Archive for the ‘cafe racer’ Tag

1973 Honda CL350 Cafe Racer

Picture 8It is no secret that I love, I LOVE!!! Honda 350’s…and I’m not the only one. The CB is by most accounts the biggest selling motorcycle of all time…hell, I have four of them! CB,CL and SL models. A couple run, one’s a parts bike and the other is in boxes, milk crates and hanging from the rafters in my barn.

My love affair with the Honda twin began in 1971 when I was in a ‘one-upmanship’ contest with my friend Eddie. Even though I was riding a BSA 650 most of the time, the contest revolved around smaller bikes. Eddie won a couple of times but when I got my first SL350, his ‘little’ Yamaha DT1 250 was left in the dust…literally.

I eventually sold the SL350, after I had slogged it through the deserts of Southern California for a couple of years only to regret it a few years later. So…the search was on for another. I ended up with a 1972 CB350 that had been sitting out in a back yard for something like 10 years or so. That little 350 looked pretty bad, but it was all there and the price was right, a hundred bucks. On to my trailer it went (flat tires and all the spiders you could want, plus a dead mouse in the right side airfilter) and home it came with me. I still have it…25 years later.

Once home, some basic service, a lot of elbow grease and a few (?) new parts and I was back on my favorite little Honda twin. Over the years I put a mild cafe treatment on the bike, lower bars, changed the exhaust, moved the pegs back a bit, upgraded the suspension, I even put good tires on it. Now it is waiting for the big bore kit I recently acquired to be installed.

Building Cafe Racer out of a Honda 350 nowadays is a pretty easy thing to do. Parts are available easily; tanks, seats, controls,suspension, you name it and with a good credit card you can have it delivered to your door the next day. But here is the thing about building a vintage cafe racer,if you’re going to do it right, it ain’t gonna be cheap and it ain’t going to happen over a weekend. The time,effort and money you put into it is for your own pleasure…when time comes to sell it, don’t set your hopes too high.Picture 10

So, on that note, I found a super sweet CL350 that has a whole lot of nice parts and a lot of love put into it and is being sold at a reasonable price (so far). This CL motor has been gone through, it didn’t need much it only has 4837 miles on it, carbs rebuilt, new electrics, etc, etc. Then we get into the really cool stuff.

The bike was stripped down and everything was either powder coated, painted or polished. The wheels got new spokes, bearings and tires. Suspension was all redone front and rear, nice handlebars, rearsets and the exhaust, which may be a bit loud but it sure looks good. I really dig the instruments and the headlight arrangement. I think I’m changing the vision I have for my own new 350 project.

This is a really nicely done Honda 350 that will last for a long time both mechanically and styling. Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.

Oh and one last thing, the Honda advert says top speed is 100mph…don’t believe them…maybe 95mph is where it tops out. But with a very little work, the little 350 will ‘Do the Ton’. Have fun.

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Picture 41973 Honda CL350 Cafe Racer

1980 Honda CX500 Custom Cafe’

Picture 5The Plastic Maggot. That is what the British and European press called the CX500, and deservedly so. I think, however, that bad styling got in the way of some great technology. Yes, the bike was patterned after the Moto Guzzi 500 v twin but Honda did some things to make it much better, Styling not included. Little things like twisting the cylinders so that carbs wouldn’t hit the riders knee’s. The CX500 really was and still is a really good motorcycle, hey, even police departments around the world loved these bikes.Picture 4

The CX500 was especially nice when cafe’d up.
I found a nice example on ebay this morning that looks like it would be a lot of fun to ride. The seller did some simple but nice upgrades, some minimalistic styling, which follows true cafe racer form, and made this bike ready to ride right now with nothing to do. Nice bike.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and more info. The other thing about CX500’s…they really sound good with a more flowing exhaust like this one has.

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Picture 141980 Honda CX500 Custom

1985 Yamaha Virago Custom

Picture 13Now this is a custom that I can really love. Not for its looks but for its soul and the guy that built it. Take a slow, overweight, ill handling motorcycle and make it something cool.

The Yamaha Virago line of bikes have never been all that great in any category, but they have always sold relatively well for the tuning fork company. I have, and still do, lust after an early ’80’s XV920RH model. It is the Euro styled Virago based ride that just works for me. The Yamaha V-Twins are good solid motors, no issues (for the most part) and have a good feel to them. Yamaha was the first of the Japanese companies to go after the factory cruiser market and were pretty successful at it. The tuning fork company made a lot of different versions of the Virago all the way down to a little 250cc model. To this day the Star brand still has a lot of the old Virago in it’s DNA.

