Tips for Buying Your First Classic Motorbike

While we see a lot of vintage cars at White’s Bodyworks, we’ve also had a few classic motorbikes over the years. There’s nothing that gets our mechanics purring than a bike like this 1969 Triumph Trophy that came in for repairs a few years back.

It’s what we live for and why we’re still one of the best garages for classic car and motorbike restorations and repairs in the UK today.

Classic motorbike owners tend to be a breed apart and are often very much wedded to a particular manufacturer and make of bike. If this is the first time you are considering buying a classic motorbike, joining one of the many groups in the UK should ensure you get some good advice.

Are Classic Bikes a Good Investment?

As with classic cars, this will depend a good deal on the make and model and how old it is. The good news is that, if you shop around, buying a classic motorbike should be a lot cheaper than a vintage four-wheel vehicle.

If you are buying your bike as an investment – perhaps you want to restore and sell it– then it’s worth doing your due diligence and checking what they go for online. It’s better to take your time and find the bike that you are looking for rather than settling for one that doesn’t quite meet all your needs.

How Much Work is There to Do?

You can either buy a classic motorbike that has been lovingly cared for and is in tip-top condition or you can go for a restoration or refurbishment job which is usually going to be cheaper, at least to buy.

If part of the reason you’re buying a classic is to get into restoration as a hobby, you need to be sure about the amount of work that you will be undertaking, how you are going to fund this and who is going to manage the more difficult jobs that are beyond your skill level. It’s important to be realistic about the time, effort and money you need to put into the restoration before you take it on.

Availability of Parts

The older your classic motorbike, the more difficult it might be to find replacement parts. That may not be a problem if you can find a suitable, more modern replacement and don’t mind.

But if you want to restore a bike to its original state then you may want to search online for any supplier or individual that can supply you with the right parts. For most classic car and bike restorations there is often a tradeoff between what’s available, how much it costs and what can realistically be achieved.

Creating a Restoration Plan

You’ll also need a plan for your restoration, including sorting out where you are going to carry out the work.

A decent-sized garage is desirable because it will keep your bike covered and protected from the elements. You’ll need the right equipment and may also want to seek out a specialist motorbike restoration garage that can handle the jobs you aren’t qualified for or don’t want to handle yourself.

Classic Bike Insurance

Classic bike insurance can be an option and doesn’t have to be expensive. In most cases, owners get a better deal because they have a reputation for looking after their bikes and not riding them everywhere, thereby reducing the risk.

One of the challenges of getting insurance for a classic motorbike, however, is settling on the value of the bike and what it’s worth should there be an accident. This can take a fair bit of negotiation and doesn’t always deliver the right result.

You also need to think about any changes you make while undertaking a renovation or restoration – if you’ve added ‘non-approved’ parts to the bike, it can affect your policy.

It’s worth shopping around for a specialist classic motorbike insurance company rather than going through the usual commercial options as you can often strike a much better deal and get the right coverage for your bike.

Where To Buy a Classic Motorbike

There are several different avenues to consider if you want to buy a classic motorbike. They are often sold at auctions or advertised online. The one thing you should make certain of, however, is that you inspect the bike in person before you part with your money. There are plenty of scams out there and you should never take anyone’s word and buy sight unseen.

Once you’ve bought your classic motorbike, it’s a good time to build a relationship with a local garage that has a reputation for working with older vehicles. At White’s Bodyworks in West Sussex, we have several decades of experience with vintage vehicles and can handle all repairs and restoration jobs.

If you’d like to find out more, check out our website today.


Why you might need motorcycle frame straightening

Feeling like the balance is off or the bike is pulling in one direction? These are common reasons why you might need motorcycle frame straightening. But what’s involved? How much does it cost to straighten a motorcycle frame and what’s the impact? We’ll help you understand more about why you might need motorcycle frame straightening in this 10-minute read.

1. What is motorcycle frame straightening?

Motorcycle frame straightening is the process of putting the frame on a jig and ensuring it is level across all axis. The main reason your motorcycle frame will get bent is usually because of a crash or a drop.

