New Project Bike: 1980 Yamaha XS650 Special

Here’s my new project:

Here’s the instrument cluster, for reference. I rode the bike less than a mile from the seller’s residence to the gas station and reset the tripmeter when I filled it up, but I must have screwed up because it’s only 15 or so miles from where I bought it to my home.[​IMG]\

She has a head gasket oil leak the seller said was very minor that I’m not so sure about… it worries me. Needs a new front brake master cylinder, something I’m pretty comfortable doing, and three out of four turn signals are mangled. Seller claimed it was from a static fall, and there is no road rash on the damaged signals, supporting his contention… but if that is so, how did a fall on the left side damage the right front signal? Ah, the questions of life.

Took off the mirrors, and put the left one back on… because the left mirror was attached to the right side of the handlebar on a clamp, and the right mirror was crossthreaded into the mount on the left side. You all know that Yamaha bikes have left-handed right mirrors, but apparently the previous owner didn’t. Gah. The collar nut is missing from the right-hand mirror, so I couldn’t remount it, but after running a bolt through the left-hand mount from the bottom to straighten the threads, that mirror went on fine.

Removed the expired license plate from the bike.

Loosened one of the bent signals to examine it. The flange it attaches to is also bent, but I don’t expect any trouble bending it back out. Haven’t dug into the headlight to remove the front signals for examination as yet… hoping the headlight bucket and mount is undamaged.

This is an ongoing project; look for more shortly!

I had a dream…

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.

A Minor Milestone

Today I passed a milestone of sorts with my CB650. When I purchased it, the bike had 6226.6 miles on it:

This morning I reached this mileage:

This is exactly twice the mileage the bike had on it when I purchased it… or in other words, I’ve now ridden the bike as far (and farther) than both of its previous owners combined.

It’s not much of a milestone, I know.  But it amuses me.  This 1980 Honda went 6226.6 miles in 36 years, and another 6226.6 miles in 2 years.

Hopefully it has many years and many miles yet to go.

First Ride of 2018

It’s been a long winter, folks.  I’m not sure when I took my first ride of 2017, but according to my posts on Facebook it was before March 20th.  This year, though I had my 2008 Yamaha TW200 out for a short ride in January and again in February, it’s just been too cold and nasty to take a real ride anywhere.

So last weekend I looked at the upcoming week’s forecast on the Weather Channel and saw that Wednesday the 11th and Thursday the 12th were both supposed to be very nice days indeed; in fact, the weather for the 12th was forecast to be in the mid-70s. I knew I had to get out and ride.

My Plan

I intended to spend the morning of the 11th preparing my 1980 Honda CB650, do some work the afternoon of the 11th, and then take off all day on the 12th and just ride. But they say no battle plan ever survives first contact with the enemy, and in this case the enemy seemed to be work. Among the tasks I needed to complete on the Honda was installing a new battery, fixing the choke, changing the oil and filter, lubing the chain, checking the tire pressure, and installing a dashcam I received for Christmas. That last bit involved installing several items to make it work, and constructing a wiring harness to connect those items together.

The Execution

Note:  This section is all about me working on my bike.  It’s probably not very exciting.  If you want to skip to the riding bit, scroll down to the “Work Intrudes” heading.

I was so busy the morning of the 11th that the only thing I got done was installing the new battery. Needless to say, I was running a little behind.

So the morning of the 12th I needed to finish at least the critical parts of those tasks.  Optimistically, I was still planning to do all of the above. Because installing the camera and fixing the choke required the seat and tank to both be removed, and I knew I had to fix that choke, I started there.

The choke failed because the little clamp that holds it in place over the carbs had fallen off.  It’s only held by one screw, and I assume it vibrated loose.  I cut and ground and bent a piece of steel into a rough facsimile of the missing part, needing only the hole drilled for that screw; then I went looking for an appropriate replacement screw.  I was sure it was an M4, which I had in my parts box… but it’s smaller than that, an M3 probably.  Gah.

