Every winter my family and I take on a huge project. Up here in Seattle it starts raining in October and doesn't let up until April! We do a lot of mud riding, but we end up with a bunch of down time in the winter to work on things. During the last couple of winters we restored some XR75s and an old golf cart. That was fun, but we needed something new.
Our completed MR50 - right side
We were looking for our next project when a buddy of ours dropped off a 1975 Honda MR50. The bike was in pretty good shape and with a little work we got it running. I was surprised how fast the little two stroke was. The motor really isn't much different than the modern bikes. It's just a big weed eater! The suspension was another story. Let's face it, they weren't jumping big back in 1975. The bike was still a blast to ride and I was always amazed how my friends would fight over riding the little MR.
Once summer was over and the weather started going bad it was time to get to work. Our goal on these projects is always to see how cheap we can do them. We trade, swap, barter...anything to find a good deal. For us, the search for parts is half the fun. I started by looking on the internet to see what guys were doing to the MR50s and what parts were available. Most of them were doing completely stock restorations which is cool, but I wanted to make my MR look more like a race bike from that time period. This meant finding all of the trick race parts from 1975. On this MR I wanted to find a DG swingarm, rims, pipe etc. Sometimes it takes months or even years to find some of these old parts. When you do find them, they take a lot of work to make them new again. You have to keep checking swap meets, vintage races, Craig's list and E-bay to get it done. Race parts usually get thrown away or broken, so they don't last long.
DG made all of the trick parts back in the 70's; swingarms, pipes heads, etc
After we get a clear picture of how we want the bike to turn out, I start by taking the bike apart and laying everything out on the floor. Sometimes I will take pictures of the parts as I go, so I can remember exactly how things went together. The next step is to get the parts separated into piles. One pile that goes to the chrome shop, one pile that goes to the cad plate shop, one pile that goes to the paint shop, etc. While everything is out getting refinished you can start hunting down all of the gaskets, tires, seat cover, levers, etc. E-bay is a great place to find old parts. If you are careful you can find a great deal, but if you're not you may end up paying top dollar since you will be bidding against the whole world for that one part you need. A lot of times the dealers can still get original parts for the old bikes, so don't forget to check there. The biggest trick is to take your time and try to do it right. Setting a finish date will help you get it done and on to the next project. Our family has restored dozens of bikes over the years and we learn something new every time. Don't be afraid to jump right in...you have to start somewhere!