Motorcyclists in the 1960’s and 70’s might have started on a Honda Cub, but then bought a Triumph T650 or a Norton 750 when they were ready for a big bike. The bikes were raw and required the rider to be as good with a wrench as they were in the seat. Routine maintenance had a different meaning in those days.
“When you bought these bikes it was expected that you were going to work on them,” said Jack Manning, one of three owners of the Classic Bike Experience. The owner’s manual had instructions for disassembling the motor, adjusting valves and removing carbon from the head. “That’s why it’s the Classic Bike Experience,” he said. You get the full experience of owning a classic bike – including the care and maintenance.
I met Jack at the First Annual British Motor Bike Weekend in Stowe VT at Ye Olde England Inn on June 26. After eating breakfast with some of the rally participants, we rode over Smuggler’s Notch to the Classic Bike Experience in Essex for their annual Open House. It was my first chance to see the shop and learn about their operation.
The Classic Bike Experience was started by three friends who shared working on 60’s and 70’s British motorcycles. Their friendship grew into a club focused on sharing tools and expertise. In 2008 they opened their door to the public for restorations and maintenance work, but have kept the friendly atmosphere.
CBE begins each restoration with an assessment of the bike. They rate the bike’s condition from poor to perfect using an objective scale. The rating helps the owner understand the requirements to move a bike from “fair” -- meaning it is rusted but running -- to “excellent”, where the bike is well restored.
When the restoration process begins, customers choose their level of involvement. Some are the lead mechanic, while others are hands-off. In all cases, CBE is there to help and provide guidance. To accommodate their customer-mechanics, CBE has evening and Saturday hours.
Pegboards show customers choices
CBE provides advice based on experience. Their showroom has pegboards with parts for each major bike system. The pegboards show the balance of price, performance and perfection customers need to understand when setting their budget and defining project goals.
If you prefer working on bikes to riding them, CBE can help you sell your bike when you have completed the restoration.
The Classic Bike Experience is staying true to their roots. At their open house, it was difficult to distinguish between customers and staff, and family was very prominent.
Stop by their shop – I am sure they will show you around and be happy to get you started on your own classic bike experience.