Did you have a winter project?

Did you have a winter project?

How many of us have at some point, thought about doing a winter project bike? Either a simple to complex modification or restoration or even a total custom project!

Those long winter evenings hiding in a shed or garage, freezing your bits off, tinkering away and dreaming… it’ll be great when it’s done and ready for the spring!

We associate the winter with riding downtime, so this is the perfect opportunity to start the project, but so many are started but so few are ever completed, certainly not by spring anyway. Personally winter is probably the worst time for tinkering as my shed is already full of clutter and has a broken window and my garage has become an extension of the household, so I’m really lacking a suitable workshop area.

Any winter tinkering is usually limited to mini projects that will only take a couple of hours or could be performed in the garden…or in the kitchen (don’t tell the missus!) 

So on my last build I purposely started it in the summer, so I had space in the garden and the warmer climate to do it all in. “Wimp!” I hear you say…well I’m not ashamed to admit it, but I also have other reasons too.

There are certain things that of course can be done in the cold and damp conditions, but rarely are the results anything other than rubbish. 

Have you ever tried to spray paint a bike in the cold and moist air…well don’t…it’s much better done in the warm & dry air. I’m talking here of the home painter and not the pros of course.

Have you ever tried to fit rubber seals or hoses in the cold, well it’s a right faff! Even dipping the rubber in boiling water is a pig and you usually end up with scorched fingers and the rubbers still don’t fit great as metal surfaces are still cold. This was one of my big headaches last year when I had to repeatedly test fit carbs and manifold rubbers on my bobber project. I only got a better fit in the late spring when the temperatures got above: “Oh my god it’s ffff….ing ffffreeezing!” 

So what pearls of wisdom might I bestow upon a would be winter project builder? Well unfortunately not too many pearls but more like lemons in my case.

I managed to complete my build in about a month but that was pretty much full time as I’d had some leave booked and the rest I could tinker with after work. But although I thought I had planned it properly and had costed to the penny…ish, the truth is that the planning wasn’t near enough and the budget did go over a bit too, and that was mainly due to sourcing parts at short notice and having to do some unexpected repairs & work.

It was the first time I had undertaken a project as big as this, and in my enthusiasm to get the job done, I did get a bit mixed up in places and…yes a bit impatient too at times, which is not a good way to go really.

The bits I did get right were actually nothing to do with the building part, but more the ‘vision’ of what I wanted.

I always had a clear idea of what kind of bike I wanted to build and how I would go about it, what tools I would need and most importantly what skills I could cope with and those that were beyond my capability.

I think having done this, actually saved me lots of time and money in the long run and all the mistakes I made, I’ll be sure not to make them on the next project.

So, having a clear idea of what bike you want to build and how you’ll do it, what equipment you’ll need and where you’re going to do it…is probably a good place to start…before you invest any money and start a project.

Always keep in mind, that if something can go wrong…it probably will, which means budget busting additional costs and more time.

This bit of advice I learnt many years ago…especially for the amateur; if you’re going to buy a car or bike to restore or modify, it is best to buy the best your budget can afford, because any project can be a real money pit, so buying good quality in the first place will save you money. I wish I’d listened to my own advice 🙂

But eventually, with luck, dedication, lots of head scratching & caffeine, the project comes together and you get to fire it up and go for a test ride, pass an MOT and marvel at your own magnificence!…Well almost!

A full write up of my build and the considerations involved are on the website: ‘Bike Building & Modifications’ page, if you’d like to read more. If you are thinking about or starting a project, all I can say is: “Good luck & I wish you well!” because when it comes together and you get to ride it, there’s no better feeling than knowing you’ve built your own bike, even if everyone else thinks it’s crap, it’s still your masterpiece and the detractors, if any, obviously have no taste!

Well just keep telling yourself that, anyway!

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