Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Read for Winter ... and a Change?

Winter is here. I've taken my CB out for it's last ride and put it away in the basement. Actually, after a week of wind and rain we have a few days of sunny weather on tap, so I'll probably take it out and get it warmed up before I tackle the oil and filter change.

I'm also thinking of selling it. It's a great bike to learn to ride on, but I'm ready to move on to something else. This is a good time to buy a motorcycle and selling mine now would save me having to store two bikes over the winter.

The more I look at it, the more the CB is a pretty good deal. There are a bunch of beaters for sale on CR for $1000 or more, but they aren't really moving. Mine looks quite a bit better, is a little sportier with the drag bars and viper fairing and runs like a top.

I think I could get my money back plus investment, the question is, what should I buy next?

It's probably time to start learning to shift gears like a grown up, so I've been looking at SV650s and Buel Blasts -- entry level street bikes that are easy to ride. That said, there are also a lot of dirt roads around here - so a dual sport might be the ticket. Wouldn't be idea for a trip to Astoria or Longview, but it would be much better for exploring the back roads. Moreover, if I get the girls some dirt bikes, this would let me ride with them. A Honda NX or Yamaha XT would be very cool. There are also some KLRs out there but demand is high because of the adventure bike craze.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Vintage Honda Decals and a Deal!

So I mentioned earlier that I got these great decals from Lord Moon Pie. He has tons of high quality decal work for restoration as well as custom decal for your car/boat or bike.

If you order off his website direct and mention The Retread or my name you'll get a 10 percent discount! Check it out!

Link: Lord Moon Pie

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sping Ride Around the Valley

Amy and I got out the other day for a ride around the valley. The sun was perfect, the bike was running good and Amy wanted to try out her new jacket and boots. She's very stylish, even if she had her helmet on too high at first. The bike sounds better and is more responsive with the new pipes too.

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Lights, Filters, Decals

Okay, so I got the first layers of paint on and things looked good. This week I installed a new UNI air filter and worked on the electrical system. There were more wires than I knew what to do with, but after trial and error and pouring over the wiring diagrams, I figured it out. And Lo! There was light ... including the park light.

The downside is that all those connectors don't fit inside the headlight bucket. Problem, having all those electrical connections exposed to the elements is asking for trouble. Moreover, it looks like a hillbilly's front yard.

I found the solution in my shop manual. The Rebel 450s addressed this problem with a junction box behind the headlight because the Rebels cruiser-style headlight was too small. I found a couple of junction boxes on ebay pretty cheap and so I've got one on the way. We'll see how it works.

Another eBay find were these cool vintage Honda stickers made by a seller in the UK. Very cool, they were the hold double transfer type so I only had one shot to get them in the right place, but they ended up looking VERY slick. I was thinking they would get lost in that dark blue but the contrast actually makes them stand out more. Clear coat layers are being applied as I write this. I can't wait to get things all put together and get riding.

Meanwhile the rain continues.

Hey Look, It's lights up! It's alive!

Here's the rough assembly a few days ago during a "sun break"
The front fairing looks good, wind screen my need some adjustment
 - the holes don't match up.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Paint On

Once I got the paint off, it was time to bondo the tank and the side case. I'm not sure what happened to this bike before I bought it, but evidence is pointing to a rough life. There are signs that it went down at least once on the right side. That would explain the dent, and the missing stock exhaust and damaged side cover. Anyway, it was my first experience with bondo and it came out pretty good. Won't win any awards or fool anyone, but that's not why I'm doing this anyway.

Then it was time to prime -- prime time! I used a filler-etcher from Dulpi-color that worked really well. I was surprised how great both side covers looked under the prime. It failed to fill in all the little nicks, but I want to have a little evidence that this is a used work-horse motorcycle. Overall it looks really slick.

