I have had this strange fascination with cafe bikes and mid-70s sport bikes since an old co-worker introduced me to his two Moto Guzzi bikes about 10 years ago. Listening to that 850 Le Mans rumble in his shed planted a seed in the back of my mind that has been waiting to sprout. I have since tried getting a motorcycle on a number of occasions but something always came up (married, kids, etc..).
The time has come for me to finally pick up a project after a year of reading restoration stories and general “how-tos” (including many of yours!). I am a very competent mechanical person, one that works on my own car, takes apart broken things to solder wires and put them back together, and has the patience to take a long time to do something right the first time. However, when it comes to motorcycles, I really have no idea where to start or what to look for!
I would love to find a $500 barn-bike I can completely disassemble, clean and restore, then rebuild to my specifications.
What advice do you have for a newcomer to the vintage/restoration bike building world?
Response from a Reader:
Todd,do you have a certain kind, brand model in mind? if so research parts availability cost etc. be realistic ducatis even small ones are way more expensive than hondas. visit different sites to get ideas. remember single cylinder or twins are easier and cheaper generally than multis. if your looking to buy online look at pics carefully, scale the pic up to 200% and move it around how rusty are things etc. if your looking at and old bike most likely at a min you will need all new cables tires and tubes battery carb rebuild kit points and condensor, plugs, grips maybe a seat cover a repair manual. dont let this scare you this is half the fun researching customizing tracking down parts etc. remember also there is nothing wrong with small bikes moto guzzi made some pretty sweet bikes under 350cc. I am in the process of cafing a1967 kawasaki c2tr 120 roadrunner $250. I just got 1967 honda cb160 running for my brother $350. did the same thing for him 6 months ago on a 1971 ct90 with 1260 original miles $600 have a 1966 suzuki k15 hillbilly $250 waiting after the roadrunner is done, also a honda xl500 cafe project $500 after that. If you respond I will continue this on how i generally go about the process. hope this helps someone
anyone can help me about my honda xrm 110… the battery does not charge automatically. I tried to change the rectifier but same problem… please help me about my problem.. thanks
First off – is your battery old or worn out? A toasted battery won’t hold a charge and will put extra stress on the charging system.
Put a voltage meter on your battery and check the voltage. With the bike running it should be constant voltage, around 13-13.5 volts. If it is not (and it sounds like it won’t be) then it is either your regulator or your stator.
On your bike are the rectifier and regulator combined into a single unit? Or are they separate? If they are a single unit then it sounds like your stator has burnt out and needs to be replaced. If you have a separate regulator then it needs to be tested.
My 75 Super Sport had a thorough carb rebuild two years ago ( the shop is gone now ), I have been riding the bike at least once a month through the winter and out of the blue gas started running out of one of the tubes that come out under the bike. this was not a trickle, it poured out as fast as the tube would allow. Short of disassembly is there a way to free the float from the outside through the fill or drain ports ?
Hey Lelund –
The simple tried and true method is to rap on the bowl with the but end of a screwdriver to try and jostle the float loose again. *Don’t break anything!*
Also, if you have the right sized screwdriver or a little ingenuity with a box end wrench and screwdriver attachments, then you can often pull the bowl off the carbs without removing the carbs from the bike. Its tricky, but can be done.
The best advice however is to remove the carbs and clean them. Chances are they need it again. Once every couple years on a 35 year old bike isn’t out of the ordinary. It’s best to have the carbs tip-top then just-barely-clean-enough.
Cheers. Those 400f’s are great bikes. I wish I had one for daily commuting.
I just picked up a nice 1986 Yamaha Radian 600, bike’s generally in good shape, runs great, only 16,000miles! My only question is about the wiring coming off the r/r… I noticed that there are 2 wires that are cut between the r/r and its harness. One is white and one is red. I would imagine these wires were originally put there for a reason, but the bike seems to run fine without them. I was wondering what problems this might cause and what would likely happen if I replace the r/r with one that does NOT have any cut wires…
I circled the 2 on the diagram that are cut in the linked jpeg. The white goes to the magneto and the red comes off the “Main” fuse and also goes to the ignition switch…
Thanks in advance, and any help or input would be greatly appreciated!
Hey Jhutchy – Hope you’re enjoying your radian. Those are great bikes. The only fault in my eyes is a slightly small tank.
If the wires are coming off the stator and going to the regulator/rectifier combination unit that I’d imagine you’re just fine. If either of the cut wires were going to be a problem they would manifest themselves immediately. It’s possible that your alternator has been modified in some way and the wires were no longer needed. It’s hard to say. As long as your bike is charging properly and shows good voltage on the battery then you’ll be fine. It is strange though. Bike still going well?
Just wondering if the carb cleaning article counts for my 1983 gs 750 e suzuki,i need the carbs cleaned and wondered if this article will help,i havent wrenched on my gs yet but am planning on it.Also,do you know of any good sites that have info and help for fixing my suzuki gs 750 e.
The carbs on the GS750 are a very similar design to the ones used in my article. They won’t match up perfectly, but are close. The cleaning principles however are the same. Just take your time, be cautious and thorough, and the bike will live a long healthy life.
The best forums around for the Suzuki GS series are right here:http://www.thegsresources.com/_forum/index.php
Hope all goes well!
Hi – I need to replace fork seals. Do you have a good step by step? What oil type and fill level?
1982 Yamaha 550 maxim.
I just did the carb cleaning and it worked thank you.
