If you enjoy getting your hands dirty and don’t mind a bit of work, buying a motorcycle restoration project can be a great way to while away those dark winter evenings. In fact, if you are really handy it can be a great way to buy a used bike at a bargain price. Even in this ‘throw away’ world, there are still many motorcycle enthusiasts who like nothing more than the challenge of restoring a classic bike back to its former glory. Get it wrong though and you could end up with a pile of trouble on your hands! Some projects are abandoned because of lack of interest or because the restorer underestimated the availability of parts, or the cost involved which can spiral out of control if you are not careful.
British and European bikes often make good projects, as parts availability in many cases is good, with re-manufactured parts available for several famous marques. Older Japanese machines can be much more difficult, with many parts now unobtainable or so rare that prices can be very high making an economical restoration very difficult. Joining the relevant owners club is a great first step before embarking on a restoration project. Club members will share their enthusiasm and knowledge, and importantly can be a great source for hard to find parts.
If you are looking for a motorcycle to restore you should always check it out carefully first. One of the most important factors to consider is just how complete and original the bike is. If you are buying the proverbial ‘box-of-bits’ you really need to make sure that it’s all there before parting with your cash. Missing or non-standard parts will lead to frustration and added expense. Consider also whether the bike is actually worth restoring. In many cases the cost of the rebuild can far surpass the eventual value of the bike, though judging by some of the many superbly (and expensively!) restored examples you will see at classic bike shows, this doesn’t always put a keen restorer off!
Perhaps the most important thing to consider may actually be the most obvious. Choose a bike you really love and you will gain immense satisfaction from the work and hopefully end up with a machine you can be proud of.