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Sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you.

  • Chester ate the bear.

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  • The bear ate Chester.

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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I saw an Craigslist ad on Sunday night 6 hours after it posted for a 77 Honda CB 550F. I've been toying with the idea of building a cafe racer type motorcycle for years but the prices for vintage bikes are mostly insane. The ad had about 10 pictures posted and I knew immediately that for $300 I had to have this motorcycle. I responded by email right away and the guy answered about 4 hours later. I asked when I could see it. The bike was taken apart but looked like it was all there. I also noticed that the front chrome fender didn't have a spot of rust on it. I figured something has to be wrong with this, the price is way to cheap. You could part out most 70's Honda CBs for 1500 - 2000K easily. I finally was able to see it after 3 days so I took $300 and headed over to see it. I was fully reconciled to the fact that there was some kind of scam going on and I'd never be able to buy this for the advertised price or some other issue.

I got there and the guy had everything out in the driveway. He was 50ish and a regular Joe. I started asking questions and got better than expected answers. The bike was his cousins and he got it from him to turn it into a cafe racer type motorcycle. This is the history. 45 years old, always garage kept, almost no rust. Came off the road in excellent running condition. Compression tested at the right numbers. All the papers in order. The guy was an excellent and skilled fabricator that just didn't have time to work on it. Everything he did was meticulous and right for the bike. All of the original parts there and in great shape. Only part missing is the exhaust which he said was scratched beyond restore-able. Came with a Clymers manual. He bought a cheap auto motor stand and adapted it as a work stand for the bike motor included. All the plastic storage boxes included. A substantial amount of brand new parts, seals, gaskets. Everything about this was as good as I could hope for short of it being fully restored. 9800 original miles. Then came the moment of truth....I asked if the $300 price was the price and he said yes. I said I'll take it. We talked as we were loading on my truck and he told me that after my initial response, people were going ape-shit to get this bike. He knew he could get more and told me he figured he could part it out for a couple of grand. I agreed and apologized for taking his motorcycle away. My guess is that he didn't know that the response would be so big and that he was a stand up guy. He put the price on it and that was it. I almost wanted to give him more that he was asking.....of course I didn't.....the road to hell is paved with good intentions. So now I finally have the project motorcycle I was looking for. The icing on the cake.....my GF paid for it as a birthday present. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. CB out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Great find and nice to hear about an honorable person.

I recently bought my 2nd 98 VTR1000F with all original parts plus 2 fairings, 2 Bros low mount full exhaust, a ton of brand new in packaging parts like braided brake lines, pads, seals, gaskets, 3 sets of carbs and a lot more but the main thing is its a good runner with only 40,000 miles. My 98 has 111,000 and still runs great (knock on plastic). I know the PO and have maintained it for him. He needed cash and agreed to store it for me inside and on a Battery Tender until I recover from my last surgery (3rd in 7 months). All for only $1k!

Now I have 2 spare VTR engines, a complete frame and enough parts to build a 3rd VTR. But I'm busy getting my from new 76 RD400 converted back to street legal, and a 2000 HD XL1200S Sport restored (OE with dual plug heads, HE ignition, hotter cams and bumped compression and fully adjustable front and rear suspension). Got it for $600...
Congratulations. I am finally fully recovered from my knee replacement and wishing you the same. For me I think this restoration is a 1 time thing. Something I've always wanted to do. Honestly, I felt like I'd never find the right bike at a price that made sense. I'm now looking at some of the prices of stuff I want to do. Not a cheap hobby.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
After I posted that I realized how douchey that sounded. Honestly I'm at the point where I'm trying to do for those that have done for me in times past. To grab the FZ all you'll need is your trailer and $6500. Seriously, the CB needed very little to take it up a notch. And I do miss it. The intake honk with the pod filters was intoxicating. Chester
is going to be well rewarded with his finished product.
I'm going to have to ban you for 5 days. Sorry.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Maybe you should use this thread and start a built log..... the first pic would be the pile of parts :D. I found something similar while searching Craiglist, it was a Honda CBX for $2K including the trailer that it was on because it wasn't running. I think the guy upped the price from the huge amount of responses he got.
I might take your advice and do that. It would also allow me to take advantage of all of the great experience of people on this forum. I've found some many great answers, solutions and kept from doing stupid stuff here.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Pods and carbs are a tuning nightmare on a lot of setups. I actually put a wideband O2 on my GS to get it right. It was important to get a pod that didn’t block any of the circuits. Also tuning the outside cylinders to be a tad richer due to the air flow making them leaner.
I figured the same thing so I found a solution. Murray's Carbs in NC. I just ordered this Mikuni set that he speciallizes and builds specifically for a CB550 (and many others). $700 shipped and is a plug and play set. They're beautiful to look at ( assuming others like me find such things beautiful). My sister just bought them for me as a birthday present.

