Motorbikes have always been a ‘cool’ option for travel, and British brands have led the charge on the cool factor of classic bikes for generations now. Indeed, the cultural capital of older brands is so high that they are enjoying a second heyday, releasing new bikes for a new generation.
Still, there’s nothing quite like picking up a rusted BA Bantam for less than £500 and fixing it up yourself. But how might a beginner look at restoring a classic bike?
Finding the Right Bike
Firstly, your restoration project should begin with the perfect bike to restore. If this is your first time undertaking such an endeavour, you might be better placed choosing a more pristine example of your favoured bike. This way, you can tinker without finding yourself too overfaced with the job to come.
You may also want to choose a reliable bike with a proven track record of successful restorations. Online forums are a great place to ask seasoned mechanics on their opinions, as well as to get solid advice further into your project.
Preparing for Restoration
Of course, you can’t expect to properly restore a bike without having the space and equipment to do so. You should make sure you have adequate space in which to place your bike and tools; the space should also have plenty of light, and easy access to power sources.
If you have garage space, this is perfect for undertaking repairs and restoration. However, a storage space for your spares and tools is more than adequate if you plan on working outdoors, in your garden or driveway. In terms of tools, you will need to buy up solid sets of evergreen tools such as spanners, socket sets and screwdrivers. You may also need some specialised items for more involved work on the engine.
Now, where to start? If your chosen bike has been locked away for some time, its tyres will definitely need replacing. Older bike tyres will quickly see their rubber denature, stiffen and crack – making them wholly unsuitable for even wheeling your bike between work stations.
Replacing the tyres is also one of the simpler restoration tasks you can get started on. All you need to do is buy tyres online that match the code of the existing set, and swap them over. Now you have a reliable set of tyres on which you can trust your bike while tinkering.
There is too much to discuss about fixing an older bike’s engine to fit into this section, but there is at least one common thread between vintage bikes that deserves your attention: the carburettors. Before your engine can be run safely, these need to be cleaned and balanced. Doing this is often the difference between a ‘lumpy’ ride and one that is smooth as butter.
A common malady for older bikes, especially café racers and wartime two-strokes, is the rusting of the fuel tank. This can be catastrophic for your engine if not rectified beforehand, as rust particles can make their way into your carburettors and cause significant damage. A deep clean can be time-consuming, but will ensure your fuel remains clean for time to come.