much money have you got available to fund your work?

  • Will the end result be ridden every day, or tucked away in your garage?

Put all your research together. Keep files of old photographs that showed your bike in its original state, and try to track down any manuals. All these sources will be vital when you’re returning everything back to its original state.

Taking it apart

The next job is to disassemble the bike. Do this very slowly and carefully. Take lots of photographs of each stage and make copious notes. It may seem obvious now how things go together but it will be a lot more difficult when it comes to the rebuild.

Strip the bike right down to the frame and take out the engine as well. Store all the parts in a systematic order. For example, keep parts from the front and the rear apart. There’s nothing worse than spending hours tracking down essential items.

Cleaning and sorting

Every part you take off must be cleaned thoroughly and checked for wear. Use wire cleaning tools which get rid of the rust and helps bring back some shine to nuts and bolts. The more time you spend at this stage the better it will look in the end.

Then you can go through everything carefully and list all the replacement parts that you will need for the rebuild. Depending on availability it might take a few months before everything has been found. These can be tracked down through a variety of methods. Owners’ clubs, specialist restoration companies and even auction sites such as eBay can be great sources. It’s also worth putting the word out on forums as well, because the chances are that someone will be able to point you in the right direction.

Rebuilding time

The frame will need to be rubbed right down, primed and painted. If you are not comfortable taking on such a job it might be worth giving it to a professional. The same applies to the fuel tank and fenders.

Other jobs that are probably best left to the experts include rebuilding the engine, as well as re-chroming certain parts. Again, it all depends on your skill levels but there are some things that will be beyond the home workshop enthusiast.

Next you can start putting everything back together. Take your time as there’s nothing more frustrating than having to re-do work again because you’ve forgotten a key component. And then your dream classic bike should be ready for the road.


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