Wednesday, May 21, 2008


After a few years searching for the right predecessor of my last (running) bike, the search is finally over.

Jamie and I have been looking for a more “comfortable” bike, something with passenger accommodations that are more “accommodating” than the Monster’s. This lead us into the realm of touring and cruiser bikes, and since we both have an aversion to fairings, most of the contenders were from the cruiser category.

We had pretty much settled on a Honda Shadow Aero, and had checked out a few over the years. We both dig the retro styling, and it seemed to be perfectly comfortable 2-up, and the price was in the right range. I never formally evaluated the performance because with this kind of bike, what’s the point? If you have enough power to haul two people and some gear around at highway speed, then that’s enough, right?

For some reason I always hesitated to pull the trigger on the purchase though. I just have a hard time buying a bike that is deliberately de-tuned for stylistic purposes, essentially to be more like a Harley.

But regardless we found a nice used Shadow at our local Honda shop and it was even decked out with a nice seat and bags, so it looked like this was going to be the one. Just on a whim, I did a quick search of the inventory of the other shops in the area and happened across this:

A 1995 Honda Magna VF750C. I knew immediately that this was the bike. Cruiser proportions and a sportbike engine, and awesome 50’s-style paint to boot, how can you go wrong? Of course the windshield/fairing needs to go, but other than that it was perfect (not to mention the price was right as well).

We spun down to Johnson Creek to check it out and after a nice test drive we were sold. A few days of finagling with the insurance and what-not and we were on the way home with it.

I haven’t had a lot of riding time yet due to some dental work I’ve had done but at the end of this week we’ll be spending some quality time together.

…now what does this mean for the CL project? Probably not much. On one hand you could think that it might slow down my progress since having a working bike might reduce my motivation to get the CL running, but on the other hand, now that we have a bike built for 2-up riding I can take a much more aggressive approach to the modifications of the CL and turn it into a true cafĂ© racer. Of course some of the time I might have spent wrenching may be consumed by riding but I think there are worse things that can happen, and this way I can get my skills back up-to-speed before I try to take the “experimental” CL on the road.

…and this way I have SOMETHING to ride to the fall Crud Run, no matter how the CL project turns out.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Some Progress

I finally got some time to work on the bike instead of the movie!

I've had the pipes in the basement with the intention to cut off the rusted-out mufflers for months. Last weekend I had a couple of hours to kill and I decided to head downstairs and take a crack at them.

Probably the most distinctive feature of the CL350 (as opposed to the CB350) is the mufflers. Unfortunately they are also one of the most troublesome. Due to their shape and position, they collect water on the inside which is never good for steel, and most any un-restored example you find in the wild has major to complete rust in this area. To make things worse, the mufflers and the headers are one-piece, so there's no "bolt-on" option for replacing them.

Since this was one of my favorite parts of the bike I spent a lot of time trying to replace/repair them while retaining the stock look, thinking I could find some on Ebay (I've had luck with so many other parts). As it turns out, since they all had this problem non-rusted out examples fetch a nice sum and more than I'm willing to invest (this isn't a restoration project, I had to keep telling myself that). Finally a few months back I decided to damn the torpedoes and just slice off the mufflers and experiment. I figure the worst thing that can happen is I'll need to pick up a replacement set, which is what I was looking at in the first place.

So I set out with Dremel in hand and attacked the pipes. This makes for great movie footage as sparks fly and smoke rises, but it doesn't make for the cleanest cut possible. After seeing the results of this first attempt, I decided to give the hacksaw a try, which worked so well that I went back over the first pipe with the saw just to get a clean edge.

I had a little more time left and the pipes were so rusty that I decided to try taking a wire brush (attached to a power drill) to them and see if I could clean them up a bit. 30 minutes later they looked great (compared to before at least) and other than a few spots where the chrome had been removed (from a fall or something) they looked almost new. Well not new, but I think with some Brillo work they will look great. While I was at it I gave the clamps the wire wheel treatment as well and there was a huge difference (it didn't come out so much in the photo but trust me, it's very nice).

I spent a lot more time on this than I think I had to, but there was something so satisfying about making these parts look so nice. It makes me re-evaluate my approach to the bike, and now that I have a few months more to work on it's I'm considering taking a more thorough approach to cleaning the rest of the machine up.

...Then again it took me three months to get around to this one job so maybe I should just keep my ambitions low until the engine runs...

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


I've decided to take an inventory of the project and figure out exactly what needs to be done and in what order. At the moment, here's what I think needs attention:

  • Re-assemble the carbs
  • Re-install the carbs
  • Replace the airbox with clamp-on filters
  • Cut-up and re-install the exhaust

Once these are done I should be able to try and fire up the engine and see what happens, assuming that it starts, and nothing terrible goes wrong, I can move on to the next batch of items:

  • Kreem the gas tank
  • Replace the tyres
  • Get a new title

This should be enough to get it on the road. Now, assuming I get this far before the fall run, I could spend some time making the bike more interesting. But for now, I'm going to try and get through this list.