Motorcycle Preservation and Customization – The Line Between

Where is the line between motorcycle preservation and customization?  Forgive me in advance, as this blog post is largely an opinion piece.  It is probably going to spark some good comments and conversation, which is always welcome.  Finally, there isn’t going to be definitive final answer, so you will have to deal with that also.  But first, let me take a quick step back.

Motorcycle Preservation and Customization

If you have been building bikes for a while like myself, maybe you have asked yourself the same question.  Or maybe you are wondering what the hell I am talking about, so let me clarify some more.

This is largely a website about DIY motorcycle repair.  Sometimes I hear the word “restomods” (i.e. part restoration and part modification).  But again, the term “restomod” begs the questions: (1) How much restoration? (2) How much modification?

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good custom.  Sometimes though, I think the desire to build a sick custom comes at the expense of a classic that should instead be restored.  But who is the judge?  Where is the line between motorcycle preservation and customization?

There are certainly situations where the choice to build a custom saves a motorcycle that is otherwise doomed for the salvage yard.  For example, Japanese manufacturers flooded the USA with small to large Honda CB bikes in the 70s and 80s, and many would receive no love if not for the custom cafe and scrambler movement currently underway.  In these situations, I am 100% all for a customization/restomod.

But then there are the situations that pain me as a restorer because the bike is 95% authentic only to be chopped, parts discarded, and history lost.  It hurts especially bad when there are so few OEM examples of a particular bike remaining in existence.  Seems like a little bit of a shame.  For example, how many unmolested 1969-1972 CB750s are left?  If I could get my hands on a mostly original one at a decent price, I wouldn’t hesitate.

This is where I, as the author, can’t give you, the reader, a definitive final answer of what’s right and what’s wrong.  Motorcycles are rolling art and like most art, it is in the eye of the beholder.  I would argue though that motorcycles are also history and generally, I like to see history preserved.  You can probably tell from my comments above where I generally draw the line.

Essentially, I hate to see the rare ones get pulled apart, but I also would never want to stifle the creativity of custom builders.  Restorers and custom builders each add to motorcycle culture and that is what it is all about.

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