Archive for April, 2009|Monthly archive page

R.I.P. KTM Adventure R – You shall be no more.

(Editor – While not cafe racer content, I’m sure we can all relate to the loss of a favorite motorcycle whether it is from a crash, being stolen, or even self-destruction as in the case of this bike. Back to cafe racers in a bit…)

It is with a fond farewell that I have to say goodbye to my trusty steed of the last 7 years. My KTM Adventure R has died. Not a small death. Not a dead battery. Not a fouled spark plug. Not even a piece of electronics gone south.

This was the sound of metal breaking from within the core of the motor. The heart of the bike, if you will. It had, you could say, a massive myocardial infarction. After the sound of metal breaking, there were more metallic sounds, then some grinding-type noises, then some coasting, then nothingness. Just a period of time when I was free to experience the silence of a mid-morning spent waiting for a ride in the heart of the Central Valley of California.

As I sat waiting for my friend to come pick me up, I thought about my time with this Austrian motorcycle. Some long rides to destinations many states (or even a country) away. Some short rides to work around the the backside of Hoover Reservoir just outside Columbus, Ohio. Manic rides in endurance rallies where 24 hours was measured in 4 digit mileage totals. But all great rides with the massive, thumping music of the 625cc single driving me forward.

There was the first time I saw the KTM LC4 Adventure R, sitting at my desk at Honda R&D as I built a model book back in 1998, cutting and pasting images of bikes, ATVs, snowmobiles, and PWCs into a document that all of the higher ups could go through if they wondered how many cc’s the latest Arctic Cat has. As I built the KTM section, there it was. The 1998 KTM Adventure R with low pipes, massive 7.4 gallon tank, and suspension that would take you from Paris to Dakar and back. I printed out a nice 8.5″ x 11″ color picture of the big single and posted it on my cubicle wall.

There was the first ride home from The Cycle Shed in southern Indiana. Almost immediately, the right-hand mirror fell apart five miles after driving off the showroom floor. Then the front brake master cylinder started leaking just north of Cincinnati. When I stopped to fix that from the little tool kit that came with the bike (take off the MC cap, and use a paper towel to soak up the excess brake fluid), I noticed a puddle of overflowed, excess oil underneath the bike. After a 2.5 hour ride I was home and in love.

There was my first endurance rally two weeks after bringing the bike home. I rode back to Cincinnati for my second Buckeye 1000 (previously done on a VFR750), and took a nearly new single-cylinder dirt bike 1,479 miles through six state capitols (Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and then Indiana). I entered the rally finishing spot (a hotel parking lot) doing my best supermotard impersonation much to the amusement of the rally staff, and finished 1 minute before the disqualification point in this 24 hour rally.

There was my first off road excursion on the bike. I hit mud on a wooden, creek-crossing bridge and slid off the bridge. Well, almost off the bridge. I ended up on top of the bike after the rear axle nut kept it from sliding completely off, and the front end was stuck down below in the mud of the creek bank.

There was the time I disassembled the entire bike down to a large pile of parts, loaded it into the trunk and back seat of my car and drove across the country to my new job. After I reassembled it, I ended up crashing a few days later at about 15 mph in the early morning fog/drizzle where it had dampened a corner covered with redwood tree leaves. Then, we nearly got hit as a Subaru WRX came barreling around the corner at about 40 mph and nearly slid into us on the same slippery leaves.

There was the o’dark-thirty ride into the Gettysberg National Military Park during a BATLDR rally, trying to find an observation tower to write down some obscure fact while the ghosts of the 51,000 who died during this battle had to listen to the thumpa-thumpa of this big single motoring through the early morning darkness. After I climbed to the top of the tower and wrote down the needed factoid (I think it was that the house to the southeast of the tower had been lived in by Eisenhower after his presidency), the sun started to rise. As the darkness made way to light, the battlefield became visible all around me, and in my sleep-deprived state I felt like I was there on the morning of the battle waiting for the fighting to start. After I made my way back down to my bike and started riding away, I realized now that it was a bit lighter than when I had arrived that I had been motoring through campgrounds filled with hundreds of Civil War reenactors. Sorry, guys! My bad!

