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• Aimed at the beginner and seasoned motorbike restorer alike
• Real life restoration carried out by the author
• Advice on project choice and the preparation process
• Step-by-step guidance with hundreds of photographs
• Dismantling, restoring and sourcing parts, and rebuilding
• Recommendations on repairs, renovations and parts replacements
• Special tools, their purchase, use and alternatives
• Restoring mechanical parts, such as engine, gearbox, brakes, and electrics
• Tackling bodywork: spraying, polishing, seat re-covering, decals, forks and tyres
• How to save yourself time and money
How to Restore Classic Off-road Motorcycles provides the classic off-road enthusiast with a step-by-step guide through a full restoration. Whether a post 1950 machine, or a more modern 80s twin shock, everything is covered in detail, from initial dismantling and parts sourcing to being ready to compete, including set-up and maintenance.
Begin the initial strip down by assessing the condition of the engine, especially if you haven’t heard it run before. Providing that you can get it running at this stage and all seems okay, it will simply be a case of cleaning, polishing or painting it before inserting it back in its frame.
Very important: Before you do anything with the engine, check the oil level and top it up if necessary. Don’t get caught out trying to start the engine, only to discover the oil leaked out years ago. Damage caused to the engine when run with no oil will undoubtedly lead to an expensive repair bill, which can be easily avoided.
Start with the basic checks on the ignition and fuel system.
Give a good kick on the kickstarter, taking a close look at the sparkplug electrode while you do so. Does it spark? This is what you are looking for. If it sparks, great: the ignition is looking okay. If not, it could be a faulty cap or plug. You can investigate this properly later.
Once you have checked the sparkplug, follow with the checks to the fuel system. For now, you can assume that the fuel tank is clean. Add some fresh fuel and pull the fuel hose from the carburettor, turn on the fuel tap and see if there is fuel coming from it. Only do this briefly (and have a suitable receptacle to catch the fuel), to assess whether you have a clear fuel tap.
Once you know the ignition and fuel systems are okay, you can attempt to start the engine.
Caution! Do this in an open space – not inside a garage or shed – because exhaust gases are dangerous if inhaled.
If the engine starts, let it warm up. It may not have been started for years, so do not rev it too much. Listen for strange noises and look for oil leaks.
If there are no obvious problems, you can assume the engine is okay. If, after going through the basic starting check, the engine does not start, you’ll need to investigate it later.
Once you’ve assessed whether the engine is good or not, you can move on to the strip down.
Starting the strip down
It’s good practice to make a photographic record of your motorcycle and its parts as it’s dismantled. This will provide a record that you can refer back to when reassembling the bike. It is also useful evidence of work done to show to a potential buyer if you ever come to sell the bike.
Tip: When dismantling the bike, it’s good practice to put the screws and bolts back in the hole they came from. This both keeps them safe, and means you know their correct location. You can always replace with a newer one later, and you will know the size and type of screw/bolt to use. Also try to group nuts and bolts: for instance, keep all the engine mounting bolts, washers and nuts together in a small box, and label it.
You’ll find an impact driver very useful here, particularly on engine casing screws. Make sure you use the correct size spanner, socket or screwdriver the first time you attempt to undo something – all too often people try to undo a screw or nut with the incorrect size tool and this results in a screw or nut that becomes rounded and even more difficult to release. Bolt extractors can help if this happens, but it’s far better to remove the item correctly to start with. Some will be very stubborn, and may require a firm clout with the impact wrench, or warming with a blow lamp.
With some nuts, such as those on engine mounting bolts, use a good socket and hold the other end of the bolt firmly with a suitable size spanner to prevent it from turning. Normally, once the nut begins to move, it becomes looser and looser until it come off. If it remains very tight, spray on more light oil as more thread is exposed. This will also help when it comes to the rebuild.
In short, it's very much a hands-on look at everything you might need to do, or at least consider, if you want to get mobile on the dirt and flick some serious mud in someone's eye ... You'll probably read it once for the broader picture, and then once more for the detail, and then again when you actually get started in the workshop.
Do not let the title of this book put you off if you only ride road bikes, as it is one of the best books I’ve read detailing just about everything on working on classic motorcycles whether on or off road.
Period covered: 1950-1980
Models covered: Any offroad motorcycles from 1960's to 1980 BSA, Triumph, AJS, Matchless, Greeves, Dot, Cotton, Montesa, Bultaco, Ossa,Yamaha,Suzuki, Fantic, Husqvana, Maico,CZ