Two weeks with a vintage Honda CB650

It’s been going pretty well, actually. Several nickel-and-dime issues, such as a broken tachometer cable (the tach end rusted off; it was loose when I got the bike, and evidently got wet). I ordered new keys from, and I have to say I was quite pleased with their service. The key number for my bike wasn’t on the list on their site, but I emailed them and they said they could do it for me, so I ordered two. They work well.

The only present issue is the gas cap leak. The O-ring is missing from the cap, and Honda doesn’t list it on the fiche as a separate part. I’m suspicious that it may be the part number 91258-300-013 (68X2.6) unit; I measure the space for the ring at 2 3/4″, which is about 68mm. I’m probably going to have to just take the cap to a dealer to size it.

Inspections, and Other Annoyances

Late last week I took the bike to get it inspected, and it failed… busted taillight, which I had not realized was bad enough to fail. Looking online, I found NOS lenses for $45.00. Seemed a bit high… instead, I ordered an entire taillight, not just the lens, for $26.00 including shipping on Ebay. This morning it passed inspection, and is now wearing a legal Missouri plate.

While riding it to and from the auto repair establishment where I got it inspected, I noticed the bike stumbled rather badly whenever I opened the throttle at highway speed (5000 RPM is about 55 MPH, and that’s where I noticed it). I remembered seeing that the 1980 CB650 had a service bulletin, so I actually read it. Seems that some CB650s from that year had exactly that problem, and the fix from Honda was a part set that rerouted the float bowl vents to the airbox cover. The part number for that set is 17225-460-670, and just this moment there is a guy on Ebay selling such a kit for $60.00:

I’m too cheap for that. I stopped by the auto parts store and picked up some vacuum hose and a tee that looked pretty close to what is pictured, then drilled a hole in the airbox cover that is just a bit tight on the hose I bought. It’s not perfect, but it did improve the bike’s performance; before, if my hand twitched on the throttle, the bike would stumble, but now I have to roll it on more to get the stumble and it lasts a shorter period. May break down and buy the “right” part at some point… dunno. It’s definitely serviceable as is.

I have noticed that it’s not hard to hit a “false neutral” when upshifting. I’m learning to shift with more authority.

One thing that now puzzles me. I’ve been making the mistake all along that the CB650 came in a standard version which was not “cruiser” styled, and a Custom version that was. I see now that I was mistaken… both models have the same cruiser seating position, but the Custom has some nicer amenities (and Comstar wheels, which may or may not be “nicer” depending on whether or not you like those). The puzzlement comes from those dang engine guards… how could anyone ever want them on the bike, when they obstruct the foot controls? But the original owner of this bike obviously liked them.

CB650, Finished (I think)

HOKAY DOKAY. So. Today I received the last items I needed to finish the job, and here it is:

Here’s another look at the headlight and signals, close up:

In the credit-where-credit-is-due department, I have to give a big THANKS to Speed Moto Co. That’s their headlight, headlight mounting brackets, and signals. Specifically, here are the items we used:

It probably would have been easier to get a headlight that had 7″ mounting points, but I think I’d have needed spacers anyway, just less length. And this is a really nice looking headlight, in my opinion… it does not look a bit cheap.

As I noted before, I got my spacers from If you visit their site, it looks like they only sell SAE parts, but actually there are metric parts mixed in with the nearest sizes of standard spacers… if I had not already found myself in the “ready to settle for less than perfect” situation, I might never have seen that they had the right thing. In fact, it’s probably why it took me so long to find a good source. And this is a company that makes the parts in the US. Admittedly, they’re just aluminum tubes, but still. I got two of the 19mm long, 19mm OD spacers:

See, you can tell from the URL that they are in the 3/8″ hole size category. I don’t think they do themselves any favors, listing their parts the way they do, but the parts themselves are top notch.

New Headlight and Signals, and Other Stuff

Had a hard time figuring out where the horn goes; it had been relocated when the fairing was put on, and the mounting point is missing from the fiche. I finally felt all around the front of the frame until I found the mounting point hidden behind all those wires.

