Thursday, July 11, 2013

Crunching the numbers...

Much of what I've learned about bike restoration evolved  from my first real project, a 1969 Triumph Daytona. I bought the bike in pieces dragged it home with all these fantasies of bringing it back to glory.  2 and a half years later, the bike was together but never really worked the way I wanted her to.

The mechanic who rebuilt the engine (a true craftsman with British motors) took the bike and fixed many of the errors that were made.  Before relieving me of it, he looked at her then me.  'You took too long with it'. he said plainly.

I nodded and agreed with him, not fully understanding what he meant until many years later.  I figured that some restorations take many years and for a newcomer, I did pretty well.  I suppose I did, but with lots of help from some generous old timers who assisted me.  On my own?  God only knows.

With motorcycle restoration, I have always been guilty of romantic fancy.  I would describe it as Quixotic really, the desire to see great beauty in these forlorn and forgotten beasts.  With romantic fancy often comes poor planning and forgetting the reality of one's situation.   Skills, tools, space, money for instance.

The old adage 'Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.'  really rings true in these situations.  Have a look in any online classifieds site and you will find a long list of forgotten or abandoned projects.  Where did these builders go wrong?  Did they run out of money or just give up?  There is usually a good story in the ad, but who really knows.

The best approach I have ever seen was that of  a friend of mine.  He had a penchant for small capacity 2 strokes and would usually take a new project on every December.

Why December you ask?  My friend used to base his entire project on what he estimated his tax return would be.  This included the bike, the parts, the paint, the whole thing.   This kept him on track and more or less kept him from dipping into his coffers.

Experience is your biggest ally, even with it you still need to do your homework.

Before even thinking about buying that project ask yourself the following questions:
-Does the bike run?  Will it run?  what will it take to run?

A bike that doesn't run is essentially a boat anchor.  If that's what your after, have at it!

Look around you.  Where will you work on this bike?  Do you have the tools to do it?
Metric sockets and wrenches for Japanese bikes, Whitworth tools for older Brit bikes, for example.

Figure out the availability and prices of parts, including shipping.  Nowadays, shipping will almost count for half of your budget!

Another part of my philosophy; 'Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst'

For instance, if a bike has sat for ages, you can pretty much guarantee that every rubber component is dried out and has cracked.  Electrical components tend to age poorly, a rusty bike means moisture; the arch enemy of electrics.

Are the tires odd sizes? are they available?  Many vintage bikes can be oddballs in this fashion, another thing to be aware of.

While forums should be taken with a grain of salt, they can be a good source of information and a good way to find vendors and services.

The next part of my restoration mantra;  'Have a vision.'  Determine just what it is you want.  Draw sketches, find other pictures on the net that you find inspirational.  Once the vision and budget has been determined, it is much easier to stay on track and attain your goals.

My final note is about budget.  Can you afford this?  by which I mean realistically?
If it's a dream bike, perhaps the money and time you spend is worthwhile.  When you look at the money involved and envision the end product, ask yourself.... 'If I saw this bike for sale at $X would I pay that much for it?'  If you wouldn't pay that much for a restored bike, why would you pay that much to restore it?

As for my Dual Twin,  I am pleased to say that I am pretty much on budget (by today's calculation I have $150.00 left to play with) though I am certain I will go a little over.  I am sad to say that I haven't gotten as far as I would have liked due to time constraints.  This is the other bit of number crunching to consider.  Time is money as they say;  Most of seem to have money and no time; no money and lots of time or end up the poor bastard with neither.

One day I will tell you about an added philosophy I call the Christina Hendricks test.....a story for another time! (you have imaginations, I'm sure you can work it out)

As I descend from my soapbox I leave you with a Japanese Cyborg that resembles a grasshopper riding a motorcycle to an epic theme tune.

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