Archive for the ‘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

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

1969 BSA A65 Road Racer

Picture 32In 1969 BSA commanded 80% of all the Brit bikes sold here in the USA. Eighty Percent! Who woulda thunk? I, and I think most of us, would have pegged Triumph as the leader but not so say the statistics. What was it about BSA that made it that strong a seller in a time when the Japanese manufacturers were dominating the market? Was it styling? No. Was it performance? No. Was it reliability? Certainly not.  So what was it?

Picture 23Let’s find a bit of perspective here. BSA may have had 80% of the British bike sales here in the states but ‘Made in England’ motorcycles constituted a very small percentage of the total bikes sold here. So small that within a decade, they were all gone from the US market.

From the late 1950’s through the mid 60’s, the British were competing with the very popular Harley Davidson Sportster in the performance category. The Sportster was Harley’s ‘sportbike’, it had a  slight horsepower advantage, it had a new look (the peanut tank was quite stylish then), it had the Harley sound and, of course, it had the advantage of being made in the USA. BSA, Triumph and Norton all were better handling motorcycles but back then, straight line speed was king, not the ability to go around corners fast.

Each of the big three from the UK tried styling mods to attract the American market, Triumph  with the X75 Hurricane, Norton tried (and miserably failed) with their Hi-Rider chopper model and BSA tried with…well, nothing. Sure, BSA tried a few styling changes like a smaller slimmer tank, the oil in the frame design (which nobody was really happy about), and of course the ray-gun mufflers of the Rocket 3. Personally, I love the ray-gun mufflers but at the time they went over like a fart in church. Anyway, the Brits just faded away into the sunset. Today, Triumph is back in a big way and Norton is getting set to comeback this year with a new Commando and it is beautiful. I hope it succeeds.

I started my street bike life aboard a BSA so the brand has a certain spot in my heart that will never go away. Yes, it stranded me more than once with faulty electric’s, and yes, it leaked more oil in a month than any Japanese bike I’ve ever owned  did in a lifetime. It could be a bit (?) temperamental when it came to starting in the morning (or when it was hot and the bike didn’t feel like going anywhere), and it could vibrate the fillings out of my teeth if the carbs weren’t balanced properly, but…when everything was working as it was supposed to, what a joy it was to ride that Beezer. I was raised to ride the canyon roads, to believe in handling over horsepower, and the sound coming from a parallel twin was the sweetest sound in motorcycling.Picture 19

At one point in time (actually a couple of times) the Japanese manufactures realized that there was something about the British bikes that still captivated the American buyer. Yamaha did great with the XS650, designed to compete with the Triumph, Kawasaki brought out the W650 to head to head with the BSA and Honda tried with the GB500 single. The only one that succeeded over the long run was the Yamaha. Today, the Triumph Bonneville is a huge success because it looks like a proper English motorbike without the oil puddle underneath it.

Lately I have been thinning the herd of bikes in my barn and am starting to look for a new adventure…once I have finished the other four projects I have going, and am being drawn towards a BSA 650. I’m actually looking for one of the last designs more than the old chrome tank styles, mainly because I think they are probably going to be cheaper on the market(?). Today on ebay I found one that might just fit the bill.

On ebay today, there is a 1969 BSA A65 that has been set up for vintage roadracing. Remember, the A65 was BSA’s ‘roadracer for the street’. The A65 put out a very respectable 54HP and would top out at around 105MPH. This particular bike has been upgraded with Marzocchi forks, more modern rear shocks, and a Suzuki twin leading shoe front brake, which was a very good upgrade from the standard brake the BSA had at the time. The motor has been given some extra muscle by way of a 750cc kit But, here is the cool thing about this bike, it can easily be retrofitted with the electric’s to power a headlight, taillight and blinkers so you have a perfect cafe racer with almost no effort! The seller says that it does need some carb work but that’s no big deal. This could be a very sweet Sunday rider.Picture 30

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

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Picture 171969 BSA A65 Racer

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…





1971 BMW R60 with R90 Motor

No matter how many times I rant and rave about bikes missing some key cafe racer feature, I always manage to find these bikes again and again. Here we have a 1971 BMW R60 that’s been cafe’d out… almost. Everything is there except the bars. I know, I know, the bars are more comfortable than clip-ons or clubmans. But they just don’t work with the rear-sets. And having your feet behind you doesn’t work so well if your hands are up high.

However, if you want a BMW cafe racer, this is a perfect bike for you to finish up by selecting your perfect set of bars or clip-ons that fit you perfectly. The price is relatively low at $1,800 with 2 days left and a fair number of bidders. I expect it will close higher, but not sure how much. It’s a clean bike with most of the cafe mods done already…






1977 Harley-Davidson XLCR

Not a lot of info on this bike in the listing. There is what appears to be a low serial number, and the bike doesn’t seem to be too far from stock if at all (unrestored and very clean looking). Low miles, but no good pictures of the VIN. Current bidding has the bike at $8,700 with 11 bids and 14 hours left. However, reserve isn’t met, which means there’s a good chance the bike won’t sell. I’ll repost if it comes back up for sale and maybe we will see what a nice XLCR can sell for in this economy…







1962 Norton Featherbed Cafe Racer

A while back I posted a listing for a Hogbitz Sportster cafe racer that was the most expensive bike to ever hit the blog ($25K asking price). It was relisted at least once, if not multiple times. This Norton comes in a close second with a Buy-It-Now price of $22,500. As is this the second Norton in a row I’ve posted, it is interesting to compare the bikes, and what differentiates an unrestored Norton Commando from a fully restored and cafe-racerized (including lots of motorwork) Norton Featherbed/Manx. I guess the difference comes down to this 1962 Norton being what is essentially a show bike with a hopped-up motor you could ride, versus the 1971 Norton Commando posted before being an unrestored daily rider that has a frame in good shape with “no visible cracks”.

You decide. $22.5K for a beautiful bike that has been gone through with a fine-tooth comb, or $7.5K for a bike that you might put a little elbow grease into over time (and maybe a motor rebuild while you’re at it). It would be interesting to see what this bike sells for, but it is a Buy-It-Now with Make Offer (2 offers so far), so we won’t be able to watch any climbing auction prices.







1971 Norton 750 Commando Cafe Racer

Here’s a nice looking example of a first-gen Commando that has been converted to cafe-racer duty. Overall, the modifications are spot-on, but I do have one minor quibble: the rear ride height. Shocks one inch longer would really balance the bike front-to-rear, and lifting the back end up would also probably quicken the handling just a smidge.

Other than that, this is an unrestored runner that is currently not seeing much action in the auction. There is a a day and a half left in the auction, and the current price is $4,550. Reserve has not been met, but there is a Buy-It-Now price of $7,500, so we can probably assume the reserve is set somewhere around $7K. With only two bidders so far, it seems there isn’t a huge chance the bike will end up selling.







1979 Yamaha SR500 Cafe Racer

Ahhh. SR500. Always a good, clean-looking cafe racer. Not much else to say. On eBay. 11 hours left. 21 bids, $2,100 dollars. Bid by tomorrow morning if you are interested…







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