A vintage motorcycle is best enjoyed with a pair of grease-stained hands on the bars. Actually putting in the work to get an old bike up and running is far more rewarding than dropping an exorbitant amount of cash on one spiffed up for you. It’s about the pride that comes with enjoying the fruits of your labor. Such is the thinking that inspired our latest venture, The Cool Material Bike Build.

With the help of Motorcycle Mechanics Institute, we set out on a quest to find an old, beat-up motorcycle that we could turn into a sexy AF office bike. Yes, an office bike. Armed with only $2,500, a little bit of know-how, and a garage full of tools, we set out on a quest to make this all happen in just a few short weeks.

This is The Cool Material Bike Build. Grab a wrench because you’re coming along for the ride.

This post is sponsored by Motorcycle Mechanics Institute. For more information about graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed the program and other important information, visit www.uti.edu/disclosure

First Things First

To work on a bike, you need to first acquire a bike. And when you’re acquiring your first bike, or any project bike that won’t be a pain to deal with, it’s best to choose a model that will have plenty of parts available. Older Japanese models were made in droves and are a great choice, particularly ones from the ‘70s-’80s. Not only that, Yamahas, Hondas, and Kawasakis have sites dedicated to maintenance, performance, and custom mods, often broken down by specific model and year. Such things can be super helpful when you’re tinkering away. That’s why we narrowed our search to rides from those manufacturers and just a handful of others.

One thing we needed to keep in mind was the type of riding we’d be doing. The Cool Material office is located outside of Philadelphia, so our rides would often be split between short city jaunts and suburban back road escapades. That meant we’d be looking for a mid-size bike or smaller. Something lean with a small engine is more appropriate for the urban dweller. Basically, we didn’t want a touring bike. We didn’t want something that would make our garage walls bend. If you take on a similar project, it’s something to keep in mind.

The Hunt

Since far more people drive cars than ride bikes, looking for a vintage motorcycle is obviously a bit trickier than hunting for a used car. That said, if you know where to look, that’s half the battle. We focused on three areas for our bike hunt:

  1. Bike Shops – Bike shops might have used bikes. If they do, the good news is the rides have probably seen a lot of maintenance and could, potentially, pass inspection. The bad news is you’ll be paying for the work they put in along with a little extra to cover their overhead. We hit up a few of these in our area, but never fully expected to find our future office bike in one.
  2. Classified Ads – When you live in a densely populated area like we do, these are money. You can still pick up a publication at big newsstands, but you’ll have better luck just hopping online. CycleTrader.com is a go-to spot, and there are a few others online. The problem is, considering our budget, most of what we found was out of our price range.
  3. Craigslist– Simply put, Craigslist is the best place to look—if you’re smart about it. This is where you’ll find bikes that aren’t worth the listing cost other sites and publications charge. Here you’ll find the rides that need a little TLC. This is where we concentrated most of our effort.


The Budget

Like we mentioned earlier, we set a budget of $2,500 for the project—the entire project. Could we have spent it all on a bike that ran okay and looked decent? Sure. But we wanted to get our hands dirty. With that in mind, we decided to spend no more than half our budget on the bike itself. With $1,250 as our goal, we pored over Craigslist listings and made multiple trips to nearby shops. As we stated earlier, it was clear from the get-go that Craigslist was our best friend in our Bike Build hunt. And, in fact, that’s where we found our new ride.

Stay tuned for “Part II: The Bike,” where we’ll introduce you to the two-wheeled wonder we procured and share our inspiration with you. It’s almost time to get our hands dirty.