So, back to this Virago I found on ebay today. This is a very unique custom…it truly is a hack build, and I mean that in a good way.

The owner worked on the frame, took it back to a twin shock design, popped in a Honda CBR900RR front fork and added some Kawasaki EX500 rear sets. All to make the bike handle better. Then comes the custom work. A handmade steel tank, and here’s the part I really dig… The guy made some headers himself and then went to the best supplier of cheap parts…JC Whitney for the mufflers. Man, I love this build. Take a pound mutt, don’t make it into a throughbred, just make it mean. Oh and I really love the tail light!!
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.

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1985 Yamaha Virago Custom

1976 Honda GL1000 ‘Bold wing’

Picture 13This is how most all of us look at Gold Wings…old guys riding the interstate with the onboard stereo blasting away and at the end of the day staying at the Holiday Inn. I know this from experience. My dad got back into motorcycling after about 30 plus years and his goal was to ride a Gold Wing. I started him on a CB350, then a CX500 Silver Wing and eventually a GL1100 Gold Wing. He didn’t use the stereo all that much but he did like the Holiday Inn.Picture 12

Me, I remember when the Gold Wing first arrived on the scene. I was living in Las Cruces New Mexico and the local Honda dealer had the Honda rep come out and show everybody the GL1000. What a boat…until you rode it. Yeah it weighed a lot, and yeah the steering was kinda slow but when you got it up to speed, this thing worked!

Because of its low center of gravity the GL series of Honda’s handle really well, add to that the torque of the motor and you have a bike that is ripe for going fast. All it needs is a bit of suspension work. Instead of cushy go for sporty. Honda originally brought out the ‘Wing’ as a sport bike not a tourer. Craig Vetter made a tourer out of the GL not Honda.Picture 14

So, over the years many ‘Wing’ riders figured out the true purpose of the GL and made some great cafe racers out of the big four. I found a really nice one on ebay today. A few modifications, nothing serious, but nicely set up. The bike has only 38K miles on it, which in ‘Gold Wing’ miles is barely broken in. This is a really nice motorcycle. If any of you out there think a first generation Gold Wing is just an old mans highway cruiser,think again…these bikes can fly., hence the name.

For info and more pictures, click on the pics below.

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Picture 91976 Honda Gl1000

1972 Honda CB350 Custom

Picture 7Here we have a very nicely sorted but not over done Honda. Styling wise it is a very clean Cafe Racer, mechanically I’m guessing it’s still pretty much stock save the pod filters and the tidy exhaust. This is the pattern I am going to use for my own 350 project.

The owner obviously went through the process of dismantling the bike, cleaning, painting and polishing, then went into cafe mode. First stop, Benji’s Cafe Racers for the body work. I believe the ‘El Poquito’ body is absolutely the best looking for the CB. Clean additions like the Air-tech front fender, the polished clip-ons and some nice rearsets take care of the styling and functionality. I also like the silver paint, simple and elegant.

A good cafe racer has to handle well and this bike seems to be on its way to that goal. The shocks are far better than the stockers but what did he do with the front? Upgraded springs? even an oil change? There are some simple frame mods that make a huge difference on CB’s. Looks like the bike has stock wheels with a couple decent tires spooned on.

All in all, this is probably the nicest CB350 I have seen. Good looking, better handling, reliable and so much fun to ride!! This guy (or gal?) has put a lot of time, love and money into this Honda and it shows. And with the low miles it has on the clock (provided it is the real mileage), it will be fun to ride for years and will draw a crowd wherever you go. For more info and more pictures, click on the pics below.

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Picture 41972 Honda CB350 Custom

1977 Harley Davidson XLCR

Picture 8I made the mistake once of telling a potential employer (my local Harley Davidson dealer) that the only Harley I really liked was the XLCR from the late 70’s. The minute that sentence came out of my mouth I knew I was not going to be wearing orange and black to work each day. I did my best to backtrack but by then I was being shown the door. Oh well. Ironically, today I do ride a Buell, which is powered by Harley Davidson.

