General

Cold Play - Rebuild a wreck

Jon likes to spend his winters hibernating in the garage (or erm, kitchen) restoring an old shitter...

Rebuilding a wreck is a voyage of discovery. It can be a rocky journey, but the rewards are worth the suffering. Even if you abandon the whole thing and are left with a pile of rusty parts you will have learned more about how your bike works than you ever knew before.

Selecting a suitable project bike is easy. Get something that interests you and that you would love to have in your garage for the rest of your life. You will spend more than the bike is worth, so selling it after doesn't make sense.

Good starter project bikes are the classic RDs, air or liquid cooled, old scooters such as Lambrettas or Vespas or how about an X7? They are all basic machines with simple motors and lots of specialists still selling bits as well as scrap yards.

The best route to finding your bike is a mate of a mate who has one in the back of his garage, which hasn't moved for umpteen years. Offer him a pittance to take it off his hands. I got my RD350 Ratbike like this, for £200! Failing that try eBay, look in the back of papers or call a few breakers. Don't rush out and buy the first one, it's a longterm project.

A running bike that is really tatty is the best buy. At least you know it should run when you've finished. Don't worry about paintwork or dents in the tank, you'll be getting it repainted. But if possible make sure the plastics are all there. In old bikes plastic panels are a nightmare to get hold of, and expensive. The motor's electrics are a bastard to sort out so check for a spark.

Once you've got your bike back in your garage the fun starts. Armed with a Haynes manual (an essential item) start to strip the bike.

Photograph the process so you have an idea where things go when it comes to the rebuild. Bag everything up as you go.

When you encounter a seized bolt first try spraying WD40 on it and use a ring spanner. If this doesn't work use a blowtorch to heat it up. If all else fails then cut it using an angle grinder.

With the bike in pieces you need to clean everything, then decide which parts you are going to have painted, and how. Get things painted in a big job lot as it's cheaper. Frames, swingarms, bars etc are best powder coated as it is tougher than paint, but it needs a specialist. Ask your local bike shop to recommend someone. When getting wheels and frame done knock out the bearings before painting and mask off the areas where they sit. Powder coat is a nightmare to remove and adds a few mm to the thickness, so the bearing won't fit. Another area to mask is where the brake disc rota sits on the wheels or the discs won't run in the centre of the caliper.

When it comes to rebuilding the bike, buy bearings from a bearing shop, not OE ones. They are a fraction of the cost but take the old one with you to get the right size. Replace all the nuts and bolts as you go along with stainless steel ones and remember to grease the bearings, axels and moving bits. Hopefully when you've finished the bike should run better than new. Leave the painting of tank and panels to last. They cost the most and it's best to know the project has a chance of finishing before spending loads of money on paintwork. And don't go overboard buying new tyres, brake pads and other consummables. Use the old ones until the project is finished.

Paint the smaller less noticeable bits yourself. First use primer on the metal then a quality heavy duty paint after sanding it smooth. Car spray paint is good, and easier to get a good finish, but also use paint and brushes. Hang parts up to dry using cut-up old coat-hangers.

At this point your creation should be looking good. If you find parts missing see how much the bits cost from a dealer, even parts for RDs can still be ordered from Yamaha and are often close to the scrappy's price. Also try eBay, it's a great source for bits.

The main piece of advice is, don't be scared. Rebuilding forks sounds terrifying, but is actually quite easy. The bike was first put together by someone on a production line, not a rocket scientist; all it takes is patience and logic. A bike is a big jigsaw puzzle waiting to be solved.

Rebuilding a wreck is a voyage of discovery. It can be a rocky journey, but the rewards are worth the suffering. Even if you abandon the whole thing and are left with a pile of rusty parts you will have learned more about how your bike works than you ever knew before.

Selecting a suitable project bike is easy. Get something that interests you and that you would love to have in your garage for the rest of your life. You will spend more than the bike is worth, so selling it after doesn't make sense.

Good starter project bikes are the classic RDs, air or liquid cooled, old scooters such as Lambrettas or Vespas or how about an X7? They are all basic machines with simple motors and lots of specialists still selling bits as well as scrap yards.

The best route to finding your bike is a mate of a mate who has one in the back of his garage, which hasn't moved for umpteen years. Offer him a pittance to take it off his hands. I got my RD350 Ratbike like this, for £200! Failing that try eBay, look in the back of papers or call a few breakers. Don't rush out and buy the first one, it's a longterm project.

A running bike that is really tatty is the best buy. At least you know it should run when you've finished. Don't worry about paintwork or dents in the tank, you'll be getting it repainted. But if possible make sure the plastics are all there. In old bikes plastic panels are a nightmare to get hold of, and expensive. The motor's electrics are a bastard to sort out so check for a spark.

Continue the winter bike project guide

Once you've got your bike back in your garage the fun starts. Armed with a Haynes manual (an essential item) start to strip the bike. Photograph the process so you have an idea where things go when it comes to the rebuild. Bag everything up as you go.

When you encounter a seized bolt first try spraying WD40 on it and use a ring spanner. If this doesn't work use a blowtorch to heat it up. If all else fails then cut it using an angle grinder.

With the bike in pieces you need to clean everything, then decide which parts you are going to have painted, and how. Get things painted in a big job lot as it's cheaper. Frames, swingarms, bars etc are best powder coated as it is tougher than paint, but it needs a specialist. Ask your local bike shop to recommend someone. When getting wheels and frame done knock out the bearings before painting and mask off the areas where they sit. Powder coat is a nightmare to remove and adds a few mm to the thickness, so the bearing won't fit. Another area to mask is where the brake disc rota sits on the wheels or the discs won't run in the centre of the caliper.

When it comes to rebuilding the bike, buy bearings from a bearing shop, not OE ones. They are a fraction of the cost but take the old one with you to get the right size. Replace all the nuts and bolts as you go along with stainless steel ones and remember to grease the bearings, axels and moving bits. Hopefully when you've finished the bike should run better than new. Leave the painting of tank and panels to last. They cost the most and it's best to know the project has a chance of finishing before spending loads of money on paintwork. And don't go overboard buying new tyres, brake pads and other consummables. Use the old ones until the project is finished.

Paint the smaller less noticeable bits yourself. First use primer on the metal then a quality heavy duty paint after sanding it smooth. Car spray paint is good, and easier to get a good finish, but also use paint and brushes. Hang parts up to dry using cut-up old coat-hangers.

At this point your creation should be looking good. If you find parts missing see how much the bits cost from a dealer, even parts for RDs can still be ordered from Yamaha and are often close to the scrappy's price. Also try eBay, it's a great source for bits.

The main piece of advice is, don't be scared. Rebuilding forks sounds terrifying, but is actually quite easy. The bike was first put together by someone on a production line, not a rocket scientist; all it takes is patience and logic. A bike is a big jigsaw puzzle waiting to be solved.

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