Classic Motorcycle Mechanics, Basic to Advanced

Classic motorcycle

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After rebuilding an engine, there is no better sound than to hear it start at the first kick (or a touch of a button). But for all mechanics, learning how to undertake mechanical work must be done in stages; it starts with basic jobs and progresses, as the knowledge base increases to more challenging work.

There is no set learning path for most home mechanics. Often, their knowledge increases with the necessity to undertake repairs or maintenance: from changing a dirty spark plug, through a full service to carb cleaning, for instance. However, getting expert guidance is the preferred way to expand a person's mechanical knowledge; for example, a home mechanic may enlist the help of a knowledgeable friend or attend classes on motorcycle maintenance. 

However, the complexity of mechanical work can be seen in the following lists. The order gives an idea of the knowledge required, and the list progresses from the easy to complex. Needless to say, as the complexity of work increases, so too does the amount and quality of tools required. In addition, the mechanic may require special tools, such as extractors, when disassembling some engine parts. For example, an extractor will be needed to remove flywheels. 

Basic Mechanical Work

General Service and Repairs

In-depth Mechanical and Electrical Work

Complex Work

Obviously, the home mechanic, wishing to do his or her own mechanical work, would not start with the more complex tasks, but rather build up toward them. However, the more complex jobs are simply a combination of the more simple ones. For example, the home mechanic may be considering removing a cylinder to get it rebored and be put off by the apparent complexity of the task. But he must remember, a lot of the work associated with this task may have been done previously: plugs will have been changed, exhausts removed, and carburetors removed etc.

Of paramount importance, when contemplating more complex mechanical work, is to work methodically. Included in working this way are to following.

  • Leave plenty of time to do the job (little or no time pressure to complete)
  • Work in a well-lit area
  • Start with a clean bench and clean parts (it is easy to get dirt in all the wrong places)
  • Photograph as you go
  • Lay the parts out as you take them off (label everything if possible. A felt tip marker can be used on internal engine parts)
  • Make a stand for gearbox work (it's a good idea to do this with two columns to place gears and shims etc. onto as they come off to keep them in order). 

Although this list is not definitive, the classic bike owner can judge his or her competence level and decide which jobs they would feel comfortable undertaking.