Learning the Art of Classic Motorcycle Restoration

Making the grade

| July/August 2006

  • motorcycle restoration - stripped down bike in foreground, students in background
    Just another evening in the City College of San Francisco motorcycle restoration class.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • motorcycle restoration - students working on Suzuki restoration
    Dave Miller (second from left) and students ponder issues with a mid-1980s Suzuki.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • motorcycle restoration - two students working on engine
    Mars Miller (left) and Larry Gardini work on a Victory V-twin cylinder head.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • motorcycle restoration - stripped down Rickman Metisse
    Hodaka-powered Rickman Metisse getting the full treatment.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • motorcycle restoration - Dave Miller in shop
    Dave Miller in the class shop with his commuter bike, a 1971 Triumph Bonneville.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • motorcycle restoration - top view of restored MV Agusta CSTL
    Note the detailing on the gas tank of the restored 1956 MV Agusta CSTL.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • motorcycle restoration - restored engine of MV Agusta CSTL
    Lovely (and rare) overhead cam, 175cc 1956 MV Agusta CSTL restored in the City College class by student Stewart Ingram.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • motorcycle restoration - restored MV Agusta CSTL
    The restored 1956 MV Agusta CSTL is a petite little cruiser.
    Photo by Nick Cedar

  • motorcycle restoration - stripped down bike in foreground, students in background
  • motorcycle restoration - students working on Suzuki restoration
  • motorcycle restoration - two students working on engine
  • motorcycle restoration - stripped down Rickman Metisse
  • motorcycle restoration - Dave Miller in shop
  • motorcycle restoration - top view of restored MV Agusta CSTL
  • motorcycle restoration - restored engine of MV Agusta CSTL
  • motorcycle restoration - restored MV Agusta CSTL

How do you learn the art of classic motorcycle restoration; how to tune a carburetor, assemble a bottom end or read a spark plug? Some of us were lucky and had a wizard uncle, the guy who could make anything run and shared his secrets. Some of us spent our teenage years trying to work on wrecks, ruining a lot of parts in the process. And some of us have never tried to get our hands dirty.

But some of us, maybe a little bit more organized, took a small engine repair class in high school or at a local junior college, although the class was probably more about lawnmowers than we would have liked. Some junior colleges go a little farther and offer courses in motorcycle repair. These classes are generally supported by the local dealerships, and are intended to train students for a career working on modern motorcycles.

As far as Motorcycle Classics knows, there are only two college classes in the nation that will teach you to restore an old motorcycle. One is at Central Carolina Community College in North Carolina), and one is at City College in San Francisco.

Gearing up
For the last five years, Dave Miller has been running an independent study class at City College. Dave has been teaching auto mechanics for many years, but he’s always enjoyed riding, repairing and restoring motorcycles. He commutes to school on a 1971 Triumph Bonneville.



The class was actually the idea of Mike Lowther, a friend of Dave’s. “Mike works for the district and pitched the idea of a motorcycle class to the administration,” Dave explains. “They said we could do it if I could find a way to finance the equipment I needed. I sold a Suzuki 750 to buy tools, and negotiated for a space. City College decided to try it as an experimental class. On the first day of signups, 150 people wanted to take it.”

You have to be a California resident to apply for the class, but once you’re accepted you can bring in the rusty ruin of your choice and Dave will teach you to restore it back to stock condition. You can also choose to customize a motorcycle for showing or racing. City College offers an introductory class in motorcycle design and maintenance (a prerequisite for all other motorcycle classes) and classes in tune-up and service, custom design and assembly, custom metal fabrication, custom painting and welding. CCSF’s classes are, to put it mildly, popular, and Dave recently had to hire a second instructor, Lisa Duke.

Scubachris_2
7/6/2010 1:29:45 PM

This info is out of date. CCSF just offers a riders class now. Anyone know where they are offering a certifaction on this?




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