I had considered and rejected using a zip tie to hold the cable, but at that point it seemed the only thing to do.  I should have started there… I used a single zip tie to secure the cable to the arm provided to hold it, and it worked perfectly.

Now I started in on the camera, a nice Yi dashcam I got from my daughter for Christmas.  It needs USB power, so I got a USB charger which came with a battery tap, fuse holder, and 7.5 amp fuse.  Obviously I didn’t want it on all the time, so I needed an accessory relay; I picked up an RL44 relay at a local auto parts store to fill that requirement.

All of the components fit nicely into the tool holder behind the left-hand side panel of the Honda.  I keep my tools in a tail bag, so the space was unused anyway.  I hooked it all up and turned on the key, and lo, the camera awoke!

With that done, I put the tank back on the bike, and then turned my attention to the seat.  I remembered I wanted to adjust my softside saddlebags so they would ride a little higher, so I turned the whole works over to unhook the buckle.

The right side bag was torn open all along the lower inner edge.  Gah, again.  So I quickly took the bags off the seat, since I was certainly not going to try to fix them too!  I wanted to get rolling as soon as possible… I was, as they say, burning daylight.

Checking the tire pressure and lubing the chain didn’t take long, but I ran out of time before I got down to the oil change. I took a look at the mileage and decided I could get away with changing the oil after my ride. I checked the level and added a little bit, pulled out the newly repaired choke and started the bike.

Then I watched in disappointment as the camera woke up, then shut off, woke up, then shut off, over and over.  Apparently, power delivery was smooth and made the camera happy when the key was on but the bike wasn’t running (accessory mode) but if the engine is running the power becomes unreliable or cycles up and down or something.  No idea if it’s the USB power adapter, or something about how the RL44 is installed, or what, but I knew I didn’t have time to mess with it.  Off came the camera; the rest of the wiring got to stay where it was, awaiting another day when I can evaluate the situation.

I was ready to ride, but I didn’t have a plan as to where I wanted to go.  But that would be decided for me, at least in part…

Work Intrudes

In the middle of all of that I had received a few business phone calls, one of which seems to require immediate service, so as soon as I had all of the above done, I suited up and rolled out. I went south from my home in La Belle on Route D, cut over on 156 and continued on D to Philadelphia, then took 168 over towards Palmyra. If you’re familiar with the area, you’ll know that there is a river valley on 168 with a long bridge; they replaced the bridge a few years ago, but I still remember the five through trusses that used to comprise it.

But I didn’t go that way. I turned off on Marion County road 324, a paved county road (of which Marion County has many, unlike most Missouri counties), which comes into Palmyra as New Street. I got to my customer’s site about 11:30am, went in and got them taken care of fairly quickly, and was able to resume my ride by about noon. I was kind of hungry, but I decided to push on to Hannibal before stopping to eat.

As I said, Marion County has a lot of paved county roads. I’m somewhat familiar with the roads in the area bounded by Highways 61 and 168 between Palmyra and Hannibal, and I chose to cross over 61 and take one of those roads that cut across to 168 just to see some country I hadn’t seen in a while. For the record, that was County Road 402. I then ran the remainder of 168 into Hannibal and stopped at the Taco Bell for lunch.

Now The Fun Starts

I really didn’t have a plan for where to go next, except that I did want to ride my bike on roads I had become familiar with while working in Hannibal years before. In particular, Route N which runs from 79 back through the country and connects to New London via Route V was of interest to me. You see, many years ago I worked for a company in Hannibal, and I was sent to New London to attend to a customer there; I was unfamiliar with the area and asked one of the other employees for directions.  Rather than giving me the direct route on 61 he sent me down twisty 79 to even more twisty N to get there.  The boss heard him, and evidently he thought it was a fine prank since he never let on that I was being led astray.  In the car I owned then the many curves and hills were annoying, but I remember thinking how much fun they would be on a motorcycle.

Here at last was my chance.  So I wended my way downtown by one of those back-street routes you learn when you live in Hannibal for any length of time, and then I took Highway 79 south out of town. I considered running up to Lover’s Leap since I was passing by there, but quickly decided not to.  Not nearly interesting enough on a day when all I wanted to do was ride.

