Friday, May 25, 2007


I think Ebay is the number one reason owning a motorcycle like this is possible. When I say "a motorcycle like this" what I mean is owning a bike that is old enough to qualify for "classic" plates without spending more money on getting it running than you would pay to buy a similar new bike.

For example…

When I was a teenager my first bike was a 1976 Yamaha XS650 (the "Custom", I believe). I bought the bike for $125.00 from an ad in the Janesville Gazette. The bike was drivable and I was able to ride it home that day. When I got there I started going over the bike to see what needed to be done. All the typical items (tires, battery, etc.) looked like they would need replacement but in addition there were a few things I didn't expect as well. In particular, the lever for the choke was missing.

Now this is a tiny piece of metal with a little bit of a rubber/plastic handle on it and a mounting screw. Based on this I figured it would cost about $5.00 at most so I called up the local parts shop to have them order it. You can imagine my surprise when the total came to about $40.00.

That's just crazy!

As it turned out, this was just the beginning of the pain as the bike would later need a new airbox, rectifier and other various items which had they been ordered directly from the parts place would have easily put the cost of the bike over the $1000.00 mark, and that's before replacing the tires and the battery.

Needless to say buying these parts just wasn't in the cards on my Musicland salary and I had to improvise, leading to additional "learning experiences" down the road; but I digress.

Had Ebay existed back then, things might have been different.

The bike I'm working on now, my CL350, came with a few "questionable" or just plain broken parts as well. I noticed that in addition to the rust the exhaust system has suffered there was also a bracket that was just plain broken. It might be possible for me to fabricate a replacement but it just so happens that I was able to find a NOS (New old-stock) piece on Ebay for about $5.00 (yes I see the irony in the pricing). The stator cover was also damaged at some point (from the looks of it, pierced by the shift lever when the bike went down on the left side). The cover has been repaired with what appears to be JB Weld, but since I was able to find a replacement one for $6.00 on Ebay I picked it up, I'll keep the original as a spare.

I was also able to find a NOS shift lever (the one I have is still a bit crooked and missing the rubber bits) but at $15.00 it's just a little more than the part is worth to me, at least for now. I'll wait until a better bit comes along.

I'm sure that Ebay is just as much a boon to those selling these items as it is to people like me buying them. Now that box of parts in their garage can be turned into cash for other projects, and I know I feel better about contributing to that than the insane markup of a parts dealer.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Step 2: Hanging the pipes

Tonight the girls and I decided to get started.

Let me just start out by saying that this bike has the most unusual exhaust plumbing I've ever seen. We spent at least 15 minutes just trying to decide which pipe went where and the assembly order of the exhaust clamps (I'm still not sure it's right).

The mufflers are quite rusted out (you can see the red remains of the lower muffler in a pile near the rear wheel) so my original plan was to remove them for now and replace them with baffles. However now that I've actually spent some time with them I find out that one is clamped on, the other welded. So, I won't be making any changes here until I get out the angle grinder...

With a little help we were able to figure it out though and I even had enough time afterward to do an oil change (maybe for the first time in the last 15 years?). With some fresh lube in the case I felt more comfortable turning over the engine and I was able to do so without any unusual noises.

I also picked up a few feet of fuel line today. The next task will be to re-attach the carburetors (I inspected them today and they look surprisingly good) and hook them up to an external fuel supply (I have other plans for the actual gas tank, but I'll leave that for another post) so we can move closer to that first attempt at firing up the beast. I need to go googling to make sure I clamped the headers on correctly...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Price

In 1995 I declared that you can own a motorcycle for $1000.00. This was in response that I gave anyone who was interested in getting started in motorcycling but thought it was too expensive based on the going rate of new motorcycles at the time.

The principle is this: If you spent $1000.00 on a used bike you could find one that ran and was in good enough shape to ride at least for one season. If you spent $500.00 on a used bike, you'd probably need to put another $500.00 into it (typically battery, tires, etc.) to get it ready for serious riding. The same goes for $250.00/$750.00, $0.00/$1000.00, etc.

I think this general rule still holds true today, although I might bump the base cost to something like $1200.00.

I've started Google Spreadsheet (still trying to figure out how to share it with the general public) to track the cost of my little project here to see if this theory still holds true in the year 2007.

Step 1: Decide where to start

As I said before, one of the hardest parts of a project like this is deciding where to start. After spending the last two days going back and forth between two extremes (a complete frame-up restoration or a quick-and-dirty reassembly) I've decided to go with the latter.

The biggest reason for this is that my primary goal (to get the bike running in time for the fall Crud Run) is unlikely to happen if I completely overhaul the bike at this point. It's definitely something I'd like to do (and maybe I'll end up doing it anyway) but for now I'm just going to focus on getting the bike running and ridable and troubleshoot specific problems as they arise.

So, when I picked up the bike it came with a stock-pot full of parts in addition to the exhaust, fuel tank, seat and sissy bar separate from the rest of the motorcycle. This pot was filled with various fasteners, clamps and washers as well as the carburetors.

I think I'm going to begin the re-assembly with the exhaust if only because it's the area that's going to need the least attention. The fuel system needs to be re-attached as well but since the carbs are already detached I'm going to pull the bowls off just to make sure everything is clean before I bolt them back on. I'll also be replacing all the fuel plumbing as well as treating the tank (I haven't looked yet but I assume it's rusty on the inside), so hanging the pipes will probably be the easiest thing to do first.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Bringing the bike home

This journal is about the bike I plan to ride in the fall 2007 Crud Run. Given to my by the father of a friend, this Honda CL350 is a beautiful example of engineering and design prevalent in 1970's Japanese motorcycles. Today Jacy and I picked up the bike from his parents house and trucked it back to my house in Beaver Dam.

This bike hasn't run for years, I'd guess at least 10 years if not more. At one point Jacy began to get it back in shape (which you can see as the carburetors and exhaust have been removed) so when I picked up the bike it came with a nice kettle of parts to go along with it. Not quite a true "basket case", but a good beginning nonetheless.

I'm still evaluating the bike and deciding where to start. With a project like this, there's almost no "wrong" place to go to work first but if you spend some time thinking about it you can save yourself some trouble down the road by avoiding "re-work". Since the exhaust seems to be in the worst shape (the mufflers in particular, the headers don't look too bad...yet) one of the first things I'll need to do is look into tracking down replacements or alternatives and do some cost comparisons to see what makes the most sense.

Since my goal here is to ride the bike in the fall 'run, I'm willing to compromise when it comes to restoring the bike to "stock". Ideally I'd like to keep the bike as original as possible, to preserve its charm but I don't expect to have a numbers-matching museum piece when I'm done.

Another obvious area is the fuel system, first off because one of the most common dangers of an old bike like this is rust in the tank but also because most of the fuel system components have already been removed which is half the work. With a bike that has sat as long as this one you can pretty much count on having to replace any rubber components so items like the fuel lines, etc. are something you should start shopping for immediately.

Inital Entry

"The Crud Run Diaries" is a film currently in production that will feature a history of the (in)famous "Slimy Crud Run" motorcycle rally as well as the stories of two motorcyclists attempting to restore vintage Honda motorcycles in time to make the fall run.

I am Jason; this is my story.