I had a dream the other night, and there was a motorcycle in it. (You are surely not surprised, are you?) It was parked in the lot of the lake where I swam as a child, and though it looked ordinary enough, to me it was beautiful.
Indeed, it may well have been the motorcycle of my dreams.
The tank and side panels were white, the latter plain, the former decorated with a single blue and a single red stripe angled in a fashion that suggested the ’70’s to me. The rest of the bike, all the parts that could be painted, was black… frame, engine, rims, lower fork tubes, the works. The engine was a large-bore thumper; though the side panels and tank bore no information, I felt sure the engine was around 650 cc or so. The stance of the bike was street standard, neither a leaned back cruiser nor a leaned forward sport bike. I didn’t know for sure, but to me the bike looked like either a Yamaha or a Honda; indeed, in some mysterious way it looked a lot like my Yamaha TW200, just a bit thicker and more solid.
The styling was ’70’s classic, with separate tank and side panels (instead of being curved to look like one piece as became common in the ’80’s and later), chrome fenders, spoked wheels, and the big round headlight that seems so perfect to me. The seat was street standard too, with just a slight step up for the passenger.
It had that indefinable air of a stock bike, despite the unmarked tank and side panels. It looked like it had just rolled off the showroom floor… the showroom floor of my dreams, obviously.
Awake, I could see that my subconscious mind had built a bike by combining the best features of my two current motorcycles, the TW200 and my Honda CB650. Here was a relatively slim, probably good-handling street bike (like the Yamaha) with torque and power enough to haul my overweight carcass with some authority (like the Honda) and the kind of retro looks that make me smile.
Yamaha doesn’t make a retro-standard that big. The old SR500 was pretty close, but by the time they bumped the engine up to 600 cc (the SRX600) class the bike had a new frame that just would not be retro enough for me. If I were to try to build a bike like this now, I’d probably start with the Honda XR650L or NX650 Dominator. To get down to a street stance, I’d relocate the swingarm pivot higher and switch to a shorter shock; the forks would probably need to be exchanged for those from some other streetbike (the CBR600F, for example, has the same diameter fork tubes, though the latter bike is quite a bit heavier so there would be adjustments needed… the Yamaha YZF R6 is closer in weight and also has 43 mm forks, so maybe a better choice). Lacing on a 16″ rim in back in place of the stock 18″ and a 19″ front rim in place of the stock 21″ will bring the seat down an additional inch, resulting (I would hope) in a standard-looking bike stance.
I’d want it to look as stock as my dream bike did. To do that, I’d use old stock parts almost exclusively, incorporating custom bits only where they wouldn’t show. eBay is an excellent source of such bits. Though my dream bike was unmarked, I’d be sure to have a Honda badge or decal on the tank, and the side panels would be marked CBXR650 or some such mash-up. The goal would be to have a bike that looked like it rolled off the production line in some strange parallel universe where Honda decided a big-bore thumper would make an ideal street bike… maybe one where the Ascot actually sold well.