It was, and had been, a beautiful day and I was enjoying the ride immensely. But turning off on Route N put me on a road that I was not particularly familiar with, and this made me even happier. Riding the interesting, intricate curves through the hills past woods and farmland was exactly what I was wanting to do. Route N turned into Route T, and then I came upon the junction with V that would take me to New London. But when I reached that junction, I noticed that the road sign indicated less than 30 miles to Louisiana Missouri if I was to go left instead of right.  I turned left.

Now I was on a road I knew nothing whatsoever about, except that I was sure that it had to reconnect to Highway 79 if it was going to get me to Louisiana. As I have said before, one of my favorite things to do is to see places I’ve never been before, and riding a motorcycle is by far the best way to do that.

Eventually the curves and hills fell behind me and I found myself back at Highway 79 on the broad Mississippi bottom, so of course I turned south to complete my trek to Louisiana. I had not planned to take my first ride of the year such a long distance from home, but as each step I took further from home made the distance to Louisiana shorter, the temptation grew stronger.

All along the way, I would stop from time to time and take a picture with my phone and send it to Tracy. It’s been our custom since I got my Yamaha back in 2009 that I would call her about once an hour while on a ride just so she would know where I was and that I was okay. But this time I was wandering around the countryside on a weekday afternoon when she was at work. It would have been rude to continuously interrupt her, so I chose to text her pictures and brief notes every so often to accomplish the same goal.

Louisiana City Limits

When I reached Louisiana, coming in on the old road from the north, I stopped right at the city limit sign and send her a photograph of my bike in front of it. She had no reason to expect me to go that far, and I laughed when she responded “Wow.”

I gassed up at Louisiana, as I had at Palmyra earlier. Of course I also took a brief potty break and then got myself a bottle of water and drank it, as hydration is important. I saw several Harley riders at the convenience store where I stopped; all the regular motorcycles I saw on the road that day were Harleys, in fact. Harley Davidson, they tell me, is having a financial downturn right now, and I can tell you why. Everybody who ever wanted a Harley Davidson seems to have one now, so there’s less of a market for new ones.  I think we’ve reached Peak Harley.

After my brief break, I went downtown and ran the length of Georgia Street back to the west. If you’re familiar with Louisiana you know that Georgia Street connects to 54 at the west end of town. I turned on to 54 and continued west until I got to the Allparts building. Route UU goes past that building on the north side and winds through beautiful country before connecting back to Highway 61. I had always wanted to ride a motorcycle on that road, and I finally got my chance. It was gorgeous.

When I got to 61, I didn’t get on the four-lane. Instead, I crossed over and took the boundary road south into Bowling Green. At the first four way stop where the boundary road crosses Business 54 I took a right. You see, there is a Northeast Missouri photo tag thread on the website that as far as I knew at the time had been stuck at a location in Bowling Green since 2012. I intended to pick up that tag, and in fact found the location and photographed the bike there as is required to pick up a tag. Later when I got home I looked it up, and discovered the tag had been picked up in August of 2017, so I didn’t get it… but the new tag is near me, and I plan to grab it soon.

I had seen on the road sign at the four-way stop that Curryville was ahead in that direction. I got a ticket at Curryville once, as it was it well-known speed trap to everyone except me. But that’s another story. On this day I decided to risk going through Curryville.

Art's Flea Market

I hadn’t gone far from where I (thought I had) picked up the tag when I saw a sign for Art’s Flea Market. I overshot the place, and looped in the road to go back to it so I could shoot a picture and send it to Tracy. We both enjoy a good junk store, and this one looks very interesting. We will have to go back with a car or maybe a van or maybe even a pickup truck… who knows?

