When I talk about restoring an old motorbike, I have one of those big powerful but old Japanese machines in mind. There are a number of factors to consider and questions to ask yourself before embarking on such an endeavor, including but not limited to the following:
What will my wife or girlfriend say about it?
Your wife or girlfriend may be one of those that always has an issue with even the most simple things that you want to do, even restoring an old Japanese motorcycle! If she does, try convincing her that it is an investment that will soon appreciate and bring good returns, or use one of those tricks that you usually convince her with. If everything fails, you will be left with the option of either dumping her or abandoning your bike restoration endeavor altogether.
Where do I get the spare cash for the restoration?
Restoring an old Japanese motorbike is not a walk in the park; you need to do some good planning for it financially. Buying parts, hiring a set of extra hands or renting some garage space if its needed, as well as the utilities of that space, are some of the costs to be considered.
Do not Expect Any Free Rides
The entire process of restoring an old motorbike requires a lot of commitment, time and money. Even if a buddy of yours has some parts, do not expect everything for free; these things are expensive you know. There are no free rides whatsoever when restoring. Did you say you wanted to resell it after restoration? If that is your plan, then I hope you live outside Canada!
Saving on Costs without Compromising Quality
Are you restoring your motorbike for riding or just for display? Doing a complete restoration, including sand blasts, painting, balanced and blue-printed restorations, and chrome will cost you a great deal of cash. However, if we are mostly concentrating on restoring a dirt motorbike, minimal costs will be incurred, you won’t need much custom paint, chrome and other things that a display motorcycle would need. Full sand-blasting and powder-coating of its chassis alone can set you back by up to $500 or more.
The most noticeable parts of a motorbike are its body work, fuel tanks and perhaps, its wheels. Unfortunately, they are also the parts that get the most abuse and wear-and-tear. Blasting or sanding, painting, and applying new graphics can be done cost-effectively. Maybe your biggest problem will be replicating the original look of the paint, especially if the bike used the candy metallic types. Check Ebay for the less expensive options on these parts. Consider sending the wheels to Bucannan for heavy gauge spokes and a brand new hoop.
In addition, you don't have to spend your entire fortune on fenders because period-styled plastic fenders such as Preston Petty units can do the same job. For bearings that may need to be replaced, the local bearing house around the corner can do that for you. For gaskets, you can cut your own. There are so many other parts that you can take the less expensive option and still get the same results. For instance, replace the counter-shaft sprocket of your old 82 Kawasaki KE 175 with one from a 76 Yamaha DT 175 rather than buying an original.
Unleash the Ultimate Power
You know the engine is the most crucial part of your machine. Do not spend too much on other parts and then be so stingy on the engine. If you can take it apart and check things one by one this is the best. Check everything to ensure they are in the best working order. Replace what needs to be replaced such as seal, bearings, gasket, o-ring, bushings in the gear box, piston, or wrist pins.
One more crucial thing you need to decide on is whether to stick to O.E.M parts or go for the after-market ones. I would recommend O.E.M. always, unless a particular spare part is unavailable and you only have the after-market. Wiseco pistons and Barnett or EBC clutches could be a good bet as cheaper options. To restore a typical single-cylinder, two-stroke engine with the cheaper options could cost you about $1000, quite affordable!
Stop & Go
For the final drive and the braking systems, SBS or EBC brand brake shoes are a good bet. Remember to cut some slots in the face for catching dirt and dust. The o-ring chain that is normally made by EK or Tsubaki, is another thing that can help you save some bucks. For sprockets, either O.E.M or after-market can do. SunStar steel sprockets, for instance. For a vintage bike, the look and feel of the MSR handle bars is fantastic. For control cables, a combination of O.E.M and MotionPro brand is okay, though your bike model also matters here.
My Parting Shot
My advice here on restoring an old motorbike is based on my own experience, as well as what I have observed over the years. Though what works for me does not have to necessarily work for you, I am sure we have some common ground. Hopefully I helped you even a little bit.