The icing on the cake......I have a the original set of Keihans that came off the bike running, 4 rebuild kits and polished float bowls that came with the bikes which I'm going to throw on Ebay. I sold another one of my used helmets.....more $ to buy shinny new parts.

Font Machine Automotive design Auto part Automotive lighting
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I spent about 6 hours studying the electrical system on this bike last night. I came across a couple of YouTube videos showing a complete re-wire job using a product called an M-Unit. Having modern motorcycles, I haven't had to delve into electrical other than installing a Safer Turn Module, heated grips, integrated tail light, led turn signals and a few relays etc. I started looking at the shop manual and the wiring harnesses and came to the conclusion that these things are disgusting.

It's a new world out there. This M-Unit does everything. Completely converts a 45 year old motorcycle to cutting edge modern electronics.....and way easier. 2 days ago, if someone recommended doing a complete re-wire from scratch I would have told them to F*ck off. After watching and re-watching installation videos, reading all of the documentation I could find, writing up a list and a plan, it's impossible to not go for it. This part of the project went from dread to excitement about a cool new challenge. I'll change out the points to a CDI unit, Anti Gravity battery, M-Unit, modern rectifier, all LED signals and tail light which become programmable. It all fits into the amount of space that seems like it would be impossibly small. Best part is it turns the entire electrical system stone cold reliable. I do not want a motorcycle that can't make it home. Worst part....it's pricey. Apparently they are also using these on dedicated track bikes although I haven't looked at that application.

Motorcycle technology is moving so fast. We're already taking it for granted that we just pop out our ECU and send it to a guy (now) across the country and get it back in a few days and our bikes are transformed. As far as motorcycles, it's a way cool time to be doing this. I lived through the old school stuff and there was so much to love but the new stuff has even more to love. It almost sucks to buy a new motorcycle because you know that they're adding amazing technology to them so fast now that you'll be lusting after something new a year or 2 later. When you think about an MT 09, it would annihilate almost anything on the road 20 years ago. A 69 Honda CB750 had 67 hp and all of the reviews said, this bike is way too powerful for the average rider. There are scooters that are getting more than that.

Check this out.


Motor vehicle Bicycles--Equipment and supplies Bicycle tire Bicycle frame Bicycle handlebar
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Best wishes for a successful cafe-build. It's something to do on those long, cold Massachusett's winter nights and you will be stylin'.

I just last year gave away a 1976 SOHC CB550K with updated suspension, powdercoated 4 into 1 exhaust, pod filters, jetted carbs, perfect paint, badges, side covers, seat, chrome and it was a runner. I had a couple of hundred hours in that project and enjoyed many days running around Suches, Georgia. All it needed was a battery and tires when he picked it up.

For a cafe bike-build all it needed was set of flat bars, new rims/spokes and a fancy cafe tank/seat and Bob's your uncle. Now I'm trying to get him to take the FZ09 off my hands.
Can you send me some pictures? I'd be very grateful as I'm working on my game plan and starting buy a few things. Nothing better than leaning on somebody else's experience.Thanks
 

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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
You would think that building a 45 year old motorcycle into a cafe racer is a difficult task. I'll tell you what's more difficult, cleaning out my garage and making it into a viable work space. My house was a fixer upper in 2008 when I bought it. I worked in construction for quite a few years. I've accumulated a shitload of stuff. I save lumber and trim that I think will be usable. Case in point: I built an additional work bench and shelves and had everything I needed right in the garage. I can't tell you how many times I've bought the exact same thing because I couldn't find something that was buried. I'm not a hoarder but sometimes I feel like I'm not far off. My house looked like Green Acres when I bought it. I was single and looking for something to do. I was living in a luxury apartment with a view to die for, but was bored out of my mind. 14 years later, I have a quaint New England cottage that is completely done on the inside and is very nice. Out side is about 3/4 done. I have re-sided 2/3 of the house and am down to the last section.

In addition to cleaning and refitting the garage, I have to rebuild the overhead door opening and re-side the garage. I will begin that next weekend and it should take me 2 weekends. I actually worked so hard on the garage this weekend that I didn't even ride. Truth be told, on an MT10, it now costs $20 to fill it up and I get 110 miles out of a tank of gas. Typically I fill up about 5 - 6 times a week because I ride almost every day. Right now that's pretty expensive so dialing it back is not the worst thing. Getting the cafe racer project is coming at a good time and it helps me feed my motorcycle addiction.......not to mention it is accelerating my home remodeling......and straightening things up so nobody mistakes me for a hoarder.
 

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Discussion Starter · #23 ·
You must be kidding. I don't even have pictures of my daughter's first communion. Honestly when I did all that work (1988) I was using a Nikon F 35 mm camera with Tri-X b&w film and didn't give a $hit about documenting my efforts. And now with the ease of a smart phone I rarely take pictures. And that's from a guy that made a living for 40 years in still photography, film and videography.
taking a shot that you had some.
 