The road to Curryville was not particularly exciting, I have to admit. I went through Curryville five miles an hour below the speed limit the whole way and never saw a cop. I wonder if they finally shut their speed trap down. Anyway, past Curryville the road straightened out and got really boring, and as I needed to turn my front wheel towards home I was looking for a paved road north. It took me some time before I found one, a road lettered F which not only ran north but was pretty as well, with a nice twisty bit in the middle.  I came up behind a Can-Am Spyder with an older man driving and a woman of indeterminate age riding behind him, and they turned on the same road; I followed them for a while but he didn’t corner as aggressively as I do, so when I got a chance I passed him. He waved, I waved, seemed like a nice guy and I hope they had as much fun that day as I did.

When Route F road ran out I found myself at Highway 19, five miles from New London and four miles from Center.  I saw no point in going back toward New London, so I went to Center.

I stopped at a convenience store there to gas up the bike again, visit the restroom, and check in with Tracy. I sent her a text while I was waiting in line for the facilities, telling her where I was and that everything was alright and that I had nothing interesting to show her.

When I rolled out of there, I took the Route H north. I had actually looked at the map and confirmed that the road connected to Highway 36 near Rensselaer. It looked promisingly curvy, but it’s often hard to tell looking at a map. Still, I had high hopes.

Jim's in Center

I hadn’t made it out of town yet when I saw something to stop for. A store, looking like an old-fashioned gas station. I don’t know if it’s a real store or just a kind of art piece put together by someone with a lot of vintage signs and such, but it was pretty cool.  I knew I needed to take a picture of it and send it to Tracy. So I found a place and I did it.

Then I continued on my way, and I was not disappointed in the road. Curvy! Part way between Center and Rensselaer is a town called Spalding. There’s really not much town there, just a city limits sign, but the road does an S plus one curve right after the sign which was quite entertaining. In fact, the whole road was beautiful, and I was having a great time.

Just north of Rensselaer I hit 36. I’m not much of a fan of riding on a four-lane, so I went west just until I found another paved road going north. This happened to be Route E, the road through Woodland.  It has a narrow, low underpass and more curves than you can see on the map (seriously). I had ridden on the north part of that road before, but I don’t believe I had ever run the entire road in one stretch.

Route E runs out at Route C, which runs from 168 near Palmyra to Route Z connecting south to Monroe City, or staying on C connecting to Warren. If I turned right, I would shortly be back in the Palmyra area. Probably I should have done that, but the road in the other direction to the Z junction is one of my favorite roads to ride on, and the day was still beautiful and I was still feeling pretty good and not ready to quit just yet. So I went that way, and when I got to Z I turned north. That road leads to back to 168 near Philadelphia, but not before you go through a really interesting twisty section in the middle with a somewhat scary downhill curve with a steep dropoff on one side. A short run on 168 over to Philadelphia, and again I turned north on Route D.

Had I stayed on that road, I would have been retracing my morning’s route. But just a few miles north of Philadelphia is a turn off onto Route J, an interesting road that leads into Shelby County. So I went that way. J runs out at an interesting junction with a couple of other roads; you can turn one way and go south back in the general direction of Shelbyville, or take another road that leads to Bethel. The remaining road, Route W north, is another pretty, curvy road that I always enjoy. It does have one defect, though… it runs out to gravel.

I don’t really care for riding the Honda on gravel. It’s kind of heavy and unwieldy, and with smooth road tires, a little slippery. But I liked the paved road leading up to that point enough to go ahead and deal with it, and I was not disappointed. Better yet, the gravel was swept, as I call it; that is to say, passing vehicles had cleared the gravel from the wheel tracks, leaving a hard-packed surface. So it really wasn’t a bad ride through that two or three mile section of gravel before I got back to the junction of Route D and 156, just eight miles south of my home.

There’s nothing exciting to report about that last eight miles at all. But it was still a beautiful day, and it had been a blast, and as I cruised the last few miles home I thought back on all the places I’d seen and all the roads I’d experienced.

Perhaps it’s a bit of an anti-climax at this point, but I will go on to say that when I got home, I did finally change the oil in the bike. Hey, you’ve got to do the maintenance sometime.