There was the last ride on the KTM before it died. I took my daughter and her friend to the local OHV area to ride. It was more of a dawdling meander than anything else, as this particular pair of 8-year-old kids doesn’t really scream across the trails. I got a few speedy bursts in, jumping on some of the trail obstacles left after the last hare scrambles held there. But the most fun was getting ice cream when we were riding back to the car and sitting with the kids talking about how much fun the riding had been.

And now the bike is sitting in my garage, waiting for me to dissect the motor and make a decision about whether to fix it or part out the bike. Sad to say, but I suspect that it will cost more to have the motor rebuilt than I could get if I tried to sell the bike after the motor is fixed and reinstalled. I love this bike, but it may be time to move on. Perhaps I can find a gray market Rallye 660. Or maybe it’s time to step up to an LC8 Adventure. I’ve got some thinking to do…

2006 Suzuki GSXR1000 Street Fighter

Every once in a while I post a street fighter. Is this a street fighter? Almost. It surely goes like it has a fire lit under its arse. But it is missing one key piece of kit – a superbike bar kit. If you are lucky enough to win this bike at the end of the auction, the first thing I would do is contact Spiegler USA or any one of the many other companies selling handlebar kits for the GSXR1000 (most of which are just selling the Spiegler riser plus bars) and get rid of thy clip-ons. And add a fender before you put a rock through either the radiator or oil cooler!

Oh, think of the wheelies. Think of the mayhem. Think of the pure, unadulterated hooliganism that will happen!!!


And now for something completely different…

Those of you who read the blog regularly might remember my recent post about the billions and billions of Honda motorcycles that seem to end up on the site. Yes, I am a whiner, it’s true. And then comes along this… I’ll call it a cafe racer. While maybe not a cafe racer in the classic sense of the word, this 1977 Kawasaki KZ750 definitely has many cafe styling cues. Maybe it is more of a Euro street fighter with clip-ons. Regardless, the seller has done some cool stuff to a bike that doesn’t see much love from the cafe crowd.

Here’s a list of the things the owner has done to the bike (I deleted many, many exclamation marks when I cut-and-pasted the list):

    Dyna electronic ignition
    Accel Super Coils and Plug Wires
    Vance & Hines 4-1Exhaust
    Pod Filters
    Fresh top end
    Carbs Rejetted
    Ness Batwing Mirrors
    Italian Custom clip on handlebars
    Rearset foot controls
    New Tires Front and rear 16”
    Custom Seat
    Drag Specialties tach (CR – check out where the builder put it!)
    Custom wiring harness
    Almost all powder coated, not painted

I have to give the guy credit. This is a unique bike with which the builder has followed a unique vision. I’ll leave you with this quote from the eBay listing: “This bike is fast and very eye catching. I guarantee no one else will have a bike like this one.” Huzzah, I say!!!


1973 Honda CB350 Twin Cafe Racer

Up for auction on eBay is this CB350T cafe racer that has been decently cafe’d. It isn’t in perfect shape, but the price is much better than some of the other cafe racers that get listed for sale.

One of the best features of this bike is that the mechanicals appear to be in great shape. The YouTube video shows an instant cold start (he grabs a header pipe to demonstrate the coldness of the motor), and the engine, exhaust, and suspension bits are nice and shiny. The paint with checked flag racing stripe appears to be in good condition, too.

So what’s missing? Rear-sets. And the seat is just a bit wonky. I think it is padded a bit too much, and perhaps a couple of inches too long for the rather diminutive CB350T. Although, on repeated viewing of the photos, I think my issue with the seat is entirely related to the height of the padding. The length would be okay with the padding halved in height so it lined up better with the tank. YMMV.

However, the best thing about the bike is the price. With less than 2 days left (1 day 9 hours as I write this), the bidding is only up to $127.50 with 3 bidders competing. The Buy-It-Now price is set at $2K, so the reserve is somewhere in-between. Regardless of your opinion (or mine) about the aesthetics of the seat, this is an opportunity to get a mostly complete and in great condition cafe racer for a reasonable price. Good luck if you go for it!