2. How do you straighten a motorcycle frame?

This is best done using a jig at a professional motorcycle body shop. According to Gone Outdoors, “Motorcycle frames are fabricated from tube steel or aluminium alloy tubing, and either type is vulnerable to bending as a result of [an] impact. Frame shops use metal jigs when straightening frames, and each shop has its own method of straightening. In the event your motorcycle frame is seriously bent in more than one place or at the steering headset, a frame shop is the best solution.” Since you need to take everything off the frame, you might not want to attempt this at home.

3. How do you check if a motorcycle frame is straight?

Your body shop can check this by putting it on a jig. But if you want to check if a motorcycle frame is straight at home, you’ll want to do a few different steps. According to Australian Motorcycle News, “carry out a detailed visual inspection, then measure the frame with string or a straight edge, and for the ultimate in [peace] of mind, use a Frame Align tool.” But these tools can cost around £450, so if you’re still not sure after the first 2 checks, it’s probably best to take it to a specialist.

4. How much does it cost to straighten a motorcycle frame?

Straightening a motorcycle frame can cost anything from an hour to a day’s work. But the charge out for a good bike shop starts at £79 an hour, including VAT. You can help your bike body shop provide a quote by sending in detailed pictures with your straight edge or string guide measurements. If it’s not rideable, look for repairs that are offered with a collect & deliver service.

5. What happens if a motorcycle frame is bent?

When a frame is bent, it will feel strange to ride. It may track to the right or the left. The tyres will wear unevenly as a result. And it might become totally unrideable if the damage is significant enough. It may even get written off as a result of a bend in the motorcycle frame if the bike isn’t worth the cost of fixing it. Now that doesn’t mean it will never be rideable again, but it does mean that you’ll need to invest money into motorcycle repairs to get it in good working order.  You’ll want to check the frame is not bent before you sell or buy a bike. To do this, MotoFomo suggests you, “Get an eight-foot or longer length of brightly coloured string. You’re going to wrap it around the wheel and the frame of the motorcycle to see if gaps are the same on both sides of the motorcycle.” If the gaps are different, it’s likely the frame is bent and you’ll want to bring the price down. You can also do this with a straight edge, but that’s a little harder to transport.

6. Can you weld a motorcycle frame?

Yes, Gas metal arc (GMA) and gas tungsten arc (GTA) welding are best for motorcycle frames. And most frames are welded with GMA in the factory. In fact, if your motorcycle frame is bent, you may see cracking across the welds. If you see broken or cracked welds, you need to repair them before you attempt to straighten the motorcycle frame. If you’re going to weld a motorcycle frame, you’ll need to rent, buy or make a jig. This can be cost-prohibitive, so weigh up if it’s worth doing this at home. Most bike body shops will have a jig already and low-cost welding rates.

7. Does motorcycle frame straightening increase your insurance premium?

If you have motorcycle insurance, it will likely be a condition of the policy that you inform them any time your bike has been in an accident. This includes damage that occurs even when you don’t necessarily want to claim. And this may increase your premium even if you don’t carry out a repair. It’s possible that motorcycle frame straightening will increase your insurance premium, but if the damage is significant enough to warrant repair, it’s probably in the best interest of the bike and your enjoyment of it to have the work done.

According to Bennetts, “Wherever you decide to have your damage estimate produced, the insurance company will then have an independent engineer look at the damage. […] Based on the market value of your bike, the underwriter will have set a proportion of the value to determine if a repair is worthwhile, or if the bike should be ‘written off’. In this case, the owner is given money up to the market value, and the machine is sold for salvage.”

8. Summary

In short, you might need motorcycle frame straightening if your bike is pulling to one side, the tyres are wearing unevenly or it feels odd to ride. You can check this with a bit of bright string or straight edges. If you feel your bike is in need of frame work, it’s probably best to have it carried out by a reputable bike body shop. That’s because the work needed to fix any welds, prep the frame and carry out the frame job requires a jig. And making one at home is also fairly expensive and time-consuming. So, if you’d like to have your bike looked at by a professional, talk to our helpful team about bike repairs today.

How do you fully restore a motorcycle?

