Welcome to the FAQ. Suggestions for new topics or pointing out errors and omissions are always welcome and should be sent to the KoF

Please note that I've recently introduced a separate section where I collect information about buying bikes abroad for those who think about importing something slightly less rusty from another part of the planet.

The Topics

About the newsgroup

What's this about then?
What's a classic? - aka Is my bike old enough?
Posting Guidelines
I came here for discussions about proper classic bikes, but everyone only talks about ShiteOldBikes!
Are for sale/for auction ads welcome here?
I'm a private individual not in the UK, can I still post a For sale ad?
I need this specific part made out of unobtanium, can I post a Wanted ad?
Where can I get cheap insurance for my ShiteOldBike?

Buying, selling, running and restoring bikes

What do I need to look for when buying a ShiteOldBike?
The psychology of buying and selling bikes
Buying a bike on ebay, what do I need to look out for
Is an old Brit bike a good bike for someone new to bikes and riding?
I want to restore a bike. What's a good project for a beginner?
Where I can get parts for my xyz?
Can I run my classic bike on unleaded?
My bike is 25 years old. Is it tax-free?
How do I clean the inside of a tank that's dirty and/or has surface rust?

Questions you didn't want to ask

But you can't skim brake disks!
Why do you think you can barge in and impose your views on us?
Where I can find an archive of this newsgroup?

What's this about then?

As the name of the newsgroup implies, this is a newsgroup that concerns itself with discussions about classic motorbikes in the UK. As it happens to be one of the very few newsgroups catering specifically to classic motorbikes, posters and readers for other parts of the world are welcome to partake.

In fact, the group is a spin-off of and a lot of the posters are regulars in both groups.

So you've got a newsgroup already, why do you need a second one?

Again, to quote TOG: came about after a desire by some people with a penchant for horribly outdated motorcycles to have their own forum, where they wouldn't have to rub shoulders with the rabble who prefer modern plastic rockets.

The fact that many of the plastic rocket brigade also owned ShiteOldBikes and migrated to ukrmc to yammer on about them hadn't been considered.

Anyway, in due course a Request For Discussion was posted to and all sorts of supporters of everything from Ariels to Zundapps came slinking out of the woodwork, in most cases shamefacedly and furtively.

There seemed to be plenty of support for the new baby, and so rather than go through the usual Call for Votes (CFD) it was suggested that ukrmc be fast-tracked. On the fast track procedure, opponents are invited to email their objections to the new group to Control, and if just one objection is upheld, then the fast track is abandoned and you go through the voting procedure.

One objection was received, but Control decided that as it was something that had been posted during the RFD and dealt with then, it wasn't a serious enough objection, and so on 5th March 2002 crept onto news servers worldwide. It was, in the words of the Mentor who helped oversee the process, "one of the smoothest creations on record".


What is a classic?

Uh-Oh. Dangerous ground here. Basically, the answer to your question depends on your age, which is why we don't get many people postulating that "any bike made before 1921 is a proper classic, everything else is modern rubbish". As most posters here are in their late thirties/early forties, almost anything from the 70s & 80s will probably be considered a classic. In other words, if 'Classic & Motorcycle Mechanics' will print an article about it, chances are that we'll accept it as a classic.

Or the less contentious definition - if your insurance company insures it as a classic, you should be OK.

Champ has devised a system to determine the "classicness" of a bike. TOG explains how this works:

Tricky. Everyone has their own ideas. Some people swear by (or at, or occasionally both) their old British stuff. Some go by the classic insurance guidelines that anything over 15 years qualifies. Some point to "acknowledged modern classics" like the Ducati 916 as not falling into either of the above categories. Some point to old stuff like BSA C15s which are old enough but were horrible when they were new and are now old and horrible.