Once the it was primed, it was time to paint. I jumped right in and spent most of a week off laying on coats of  "Dark Ford Blue" Duplicolor Ceramic Engine Enamel. It is very blue ... but a kind of blue that's different from most bikes out there. I like it. It does look similar to Yamaha blue, but oh well.
I used Engine Enamel so it would be tough and resist the oil and grease and such. It gives it kind of a tractor like finish. I'm going to hold off on the clear coat until I get everything dialed in just the way I want it.

Meanwhile, I'm still struggling with the electrics. Bought some super cheap turn signals from Asia on ebay that work great. They were an ugly carbon-fiber faux finish which I quickly painted over. Guess what, they accidentally sent me two pairs! Also bought a new battery -- sealed cell. It's working great and is about half the size and weight as the old one.

I did a final outdoor assembly just to see if I liked where this was going. It looked pretty darn good. I realized however, that the windscreen I bought doesn't exactly match up with the fairing ... which means I'm going to have to drill some holes. I also found that the school bus yellow trim paint I bought is better in small doses. I had the headlight bucket yellow and side covers, but reverted both to blue. Looks much better now.

Here's some additional progress photos:

Drag bars went on. The drag bars improve the bike's profile, making it look a little less dorky. We'll see how they feel on the road.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Paint On, Pain Off

So the headlight looks so good on the front of the bike, I'm contemplating leaving the faring off and going old school. That said, even if I sell the faring, I need to get the rust off and fix the mounting hardware. So off it came with a little BoltOff. Then I soaked it in CLR for a day and the rust dissolved away. painted with a couple coats of engine enamel and it looks as good as, used.

I also started stripping the gas tank with Citristrip. We've used this non-toxic chemical stripping gel all over our house and it works great, cleans up good and it is doing an amazing job on the tank. The trick is patience. Put a coat on and walk away until the next day -- it will be all bubbled up. We scrape it off and wipe off the scraper in a shopping back held over our other hand like a glove. Works like a charm. The tank is about 80 percent done already. Extra coats are needed, but not a lot of elbow grease. The tank cover, I dry sanded down and covered with two coats of duplicolor primer and one coat of engine enamel in black. This will be a contrast color, still not sure what the final color will be.

Pipes are covered in stove black after some CLR rust removal. The power chamber -- which was completely rust covered got the same treatment and all looks good. Got it all done, just before the bad weather moved in. Will get pictures soon, I promise!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

She likes it electric

Okay, so I've got the headlight on and most of the nest of wires fits in the headlight bucket, so it really cleans up pretty good. It is a really tight fit, and I have some wires that don't have a home yet, but I've successfully got the headlight and turn signals connected.

That said, two things are apparent:

1) The heavy turn signals have no place to go. They will fit on the headlight bucket, and they look kind of cool, but the stalks they came with ~barely~ fit. I've ordered a lightweight cheapo set from Hong Kong that I can attach to the faring directly. This will also solve another problem I have. I'm eliminating the chrome from this thing, since much of it is pitted and rusted. I'll cover all the chrome parts in a gloss black engine enamel. However, the retro turn signals are just too pretty to paint over. The cheapos will paint just fine and blend in instead of standing out.

2) Things aren't blinking. When I relocated my rear turn signals to the back of the bike, they wouldn't blink. Not sure if they did before, but I know they worked before teardown. So now the question is what has to be connected to get them working. When I hooked up the front turn signals, they lit up just right, but did not blink. So either I have a blinker unit that is shorted out, or all the connections need to be made to get it blinking. I'm not going to over pursue it at this point. My battery will need to be replaced for the new season and it may just be that I'm short of power to work the blinkers.

Meanwhile, the motorcycle is looking pretty good. I tried the faring out with the new bars and headlight and it's is going to look like a cool old BMW going down the road. Much work left to do however, and summer is coming.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Latest Build Update

Finally got some more work done on the CB400A this week. I tracked down the relay for the shift indicator and got that working. I also installed the grab bar on the back so I can strap my milk crate or bag there for grocery getting and trips to the library this summer. I rerouted the turn signal in the process but I couldn't get them to light up. Will try again now that the battery has a full charge.