Parts for RC181 Build-Up?

Mike posted a question about where to find parts to build up a replica CR181 such as the one shown just below that I found on The World Of Motorcycles website. Below that I posted some Airtech parts that would fairly well create a Mike Hailwood GP replica. As for seats, they are available on eBay, at Airtech, or from any one of a number of cafe racer parts companies.

I honestly think that it is going to be tough to create an exact replica without spending a large amount of money to recreate parts to fit whatever bike Mike ends up selecting as the starting point for this project. However, he should be able to recreate a RC181 vibe without too much trouble…

Vintage Motorcycle Photographs

Airtech Parts – Tank modified to fit most CB models:

Seat for CB750 (that could possibly fit a CB350)

I recently posted the black and silver CB750 shown just below this, and Kato had a question about where to find a seat like this that might fit a CB350. I have an idea, but I doubt it will be a direct bolt on for a 350. So right below this paragraph is the original bike, and then continue on for the seats.

So in looking at that seat, I think I have found either the exact seat, or something pretty close. However, I suspect it might be a bit too long for the CB350.Here’s the specs, and then just below this I have posted a link in each photo to three of the Giuliari seats posted by the same seller on eBay. Each seat is slightly different and in a slightly different state of wear and tear, so please check each out in detail before bidding. And if anyone has any other ideas for Kato (or comments on these seats) please let us know…




2006 Suzuki SV650S Street Fighter

You might remember one of the few street fighters I’ve posted over the last year. They’ve been few and far between. In large part that’s because most street fighters here in America suck. They’re just wrecked sportbikes with a 12 o’clock bar bolted on.

I found this bike on eBay today, and I really like most of it. The custom black paint (covering up a crash no doubt) looks really nice (Shiny shiny!). It’s got some cool Buell headlights on it. I like the 5.5″ rear wheel conversion. Overall, a nice conversion of a wrecked SVS.

What’s not to like? That crazy flyscreen and vertically mounted instrument panel. Maybe the thing won’t run without the stock instruments, but that has got to go. That’s it. Cool bike otherwise. A modern day cafe racer…


Storz Sportster Gas Tank

If you own a 2003 or older Sportster, this might just be your lucky day. Up for auction on eBay right now is this Storz road racing tank. The seller claims it is new, and it really looks unused. Too bad my cafe’d sportster is a 2005, and no one really makes a tank for the newer rubber-mount bikes. Bidding is only at $207 with less than 20 hours left. This could be a chance to get one of these nearly $1K tanks for much less than retail. Good luck!!!


1973 Triumph T140V 750 Cafe Racer

Here’s a beautiful, professionally built cafe racer that started life as a Triumph T140. It appears the bike has been entirely gone through with lots of new parts, including a full engine rebuild (top and bottom end), new ignition, custom exhaust and seat, new rims/spokes, etc. One of my favorite features is the polished aluminum tank. It and the red frame and fenders really make this bike stand out.

There are four days left in the auction for this bike, and it currently has 8 bidders who have taken the price up to $3,550 currently. Good luck if you are interested, as this is a truly magnificent bike that will make the new owner very, very happy…


Why are they all Hondas?

I know, I know. This is something of a rhetorical question. But looking back through the posts over the last couple of months, most of the bikes I’ve written about have been from Honda. The CB750, CB550, CB350, and the CB350T have all been featured multiple times in various states of cafe build or disrepair.

I suppose it’s because so many Hondas were sold in the 1970s that they have become the ubiquitous cafe racer starting point in the United States. And so we have lots of aftermarket manufacturers supporting these bikes. Then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy…

I say bring on the other makes and models of bikes. Let’s see more Suzukis, Yamahas, and Kawasakis! Don’t keep that old Norton in your garage stock! And bring on the Beezers, Triumphs, and other older British marques! And while we’re at it, let’s build more Beemers and Ducks into classic cafe racers!

Sorry for the rant. It’s probably time for my meds…