Final Touches and Nice Finds

I finished the touch-up work on the new blinkers today.  I used a couple more of those 19-10-19 spacers from, which I previously used on the headlight, to space the blinkers out a bit further as well, and I think they worked out great!

I also strapped that Corona bag on to see how it looks, and how it fits.  The bag is a bit limp when empty, so I stuffed in an XL sweatshirt and it filled it up pretty much completely… which not only made it photograph nicely, it also tells me what I can expect the bag to hold. It won’t be on the bike day-to-day; I think it will be more a special occasion item.

Looks quite vintage, doesn’t it?  I just wish I could figure out how old it actually is.


Corona Tank Bag

I was wandering the countryside with my wife when I chanced to enter an antique-type shop in Brookfield, Missouri and saw this beauty:

Of course, I bought it. According to the broken English inside the flier, it originally came with a shoulder strap, which is absent, as is the key (though as it was a 60’s or 70’s era luggage key, it won’t be hard to find a substitute if I want one). It’s in like-new condition, with a smell that speaks of old vinyl and nothing else, no garage smell or barn stink or even the fragrance of an attic. The material feels like the cover of a particularly soft basketball, less nubbly but just as thick and substantial feeling. The straps were meant to be cut to length and the hooks and loops attached with judicious application of a hammer; the original owner has already done the job, so I can only assume this bag was actually used at least once.

I haven’t tried it yet, but I think the straps are long enough to fit my ’80 CB650’s tank. I hope so, anyway. One strap is cut shorter than the other, so the original owner’s tank was tapered in 70’s style rather than brick-shaped like the Japanese bikes of the ’60’s; this gives me some hope that it will fit my Honda.

Anyway, I just had to post about this… it’s such a nice piece, and I feel lucky to lay my hands on it.

… so tonight I got home and did some research.  It appears this bag is still made, and has been in production for a long time.  First let me say, wow.  I have no way to know how old this particular bag is… there are no dates whatsoever on the flier or tag.  Google found very few images that look like this, and almost all of them lead to this page:

I can’t read Japanese, but Google sort of can, so I ran it through their translator.  Still didn’t learn much.  The pictures on that page have dates under them, all in 2009 apparently, and the descriptions for some of the bags make it appear that they are still being made and that this site has some that are custom made for them.

One item of note to me is that the photos (all of them) in the flier that I got with the bag all depict motorcycles from the ’60’s or very early ’70’s.  I can’t believe that any current unit still comes with the vintage paperwork.  Also found another bag for sale on ebay (actually already sold) where the seller says his uncle bought it in the 1970’s.

It mentions the clear map holder, which one of the models shown in the flier I got does have, making the two bags contemporaries.  It gives me some hope that this is a vintage unit.

Even if it isn’t, those bags on  The price is more than 3x what I paid.  So I still got a bargain.




Brakes, Signals, and the Failings of Fastenal

As I mentioned in my last post, I decided I needed to rebuild my master cylinder.  I ordered the K&S rebuild kit, got a bottle of DOT 3 fluid and some clear hose, and one fine day I set out to do the rebuild.

First problem… the snap ring is so rusty that I cannot get it out.  In trying, I also discovered that my snap ring pliers don’t quite reach all the way down there (I would have sworn they would work).  And also, I discovered that there is this big O-ring at the base of the plastic reservoir that needs to be replaced, and which is not in the rebuild kit, nor in stock anywhere locally.

I got it halfway apart and couldn’t properly put it back together.  I tried, of course, but the fluid wouldn’t stay in the reservoir because of that O-ring.  Gah.

SO I ordered a new set of snap ring pliers from Amazon, one that a reviewer specifically said he used on the master cylinder of an early ’80’s Honda.  While I waited for them to come in, I tried to get the O-ring, but as I just said, nobody had one.  Then while doing the research I discovered that you can get generic master cylinders online.  I started out looking at, but ended up buying one from an ebay seller instead.  I viewed it as a temporary solution… I would still get that damn O-ring and rebuild the original master cylinder.