If you do not have shop manual for your bike I would recommend you buy one. I do have a fork service article in the works, but it is not quite ready.
I have a manual for the Yamaha XJ600SK. The fork seal replacement is quite similar, and in fact it’s very similar to all bikes of the same era.
In all of my older bikes when servicing the forks I use ATF fluid to fill them. Most bikes from that era had a 7-8 weight oil in them from the factory. ATF is generally 7.5 weight and very cheap down at the auto parts store. The XJ550 and XJ750 both use a 10w oil from the factory so you might stick with that if you like the ride quality. I tend to like my suspension a little on the plush side for highway cruising.
I also run ATF in my 2 stroke transmissions.
XJ550 Maxim fork oil capacity is 272cc or 9.20 fluid ounces per leg.
I need an exploded view of the carburetor linkage on a 1985 450 Honda
Nighthawk. Thank you.
If you need a manual for the Honda 450 Nighthawk the best I can do is the Honda CM450 Service Repair Manual which shares the same engine and many other parts as well. They are very similar bikes.
I’ll keep my eyes open for a Nighthawk specific manual and will post it if I can find one.
South out of Progresso I went to find some lunch in Merida. The traffic in the city is quite intense, and the roads are difficult to navigate. I rode through the city square mid day and hardly moved anywhere for 45 minutes. I didn’t take many photos because I was far too busy trying to orientate myself.
It is however a great city with an interesting history. There is a lot of colonial influence everywhere you look.
And they have a massive cemetery on the east side of town.
I walked around the streets a while, explored the side roads on my bike, and got some grilled chicken at one of the 10,000 places serving it street side. It was a little too hectic to hang out though, so I headed a little further south to quieter scenery.
Setting up camp in the sticks, typical:
The only thing I had really wanted to see was the northern coast, and since I had done that, I meandered back across the Yucatan towards Chichen Itza. I had passed close by previously, but didn’t stop in. Time to check it out.
Ok, now what. Get some water and check the maps.
I have a 82 suzuki gs1100 i can’t get fire from my coils i hooked up the stator wires to a rectifier and a hot from ignition to coils it does not have points looks like some kind of elect. Ignition there are 4 wires running to the coil thing two to each side i do not know what to do from here please help
The pickup coils are part of the ignition system and yes, they are the ‘two stationary things’ that the lob basses by. They do not carry large voltage and it is pretty rare that they fail. Many of the early 80’s japanese bikes had Ignition Control Boxes that were prone to failure. I’m not sure if your GS has one, but if so it is the most likely culprit.
However, the first thing you should do is check the resistance of your coils and spark plug caps. It’s easy and free.
I used to follow the motorcycle travel blog of a fellow ADV Rider (stickfigure) who has done some great ride reports down through Central America. I had the opportunity to cross paths with him at a beach bar and exchange notes and beers. I wanted to ride up to the national park (Ria Lagartos) on the north coast of the Yucatan, and he had been through there. He confirmed which trails were worth the effort and I solidified my route.
Getting from the east coast of the Yucatan to the north coast without going to Cancun is a total PITA. There are only a few roads that go diagonally, one of them is blocked by security and wouldn’t let me through, and the other two are seemingly impossible to find. I’ve since found some back roads that circumvent the security stations outside Playa del Carmen, but they aren’t mapped. They look something like this:
On this occasion I succumbed to unfamiliarity and went north to Cancun….. ugh.
I hate the pavement routes, but before long I was in the coastal town of El Cuyo and ready to rip along the beach in search of flamingos!
Just like Stickfigure promised, I found some of the most fun riding in months!
Long sandy stretches that hugged the beach.
And lots of entry points to hop onto the beach and let the gas drain.
Sometimes there are cemeteries in the strangest places. I always stop to have a look.
The bird sanctuary is what I came to see, and the fantastic riding continued right through the middle of it. There are large bays of very shallow protected water where all the birds hang out. There are towers scattered around the park for bird watching, but they were all locked. I think you have to be a part of a tour group to get access to the towers. Like always, I take the self guided option.
Flamingos in the distance!
Found them. They just stand around a chill out. Way to be.
Did I mention how great the riding was out here?
At one point I dumped the bike and the cheap Mexican hose connector snapped. Go figure. The second I bought it I knew it was crap.
Thankfully I carry spare everything! I removed the T and fuel filter and ran some new hose. Much better.
Some of the water in Rio Lagartos is bright pink. I’m told it is because of all the salt in the area, but that doesn’t sound quite right to me.
After I scared off all the birds I browsed around the town of Rio Lagartos and got a cheap hotel for the night. Beach front with wifi.
The town was quite slow, and once the sun went down there was no one around. So the next morning I packed up and kept moving.
The pavement out towards Progresso was surprisingly enjoyable.
There are coconut farms everywhere in the Yucatan.
And makeshift trawlers.
Cheap ocean front fixer-upper properties can be found for dirt cheap all along the coast here. I stopped to peek at a few. They were all destroyed by a hurricane a few years back when the beach was washed away. There were some squatters living in this one.
Progresso is a nice little town. It has a cute downtown area with nice cafes and people walking about, as well as a couple touristy bars along the water. An enormous pier jets way out into the ocean, I tried to ride out, but was denied access. I’m told the cruise ships occasionally pass through and tie up.
Hey. Bike me!
I have owned nearly every make and model of vintage Japanese motorcycle as well Europeans and more modern bikes. I do everything from simple fixes to full restorations. I also travel by motorcycle and race off-road. This is a blog about my bikes.
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