If you want one suggestion, from a certain GSXR1000-racing hairdresser:

"classic status" = "age" x "how good was it when it was new?" x "special interest multiplier"

where age must have a minimum value of, say, 10 years, "How good when new" is rated on the scale of 1 to 10, and the "special interest multiplier" varies between 1 and 2. Let's work some examples :
400 four = 25 x 8 x 1 = 200
Suzuki RE5 = 28 x 3 x 2 = 168
GPZ900R = 17 x 9 x 1= 153
GPz750 turbo = 17 x 7 x 1.5 = 119
BSA Bantam = 45 x 3 x 1 = 135
Norton Commando = 30 x 4 x 1= 120
CB500T = 27 x 3 x 1.2 = 97.2
XS750 = 22 x 3 x 1.4 = 92.4

So, as stuff gets old, it slowly becomes classic no matter how shite it used to be considered, with an allowance made for 'interesting' stuff.

I reckon a threshold of 100 works. So, for a 10 year old bike to count, it has to be a brilliant bike. A 20 year old only has to be average. After 50 years, almost any old shit gets in.

This is rather good! Anyway, suffice to say that there'll always be someone who disagrees with your definition, and you'll always consider someone else's elderly pride and joy to be a pile of ol' crap.


Posting Guidelines

As mentioned above, this group is a spin off from and we follow the same posting guidelines and netiquette here as well. To avoid re-hashing all the information that other people have already published, please read and digest the UKRM CBT and the Posting Style section on the UKRM website. To recap, the main guidelines are:

All uk hierarchy groups are text only. In other words, do NOT post any binaries like photos of your bike/wife/dog here. Upload them somewhere on the web and post the URL instead.


I came here for discussions about proper classic bikes, but everyone only talks about ShiteOldBikes!

That is because ShiteOldBike is a term of endearment used in this context. Most people make the mistake of assuming that we are talking about shite old bikes, but we aren't. Well, most of the time although the occasional CB500T has been spotted around here. If you're easily offended by the sight of oil-tight Japanese engines however you might be in the wrong place.


Are for sale or for auction ads welcome here?

If you're not a trader and want to post the occasional ad selling a classic bike or related items like parts, workshop manuals or tools then yes, you're welcome to post an ad. With 'occasional' we mean that you can post roughly one ad per month. This newsgroup is for discussions about classic bikes and not a free ads service. If you want the latter, there are plenty of websites that offer this kind of service.

If you're auctioning stuff off on ebay the ad might not be quite as welcome as a proper FS ad, however the natives will be greatly appeased by the fact that you have prefixed the subject with 'FA:'. Auctions tend to be viewed in a somewhat more favourable light if the item has previously been offered for sale to the newsgroup(s) but there were no takers.

In order to avoid upsetting the unfriendly natives (that'll be all of them then), it's a good idea to post one ad and only repost it after a month in case you did not get any reaction. It's likely that you will receive suggestions that your price is a bit on the high side; depending on who utters these, you might be well advised to heed it.

A note to our geographically challenged American and Canadian friends: the 'uk' in the title of the newsgroup does not stand for "University of Kansas". Instead it refers to a small crowded island approx 3500 miles east of Nu Yawk. It's not a good idea to complain in case this fact gets pointed out to you after you posted five ads for your bike which happens to be located in Bumfluff, Iowa.

If you're a trader, advertise your goods in the appropriate magazines instead. Don't be tempted to advertise it here, it won't be tolerated.


I'm a private individual not in the UK, can I still post a For sale ad?

You can, but please make it abundantly clear that where the bike is located. Keep in mind that the reaction might be well limited unless you're selling an MV Agusta 750 for a few hundred pounds. Or Euros. Actually, if the bike is located in travelling distance from Calais you might find that certain people interested if it's rare enough.


I need this specific part made out of unobtanium, can I post a Wanted ad?

Yes you can. Same rule(s) apply as for the for sale ads, especially the part about posting the ad infrequently. But unless you're after strange gasket sets for even stranger Japanese bikes, chances are that we can't help either. But you never know.


Where can I get cheap insurance for my ShiteOldBike?

Usually at the other end of the telephone and/or your patience. Buy one or more of the classic rags and call every broker advertising in them. If the make of bike you ride has an owners club, you might want to check if they've been able to negotiate a discount with a broker. If you can't be bothered to phone around, Carole Nash generally provides decent quotes.


