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Top Tips for Restoring a Vintage Motorcycle

Tony Ehret's 1951 Vincent Black Lightning valuable vintage
Tony Ehret's 1951 Vincent Black Lightning

(Contributed post for our North American readers. Image: Vintage Vincent)

Restoring a vintage motorcycle is every motorbike enthusiast’s ultimate dream. Just imagine cruising on the open road as your bike roars its mightiness. You can also think about all the money you would earn from making an excellent job of the restoration process. According to research, people are more than willing to pay good money for a restored vintage bike than for a new one. In 2018, a 1951 Vincent Black Lightning (pictured above) topped the list of the most valuable motorcycles with a value of $929,000. 

Doing a motorcycle restoration correctly is essential. One simple mistake can cause motorcycle accidents. According to Davis Law Group, a motorcycle accident can cause traumatic brain injuries, fractures, spinal cord injuries, burn injuries, and even death. You have to understand that restoring a vintage bike takes time, tons of patience, and loads of cash. If you cannot commit to any of these, this project may not be for you. If you are ready to take on the challenge, then here are some tips to help you ensure that your restoration project becomes a success. 

Look for a Service Manual

While you may be prepared with a variety of tools suited for fixing up a bike, many experts claim that an essential tool you must have is the bike model service manual. The manual will provide you with all the information you will need about the motorcycle. If you can get your hands on an OEM factory repair manual, the better. Note that this manual is not given to buyers, as service techs commonly use these. Repair manuals include a detailed description of how the motorcycle was assembled, a piece of crucial information if you plan to rebuild the bike. 

Dismantle and Categorize

One of the common mistakes newbie restorers make is taking apart the bike and rebuilding immediately. If you do this, you might find it hard to reassemble the parts. You can start by taking the bike apart section by section, then categorize and rebuild as you go. It would be wise to take pictures before and after removing them. Store small parts in a bag and don’t forget to label them appropriately. 

Craft a Plan

To achieve a successful vintage motorcycle restoration project, you must have a plan. Create steps that you should follow so you can accomplish the task systematically. List all the sections you wish to repair, including which goes first and last. One of the most useful guides you can use is your motorcycle’s general condition. 

Creating a plan will also help guide you when you need to order parts for the restoration project. Take note that looking for parts and ordering them takes some time, particularly if you plan to restore an older bike such as 1930 Brough Superior SS100 or a Panther 1928. To make the search easier for you, join forums or ask motorcycle dealerships. You can also make excellent finds in scrap yards or local at mechanic  shops. 

Make it Personal

Restoring vintage motorcycles depends on your preference. If you want the bike to be an expression of your personality, then make it as unique to you as possible. It is your work, anyways. If you’re going to add custom handlebars, feel free to do so. If you plan to do custom work, it would be best to ask a professional to do it for you. Relay to the restoration mechanic what you want to achieve. Make sure that your mechanic is reliable and has a good track record of working on vintage motorcycles. 

Riding a classic motorcycle can give you an unexplainable high, but riding one you’ve restored with your own two hands is heaven. So take the challenge and ride safe!