It is true though that I really like the XLCR, it is some sort of mental deficiency I understand that, but there is just something about that bike that works for me. The XLCR was the first bike designed by Willie G. himself and marketing wise it went over like a fart in church. To the faithful it was the bastard stepchild. The Cafe racer had more going against it than for it right from the get go. One, it didn’t look like a Harley should look. Two, it was made during the AMF period and it’s pretty common knowledge that those were as close to junk as could possibly be. Unreliable, poor fit and finish, and just shoddy in general. Fortunately, that period didn’t last too long and The Motor Company came back strong.Picture 8

In 1977 The Motor Company built a few less 2,000 XLCR’s, 1978 had a production of around 1,000 and the last year, 1979, of the Cafe Racer there were only 9. Back then you could own one for just $3595…actually many were sold for a lot less. Today, a nicely kept or restored original goes for over $10,000!

I found one today on ebay that has a few modifications and is showing its age, but that’s OK. The mods include upgraded rear shocks, a new carb (sans air cleaner), and a what looks to be a loud exhaust. The bike needs some love but not too much from what I can see and might be had for a somewhat reasonable price.

XLCR’s have a very definite cool factor, and it still one of only a couple Harley’s I would like to own.

Click on the pictures below for more pics and more info.

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Picture 61977 Harley Davidson XLCR

1978 Yamaha XS400

Picture 11Yeah, I know that most of you (me too) like bigger bore bikes to convert to the style we like, Cafe’. But…smaller bikes are so much fun to ride, and…embarassing riders on modern 1000cc bikes through tight twisty roads, well, that just makes the ride all that much more fun.

Building small, 100cc-400cc bikes is a lot of fun. Parts are generally easily acquired, they don’t require high levels of mechanical skills, and like I said before, riding small bikes is a sh*tload of fun.Picture 9

I found an almost done little Yamaha XS400 on ebay this morning that would make a great weekend canyon blaster or as it is, a good daily commuter. The XS400 is as reliable as the sun coming up each morning, loves to rev to the limit (and then some), has a chassis that is very capable of embarrassing bigger bikes in the twisties (with just a couple of easy suspension mods) and, they are cheap and easy to maintain…unlike your ex-girlfriend.

This XS I found has only 2700 miles on the clock, it is a kickstart only model, which is actually a good thing, has a nice set of wire wheels instead of the mags that came with most XS models and a nice paint job. Two things I would do here…get rid of the ugly tail light, put something that fits into the seat cowling, and change the exhaust. The straight exhaust doesn’t help the motor and a little 400cc twin sounds terrible with straight pipes. A nice reverse megaphone muffler would look great, sound better and make the motor run happier. This is a nice bike and the price doesn’t seem all that unreasonable for how few miles it has on it. I would still go through the carbs, do some suspension upgrades, put a proper set of clip-ons or clubman bars, and then go have a lot of fun.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and info.

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Picture 141978 Yamaha XS400

1996 Harley Sportster Cafe’

Picture 9Recently I spent some time with my friend Erik doing a heart transplant on his Sportster. Erik rides hard, he spends more time on the rev-limiter than most people spend on their bikes. But, Erik takes care of his bikes, well, kind of? After 70,000+ miles of abuse his Sporty decided it was done. A good used motor was found on ebay, shipped to California and without too much drama installed.

Erik has been, little by little, turning his Sportster into a Cafe Racer. Suspension mods,clip-ons, exhaust, seat…it’s all coming together nicely but I know he wants to do more.

Erik is considering new wire spoked wheels, new bodywork and pumping up the motor. It’s going to be a really well put together bike when done. But…I found one on ebay today that is already done and looks to me to a perfect example of how a Sportser should look.

I have to digress here a bit though, I have never been a fan of Harley Davidsons, except one…the XLCR, Harley’s (more exactly Willie G. Davidson’s) first design out of the cruiser/touring market. This has to probably be thee most underloved Harley ever built. It may be powered by a Harley motor but to ‘The Faithful’ it wasn’t a Harley Davidson. The XLCR fit into the same category as the little 2 strokes from Italy…maybe even lower. However, the XLCR has become a cult bike and quite valuable.Picture 8

Today, Sportster based Cafe Racer’s aren’t all that unusual. The first one I ever saw was at one of my semi-regular Sunday stops ‘The Rock Store’ in the Santa Monica Mountains. The license plate on this particular Sporty was ‘DUCHUNTER’ and that was the owners favorite game, chasing down Ducati’s in the canyons. He often won the game.

