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Old 21st January 2021, 05:47   #1
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Default How NOT to restore your old motorcycle

After watching an unhealthy amount of Youtube restoration videos, I thought I’ll give it a go on my 2009 Pulsar 150 DTSi. I vastly underestimated the skills it takes to do automotive repair work, how much patience is required, and how much of a pain it all can be. Hopefully someone can learn from my experience.

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Mistake 1: Not letting a real mechanic do the job

I have thousands of unbelievable memories with this Pulsar, including a trip to Ladakh. I’ve been out of the country for a while, and the years just ate it all. When I paid attention to it again, it was filthy and not in firing order. The final aim of the restoration was to have a motorcycle I could ride.

I took it to the nearby Bajaj service center. They looked at the thing and said it’s better to buy something new and trade it in. I had no plans to buy any Bajaj motorcycle at that time.

Pushed the mechanic a bit more, and he said that to bring it back to old glory, it’ll cost approximately 25000 bucks. That obviously didn’t make any financial sense. Even if I took it to an FNG, it’ll still cost 15000, which still won’t make sense.

If I’d let a professional do the job, I’d at least have a motorcycle now. Instead, I have a whole bunch of random tools that I don’t know what to do with, and some old engine oil.

Mistake 2: Not washing the bike

I don’t know why I didn’t wash it before I started work on it, a few minutes of hosing would have made the next few months so much easier.

The whole thing was covered in a mixture of grease, oil, and mud, there was simply no place you could touch without getting your hands dirty. My shiny new Nitrile gloves were a gooey mess within minutes, I had to resort to using my mom’s hair dying transparent glove thingies, which obviously were a disaster.

Even with all my precautions, the floor, the tools, and everything that the bike touched were covered in black ooze. It was a slimy, sticky, slippery mess for the remainder of the project.

Mistake 3: Stripping it down rather than fixing what’s wrong

I have zero mechanical knowledge of motorcycles, I just know how to ride them somewhat. That did not stop me from deciding that the only real way to restore this motorcycle, was to first completely dismantle it into each individual component.

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This was mostly just arrogance, a fancy IT “engineer” like me is clearly superior to a silly motorcycle mechanic, if he can do it, how hard can it possibly be?

Part of the trouble is that there are no manuals for the Pulsar, at least nothing I could find. I took the bike apart based on random Youtube videos, some advice from friends, and a whole lot of swearing.

The main problem with destroying your machine like this is that a motorcycle occupies a very small amount of space when intact, and can easily be rolled around anywhere. When in pieces though, it’s a huge pain to organize, store, and transport the broken shards. Even with this puny little bike whose engine I could pick up with my bare hands, pretty quickly every spare room in the house was jammed with random metal items.

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The other major issue is that when things are on the bike, they are easier to work on. I spent so many hours wrestling with the engine, trying to unbolt something and just rolling the whole thing around like a helpless baby, because it was no longer inside the chassis. I guess that's why doctors don't behead a person while performing cataract surgery.

Mistake 4: Trying to do it all in my bedroom

Engine oil stinks, so does petrol, and let’s not talk about grease. Your motorcycle usually does not find itself trapped in an air-tight, air-conditioned room, so you may not have noticed how disgusting the fumes from these petrochemical cocktails can be.

Part of the motivation for this restoration project was that I was spending too much time with screens, and I had this uncontrollable craving to do something with my hands. Idiotically though, I started this project in summer. Unless I wanted to die instantly, there was no option but to make this mess inside my bedroom.

Mistake 5: No plan

When I started this project, I had this vague idea inside my head that it’ll take maybe 3 months to complete. I was even thinking that I could add a bit of “modification” to this “restoration” project, maybe make it into a scrambler or something. What an absolute idiot I was.

I had a job, and I barely got to work on the bike for maybe 1 hour a day, if I was lucky. There was no way in hell it was getting finished within a time span of “months”. Because I had such early expectations though, the lack of progress annoyed me.

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As the days became weeks, the project just kept getting snagged on one thing or the other, and the family kept getting more and more annoyed with my stupidity. In the process of dismantling the bike, I had already destroyed the following items:
  1. Entire headlight assembly, due to broken plastic holders
  2. Entire wiring loom, I ripped the plastic connectors in revenge because they pulled my nails out
  3. The carburetor, I tried to open it to see what’s inside, and lost some bits, I think
  4. One cylinder head bolt, rounded off to perfection
  5. Screwdriver
  6. Flywheel puller
Since I had no frame of reference, no idea really how long it was supposed to take, and how many mistakes I was going to make on the way, the whole idea quickly turned from “fun” to “frustration”.