Once I put it on, bled the brake, and took a ride, I changed my mind.  It’s quite good.  The only issue, if you can call it that, are the markings on the sight glass… both upper and lower marks are labeled “LOWER.”  I can live with that.

I will still probably rebuild the original sometime, but there is no longer any hurry.

That would be the end, if I had any sense, but since I don’t, let’s move on…

I got an email from telling me to check out their clearance items, so I did.  I do that a lot anyway, hardly ever buy anything but I like to see what’s out there.  Well, this time I found something I liked: a set of K&S Chrome LED “marker lights” (i.e. turn signals without DOT approval… in Missouri, I do not expect a problem running them as signals).  They were marked WAY down, and they look more like the original stock signals than the black rubbery ones I had on the bike.  So I ordered a pair.

They look and work NICE.  Much better than the ones I had on before, in that they are brighter than the ones I previously used AND they are “dual filament” (not really, but they do a good job pretending to be) so they are always-on lights until you flip on the blinker.  In case the link above quits working, here’s a picture:

Notice that set-screw?  It allows you to turn the signal (i.e. to aim it) after getting the stem tight.  This is GREAT, except that the screw is just barely long enough… and I stripped one out tightening it.  It barely engaged the threads before pulling out, so I ran in another longer screw and it went in fine.  But it was TOO long.  I needed a screw longer than the stock unit, but shorter than what I had in my toolbox.  Gah, again.

Stopped by Fastenal, thinking they’d have what I need, even though the last three times they haven’t.  Well, they didn’t this time either.  I wanted a panhead screw in a zinc or chrome finish, and they did not have them.

Home Depot did, so I’m in business.  But I’m less and less impressed with Fastenal all the time.

Guess I’m Not Quite Done Yet

After my last post, I took the CB650 for a short ride around town, and I thought it felt like the front brake was dragging.  Well, it is.  I suspected the caliper (as I’ve had a similar problem in a car before and that was the source), but after discussing my plans on the Honda CB650 forum here I learned it’s probably the master cylinder.  Specifically, I need to clean it out, making sure the fluid return hole is clear.

While searching for a rebuild kit for my bike, I found this:

Yes, you can just buy a complete replacement unit, clean and new with a full set of spare parts, and it’s cheap.  But… I read some reviews of this unit, and decided against it.  It does not have the capacity of the stock unit, so I’d have to pay closer attention to the fluid level.

Instead, I’m getting a K&L rebuild kit, their part number 32-1464.  Got it on here:

I’ll have to drain the existing fluid, dismantle, clean, and refurbish the master cylinder, put it all back together, and finally refill and bleed the system.  I’ve picked up a bottle of fresh DOT 3 fluid and some clear plastic tubing, so as soon as the rebuild kit comes in, I’ll get started.

In other words… more later.

Things Made of Rubber, Part 2

I rode the CB650 maybe another 1,500 miles after the last post.  The smell of gasoline got stronger each time; I found I had to put the bike away with the petcock closed or the garage filled up with fumes.

I finally quit riding it when I realized raw gas was leaking out of the carbs.  I also discovered an oil leak, coming out around the shift shaft and dripping onto the left exhaust pipe.  It was evidently leaking only while the bike was running, so there was no puddle in the garage to reveal the leak.

There was no avoiding it… my bike needed professional help.

I asked a fellow rider who owns a vintage Japanese bike who he would trust to do the work, and he recommended Cycle Tech at Fremont, Iowa.  When I say “at” Fremont, I mean out in the middle of nowhere north of Fremont (which is itself somewhat like the middle of nowhere).

So I called up the man in charge and discussed my bike’s issues, and he shot me an estimate.  It was more than I hoped, but less than I feared, and I took him up on it.

They pulled the carbs, fitted new gaskets and seals, put ’em back together and synced them up.  They also replaced the bad seal on the shift shaft… problem solved.

Things made of rubber, you know?

I didn’t think to ask them to change the oil, but I picked up oil and a new oil filter when I went back to get the bike.