The ’96 I found today is beautiful. Bodywork is a beautifully shaped 4 gallon tank, a classic Ducati seat and tail section, a sweet looking exhaust, nice clip-ons and classic aluminum spoked wheels. Everything about this bike looks to have been done with a a lot of love and attention to detail. This is how I hope Erik’s turns out but with his own special touches.

For more info and pictures, click on the pics below. And now, I’m going to go out and ride my own Harley powered Buell over to Erik’s and work on his Sporty Cafe Racer.

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Picture 61996 Sportster Cafe Racer

1974 Norton Cafe Racer

For some reason I seem to be on a Norton kick at this time. I want one. That big long stroke motor, watching the front wheel shake at stop lights…wait a minute, we’re heading into a way different topic of discussion here…uh, back to motorcycles.

I think the main reason I’m on this Norton kick is because my friends at ‘Left Coast Racing’ and I are getting ready for another Bonneville LSR run in couple of months with a pair of Norton’s. We currently hold a Land Speed Record with a rather built up 1959 Norton.

The very first Norton I ever took for a ride was a ‘rode hard and put away wet’ 750 Commando back in the early 70’s that my step dad rescued from some guys back yard. It was a lot different from the BSA’s and Triumph’s I had been riding, and honestly…at that time, I liked my Lightning 650 a lot better. But, being the good motorcycle souls that we were, we went about resurrecting it…a project that took over a year and a lot more money than my mom knows about.

During that same time, we were also upgrading a Triumph Bonneville from a standard 650cc to a Weslake 750 model (again, another story for anther time…and a really good one??). The Commando rebuild was a lot easier thanks to people like Brian Slark, Domiracer and Berliner. At the end of the year both motorcycles were finished, broken in appropriately and then taken out for a proper thrashing…Sunday morning on Angeles Crest Highway.

I fell in love with the Norton. Up to that time my motorcycling life had been with high revving two strokes, and somewhat high revving (by then current standards) English and Japanese twins, the Norton was a different feeling altogether. Where my BSA would feel light at the bars, the Norton was dead steady, the BSA needed some revs to get off a corner quickly, the Norton just needed a nudge on the throttle…the BSA needed you to pay attention, the Norton just went along with however you were riding that day (even with a minor (major) hangover).

The Norton was sold to a friend of a friend of a friend or their third cousin by marriage twice removed (no Alabama jokes here…) and was never seen again. I had grown to love that motorcycle and was sad to see it leave the garage…the guy didn’t even ride it home, he put it in a pick up truck!??? After all the work we did?… and he didn’t even live 20 miles away!! This was way before the days of ebay and buying a motorcycle on the other side of the world was easy.

So today, while working on our other websites, http://www.ilovecaferacers.com and http://www.themotoworld.com and cruising ebay looking for yet another project bike for a friend, I came upon a very nice Norton that is ready to ride and has some very nice bits and pieces.

This is a 1974 850 Commando that is a runner but…it has been sitting for years according to the owner so if you buy this bike you really need to go through the carbs, change the fluids, probably the tyres…all the standard stuff but I think this bike will be well worth the effort.

The bike has been outfitted with the Dunstall bits that really make it great, starting with the Dunstall 2 into 1 into 2 exhaust system. This exhaust is worth the price of admission alone, it is a work of art in every respect…performance and looks. The beautiful tank and that very slim front fender (I put one of those on the front of my H2, it was pretty worthless as far as fenders go, but I loved how it looked), the 850 also has what looks to me like Lester mag wheels. This Norton only has only 8800 miles on the clock and like I said before, with just some standard service, should be a wonderful ride.

Click on the pics below for more pictures and a little more info. This is a great bike for the money.



74 Dunstall Norton

2004? Harley Davidson Sportster – Full Cafe!!!

I’m contacting the seller about this bike to try to get more details and more photos. If this is, in fact, a 2004 Sportster, then it is the first full conversion (including tank but minus some cool 18″ wheels) that I’ve seen. A tank like that is exactly what I want to do to my bike. I’ll post updates as I get them.

BTW, the reason I’m not sure about the year is the oil tank. I can’t tell from the photos, but it is either a 2003 tank (non-flush oil filler cap) or it is a 2004 tank with the side cover removed. If anyone has an opinion, please let me know…





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