What do I need to look for when buying a ShiteOldBike?

The UKRM FAQ has a section about buying bikes written by our resident expert, TOG. Also, make sure that you know about model-specific weaknesses and common faults and thoroughly check for them. Keep in mind that the bikes you're looking at least fifteen years old and most had one caring owner - and about 17 that wouldn't recognise a correct oil level if it bit them in the backside. If in doubt, either buy from a reputable specialist (arf, arf) or take someone with you how knows about SOBs.

Don't, consider buying a bike in boxes. Ever. If you're not convinced that this isn't a good idea, you might want to read through the following post from TOG, which he kindly allowed me to reproduce here:

I was clearing out old drafts of emails, etc, and I discovered this which I sent to a certain ukrm-er (who shall remain nameless) who was considering buying a basket case SOB. Can't temember if I ever posted it here as well, but I think it's worth it, as a warning to all

First: it's in bits because several, possibly *all*, vital components are fucked. As there's no point in trying to reassemble it until they're repaired....

The bits that are missing (and they will be) will be the hardest and/or costliest to replace.

There will be at least five major components that won't fit, or mate with the right replacement parts, because they're off a different model, different bike altogether, or quite possibly a Suffolk Punch lawnmower.

You won't know which fasteners are the correct ones for which components until you try and bolt a crankcase together with one bolt that's 3mm too long and you hear that ominous *CRACK*.

You'll only find the stripped threads in other major components when you try and insert fasteners into them. By the time you get to this stage, the major components will be attached to others in such a way that near-total dismantling is necessary in order to get the thread repair kit or Helicoil into place.

There will be one mysterious rubber tube that seems to do nothing and matches no illustration in any manual or parts book. This will be the length of Hoover hose that someone used to replace a perished inlet rubber.

There will be several components that can only be done up or undone using tools that you don't possess.

Every light bulb will be a different wattage.

The electrical system will drive you mad. This is because the Japanese will have changed the spec at least three times between when the bike was built and when the manual was written. The ignition system will be an aftermarket one, made by a company that went out of business decades ago, and for which no instruction manuals exist. You could try the British Museum.

You will see the wiring loom melt and/or catch fire in at least two places the first time you connect a battery to it. Listen for a barely audible "Fizzzz-pop!" because that will be the most expensive and unobtainable electrical component (invariably something really bizarre like a mechanical adjustable voltage regulator) committing suicide.

When it comes to important chassis bits, like forks and rear suspension, *nothing* will fit because a previous owner will have committed unspeakable butchery in an effort to "improve" things to make the bugger handle, on the basis that he couldn't make it any worse than it already was.

When you come to rebuild the forks, you will find that the one vital recessed allen bolt that holds stanchion to fork tube has seized and been mangled beyond hope. There will be the broken remains of a hardened steel screw extractor embedded in it which will prevent the usual remedy of drilling the bastard out.

The sump plug will be missing, believed dead.

The most delicate and vital threads will be the ones on the unions to and from the oil pump. They will all be stripped.

The petrol tank will contain three dead spiders and a fine patina of internal rust. Although you think you've removed all the rust, you'll discover you haven't the first time you try and start the beast (assuming you ever get that far). This will then mean striping and cleaning out the carbs for the fourteenth time.

Please note that in none of the above cases will you have actually done any restoration work beyond, as you hope to do, trying to put the bastard together.

Another long article as to why buying a wreck with intent to restore it is not necessarily a good idea, especially financially, is Frank Westworth's post mortem of his Ariel Huntmaster restoration. Granted, this bike had also been in a small fire, but have a look at the list of parts he was able to actually reuse from the bike he intended to restore. Not to mention the cost involved of buying all the parts that had gone AWOL or weren't useable after all. I think his advice of buying a runner and preferably something that's rideable as a basis for a restoration project is very sound advice.


Buying a bike on ebay

Someone recently asked what to look out for when buying bikes on ebay. The list below has been thrown together from the responses:


The psychology of buying and selling ShiteOldBikes

Shamelessly borrowed from a(nother) posting by TOG, with his permission of course.