So anyway, moving on… last weekend I set out to change the oil in the CB650.  Draining it was easy, but the oil filter bolt head was pretty chewed up.  I couldn’t get a wrench to grab it, nor would my hex-head vice grips do it.

Finally I put curve-jaw vice grips on it, clamped down as tight as I could get them, and tapped on the vice grips with a rubber mallet.  After a few judicious whacks, the bolt broke loose, and I was able to complete the job.

I considered getting a replacement OEM bolt (Honda part number 15420-333-000), but the few places that had them listed the price at around $55.00.  There had to be a better solution… and there is.  I discovered that Emgo makes a replacement oil filter bolt for the CB650, and it has a 17mm head instead of the 12mm head on the stock unit.  Should be harder to round it off.  The Emgo part number is 11-46400; has it here for $14.97 with free shipping, which is much better than the OEM part price.  K&L Supply also makes a replacement for this bolt, their part number 19-1387, available on here for $15.93 + $8.74 shipping; still a better deal than the OEM part.  Of course, these prices are just good for right now, and will surely change in the future.

Just for the record, I checked some other vendors for this part.  Dennis Kirk has it here, for $16.95 plus shipping.  Rocky Mountain ATV/MC does not seem to have it, which I suppose isn’t that odd given their obvious off-road focus, except that they do have many other parts for the CB650 including the K&N oil filter, and they carry other Emgo parts.  Didn’t find the K&L bolt on either site.

For the moment I’m going to use the existing bolt, but when the bike is due for another oil change I’ll get a replacement.

While changing the oil, I thought about other periodic maintenance items, and decided I should service the air cleaner as well.  I pulled it out and discovered it was soaked with old gasoline.  I knew the bike had backfired from time to time, especially when cold or running on choke, so I assumed it had been blowing gas back into the airbox.  (I’m hoping that sealing the carbs has fixed the backfire issue.)

Well, then.  Time for a new air cleaner.  I ordered an Emgo replacement, part number 12-90700, on here.  The current price is $10.69 with free shipping.  The Honda OEM number is 17211-460-000.  Note that the only shop manual I’ve found online is for the 1979 model year; they completely changed the airbox and filter in 1980.  If you have the 1979, this information won’t apply to you.

The replacement filter came in, so I set about installing it.  There’s a rubber seal that fits around the flange on the filter; you have to take it off the old filter and put it on the new one.  While I stood there putting the seal on the new filter I noticed a shine from inside the airbox.  A wet shine, to be exact.  I figured it must be some more gasoline.  I grabbed a big handful of paper towel and stuffed it into the airbox, then pulled it back out soaked with sour gas.  Did this twice more before I was sure I had it all… I was surprised how much was in there.

I went ahead and installed the new air cleaner and buttoned up the bike.  I now had a pile of gas-soaked paper towels… kind of a fire hazard, obviously.  I stuffed the paper towels into the box the new air cleaner came it, took the whole mess out to the driveway and set it on fire.  After a moment’s thought, I put the old gas-soaked air cleaner on top.

It all burned down to ash in about half an hour.  I fished the metal bits from the air cleaner out and threw them in the trash (after ensuring they were no longer hot enough to be dangerous), then stamped around on the ashes to disperse them.  All cleaned up.

I’m almost afraid to say it, but I think the bike is done.  I’ll try to remember to post some pictures soon!

Things Made of Rubber, Part 1

I mentioned the gas cap issues in my previous post.  Well, here’s what I did: I took some of my excess vacuum hose, slit it open lengthwise, filled it with some strong contact cement, then put it over the slot (trough?) that the gas cap seal is supposed to fit into.  I spread a little motor oil on the tank itself so the cap wouldn’t stick to it, then put the glued cap back on the bike.  The idea was to hold the rubber hose in position until the glue set up.

It mostly worked.  Unfortunately, a little bit of the glue made contact with the tank, and ate a couple of small spots of paint.  Fortunately the damage is hidden under the cap, but it does irritate me that I didn’t foresee the possibility.

Sadly, however, it only partly fixed the problem.  I know the cap was leaky because I could see gasoline vapor coming out and condensing on the tank with the cap in place; but, even with the new seal, it still smells of gasoline rather strongly.

