Thinking of starting a winter motorcycle project? Building a custom motorcycle?


This week’s blog is an insightful look by Daniel Morris – Proprietor, mono motorcycles, into if you are considering undertaking a motorcycle project & or personal custom project.

“With the night’s drawing in its time to hunker down in to the man (or girl) cave for some winter tinkering. If you are planning a build, restoration or just a few mods this coming winter; we have put together this handy little guide to help you plan & avoid some expensive mistakes.

Let’s start with a bike. 

I know it seems to make sense but the type of bike or more what you buy, could be the make or break of a finished product. A lot depends on your skill level, but if you need to get a 3rd party involved the price will soon increase.

In our experience phrases like “just needs carbs balancing” = it might fire up if you’re lucky & run on two cylinders. Another common phrase is “it’s been stripped for inspection” in other words, pulled apart because it was broken & half the bits have now been lost. These bikes might be ones to avoid unless you have very deep pockets.

However, there are bargains to be had out there. When we are looking we would tend to go for something partly done that’s on the road or been lightly dropped & needs a few bits. If you’re going to modify it anyway that’s not an issue. The other option is to buy a clean bike & sell off the parts you remove to re-coop some of your hard earned cash.

It may be cheap, but…

Ok, so let’s say you find a real bargain for instance a GSXR 750 SRAD, one of the first carbed models which has not run for 10 years. Your mind is telling you “it’s only £600! cool that will be worth a few quid & a steal at that price!”

Hang on a minute let’s price this up.

If it’s been stood that long, the whole fuel system will require a full strip & rebuild, unless if by a miracle it’s been drained & dry stored, prior to being sat for 10 years.

Carb rebuild kits are around £25-30 per carb unless you wanted to buy genuine parts then you’re looking at 3 times that & that’s if they are still available.

For a fuel tank drain, carb Strip/ultrasonic clean, rebuild & balance you are looking at around 4-5 hours plus parts in the workshop, so that’s around £350-400 making your £600 bike now a £1000.00.

If the bike has been stood any length of time, most of the rubber hoses, brake lines, seals & tyres will need replacing. If the wheels have not been turned for that time the wheel bearings, chain & calipers could be seized, forks will need new seals & oil, plus an engine service. There’s another £1000 quid! I think you can see where this is going!

Buying something cheap does not always mean it will turn out to be a ‘cheap’ bike in the long term. We always advise that, if it seems to be too good to be true, it quite often is!

You’ve decided to customise a bike!

We are huge fans of the customisation scene, the quirkier the better. But if you are going to take on a customisation project of your own, there are some things to think about before you start.

First, have you set yourself a budget? Do you want to completely customise your motorcycle to be able to enter it into a Custom Show, or is this for you, your own personal project? Whatever your purpose, think about what you want or can spend, then double it! More on that later.

Second, does your base bike have a VIN number & or has it ever been registered in the UK? We have met people over the years who have been stung with back dated import taxes on non UK registered motorcycles & even if it is an import, you will still have register it with the DVLA.

If your base bike does not have a VIN number, you will, once the bike is complete, have to apply for an SVA (Motorcycle Single Vehicle Approval) to make it road legal.

You must also use the MSVA scheme if your vehicle has been radically altered or built using a mixture of parts from previously registered vehicles. For example:

  • amateur built vehicles
  • rebuilt vehicles
  • vehicles converted to a different wheelplan (1)

You will not be able to MOT, Tax or Insure your beautiful custom motorcycle, if you do not first go through the SVA process.

Once you are satisfied that your custom motorcycle will or will not need registration for the UK or an SVA, you can consider the style & design.

As mentioned above you need to consider costs when customising a motorcycle. For example, will the frame be changed? will it need welding to be safe? What paint work will it be having? Are you building a custom tank? Seat? & the last thing most people think about is, what is the wiring like & will it need a full re-wire to accommodate the customisation or are you considering a modern upgrade like a motogadget install?

This may sound like an exhausting list, but these are all things to consider when taking on your own customisation project. We have finished quite a few custom projects over the years, because owners have admitted that they simply did not know how much of a time & money investment it could be.

One prime example of how a custom project can run away costs wise, is the Royal Enfield Chrome Custom.

The Enfield joined us in May 2020 originally for a motogadget upgrade.

The Enfield had been imported from Italy as a non-runner & needed the electrics completely stripping.

Once the Enfield was on the ramp, Daniel discovered to his horror that the entire frame had only been tack welded together, prior to it being chromed. Furthermore, the swing arm had been chromed in place & the bearings were solid.

Therefore, in the middle of a pandemic we had to contact the importer, who is also the customers representative, to advise of our findings.

Following a few international emails later (the customer lives abroad), the customer agreed that the Enfield should be road safe & instructed us to rectify the findings.

We have since had the frame tack welds ground off & had the entire frame professionally & correctly welded. We’ve also had the seat hump be given a better stance.

Once the welding was complete, we had to wait for the chromers to re-open after lockdown before we could get the entire frame re-chromed.

Once returned, we then had to re-book the Enfield to ensure we could re-build it & then, once in a rolling chassis, we could then commence the job it originally came in for.

Despite the fact that the pandemic meant we were at the mercy of suppliers being closed; what should have been a motogadget install, has now run into additional hundreds of £££’s due to the unforeseen issues along the way.

These are just a few questions & ideas to consider if you are looking at undertaking a motorcycle project & or a custom & the best advise we always try & give to anyone considering undertaking a motorcycle project themselves is over estimate EVERYTHING!”

Written by Daniel Morris – Proprietor, mono motorcycles

If you are interested in mono motorcycles assisting with re-wire or motogadget options for your customisation & or rebuild, then please contact us on T: 01243 576212 / 07899 654446 or contact us through our contact page.