OK, here goes. Most people, the vast majority of people, haven't got a clue when it comes to buying used bikes. They don't know what to look for, they don't know how to look, they often don't know enough of the history or attributes of the model in question, and they leave their brains at home.

This is weird, because if I were that ignorant (and I am about, for example, pooters) I'd get some help. So it's blind stupidity, arrogance that "they know what they're doing" or simple greed.

Get a bike polished up, really nicely gimped, and their judgement goes to ratshit. All they think is: "Shiny! Shiny! I can afford this!"

Some people will listen to the engine. A few will yank the swinging arm around. Some will push and pull on the front forks - this always makes me laugh, because that won't show notchy head races, only slack ones, and effectively tells you very little. It might show up worn fork bushes, but that's so rare anyway.

Very few check things like condition of brake fluid, amount of wear left on chain (I mean, the adjuster marks are there - just look), state of sprockets, meat left on brake linings. But a chain and sprocket set and complete set of disc pads will cost you the thick end of ukp200 for a superbike.

I've never seen people grovel, like I do, to look at the *underneath* of the bike. Is the drain plug weeping? Are the undersides of the silencers solid (because this is where the buggers rust through first)?

And in many, many years, I've only had one, that's right one, person[1] ever check engine and chassis numbers against the logbook. She was a riding instructor and *really* knew her shit. Still bought the bike, though. After haggling me down like a good'un. Fun, it was.

Hand on heart, I won't sell a bike if it's a woofer because I won't have bought it in the first place. I won't sell a bike I wouldn't be happy owning and riding myself - invariably I have done.

I am really, *really* picky when assessing a used bike and frequently walk away from one I think is overpriced. There are always others out there.

People moan and moan and moan about being ripped off by people flogging used bikes, but for the great part, they've only got themselves to blame. They walk in with their eyes wide open, but after the optic nerve nothing seems to pass a message to the brain.

I've bought bikes where the logbook hasn't been changed - Sweller's MZ is the most recent. I honestly don't care as long as it's kosher. But the logbook carries *all* the vital info on it - age of bike, colour, owner's name and address, number of former keepers, registration number, date of last change of ownership, engine number, chassis number. And *nobody*, in my experience, ever really checks any of it against the bike.


Is an old Brit bike a good bike for someone new to bikes and riding?

No. Especially because you'll have a hard time to get to the 'riding' bit. Stick to something more reliable first, like a Honda or a BMW. If you really want the look of an old brit twin, consider buying a Japanese parallel twin like an XS650 or W650 instead. Or if you want or must buy British, have a look at the new Triumph Bonneville and its derivates.


I want to restore a bike. What's a good project for a beginner?

The short version, by the Keeper of the FAQ:
One with a good spares supply, that's complete and in reasonable nick. Preferably rideable. BMWs have superb spares backup even for the older bikes (although spares for the pre-/5s are getting harder to find), spares for the popular brit twins are also relativly easy to find. Of all the Japanese makes, Honda has the best spares backup but supplies are starting to dry up for certain parts. You can still find almost any part you need with patience and/or ebay.

Don't be tempted to restore a rare bike as your first project, not even if you've got a mate with a workshop full of CNC machines who can make up anything.

TOG has kindly provided us with the following, more elaborate advice:

Are you talking about British, Italian, German or Japanese?

There is an immense industry for old Brit bikes and you can always find someone who's re-making parts that are no longer obtainable. Plus there's about a century of accumulated wisdom and infrastructure to draw upon.

Italian: parts supply is variable, but generally: pretty good for old Moto Guzzis, not bad for old Ducatis, Moto Morinis or Laverdas, difficult and expensive for MV Agustas, and we're not discussing Lambrettas here.

KOF: Parts availability for Gilera is actually pretty good too, plus the MV Agusta club runs a spares scheme so parts availability might not be quite as bad.
Also one should keep in mind that Italy had a huge number of small manufacturers building motorbikes in the 1950s and 1960s. A lot of them were plain transport but occasionally you can find gems like Moto Rumi. These bikes are for the dedicated nutter, sorry, enthusiast only.