Mistake 6: Abruptly giving up

The family pressure to get back to my senses, the irritation of an unfinished project, and the fact that I had to travel overseas again for a few months meant that I decided to just get it over with.

By this time though the bike was in boxes across 3 rooms over 2 floors of the house, so there was no going back to a mechanic to fix my mess.

Scratched the engine and chassis numbers, called the dude who usually picks up our old newspapers, and sold it to him.

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Shortly after I did that, Covid happened, and I spent the next 6 months locked up inside the house. If I hadn’t sold it, I could’ve maybe done something more, or at least learned something about the mechanics of a bike. Instead, I sat around playing Euro Truck Simulator and No Man’s Sky.

If you are planning to do something like this with your motorcycle, I would give the following suggestions:
  1. Wash the bike before you do anything else
  2. Do tiny little things at a time, fix things while they are on the bike, learn the skills
  3. Find some open space where you can create a mess without consequences
  4. Have realistic expectations, plan exactly what you want to do, know what you want to achieve
  5. Have patience, bucket loads of patience, this will take years, enjoy the process rather than making it a second job
  6. In case you can't do any of the items above, sell the bike, or take it to someone who knows what they're doing
Here are the numbers for anybody interested, at least it wasn’t a financial catastrophe :

4500 – Trade in value of motorcycle if I’d bought a new Bajaj bike
7000 – Money spent on tools
2400 – Money recovered by selling the bike in scrap
4 Months - Time spent from start to fail

Last edited by GTO : 21st January 2021 at 07:01. Reason: PM coming up
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Old 21st January 2021, 07:05   #2
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Default Re: How NOT to restore your old motorcycle

Thread moved from the Assembly Line to the Motorcycle section. Thanks for sharing! Going to our homepage today .

Also sharing the OP's satirical take on this - link.

Last edited by GTO : 21st January 2021 at 07:06.
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Old 21st January 2021, 07:30   #3
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Default Re: How NOT to restore your old motorcycle

Thanks for sharing, a very important lesson for anyone attempting a restoration. I don't think I have the bandwidth for one, but will get it done by a mechanic or a professional who knows what they are doing.
Quote:
Originally Posted by RiderZone View Post
Part of the motivation for this restoration project was that I was spending too much time with screens, and I had this uncontrollable craving to do something with my hands.
Pick up gardening.
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Old 21st January 2021, 07:54   #4
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Default Re: How NOT to restore your old motorcycle

Someone has told "Good judgement comes by experience. And experience comes by bad judgement". This is applicable to all professional fields.

Although lots of efforts, money, time, emotions are spent in the restoration attempt, the learning and experience that the process has taught is invaluable. The price paid is although, bit high.

One important learning here is, not to attempt big bang approach first time. Go one step at a time with small fixes, get used to tools, tricks, nac and build the skills over time.

Experience cannot be purchased. It must be acquired. It takes time to acquire experience. Can not be acquired overnight. Underestimating the value of experience is what has led to this situation is my learning.

Second learning is, Mistakes make man perfect. If mistakes are small, impact is small. Bigger mistakes have bigger impact.

But, irrespective of the size of mistakes or impacts, learning and experience are always big.

Really feel bad for the situation.

Last edited by gkveda : 21st January 2021 at 07:59.
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Old 21st January 2021, 09:03   #5
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Default Re: How NOT to restore your old motorcycle

I personally think you gave up too soon, as did I once when restoring my ZMA after it had been left to rot for a few years.

Rather than technical know-how it takes more patience and mental strength to go through a restoration or even an engine rebuild, forget us mortals a friend of mine who is a seasoned car mechanic took around 2~3 Months IIRC to restore his motorcycles engine from scratch, which was the first motorcycle engine he'd worked on, currently he rebuilds engines for friends overnight.

So simply put the first time is always the most challenging time especially when it comes to motorcycles with varying setups and no support material what so ever i,e Indian Motorcycles, if you can survive it then you can practically do anything from consumable replacement to all out restorations.