Unsure how you fully restore a motorcycle? There are a few established ways to repair, protect and upgrade classic motorcycles. We’ll cover the basics of restoration, the most common motorcycles to restore and the easiest motorcycles for beginners to restore. We’ll talk you through the steps in motorcycle restoration and when it might be best to bring in professional support like Whites Bodyworks. How do you fully restore a motorcycle? We’ll break it down.

1. What does restoration mean?

Many people conflate a restoration with a rebuild. Motorcycle restoration involves bringing your bike back to its original condition. It’s more expensive and time-consuming than rebuilding or refurbishing a motorcycle. That’s because you’ll need to source original parts. According to Heritage, “You’ll need to strip it down to its bare minimum and go piece-by-piece, often having to spend additional time sourcing exactly what is required at each stage of the restoration process. However, if you have the cash and you have the time, then it can still be a very rewarding undertaking.” You can also get the support of a professional body shop to help with your motorcycle restoration. If you’re doing it yourself, remember that this will be a long process that can take years. So, make sure you’re committed to seeing the project through before you take anything apart.

2. What are the most common motorcycles for restoration?

According to Motorcycle Habit, “The easiest motorcycles to restore are generally Japanese brand motorcycles made between the late [’60s to late ’80s].  They are easy to find, easy to work on, and cost very little compared to other motorcycles.” Popular restoration brands include Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Suzuki. And, according to Bennetts, they recommend purchasing these while they’re affordable before they increase in value:

  • 1996 Suzuki GSF1200 Bandit
  • 2005 Suzuki GSX-R1000K5
  • 1985 Yamaha V-Max
  • 1993 Ducati M900 Monster
  • 1994 BMW R 1100 GS

A restoration of one of these popular cycles could see you realise a significant upside on your investment after you put the time into them. Consider joining owners forums and talking to other owners about their refurbishment journey. They may even have tips on where to find great parts that can save you time and money.

3. What is the easiest motorcycle to restore?

Any bike can be easy to restore, provided you can get the parts. According to Carole Nash, “As a rule, motorcycle manufacturers make spare parts for their bikes available for around 15 years after production ends, after which you’ll be looking for new, old stock (NOS), second hand, reconditioned, remanufactured or pattern parts. If your bike is popular, and there are loads on the road, then the chances are you’ll be able to find spares relatively easily – either second hand or new parts made by a specialist.” So you’ll want to find a bike that’s fairly popular so you’ve got the support and parts you need. Consider a rolling refurbishment instead of a bike that’s in pieces. That means you buy a bike that works but needs some reconditioning or replacement parts to really make it shine. That’s opposed to a motorcycle that’s already someone else’s failed project. They suggest trying your hand at a Honda C90 Super Cub or similar for your first motorcycle restoration project. Above all, make it fun and try to get enjoyment out of the process. Don’t go into your first restoration trying to make a ton of money or refurbish a rare bike. It will only lead to disappointment.

4. How much does it cost to restore a motorcycle?

Expect to spend around £1000 to restore the average classic motorcycle in the UK – if you do all the work yourself. If you hire someone to help, expect to pay 2-3 times more. According to Planit, “At present, the apprentice rate, for those aged under 19 or aged 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship, is £4.30 an hour (1 April 2021). Salaries for newly qualified motorcycle technicians tend to be around £16,000 a year, rising with experience from around £22,000 to over £30,000 a year.” Most experienced motorcycle restoration technicians charge around £30/hour. That means a week of expert work on your bike will be over £1000. This can double or triple your outlay. So be aware of what work your bike needs, how much your garage charges and how much you can tackle yourself in order to properly budget for your project.

5. What are the steps in motorcycle restoration?

The steps in a motorcycle restoration will vary based on the condition of your bike and if it is kept outdoors. But here are the basic steps in a motorcycle restoration:

  1. Create a dedicated workspace.
  2. Buy a bike lift.
  3. Buy the owner’s manual for your bike.
  4. Take a picture of everything before you take it apart.
  5. Strip all the parts to clean them, bag them and photograph them.
  6. Create a list of everything that’s not in working condition.
  7. Order parts in order of importance and note on the list what’s arriving when.
  8. Jobs should follow this order (generally): battery, carbs, fuel tank, rust, electrics, spark plugs, brakes, consumables and lastly any cosmetics.