Generally, people accept departures from "factory stock" specification on Italian bikes because so many parts were appalling when new - chromework, paintwork, switchgear and electrical parts spring to mind here.

German (which really means BMW): excellent parts availability for most things, and prices aren't bad either. Some good specialists out there, like Bob Porecha or Motorworks.

Note from the keeper of the FAQ:
Germany, like the UK, had a booming post-war bike industry that mainly concentrated on smallish bikes. A lot of them were 98cc and used engines from one or two different manufacturers. Spares for the engines are generally easy to come by, but cycle parts are fairly hard to obtain. The more interesting makes like Horex or Zündapp do enjoy specialist backup but it's hard to get at the parts if you don't speak German.
Which mainly leaves you with BMW in the end.

Japanese: Honda has the best parts back-up (Dave Silver Spares in Leighton, Suffolk, is the Mecca here), followed by Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha. Chromework and trim are invariably the hardest and most expensive components to find - you could buy a complete, good running Kawasaki 750H2 for the same as you would pay for a brand new original exhaust system, seat and pair of mudguards.

Popular project bikes (in other words, bikes that when restored will be worth something, albeit almost certainly not as much as you spent on the restoration job). Remember that re-chroming and new paintwork costs the same whether it's applied to a hugely desirable 900 or a clunker of a 250!

British: virtually anything these days. Triumph and BSA singles are generally worth less than their twins (Gold Star excepted). Desirable singles include many Velocette and Norton models. Particularly desirable: Triumph: Speed Twin, Bonneville, Tiger, Trident. BSA: A7, A10, A65, Spitfire, Rocket Three, Gold Star. Norton: most singles, Dominator, Commando. Velocette: Venom, Viper, Thruxton. Ariel: Square Four, Leader. Royal Enfield: Interceptor. Vincent: anything.

German: BMW /5 series and earlier, R75/6, R80/7, R90S, R100RS/RT, R80/100GS, K100RS (early). R60/5/6/7 are sweet runabouts but not as sought after as their bigger cousins.

Italian: MV: all. Moto Guzzi Le Mans, California, T3, V50. Ducati: almost all the singles, 750GT, Sport and SS, 900SS, Mike Hailwood Replica, Pantah. Moto Morini: 350 Sport (the earlier the more sought after), 500 Sei-V. Benelli: 650 Tornado, 750 Sei. Laverda: Jota, Mirage and Montjuic. KOF: Don't forget Gileras, either. Almost all of them are hugely collectable, at least up to the early 1980s. No comment about their later bikes and scooters, though.

Japanese: Honda: almost anything pre-1970, any Monkey Bike, CB400 Four, CB500/550 and 750 fours, Gold Wing, CBX, CB1100R, CX Turbo. Suzuki: again, most early stuff, X7, GS750, GS1000, 1000 and 1100 Katana, GT750, RG500, RE5 for curiosity value. Kawasaki: all the two-stroke triples, Z650, Z900/1000, GPZ900R, 750 Turbo, Z1300. Yamaha: early stuff again, XS2/650, Fizzie, RD250/400, all the watercooled 350s, RD500LC, DT175MX, XT500.

Ones to avoid. Buy one of these and prepare for merciless piss-taking: BSA Starfire, any British scooter, Triumph T25, Norton Jubilee, Ducati parallel twins, BMW R45, Moto Morini Excalibur, Honda CB250G5, CB500T, Kawasaki Z750 twin, Yamaha XS500, XS750.


Where can I get parts for my XYZ?

The "bike links" pages in the menus have a few links to suppliers that I know of, some of them I've even used. If you have links to suppliers that I don't list there please submit them and I'll add them to the list when I get around to it.


Can I run my classic bike on unleaded?

Right, that'll be a good way to start a flame war then. Let's have a look as to why leaded fuel came into being in the first place:
Because it was a cheap way to increase the octane rating of the fuel. The additional benefit of the protection offered to the exhaust valves was discovered somewhat later and wasn't part of the original agenda.