Then I made another discovery, accidentally.  I put the kickstand down in a slightly uneven parking spot; it didn’t go down right, and I dropped the bike (in slow motion… I was doing my best to stop it, but I just couldn’t).  When I picked it back up, there was a spot of gasoline on the pavement.

I put two and two together and figured out that there must be a bad hose in among the carbs.  Probably one of those float bowl vent hoses.  I haven’t checked it out yet, but I have replacement hose on hand to fix it, hopefully soon.  For the moment, I’ve been turning off the petcock when the bike is parked, and that solves the stinky gas problem.

While trying (and failing) to see where the leak is, I noticed some of the carb drain hoses were off their nipples.  So of course, I tried putting them back on, but they just cracked.  The hose is a different size than the hose I have on hand, necessitating a trip to the auto parts dealer.  That, too, is a repair I haven’t done yet, but will get to soon.

If you have read all of the above, by now you understand the title of this post.  But wait, there’s more.

To date I’ve put 650 miles on the bike, including maybe 50 on the Interstate at 65 MPH.  Imagine my expression when I realized the previous owner never replaced the tires.

I was doing all that riding on thirty-six year old Cheng Shin tires.  Egad.

I did the only sensible thing… I parked the bike and set out to order tires.  Finding tires that would work on the CB650 was surprisingly hard.  None of the lower-priced brands could provide both a front and rear tire that would work.  I’m a bit of a Shinko fan, having run their tires on my Yamaha TW200 (in front, obviously, since there are almost no tires for the back of that bike besides the Bridgestone OEM tires), but they didn’t have a tube-type rear that I thought I could work with.

I jumped into a thread on the CB650 forum in hopes of getting some help.  The original Cheng Shin tires were a 100/90-19 front and a 120/90-17 rear.  I have the 1979 shop manual, and it prescribes 3.50H19 in front and 4.50H17 in back; a quick Google search led me to the Motorcycle Tire School section of Maxxis’ website, which informed me that the front tire converts to 100/90-19, and the rear converts to 110/90-17 or 120/90-17.  Obviously, this is consistent with what came on the bike… so far, so good.

The 100/90-19 front was easy to find in a number of brands and styles, but the 120/90-17 was surprisingly rare (remembering that I was looking for a “TT” tube-type tire).  Like, non-existent.  So I had to do something different.

The 120/90 tire would be 108mm tall.  A 130/80 tire would be 104mm tall… pretty close, and just 10mm wider (so losing 5mm of clearance on each side).  I used Bike Bandit’s sizing tool to search for that size, and found three dual-sport tires and the Bridgestone Battlax BT45.  Looking at the listing, I discovered that the only tube-type tire in the rear tire section was the 130/80-17… all the rest are tubeless.  Lucky, right?  But the darn thing was $132.95… ack.  I like Bike Bandit, but hey, I’m cheap, so I kept looking., it turned out, had that tire for $103.00 with Prime shipping, which sounded pretty good to me, but did not have the front at the same discount (nor with Prime shipping at all).  Sometimes Amazon is very strange.  I put the $103.00 tire in my cart and went looking at other sites.

Now, I do business with Dennis Kirk regularly, but somehow had not searched for the Battlax tires there.  Imagine my surprise when I found that I could get the 130/80-17 rear for $95.88 and the front for $93.88!  I threw a couple of heavy duty IRC tubes and some Kenda rim strips into the cart (why doesn’t IRC have rim strips?  Seems strange to me) and submitted the order.

Last night I put the tires on.  It was a good time to try out my new Harbor Freight balancing stand, and it worked quite well.  The front needed a single 10g weight, while the rear needed nothing (yeah, I didn’t believe it either, stood there spinning the tire over and over like I had some sort of neurological issue).

So.  Progress.  Still have some problems to beat with rubber hoses, but at least now I’m not afraid to ride it.

Part 2 coming soon… as in, whenever I fix those remaining hoses.