Restoring a motorcycle is incredibly empowering. It’s a project that only a few dare to embark on, which is unfortunate because it’s a lot more simple than people would expect. You may wonder how much time it will take to complete if you do pursue such a project. I’ve been able to add up the time it has taken me to restore my project motorcycles.
So how long does it take to restore a motorcycle? With some experience, expect it to take 300 – 350 hours or about 3 months to restore a motorcycle which includes a few hours every day plus most of the day on Saturdays. With no experience, expect it to take 400-450 hours or about 5 months, which includes a few hours every day plus most of the day on Saturdays.
There is a lot to consider when it comes to the time it takes to restore a motorcycle. It will take you a lot longer if you are not consistent with spending a few hours every day with your project. I’ve learned several ways about how to manage my time wisely and have amazing outcomes with my motorcycles.
How To Optimize Your Time While Restoring a Motorcycle
Your time is precious and you probably want to make sure you don’t waste any time while restoring your motorcycle. It’s really easy to waste time on a project like this, especially when you don’t know what to do next. A lot of that wasted time is just sitting there thinking, we’re here to help you save that precious time!
The most important thing you need to do to save time is to write a to-do list every week. Perhaps on your Sunday evenings or during lunch breaks you can take a good look at your motorcycle and write down what you would like to accomplish that week.
Think about your list throughout your day and add to it, and always put more on the list than you think you can accomplish that week. That way if you do get everything done that you hoped to do you won’t be sitting around wondering what to do next. Write a list of things you need to buy and buy them altogether instead of making several trips to the store.
Find a picture of what you want your motorcycle to look like. Mount the picture on your garage wall, on your bathroom mirror, put it on your nightstand, or as your phone background (or all of the above!). This will serve as a reminder of what your end goal is and provide a sense of motivation.
When you are disassembling your motorcycle, it is vital that you take a lot of pictures of where parts were, label wires, and place bolts and other small parts in labeled plastic baggies. This will save you an immense amount of time later on. There’s nothing more frustrating than when you’re putting your motorcycle back together and have no idea where parts go.
I have a friend who bought a motorcycle for $1,000, took it completely apart without labeling any wires or taking pictures and ended up getting so frustrated that he ended up selling it all to me for $200. So I finished building it and sold it for $5,500.
Keep your tools organized and clean. When you’re done working on your motorcycle for the day, save yourself the headache and place your tools in their designated spots, and clean them while you’re at it. You may think leaving them where they are saves you time until your kids come out and move them around or your roommate sees a tool and “borrows” it, and you never see it again. Here is my list of recommended tools for a motorcycle restoration.
Communicate with your family or other household members about the time you plan to spend with your motorcycle. Express that you will be using the garage or drive way at a certain time. Assuming these household members are respectful, you won’t run into any troubles with claiming space to work in.
Communicate to your spouse or partner that you’ll be working in the garage for certain hours, and then stick to those hours and not more. That way they won’t get frustrated with the time you’re spending away from them (speaking from experience here).
Register on online forums or join Facebook groups specific to your motorcycle. Occasionally browse through it and see what other people are discussing, common issues you notice, how they fixed it, etc. This provides you with a valuable and reliable platform to refer to with answers from people who are experiencing similar situations. There might even be some other owners that live near you that are willing to come over and help you work on your project.
For more helpful tips on restoring a motorcycle that will save you time, see my article here.
What To Do When You Get Stuck
If you are working on a project motorcycle, there will be times you’ll get stuck and not know what to do next and/or not know how to solve an issue with the motorcycle. Don’t lose hope just yet. This happens to every single motorcycle restoring enthusiast. There are a few things you can try before resorting to taking your motorcycle to a mechanic.
The internet has a plethora of resources and knowledge to help you fix your motorcycle. YouTube is especially helpful to witness hands-on fixes and tips specific to your motorcycle. As stated before, forums are especially helpful for your specific motorcycle. The internet is what I relied on when I restored my first motorcycle and is something I continue to rely on with current projects. Do a little research and you may be surprised with the answers you find.
Try calling a friend and have them come over to look at the motorcycle. They don’t necessarily need to be mechanically inclined (though it may help if they are). Talk to them about the issue you’re having with the motorcycle and why you are stuck. Often times when you’re talking it out to an actual person, it gives you a different perspective and can help you find a possible solution.
Sometimes if you give a mechanic shop a friendly phone call, they can give possible solutions over the phone. Explain to them what you’re stuck with. The motorcycle world has a tendency to help each other out in ruts. If you’re lucky, you might talk to a motorcycle enthusiast and get his/her opinion about the issue.
If you’ve tried all of these and still can’t seem to find the solution to the problem you’re having on your motorcycle restoration, you’ll need to take it to a mechanic. Take it in steps though. Have them do a professional diagnosis. Assess if you can fix it yourself. If not, see if they can teach you how to fix it. If it’s still over your head, have them fix it for you. There are a lot of shops and mechanics that will do a free diagnosis.
What Problems Require a Professional
Don’t feel too bad when you have to take your motorcycle to a mechanic. I’ve had to take all of my motorcycles to a mechanic for one reason or another. It is inevitable, you will take your motorcycle in at least once.
There are a few things that need to be done to a motorcycle when you’re restoring it that require specialty tools that you probably don’t have. Such fixes include new tire mounts, head gasket replacements, valve replacements, engine rebuilds, front fork rebuilds, installing electronic ignitions, etc. Sometimes the specialty tools are so expensive that it isn’t economical to buy them and do the work yourself, just take it in.
There are other problems that you shouldn’t get yourself into unless you absolutely know what you’re doing (but chances are if you’re reading this, you probably don’t know exactly what you’re doing).
Such problems include replacing pistons, replacing piston rings, replacing valves, or anything related to an engine rebuild.
If you attempt an engine rebuild with little knowledge, you run the risk of moving or placing the wrong part causing wrong timing and ultimately damaging your engine further. Seek professional help on your motorcycle when it’s appropriate.
How Much It Will Cost To Restore a Motorcycle
Now that you have an idea of the time it’ll take to restore a motorcycle, you’re probably wondering how much money you’ll need to complete the project. It’s always a good idea to know how you will be funding your project and where the money is coming from.
If you plan to do the upgrades and rebuild yourself, expect to spend $1,000 – $1,300 in addition to the purchase of your motorcycle. I’ve restored almost twenty motorcycles and this is the average I’ve spent on all of mine. Here is a list of my recommended motorcycle upgrades.
If you’re restoring a motorcycle, chances are it’s an older bike. Restoring older motorcycles is actually better in a sense that the parts are cheap and usually pretty easy to find online. I love riding up on a motorcycle that looks brand new and when people ask what year it is they give such a surprised look when you say “1969”. See my article here for more information about the price to restore a motorcycle.
Can you finance a motorcycle? You can finance a motorcycle in several ways. A bank loan, a dealership loan, or a personal loan. A bank loan will have stipulations such as age, mileage, etc. If you are looking to purchase an old motorcycle that doesn’t meet the bank’s standards, you may be able to use money from a personal loan.
What is the best time of year to buy a motorcycle? The best time to purchase a motorcycle is in the fall/autumn through early winter. This applies to both dealerships and private sellers. Private sellers want the money back from their summer toys and dealerships are desperate to make a sale during the slow months.