So back to the question - most bikes up to the mid-1930s should be fine on unleaded. Anything up to the 1950s in fact will probably run OK without any mods to the engine whatsoever. Given the quality of the fuel available back then this isn't quite a surprise.

Unfortunately for most of the Brit bikes from the 1950s onwards you won't get around either using an additive or having hardened exhaust valve seats fitted as they generally aren't suitable for unleaded petrol. The same goes for most Japanese bikes of the 1960s. Japanese bikes from the early 1970s onwards will run fine on unleaded with one or two exceptions, although you might need to use "super" unleaded instead of the 95 octane stuff. The same goes for Italian bikes of that period, especially those that were available on the American market.

And if you're bike has a two-stroke engine, you don't need leaded petrol anyway.


My bike is over 25 years old. Do I get free road tax?

Sadly, not quite. The rolling 25 year exemption has been abolished a few years back, no matter what the seller of the bike you're currently looking at tells you. It has been replaced with a fixed cut-off date. Any vehicle manufactured before January 1st, 1973 qualifies for 'free' road tax. To get this, the taxation class of the vehicle must be changed to 'historic', which can be simply done by sending the relevant documents to your local VRO.

In fact, if you are really desparate and want to get the bike on the road, you can spend an enjoyable morning at your local VRO, get the taxation class changed and wander away clutching a new tax disk.

Please note that the cut-off date applies to the date of manufacture, not the date of first registration. If your bike has been registered in 1973 (or later) but you can produce a dating letter from a source acceptable to the DVLA (usually the manufacturer, importer or owners club) showing that it has been manufactured before the cut-off date, you will still be able to get the taxation class changed.

Oh, and by the way - 'free' road tax doesn't mean that you don't have to wander down to the Post Office once a year or don't have to declare SORN. You still have to display a valid tax disc.

Vehicles with 'free' road tax also tend to attract slighlty higher prices than the same vehicle manufactured after the cut-off date. Ask yourself if the price difference is worth it - the savings are quite minimal, so if you don't keep your bike long enough for the free road tax to pay for the difference in price, you've just made a loss.

Another potential problem I've come across is that certain people who think they're clued up skip the requirement for the tax disc as mentioned above. Given the recent clamp down on unlicensed vehicles in the UK, "forgetting" to TAX or SORN a vehicle is a really bad idea. If you're buying a bike that supposedly has been SORN'd and the seller can't prove it, I'd be a tad wary. If it turns out it wasn't SORN'd you could get stuck with an 80 quid fine...


How to clean the inside of a petrol tank

The usual way is to put some nuts and bolts, glass shards, gravel or similar into the tank and shake it until your arms ache. And then some more. And a bit longer until you think you can tie your shoelaces without bending down. Or, if you're posh you'll rent a cement mixer from your local hire centre, wrap the tank in bubble wrap and some blankets and let it do the work.

However, Lozzo suggested the following method on ukrmc recently which has the advantage that it doesn't involve any physical labour over and above taking off and draining the tank:

Cheapo Sainsbury's or Tesco Cola works better and is easier to clean out. Just fill the tank right up with the stuff and leave for a couple of days. The supermarket brands are much cheaper and have a higher content of the active ingredient, plus the cola gets into all the nooks and crannies that nuts and bolts or pebbles wont. It's the phosphoric acid in it, dontcha know.

Blaney used it to good effect on his CD thngy, and Jasmine on one of her MZs. I've used it a few times on RD tanks that have been sitting. You've got to wash it out with lots of water and then dry out in the airing cupboard for a couple of days, then just fill with fuel and use.


But you can't skim brake disks!

Sigh. Bog off, Kenny Boy.


Why do you think you can barge in and impose your views on us?

Because I wasted my lunch break writing this FAQ and not you? Not to mention a not inconsiderable amount of time since then in order to keep it updated.


Where I can find an archive of this newsgroup?

Google group's archive is usually a good start.