As for hesitant nuts and bolts, always have an Impact Driver and Rubber Mallet at hand, saves you a LOT of trouble, and in the event you do deform a nut/bolt simply replace it, they're common parts you can get from any quality hardware store, heck! if at all I even slightly mark a nut/bolt I replace it, else my OCD won't let me ride in peace.

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How NOT to restore your old motorcycle-41239.jpg

Now as for breaking parts, happens the first few times at least, BUT you rarely do break the same part twice;

How NOT to restore your old motorcycle-img_20201009_212739.jpg

This is where owning a Bajaj comes to the rescue, spare parts are usually available off the shelf and even if you stay in a remote location a call to a fellow enthusiast from the city would ensure you have the part in hand. Plus spare availability(and pricing) is the most underrated part of motorcycle ownership, if something is not available then it adds to unnecessary down time.

All said, the next time would be relatively less difficult for you and I insist on there being a next time cause in all honesty there really are not many people who you can trust with your motorcycle in India.

P.S. A longtime fan of RiderZone!

Regards,
A.P.

Last edited by ashwinprakas : 21st January 2021 at 09:07.
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Old 21st January 2021, 09:27   #6
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Default Re: How NOT to restore your old motorcycle

Few don't from my side.

1. Don't rush to paint before getting everything mechanically fit.
2. Don't try modern retro fits on older bikes.
3. Don't open up a bike unless you have a service manual.
4. Don't start a project unless you have a list of spare parts.

Above points are hard lessons learnt from an ongoing (three year) project.

PS : The best maintenance for any old bike is to simply keep it running.

Last edited by srini1785 : 21st January 2021 at 09:34.
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Old 21st January 2021, 09:30   #7
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Default Re: How NOT to restore your old motorcycle

I dont think the bike was in bad enough condition to undergo a restoration, based on the pictures. All it needed was a good, thorough service.

I have a 2001 CBZ and its in very bad shape (from body condition) but with perfect working mechanicals (starts in 1-2 kicks even after being unused for months). I keep thinking of the restoration, but the whole RTO documentation is very very messy and expensive. Hence I use it only for local errands at my secondary house.

Will try to post a picture of my bike. Its still very very beautiful!
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Old 21st January 2021, 09:35   #8
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Default Re: How NOT to restore your old motorcycle

Quote:
Originally Posted by RiderZone View Post

4500 Trade in value of motorcycle if Id bought a new Bajaj bike
7000 Money spent on tools
2400 Money recovered by selling the bike in scrap
4 Months - Time spent from start to fail
Lovely! Here goes one more item in my bucket list. This sounds like way too much fun for 5000 rupees .

Quote:
Originally Posted by GTO View Post

Also sharing the OP's satirical take on this - link.
You may not be a great mechanic but you have a flair for writing. Pretty good for a handsome IT engineer Where is the photo of your family member's reaction to this mess and the final sale?
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Old 21st January 2021, 09:44   #9
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Default Re: How NOT to restore your old motorcycle

Wow great NOT to do thread. I was once tempted to do repairs/servicing my Yamaha Libero G5 that is doing errands. So slowly started with oil change successfully. Then gave up this task as I know how difficult it is to get free time for family. Somehow the bike is running great till now and I can't part with that bike for sure (documents missing).

Now I'm interested in retro fitting front disc brakes in it. Is it possible? The only grouse of my bike is poor braking experience.

Last edited by KPR : 21st January 2021 at 09:47.
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Old 21st January 2021, 09:53   #10
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Default Re: How NOT to restore your old motorcycle

Quote:
Originally Posted by RiderZone View Post
After watching...Hopefully someone can learn from my experience
Well atleast you got to watch some, I never got to watch one, this was way back in 2006...

Mistake 1: Not letting a real mechanic do the job
Yes, I did the same in 2006, but then in 2010, I DID LEARN everything using Rx's parts catalog & service manual

Mistake 2: Not washing the bike
Yes, I did the same in 2006, no regrets though

Mistake 3: Stripping it down rather than fixing what’s wrong
Yes, I stripped it down even before draining the oil, even before removing the clutch & the first thing to be removed was wheels; then I had to put the wheels back, so you can imagine the frustration of repeating things twice!!

