Are you thinking about diving into your first project bike? Maybe you just can’t wait to get your hands dirty and start pulling things apart. That’s totally fair, but you’ll have a much better time if you plan things out first—at least a little bit. Now, planning and organizing are two things that are usually pretty personal, so exactly how you go about it is entirely up to you.  

Generally speaking, though, having some kind of plan in mind usually ends up with better results than just winging it, unless you’re super experienced and know exactly what you’re doing at all times. That’s probably not most of us, so Aaron Colton has a few tips he shares in this short video to help get us all on the right path. 

The first thing you need to figure out is, what’s the purpose of your build? Do you just want to get it running? Are you doing a total restoration? Are you digging deeper and doing a totally custom build? Once you have that part figured out, it’s good to think about your budget. In most cases, that will help you decide how much time and effort you want to spend trying to clean up and reuse existing parts, or buy new or aftermarket replacements instead. Getting your hands on a shop manual for your bike is also indispensable, and will save you a lot of time and headache down the line. 

After you get those details sorted out, it’s time to start tearing down and examining all the pieces of your project bike. This is where having containers to help organize your parts can come in incredibly handy. Sturdy plastic takeout containers with clear lids, yogurt tubs, or other similar clean food containers that you can easily label with a marker or some masking tape are super useful. Colton also suggests the totally genius idea of using a muffin tin to organize all your fasteners for a given project. If you don’t have a spare one around, you can probably pick one up at a garage/yard sale or thrift store for very little money. 

While you’re taking the bike apart, take some notes on what you want to keep, what you want to replace, and what important bits are missing. Writing all this down in whatever way makes sense to you will help guide you toward finishing the project. Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of telling yourself “oh, I’ll remember that later,” because some other thought will shove that one right out of your head. Trust me; write it down so you don’t kick yourself later. 

As Colton notes in this video, keeping tabs on which parts require what work will help you generate a build list. From there, you can start to look at parts fiche and locate part numbers, start finding pricing and availability information, and so on. Whether you’re ready to splash out the cash on everything at once, or you’re taking it slow and easy and only dealing with a little at a time, this research is incredibly helpful.

Colton also helpfully made his basic project build spreadsheet available for download, so you can use it as a guide. The color-coding helps identify which parts have arrived, which are being sourced, which are on back-order, and so on.  

Now that you’ve got yourself a roadmap, it’s time to get to work. If you’ve read through all this and you have some good advice on project bike planning, feel free to share it in the comments below. 

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