I'm still waiting to install the headlight and turn signal. I need the headlight mounting brackets. The ones sent by Speedmotoco in Eugene were too small and so I sent them back and they are supposed to send me another pair. Speedmotoco did send me a nice black drag bar to replace the elk horn handlebars that came with it. The old bars were comfortable but you sat bolt upright like a scooter. I remember my old CB and how I longed to have lower bars for tucking in on longer rides.

I needed the drag bars to install the viper faring too. Got a little worried after I got the bars on because I thought that I would have to relocate the mirrors too, but it looks like they will sit just outside the faring. Still not sure how I'm going to mount the front turn signals. I'll wait until the brackets arrive and go from there.

Installing the drag bars was (almost) a snap. I popped off the throttle and right side controls with no problem, but I had to cut the left grip to get it off, then I found that the screw on the bottom of the left controls was about stipped and stubborn in the hole. Got to use my new impact driver for the first time in anger and it worked like a charm. Everything went on the new bars, but I left that screw very loose. Will pick up a replacement the next time I'm at the hardware store, then bin the rounded off one.

I've been watching lots of how-to videos on YouTube about motorcycle restoration. Found a great one on removing decals from your bike. The pulls decals off a fairly new Rebel with just WD40 and a hair dryer. So I gave it a go with my side panels and my heat gun.

Before WD40 and Heat Gun
This one looks okay, the other one was already damaged and got a little hot from the heat gun. It needs major sanding and repair anyway. 

The finished tank looks pretty good.
  The whole process took maybe an hour for all three pieces. The bigger decals came off easier than the little ones and my fingernails worked better than a scraper to get the first corner off. Have to keep a little heat on it while you peel I found. Best of all, they came right off with no damage to the paint below.

BikeEXIF recently featured this beautiful CB450 with rattle can paint job!
Not that the old paint is staying of course. I need to strip it down, fill the gaps, prime, paint and clear coat. I also have to bondo that big dent on the right front of the tank. Found some great YouTube videos on that too and I think I'll give it a go here at home. It the tank or the motorcycle was prettier, or worth more money, I'd invest in a pro paint job. But as it is a $600 bike, I'll do it myself.  It can be done. Just check out this rattle-can paint job! Here's a great write up the owner did of the full ressurection/resotration. Like me, he's taking a cheap bike and making a great one with as little expense as possible. Very cool!

I like these colors ... nice car too!
That leaves the question of what color to paint. Ever since I bought the bike, Amy has said that she loves the original blue. Now that the stickers are off, I can kinda see what's she's talking about. I can see I kind of Bugatti inspired paint scheme featuring blue and black. I've always loved the old blue Bugatti racers from the 1920s and '30s.

Covering the rusty chrome with high-gloss black and re-painting the surfaces with a Bugatti blue would leave me something like this picture at right. Now that's pretty!

On the other hand, I've also been pondering a more universal paint scheme inspired by -- of all things -- a music video. My plan was for a white tank, with black and school-bus yellow highlights everyplace else.
 I still love this idea, but I think I'll save it for my next bike.
 The "soul" of this old CB400 wants to be blue.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Much Much Go Interview

Ever since discovering Pipeburn Magazine I've been digging through the archives looking for inspiration amid the beautiful cafe customs. I've also been following links to some other great magazines, blogs and custom builders. The Cafe style really is the hot thing right now and I love the "fix what you found" mentality of taking common old UJMs and making them into custom rolling works of art.

I doubt my first venture will be as beautiful as anything on these pages, but it is great to take in such inspiration.

One of the best visual inspirations for the customization of my CB400 of course is the Much Much Go ... winner of a build-off down under and a very controversial show bike. It is stripped down, and customized with minimal cash. A low displacement Honda with Comstar wheels, white pipes and no chrome dangles the attainability of such beauty to backyard hackers with limited funds and unlimited dreams.

I really like the design and I might even go with the white pipes!