Mistake 4: Trying to do it all in my bedroom
Fortunately, I was blessed with an ultra hyper large space, so no complaints there

Mistake 5: No plan
Absolutely yes; started on a weekday morning (and I'm still wondering why) as if I can put back everything before noon!! What a fool!! And needless to say, the bike was carried to ASC during weekend.

Mistake 6: Abruptly giving up
What else is the choice? Back in 2006, no YT, no WA, no FB, even mobile phones were a little rare piece of electronic that not everyone had. All we got to do was give up...but for the moment

But the greatest truth is NEVER GIVE UP!!

In 2009/10/11 - things turned around; acquired the required knowledge, got a bunch of friends who were equally as nut as I do, got the required tools in first place & then finally rebuilt my Rx entirely to my own satisfaction. Yes, it took nearly 2.5 years, but then, today with just one kick, the first smoke, the first turn on ignition, I can guess what could be the issue with my Rx.

Yes, I'm not a mechanic, but I'm my own Doctor for my bike

Edit - If interested the entire ordeal is here

Last edited by Aditya : 21st January 2021 at 19:59. Reason: As requested.
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Old 21st January 2021, 10:27   #11
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Default Re: How NOT to restore your old motorcycle


As a person with zero technical inclination (apart from checking engine oil and changing tyres), this is just so relatable yet alien too. I would have left the bike as it is and played Euro truck Simulator all summer instead.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GTO View Post
Also sharing the OP's satirical take on this - link.
This satirical take
plus
The first and last pics of the OP side by side looks

Atmanirbhar scrapping.
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Old 21st January 2021, 10:41   #12
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Default Re: How NOT to restore your old motorcycle

Quote:
Originally Posted by GTO View Post
Thread moved from the Assembly Line to the Motorcycle section. Thanks for sharing! Going to our homepage today .

Also sharing the OP's satirical take on this - link.
While OP's post was quite informative and has a lot of value, I can't thank you enough for adding the link to his blog. His post had me laughing my butt off

@RiderZone: Your blog is just pure entertainment (as far as I have read till now). I'm definitely going to spend some time going through the Satire section of your blog. Question for you though: Why does the About section of your blog keep redirecting to a random wiki page every time I click on it?
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Old 21st January 2021, 10:55   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RiderZone View Post
After watching an unhealthy amount of Youtube restoration videos,

Mistake 4: Trying to do it all in my bedroom
Hi RiderZone,
Although I dont own a bike but I can feel your pain on a failed project attempt. I am a big DIY guy myself and these things really bother me.

I've learnt it the hard way... youtube videos aren't much help to novices.

But trying to restore a bike inside your bedroom, now that was God level epic!

Good luck for any future project
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Old 21st January 2021, 11:08   #14
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Default Re: How NOT to restore your old motorcycle

Brilliant!

The last picture of the bike being carted away gives me great agony :-(

Actually, you have made only one mistake (Mistake 3 & summed up in Mistake 6!) - 'Don't fix what ain't broken' (despite repeating this to myself every time I lay my hands on my bike, I end up spending twice the amount of time and money on an wanted repair!)

In fact, having stripped the bike, if you had space to store, it would have been a real 'restoration' once you had the time & patience.

Will re-read your post several times before I attempt to do any unwanted repair!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by RiderZone View Post
... I’ve been out of the country for a while, and the years just ate it all. When I paid attention to it again, it was filthy and not in firing order. The final aim of the restoration was to have a motorcycle I could ride..

Last edited by vrprabhu : 21st January 2021 at 11:26. Reason: Improved clarity
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Old 21st January 2021, 11:14   #15
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Default Re: How NOT to restore your old motorcycle

Enjoyed reading this one

I did something similar but not too bad.

Bought an RD350 in parts. The frame and engine mainly. Everything else was missing. This was 6 years ago when my one year old started into my eyes and I said to him "Mera beta biker banega" with the recent hangover of 3 idiots playing in my head.

The bike sat there but I did start scoring parts. Got the tank from US ebay, got a few ancillary parts like the throttle, switches, etc and saved them in more boxes.

Then we took the frame apart and made more boxes. Some of them went in the bed storage and some on the loft. I slept over it several times a year (pun intended).

Late last year I said enough is enough and contacted Joshua Crasto of JCMoto and requested him to make these boxes look like a bike and he obliged. So the project has kicked off.

Hopefully I should get a working RD350 by mid this year
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