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Discussion Starter · #24 ·
It's a new world out there. This M-Unit does everything.
Apparently this isn't even that new. Still, the more I've researched, the more impressive it is. Besides the unit itself, they have a ton of products that go with it. Since I am not doing a restoration, I probably will be replacing almost all of the electrical system and componants such as lighting, gauges etc. The only limitation is how much disposable income I have.

This is just one of many.

BTW: my new carburetors are built and should be here within the next week.
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
M-Unit sounds like something from Austin Powers 😆. One of these days I will start my own build either with a CX500 or an GL1100.
I think there is so much new but sound technology that people are adapting and re-imagining and combining in ways that seem almost incredible. I'm looking at this build differently every day. I think with the new carburetors and electronics that I can have a 45 year old motorcycle that rivals the reliability of a modern one. It's turning out to be a lot of fun.

A couple of other observations that I've made, it's becoming a lot easier to build an old bike. I've also realized that CB550 is a sought after motorcycle to do cafe racer projects and if I'm replacing old parts with new, I can recoup some money selling old parts on Ebay.
 

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Discussion Starter · #27 ·
This CB550 cost me $300 a week ago. Yesterday my first purchase towards it arrive....Aircrat stripper for $28. Today a beautiful set of mikuni carbs custom built for this bike arrived and they are gorgeous. $700... twice as much as the bike. I'm off to the racers.
Automotive tire Bicycle part Cylinder Gas Engineering

Camera accessory Audio equipment Scientific instrument Gas Cameras & optics
 

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Discussion Starter · #30 ·
what is so special about these carbs that make them so expensive? I still own carborated bikes but never thought they are expensive components.
Custom designed and built manifolds and every single component needed to make them plug and play. In fact there is a disclaimer advising not to make any adjustments or changes as they are build for specifically for a 77 CB 550. Even pretested. More horsepower and torque.
 

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Discussion Starter · #31 · (Edited)
It's a good thing you started with a pile of parts. That will make it easier to weld in some frame gussets to handle all that extra power, Seriously, your enthusiasm for this project is enviable. I'm missing my SOHC...somewhat.

I await reports of your progress. Best wishes.
Thank You

Finding a complete garage kept motorcycle in amazing condition at a true good to be true price made me enthusiastic. Generally seeing similar bikes priced for thousands, missing half the parts and rusted out has always made me pass when I've seen them. People have gone insane about asking prices and calculations of the value of used (all) stuff. Add the words vintage or antique to it and it doubles or triples the crazy ass prices.

Additionally I keep posting because I like riding, working on, thinking about and talking about motorcycles....all the time. I drive my GF crazy. Virtually every person I know near me that is into motorcycles are Harley people and I have nothing in common with them....in fact I barely consider Harleys to be motorcycles. An event like ECR is almost heaven because I get a chance to hang out and converse with people that are in to the same motorcycle stuff as I am.
 

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Discussion Starter · #33 ·
I've been working on formulating a plan and know pretty much what I'm going to do. Got a composition book to make notes and keep information for much later in the process when I will have forgotten as time passes. There are a lot of forums, how to's and videos which help to sidestep issues that others have valuable experience with. The first and most difficult step is cleaning out my garage and making a work space. Cleaning is really not the right description of what I'm doing........it's closer to an archeological dig. What does one do with a stock 2019 MT10 exhaust? That kind of stuff gets me really conflicted. Do I save half full bottles of fork oil? What about half of a box of gutter hangers....you never know when you'll have to go out and install new gutters. Used lawn mower blades.....should those be thrown away? Building a 45 year old motorcycle from boxes of parts is way easier than cleaning and organizing an entire garage.
 

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Discussion Starter · #36 ·
Funny you mention that. I was just reading an article the other evening by Kevin Cameron in Cycle World about centrifugal forces on bikes. The weight of wheels and tires were one of his big points.

His articles are always good. There's always more that we can learn.
 

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Discussion Starter · #40 ·
I've been watching a ton of restoration videos, mostly to pickup some refinish / restoration tips and tricks when I came across this absolutely astounding video of these 2 guys restoring a Kawasaki they found in the weeds. I don't think they used any new parts except for the chain, new vinyl seat cover which they made from scratch and some stickers. They repainted everything including the fork tubes. They put all of the bolts in a big metal dish and cooked them for a few seconds. I not sure why and would love if somebody could explain why. The bondo of the gas tank and body work was educational. They started it and rode it although I wonder how well it actually ran and how long a rebuild like this would stay running. You have to admire their mechanical skills and ingenuity. I really loved the golden forks the best. You also gotta hand it to the Japanese motorcycle industry. I doubt their is any other motorcycle manufactured in any other country that could have been brought back to life like this.

 
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