The parts we ordered came in a couple of days ago, and I have the headlight mounts and turn signals on the bike. I had a hard time locating spacers that would work with the headlight and brackets, but finally found them at (ahem) The brackets we got would actually mount a full 8″ headlight on the bike, but we got a 7″ unit that is really, really nice looking; the mounting holes set back and in a bit, enough that you could actually mount the headlight on a bike fitted for a 6.25″ headlight. As I say, though, it’s a really nice unit. I’ll post pics when it’s all together (probably late next week).

I ran into an issue with the turn signals. The replacement units did not say they were LED but they must be… they come on solid, no blinking, both the new front and the stock rear. I suppose I need an electronic flasher unit, which I have installed on other bikes before.

But I’ll admit my stupid here… I can’t find the flasher on the bike. The parts fiche shows it horizontal, but does not show where it goes. I’ve read elsewhere that it should be behind the left side cover, and I found the starter relay there (where I expected to find it) but cannot see the flasher relay. I can HEAR it click (once) when I turn on a signal, but I can’t find the darn thing.

Okay, never mind. I finally realized the only place I couldn’t see or touch was behind the starter relay; pulled it out of its rubber bucket and there was the blinker relay behind it.

Also managed to forget and leave the key on, running down the battery. Gah. Really, I don’t get rid of any stupid, I just move it around from place to place…

Stripping the CB650

Yesterday my daughter spent some time cleaning up the bike, while I set about removing the unwanted parts. I rigged the fairing with a rope sling to the rafters in my garage so I wouldn’t have to try to hold on to it while removing the bolts. It was a good thing, because the mounting frame was bent (and it looks as if it was bent when the fairing was installed, though I’m not 100% sure). After I got that off, I pulled the engine guards.

The original headlight and signals are long gone, of course. Original style replacements aren’t that hard to come by, but after some discussion we decided to go with a look-alike headlight instead along with some fairly nice OEM-like aftermarket signals.

So here it is stripped:

The fairing installation did not, it appears, require cutting any of the stock wiring harness. It all looks pretty good:

Here are the engine guards. I’m not sure what the deal is with them… they make the bike hard to ride.  I wonder if they were built for some other bike; I seem to recall that this CB650 was based on the the original CB400 four cylinder, which had a more upright seating stance.  I may try to sell them… I’m sure not putting them back on.

I put fuel system cleaner in the tank, filled it up and ran it some this morning. The treatment was intended for 21 gallons of gas (maximum); I used about a fifth of the bottle. It would probably be safe to use more than that, but I didn’t want to overdo it. The bike seemed to start more easily this morning, but I have no idea why that would be true.

Moving on…

Wow.  2012.  The last post I made on this blog was way back then.

Very little has happened with the Dream since then.  I’ll confess, getting the head apart stymied me long enough that I just sort of stopped working on it.  My wife rolled the chassis to the back of the garage, and pushed the engine (on its dolly) back beside it, and the boxes of parts are all with it, so if I ever get back to it, it’s all together.  I just feel out of my depth, mechanically speaking.

But a funny thing happened a few weeks ago.  My daughter found this 1980 Honda CB650 for sale on a local swap shop page for $800.00… a bargain, for a running bike.

Here’s the other side, with my TW in the background:

Note the mileage:

These pictures are all as-we-found-it, incidentally.

The story has it that the original owner bought it new around 1980. The bike had inspection stickers in two places: high up on the left fork tube, hidden by the fairing, and on the lower left fork slider (as you may notice in the first pic). The lower inspection stickers are 1991, so I’m assuming that’s the last year the first owner licensed it.

The original owner, I’m told, bought the bike for himself and his wife, and garaged it after she passed away. The fellow we bought it from acquired it a year or so ago, intending to ride it himself, but he lives on a gravel road; he scared himself rather badly, it seems, but it appears he did not actually drop the bike. The only damage is the broken right front turn signal, and the fairing has a ding and a crack that are consistent (in my opinion) with a garage fall… which the guy we bought it from said happened in a high wind.