Anything that you’ve replaced that’s still in good working order you can sell on eBay or Facebook to other eager motorcycle enthusiasts.

6. Why do I want professional help with motorcycle restoration?

If this looks like too much work and you just want a nice-looking classic bike to roll around on, then it’s best to talk to a professional. They can help you fit pieces that require expensive specialist tools or help source hard-to-get parts. There’s no need to have the entire contents of a Kwik Fit in your garage for a small job you’ll not need to do again. Maybe you had a difficult time sourcing a part and want to be 100% sure it’s fit correctly to prevent riding damage. Call us. We can help you with your classic motorcycle restoration and repairs no matter what type of classic bike you have. Talk to our helpful team of restorers today.

6 Most Common Motorcycle Problems and What to Do About Them

There are more than a million motorcycles registered in the UK alone and they are certainly a popular way of getting around. Many people ride classic or older motorbikes and take loving care of them.

If you’re a new bike owner, here we look at some of the most common problems you are likely to find with older bikes.

1. Fuel Tank Rust

Rust as a general issue is common in older bikes and can occur practically anywhere. If you leave your bike for a long period with a half-full tank it can lead to problems over time. It’s more likely to happen if you are parked in an area where there is relatively high humidity.

It’s important to check your tank at regular intervals and, if there is a rust problem, get it sorted straight away. The best way to stop it from developing at all is to ensure that your tank is filled with gas most of the time, especially if you are leaving your bike parked up for a while.

2. Vacuum Leaks

Your carburettors produce an air/fuel mix for optimum running. A vacuum leak happens when extra air gets in, most often around the carburettor holder.

This has a rubber seal that can dry out and degrade over time so it’s important to check every so often. Leaks can often be misdiagnosed but if you have a problem with erratic idling or loss of power it’s worth checking out if this is the problem. It’s a good idea to take your bike to your local friendly mechanic to get a proper diagnosis and repair if you are not sure.

3. The Carburettor

These are complex bits of the engine and most older bikes suffer from problems at some point. The carburettor mixes the petrol and air to ensure the smooth running of the engine.

Like most mechanical parts they wear down over the years and that can lead to the carburettor having too much air to too much oil. If the parts are worn down or there’s something like a seal that needs replacing, it’s important to get this carried out by a garage that knows what it’s doing.

4. Fork Oil Leaks

The forks on your older bike are also quite complicated parts. They are filled with a viscous oil that helps handle the weight of the front end. The wrong oil or a leak can cause friction and damage your bike. You’ll know there is something wrong if you start feeling every bump in the road.

The forks are probably the most ignored part of the bike when it comes to riders and problems can often develop because of it. It’s important to have these checked out whenever you have a service. If you do start to feel every contour on the road and your ride becomes uncomfortable, you should check the oil levels or whether there is a leak. On some bikes, the fork assembly can be complicated so if you are not mechanically minded it’s important to consult an expert mechanic.

5. Old Tyres

Perhaps more than with cars, worn tyres are a pretty big danger when it comes to two-wheeled motorbikes. New tyres are a lot tougher than they used to be but it’s still important to check the tread regularly and replace wheels that look worn or have some damage on them.

6. Engine Oil Leaks

Another common problem you might encounter is an oil leak from the engine. This can be down to a faulty gasket on the crankcase, oil pan or cylinder head, for example. It’s critical to get this diagnosed properly, however, if you are unsure where the issue is located. An oil drain plug can be replaced in about 15 minutes but the cylinder head gasket can be more problematic because you have to take the engine apart.

If you want to maintain your motorcycle or have issues that you are unsure of, it’s a good idea to work with an experienced garage. At White’s Bodyworks, we have a fully equipped garage and can ensure we get your motorbike back in tip-top condition in next to no time. Contact us to find out more.

Norton Motorcycles: A Brief History

At White’s Bodyworks in West Sussex, we’ve seen a lot of classic cars and motorcycles come across our threshold and we’ve loved every one of them.

