How to buy a motorcycle to restore


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Ian Bates owns Resurrection Motorcycles in Market Deeping. Building bikes since the age of ten, and an engineer by trade, he now specialises in damaged repairables, and knows how to see the potential in another man’s write-off… If anyone could give advice on buying a motorcycle to restore, it’s him.

“It’s a crying shame that we live in such a throw-away society, but it can mean some great bargains. I regularly buy Category C and D insurance write-off bikes – I’ll look past fairing damage, but anything structural and I’ll walk away. You can see from the damage how a bike has been crashed, and work out what could have happened. A slide down the road is quite different to impact damage, for instance if the bike slid into a kerb. If the geometry of a bike is wrong, I don’t want to take it.

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Be sure you have the skills to repair a bike
Be sure you have the skills to repair a bike

“By buying a bike that’s come direct from an insurance company, there’s a lot less chance that anybody has tried to hide any damage. It’s the risk when buying any crashed bike that’s been repaired – are more serious issues being hidden? My advice would be to ask for photos of the restoration, as well as seeing the parts that have been replaced. It’s why I document all my work, from the first time I see the bike to the last bolt replaced, and keep all the broken parts, to give a customer the confidence to know what they’re buying.

“Despite a bike I purchase being a Cat C or Cat D write-off, I’ll still be looking for a full service history, as well as the usual MoTs and mileage checks. It all helps me to build a picture of the machine’s previous life, and how it was cared for before it was crashed. It might have mud stuck in the frame, and pieces missing, but you can still very easily get an idea of how well loved it was. I’m looking for originality – the less modifications a bike’s had; the less it’s been messed around with, then the more likely I am to buy it. You can tell from the finish if something’s ‘factory’. Stickers might be covering damage, new levers can be a sign of a drop.

 

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How badly damaged is a Cat C or Cat D?

Sometimes minor damage can write a bike off
Sometimes minor damage can write a bike off

“Write-off categories are purely down to economics. Don’t believe anyone who tries to tell you that it’s just about cosmetic damage. Of course, two different insurance assessors can class a bike differently – some might say that some stone chips to a fork leg are wear and tear, whereas others might insist that the entire assembly is replaced.

“When you’re repairing a bike, you must know what you’re doing, so a good level of mechanical knowledge and experience is vital. You can’t do work like this in the kitchen, and at the end of the day, the bike’s going to have to pass an MoT, and you, or your buyer, are going to trust it with their life. I don’t take things like that lightly. If you haven’t got the right knowledge, the right tools, and plenty of common sense, then repairing a crashed bike isn’t for you. A can-do attitude is important, but so is knowing your limitations. If in doubt, talk to a professional.

“Understanding what can be repaired is vital – a KTM I worked on recently had a punctured fuel tank and a scraped panel. It was written off because the plastic tank costs £2000. Insurance companies will only replace, not repair items, but I had the tank professionally welded for £50, and bought a new panel for £100. The frame, wheels… everything else was perfect. I was even able to get the full service history from KTM.

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“I know I won’t be able to sell a restored bike for the asking price of a typical machine that hasn’t been written off, but it does mean that a buyer can get a great value motorcycle, and by doing the work myself, or knowing the right professionals, I’ve still made a profit.

“It’s a crying shame that some people would want to buy the MV I have on my bench at the moment to break up for spares. It’s a beautiful piece of engineering, and to write it off, then pull it apart to flog for bits upsets me a lot. Bringing something like this home, and knowing it will run again, looking like it did when it came out of the showroom is what drives me. It’s a passion.”

To talk to Ian about servicing and repairing anything from the smallest field bike, to a full rebuild of an MV Agusta, call 01778 380940 or visit his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ResurrectionMotorcycles

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Check out www.morebikes.co.uk/writeoff for more information on buying a Cat C or Cat D bike.

Does a Cat C or D bike affect your insurance? Click here: www.morebikes.co.uk/buying-write-affect-insurance/

 

 

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