Anyway, found a great interview with the creator in Pipeburn and wanted to point to it: Check it out here:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pipeburn Portland and Cafe Racers on TV

A friend at work just told me about a new series that started last fall on Discovery HD about the Cafe Racer motorcycle scene (or the return of that scene. ) Cafe Racer TV looks like a very cool series. Unfortunately, it is on a channel I don't get, I'm still hoping I can pick it up on Itunes or Netflix. While looking for the website, I stumbled across Pipeburn magazine, a cool Cafe Racer influenced mag from the Portland area. Great stuff here! Pipeburn also had this killer photo spread on the CB above. Check out that paint job!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Motorcycle Graveyard

I remember being a kid with my dad, crawling around junkyards looking for Fiat parts. I miss those open repositories of parts and the treasure hunt adventure of searching through the industrial archeology of the recent past. My dad was an industrial engineer and so he taught me the beauty of the machine.

I wish I could fine a graveyard of old motorcycles that I could crawl through on a wet winter's day, finding that that diamond in the rust. I'm jealous of the folks at Classic Cycles in New York who had an opportunity to access such a graveyard of old motorcycles recently.Here's the story:

Monday, January 10, 2011

2011 a repeat of 2008? Ex-oil Exec says get ready for $5 gas

Okay, so when I was convincing my wife that I needed a motorcycle again, one of the reasons I cited was that it would be great to have something that was good on gas for short hops around the valley and maybe even driving to work. I bought my Ford F150 pickup just as gas prices spiked last time. It runs E85, which is cheaper, but that drops the MPGs down to about 13. My old CB400 on the other hand was spec'd at least 45 mpg. It would be much higher if not for the auto tranny.

Now, the ScooterScoop is saying gas prices are slated to go up again. ( 2011 a repeat of 2008? Ex-oil Exec says get ready for $5 gas ) If you didn't notice, gas this Christmas topped $3 a gallon for the first time. Even with the dip in demand of the global economy, they aren't making new oil.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Missing Link - Affordable Well Built Motorcycles

One thing I love about the motorcycle magazine Hell For Leather is their lack of bias toward motorcycles. They like good motorcycles that can be ridden. They have been campaigning for a push by moto makers to attract new people to two-wheels by producing better, safer products.

Enter what they call "The Missing Link" The Honda CBR250R -- an all new, 250cc entry level motorcycle that has ABS and a decent price. Despite the small displacement, it is fully able to exceed all the speed limits and get you from point A to point B. Moreover, it looks fantastic, stops well (with optional linked front and back ABS!) and is comfortable to ride. What's the drawback? Our mentality toward bikes as a "lifestyle choice" here in the US of A.
Motorcycling in our countries has an image problem, one that puts up barriers in front of the venerable CBR250R and other machines like it. Despite our self-inflicted economic meltdown, big, bad-boy egotism still drives our industry. I will go so far as to say they are our industry. Everywhere else in the world, motorcycles are transport as much as they are recreation, and what’s more, they are OK with that. You don’t need to be on the extreme end of any spectrum: the fastest superbike in production; the baddest custom chopper; or some adventure soft-roader with GPS and aluminum hard cases to be cool. In Brazil, in Italy, in Japan and most every biker culture just being on a motorcycle, anymotorcycle, is cool.  Not so here.  Ride outside the box at your peril. .... This is the mountain, the towering height of fickle public opinion, that the Honda CBR250R has to scale if it is to succeed. Honda are no doubt aiming at not only sensible types (the ones we labelled “uncool”), but also people completely outside motorcycling’s bandwidth. There are a lot of consumers out there who like the appeal of motorcycling, but until now have been too intimidated by the image and products on offer to step in. They are the kindergarden kids, looking over the fence at the grade 1 playground, envious of their toys and increased freedom, but too afraid to cross over. Those people, professionals and students, young and old, with the right media message, will discover that they too can be cool and enjoy riding motorcycles, just like another generation of ordinary Americans once discovered.