One of our favourites is the Norton, a motorcycle with a rich heritage and one that’s a favourite with classic bike enthusiasts not just here in the UK but around the world. Its iconic logo is easily recognisable and one that gets everyone purring when a bike like this rumbles onto our forecourt at White’s.

Here we take a quick look at the history of Norton motorcycles and what makes them such as great bike to own. While it recently went into administration after some troubled times, there is good news that the brand has been brought by TVS Motor Company in India. We may soon, once again, see some new Nortons with that proud logo hitting the roads around the world.

Early History

The original Norton company was founded in 1898 and was one of the earliest manufacturers of motorcycles in the world. It was only 13 years previously in 1885 that the first motorbike was invented in Germany by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach.

In under 10 years, the Norton company had produced a bike with a Peugeot engine that went onto win the twin-cylinder class during the very first Isle of Man TT. It was to begin a close connection with racing that the Norton brand would have throughout the 20th century.

About the same time, Norton began making its own engines in its factory in Birmingham. By 1913, however, the business was in trouble and had to be bailed out by creditors.

During and following the first war, Norton benefited from orders to provide bikes for the Ministry of Defence. It wasn’t until 1919 that they began to produce civilian models again. The bikes continued to win at events such as the Isle of Man TT and became increasingly popular during the prewar years.

During the Second World War, 25% of all military motorbikes were Nortons, chosen because of the ease of getting spares and low maintenance requirements. For many classic enthusiasts, this was the heyday of the company and one which forged it as an iconic British brand.

Post-War Nortons

After the war, civilian production continued although success in the TT began to wane with competition from more powerful Italian machines. In 1949, the Norton Dominator came onto the market and the bike began to take the shape that classic owners know today. By 1951, these were also being exported widely abroad.

Unfortunately, designing bikes for and taking part in racing so much damaged the companies profitability. Whatever the reason for its losses, Norton struggled in the early 50s and was bought out by Associated Motorcycles (AMC) and eventually the factory in Birmingham was closed and the company moved to London.

AMC put work into the development of the bike, producing an improved gearbox in the mid-50s and launching the 600 cc Dominator 99. Throughout the late-50s and the 1960s, several models came onto the market including the 650 cc Norton Manxma that was designed exclusively for the American market.

The impact of the wave of Japanese bikes that hit the market in the late 60s meant that every bike manufacturer in the UK was under pressure and Norton was no different.

AMC got into financial difficulties and was reformed as Norton-Villiers. In 1967, the company produced the Commando which far outperformed other British makes such as Triumph and BSA.

When Norton produced the combat engine in the early 70s, however, problems that frequently led to broken crankshafts took their toll on sales. By 1972, competitor BSA was also set to fold but was given financial assistance from the Government as long as it merged with Norton-Villiers.

In the 1980s, the Norton-Villiers partnership recovered their winning ways at various races but by the early 90s, the company was again struggling with millions in debt. Despite being reformed as Norton Motors in 1993, for the next few decades production was small and often erratic. The brand was purchased by businessman Stuart Garner in 2008 and moved to Castle Donington.

In 2020 the company went into administration but was bought by the TVS Motor Company in India, currently the 6th largest manufacturer in the world. They hope to put the Norton brand back on the pedestal it once occupied in the mid-20th century.

Time will tell whether we see Norton reinvigorated and new bikes coming onto the market.

White’s Bodyworks for Classic Motorbike Restoration and Repairs

There’s nothing we like more than a classic motorbike at White’s Bodyworks in West Sussex. We handle all repairs, restoration and maintenance for motorcycles of all types and vintages.

If you own a classic motorbike, we understand that you don’t want to give it over to just any garage.

The team at White’s Bodyworks has a vast amount of experience of dealing with classics and we’ve developed a strong reputation over the last couple of decades. From minor repairs and resprays to major renovations, we have all the equipment on-site you could think of and technicians who really know what they are doing.

If you are looking for a garage that can handle all the needs for your classic motorbike, whatever make it is, our team is here, ready to lend a helping hand. Contact us today to find out more.

01273 933633 /
Unit 23, Firsland Park Estate, Henfield Road, Albourne, Hassocks, West Sussex BN6 9JJ