Real Life Wrenching: The Cost of Project Bikes

| 6/18/2012 3:19:51 PM

Tags: restoration,


I met a young woman this week who had ridden her thumper from Arizona to Canada, and back down to the Bay Area. Her bike had started leaking gasoline from the carburetor, but being on the road and having few tools, took it into a shop. They charged her $250 to replace a single needle on the single carb, which probably took about 10 minutes and the same amount of money to replace. And it didn’t even solve her problem – it was probably nothing more than a stuck float. If that doesn’t sound like highway robbery, I don’t know what does. There are plenty of great, fair mechanics out there, so if you’re one of them, please don’t take this personally. Just saying … 

Maintaining or even customizing a motorcycle doesn’t have to cost a fortune or be an “expensive hobby.” Having a set of tools is the only potentially expensive hurdle, but that brings me back to my first article.

We have a number of project bikes at Re-Cycle, the co-op garage where I work on my bikes. All of these projects were either free on Craigslist, donated to the garage by local bikers, or picked up for dirt-cheap. Search “project” in your local motorcycle listings and you’ll see what I mean. It’s amazing how many decent bikes are abandoned or sold, and just sat around for too long, needing little to get running again. 

Mostly 80s model Hondas, Yamahas and Kawasakis, Re-Cycle bikes are given new life and sometimes, completely new identities. When you’re dealing with a bike that doesn’t hold much value in it’s original form anyway, you have all the freedom in the world to get creative. Some make great bobbers, rat bikes, cafes, faux flat track racers, anything you can come up with. Be open-minded. 

Liza, the founder of Re-Cycle, generally estimates that it will cost about $300-500 getting a beater bike back on the road. That’s new tires, a new battery, a little paint and other various purchases. Just be wary of back registration fees. If the bike is current, or out of the system, you’re good to go. And check that it at least turns over. If it does, a little problem solving will have it running with relative ease. 

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