As I say, he scared himself, and so decided to sell it. His choice of amount is what he needs to buy a shotgun, he said.

I took a test ride, and yeah, it’s not much fun on gravel. It runs a bit puny at low RPM but revs pretty nicely; I’m suspicious of some gunk in the carbs, and hoping some fuel treatment I added (along with fresh gas) will help.  I don’t relish pulling all four carbs and cleaning them.

The modifications were our main issues right now, though. There was a back rest on the bike when the last guy bought it, and he removed it; the bolts for the back rest are longer than the original grab bar bolts, so he did this:

I know hex heads were standard, but I replaced them with Phillips heads instead so they don’t snag on my passenger’s clothing.  I would have liked to use Allen heads instead, but had difficulty sourcing the correct type in a bright finish (black was easy, but would have looked strange).

Then there were the engine guards, which were pure evil. Just try to shift:

And then, I suppose you’d like to stop?


A Little More Progress

A couple of weeks ago, I used my new Harbour Freight bike lift to drop the engine out of my Dream.  I had previously removed the upper rear bolts and replaced them with temporary bolts (as I had to destroy the original bolts to remove them); the lower rear bolts turned out to be missing, and the two bolts through the head came loose very easily.

For some reason I couldn’t figure out just then, the wires from the condenser (part of the ignition system, screwed to the top of the head) were taped to the rest of the wiring harness; rather than deal with the tape, I just unscrewed the condenser and left it with the frame.

With the engine off, I was able to remove the top cover from the head without difficulty.  To my untrained eye, the cam chain looks pretty good… too bad I’ll have to break it to get the head off, if I can’t find the master link somewhere accessible.

I put the top back on, finger tight, then removed the carb.  It looks really good in the float bowl; apparently, the former owner drained it when he put it away.  The slide works well enough also, but I have not yet figured out how to remove the top to inspect it further.  Time for some research.

One bit of good news:  A friend has told me he can remove the broken stub of the steering damper knob from my Dream’s steering stem, and restore the proper thread.  I was worried I’d have to buy a replacement, but maybe not.

A Little Progress

Yes, the pistons are still stuck, and yes, the broken-off stub of the steering damper knob is still in there.  My whole chill-and-heat approach didn’t work, at least not on this problem child.

But, at least I got the wiring out of the handlebars.  Twenty-four hours soaking in water did indeed turn the mud dauber nests back into mud, and I was able to work the wires out.  I haven’t decided how to proceed with rebuilding them, but I have several options available.

There was still quite a bit of crud in the handlebars, though, so I got a length of very thin wire rope I had lying around from the replacement of our garage doors and affixed some coarse steel wool to one end.  Then, I fished the wire through the bars, forcing it through the muck, and by pulling the steel wool through repeatedly I got it pretty clean inside.  All the wet bits are drying now.

I got a bike lift using a Harbour Freight coupon, and I got it assembled right on the third try.  Hey, the instructions could have been a lot clearer!  I plan to use it to remove the engine, when I get that far (probably soon).

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m going to need the help of someone who knows a lot more about engines than I do.  Tonight I dropped in on a local guy who was recommended to me; he isn’t willing to take on a project right now, but he gave me a recommendation for another guy.  So, if I can make contact with the second fellow, I may be able to get some expert assistance at removing some of the roadblocks in this project.

Mud Daubers Leave Their Mark

Spent some time on it tonight. Forgot to even check if the engine was free yet or not; probably not, considering how things have been going. I probably need to put more pink stuff in there.

First thing I did was put the back wheel back on and let the front end back down. This went really well, actually. I think the rubber dampers are entirely serviceable; I’m not as sure about the condition of the brake shoes, as I don’t really know how thick they are supposed to be. I’ll post a photo later.

With that done, I messed with the broken steering damper some more. I’m getting close to saying the heck with it and buying a whole new steering stem. Or paying someone to get it out. It’s exasperating. I haven’t yet tried the hot-and-cold treatment, as I don’t have an “air duster” can handy. Tonight I used a punch to apply some force to it, then tried heat, then finally another blast of PB, trying the easy-out after each application.

