5 Life Lessons From Restoring Old Motorcycles

Over time, restoring old motorcycles obviously brings with it a level of technical expertise – carburetors, wiring, compression, etc.  There is so much to learn and it takes time.

However, when I think about the lessons I have learned restoring old motorcycles (and, in particular, from motorcycles like “Cal“), I realize that the most important lessons learned have been life lessons.

These lessons have helped me grow as a person and seem like the kind of lessons a father would impart on a son.

Call me sentimental, but I was working on “Cal” this weekend, and I realized that my machine deserved a thank you for all that it has taught me.

So, consider this a tribute to my bike, your bike, and everyone’s bike for teaching us some of those harder and more important life lessons.  I fundamentally believe the world would be a better place if everyone worked on motorcycles.

Here are my Top 5 Life Lessons From Restoring Old Motorcycles.  I am sure there are many more, but these came to mind first.

1) Patience:  Not sure if I am going from most to least important here or vice versa, but patience is a HUGE one.  Without it, long projects would never get started and never get done.  Every weekend I set a list of things I would like to get done on my bike.  Of course, the list never gets done, and I need to remind myself that motorcycle restoration is about the journey – not the destination.  I think about how impatient I can be sometimes and how this practice in patience benefits me in other aspects of my life – work, home, etc.

2) Perseverance:  When it comes to restoring old motorcycles, perseverance is rewarded.  As I said above, projects like these are about the journey.  However, when we reach our destination, our perseverance is truly and deeply rewarded.  We have created something with out own hands and that feeling of satisfaction can’t be replicated.  A piece of motorcycle history has been preserved and is back on the road because of us.  Most things in life don’t come easy.  Seeing our perseverance rewarded teaches us motivation for all activities in life.

3) Ingenuity: The questions and answers that arise when restoring old motorcycles are not 1:1.  Besides customization, there is much room for creativity and ingenuity when working on old bikes.  The problem solving skills developed are neural pathways that once stimulated/exercised in the garage, can’t be shut off.  When you encounter daily problems, you will begin to consider all possible solutions and look for the best one.  I make my own custom tools all the time for various problems, and that is because I know there is more than one way to get things done.

4) Anything is Possible:  My father was the salt-of-the-earth, but even he would have admitted to not being a handy man.  My grandfathers, on the other hand, were both very handy and creative.  I remember as a young boy walking around their respective workshops and thinking that anything was possible.  It took me a while to get past the fear that I might end up not handy like my father, but it was motorcycles like “Cal” that got me there.  There can be no self-doubt or denying your “handiness” when you assemble an entire motorcycle from a pile of parts or hear an engine you’ve restored roar to life after being dormant for decades.

5) Love:  Final cheesy moment, but “Cal” is like a member of my family.  He isn’t the first bike I have restored, but when I think about his predecessors in the long line of bikes I have owned, it pains me to think about my other creations out there.  Selling each one was a necessity at the time turned into a regret now.  I have already told my wife that “Cal” is not going anywhere when complete.  The only option I will entertain is he being joined by a brother or sister :)

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2 thoughts on “5 Life Lessons From Restoring Old Motorcycles”

  1. If I had one, you could be my twin brother. My Dad and my Grandfathers were the same as yours. And,…..I`m restoring my 69 Triumph Bonneville right now,….then,…I need to do the clutch on my 66 FLH that my Dad`s best friend bought new. But while I`m doing all of this, I still have an 09 Yamaha XT-250 that is a joy to ride. Now you have me looking for an 87 BMW R65GS to replace the 98 R1100GS that I gave to my best friend`s son just because he admired it so much.

  2. Great tips and site, right up my street. I to am enjoying two journeys, with a norton 16h and at the same time an ES2..
    I spent hours flicking through the parts manuals trying to locate parts or illustrations.. was driving me mad, until I found another way..
    One of them homemade special tools you mention.. it’s the classical vintage restorations adaption of the parts manuals..brilliant..I purchased two from there web site for my Norton’s..



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