Refitting A Retro Motorcycle: How To Do It The Right Way

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Back in the 1900s, when motorcycles were more of a utility, the manufacturers tried to keep it as simple as possible. However, with time, utilities changed, and so did the technologies for motorcycles.

Nonetheless, there are still a sizeable number of motorcycle enthusiasts who wish for a vintage ride. And who’d blame them? The old bikes have a certain appeal that even the best modern bikes can’t match up.

So, you’re thinking of restoring your grandpa’s bike? Or you’ve got a piece of junk that you wish to refit to its original glory?

Well, kudos for taking up such a unique project.

But, before you get your hands all greasy, we have a helpful piece of advice for you – refitting vintage bikes is easier said than done. What most motorcycle enthusiasts or builders don’t understand is that old motorcycles are delicate. And as such, they need more care than a modern bike.

Enough of the jargon, we believe.

Let’s get started with the restoration advice that you’re here for.

Organize The Assembly Line

Although it’s a no-brainer, it still needs to be mentioned here.

No DIY project can meet the success bars you wish for it to achieve if there’s no plan. You need to understand one thing – study the bike first. It should help you understand what things you’d need and which ones can be overlooked. In other words, take a close look at your project. Try to figure out which parts need to be replaced and which ones can be repaired.

To get started with your assembly line, you’d need to disassemble the bike first. Rip out everything from wires to tires and any other components. Keeping your bike naked should give you access to the parts you can’t see and analyze otherwise.

Once you’re done with the disassembly part, put out everything in proper order.

There’s one more thing that you need to remember – try to make a map of all the parts so that when you’re putting it all back, you know exactly what goes where and there’s no scope for any mistake.

Start With Replacements First

Once you’re done ripping apart your project and have already identified which parts need to be replaced, it’s better to be done with the latter part. Meaning, it’s better to find the replacement parts and get done with them first.

Why we’re stressing so much about it?

Well, vintage bikes are notoriously sneaky. You might not find all the parts in the market, as they might no longer be in production. Eventually, you may need to get these parts custom designed.

Let’s put it out to you in laymen’s language.

For most parts, such as the fuel pump, carburetors, bulbs, throttles, etc., you might easily find replacements. For example, one replacement fuel pump model generally fits several motorcycle models. Likewise, bulbs and throttles are also quite common to find.

But, what about parts that are no longer in production. For example, the fenders from the original stock model. Or the gaskets for packing and sealing the engine.

These parts are generally not so easy to replace. So, you might need to get them custom-designed for your project.

Then Comes The Repairs

Once you’ve sourced all your replacement parts, it’s time you start with the repairs. Years of neglect could have rusted your project to a large extent. And you know that rusty bikes can break down anytime while they’re in use.

Another thing that could have possibly broken down over the years is the suspension system. You’ll need to flush out the old suspensions, regrease them and fill them with fresh oil.

Also, consider repainting all the parts from fenders to engine and more. And do not forget to repair the electricals of your bike.

Electrical systems are like blood and oxygen for your bike. Ensure you check the coils, battery, connectors, and all other electrical components for any damage properly.

A little piece of advice here. When you’re repairing your parts, you don’t necessarily have to stick to the original design scheme. Meaning, you can choose the paint or decal scheme as per your taste. Also, do not forget to clean all the parts once you’re done repairing and refurbishing them.

Start With Reassembly

Now the last, and probably the most exciting part of your restoration project – reassembly.

Once you’ve got everything from repairs to replacements and repainting done, it’s time to start putting it all together. This is when you’d start seeing your project come to life.

To begin with, start with the engine first. Since engine assembly is usually the most challenging part, you should try to get it done instead.

The next thing you ought to be doing is mounting the engine to the frame. Now, this could be a strenuous task. It is better if you could ask for some help from your friends or your family members. Also, try using a cranked crane for easy lifting and mounting.

Once you’ve mounted the engine, the difficult part is over.

Moving further, mount the tires and wheels, the handlebar, and install and connect all the electrical systems. Plug the fuel line into the pump or carburetor, followed by mounting the fuel tank.

When all this is done, you can mount up the necessary accessories such as the indicators or additional lights if you want to. At last, install the seat, and you’re done.

Precautions

While you’re restoring a vintage bike, you must take certain precautions.

Firstly, you need to be as delicate with the disassembly part as possible. Hard hammering or force ripping may break apart your bike beyond repairs.

The next thing you should be careful about is the fueling system. Ensure that you find the proper fuel pump to fit your bike; otherwise, it may start you give you bumps while riding. Or, in the worst-case scenario, it might not start up at all.

Lastly, you should make sure that you top up the lubricants and oils properly. Any negligence in this part may lead to a sooner breakdown of your bike.

On this note, we believe it’s better to get your hands dirty in grease. You’ll, of course, learn as you go and would need to modify your plan. But, it’ll all surely be worth it in the end.

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