I didn’t like applying heat to that part of the bike with the handlebars still on, as there are wires in there that might be damaged. So, I decided to remove the handlebars completely. I pulled the headlight so I could unhook the wires, and found mud dauber nests filling the free space inside. Got them out, then unplugged the high beam and horn wires and removed the bars.

Well, I tried. The throttle cable was stuck pretty firmly. More mud dauber nests, filling the handlebars. The cable sheath was in real nasty shape, so I just went ahead and cut it off, then worked it out while comfortably seated.

Then I tried to remove the wires. Same problem, but they aren’t as tough as the throttle cable, so I couldn’t just yank them out.

Exasperated, I filled a pan with water and put the bars down in it. I’m hoping the mud dauber nests will turn back into mud and come out easily. But nothing that has resisted me up to this point has given up easily.

I have also decided that I’ll need to replace much of the wiring harness. It’s been patched and scabbed too much. What parts I need to keep, I’ll fit with bullets so I can cut away the bad parts.

I had my wife take some pictures of the condition of the back wheel and brake, which I have attached.  The wheel is rusty, and so is the drum, and the brake looks thin to me (though I don’t know exactly how thick they are supposed to be).

Rear Brake Detail
Rear Brake Detail
Rear Wheel Detail
Rear Wheel Detail
Rear Brake Drum Detail
Rear Brake Drum Detail

Rear Wheel Off, But Not Much Progress

Last night, I spent a little time with the Dream. Yes, the pistons are still frozen. I decided that I wanted to tip the bike backward, to level the cylinders a bit so the solution would make it to the backs of the pistons. Of course, at this point I could just pull the engine, but I don’t really have a good way to handle it as yet. Probably should spend a little time on that.

Instead of doing that, I pulled the back wheel to provide clearance to tip it backward. The axle nut came loose surprisingly easily, and the axle itself looks very good. The bolt for the “rear arm” (the thing that keeps the brake from spinning around) was rusty-looking, but came loose without a fight. The thing that had me worried was the rear brake rod, but I soaked it good with PB and it came off with only the slightest argument. The rod is quite rusty all over; no guarantee I’ll be able to reuse it in the end. A lot of fasteners are going that way too.

Took me a bit to figure out how to get the wheel out; I had to tip the bike over 45 degrees to get enough clearance to pull it out.

Tipped the bike back and blocked up the front wheel, then put some more of the pink stuff in. Others have complained about the acetone/ATF mixture separating, but I haven’t seen it, though I do shake it up before pouring it in.

I decided the bike was a bit more precarious than I liked, so I used some nylon strap I have laying around my garage to tie the handlebars to the truss overhead. With that secure, I decided to go ahead and pull the countershaft sprocket, if I could.

It was a bit of a fight to get one of the bolts loose, but I did, and once I had done so I was able to remove the keeper and then the sprocket itself. It’s visibly worn, with a scalloped edge visible on the back side and the teeth worn to angles. At least they aren’t hooked.

I think the former owner must have put a new chain on the old sprockets, since the chain adjusters are very near to the loosest (i.e. newest) position. They are badly rusted too, but as I wasn’t pulling the rear sprocket/damper assembly, I didn’t bother with trying to break them loose. More parts I’ll probably need to replace in the end.

I ran the gearbox through the gears again, and had trouble getting it to shift above second gear. I don’t think there’s any oil in the crankcase (or if there is, it’s just sludge) but since I can’t turn the engine over, it wouldn’t help to pour any in right now.

Oh, and I tried one more time to remove the broken bolt from the steering stem. Tried heat, then penetrating oil. No joy. I’m thinking strongly that I’m going to go for a full thermal shock treatment… hit it with heat first, then spray some “duster” spray into the hole I drilled through the stub with the can inverted so the really cold liquid comes out. With any luck, I’ll get a nice ping or two and the rust holding the stub in place will break loose.

A bit bummed not to have made any real progress, I called it a night.