A defense of craptastic bikes as a starting point...
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A defense of craptastic bikes as a starting point...

This is a discussion on A defense of craptastic bikes as a starting point... within the General forums, part of the Caferacer.net Forums category; In just about every project thread for a CX, CB400T, or just about any cruiser, there will inevitably be comments about about how stupid it ...

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Thread: A defense of craptastic bikes as a starting point...

  1. #1
    Senior Member Tanshanomi's Avatar
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    A defense of craptastic bikes as a starting point...

    In just about every project thread for a CX, CB400T, or just about any cruiser, there will inevitably be comments about about how stupid it is to mod a fundamentally lousy bike. The more I've thought about it, the less apt I am to agree. I, for one, love Bultacos. That love hasn't been dampened (much) by the realization that they were utter crap: haphazardly designed and manufactured to exceedingly crude standards. Likewise, an old friend of mine adored Parilla singles, even though he would readily admit the basic design was horrible. He said that Parilla's shared cam lobes were the most ludicrous design he'd ever seen, and the frames were only marginally stiffer than cardboard tubes. Yet he spent countless hours restoring and tweaking and racing Parillas exclusively. Any vehicle can be fun to upgrade, even the crappy ones—perhaps especially the crappy ones. And exactly what makes a bike so unsuitable, anyway? Car guys put serious work into MG B-Series engines and aircooled VWs, both of which basically stick you with 1930s era technology. Is, say, a KZ440 really any worse? Furthermore, many "legendary" bikes are really buckets of fail when you look at them dispassionately. Heron-head Moto Morinis come to mind. A Morini 500 might look and sound oh-so sexy, but it is going to be a strangled, underpowered rattletrap of an engine no matter what you do with it. And even though the handling was superior for the time, it's long-out-of-date chassis technology today. Would any of us criticize someone attempting to resto-mod one of those?

    I need to stress that artsy-fartsy types who deliberately choose cosmetic considerations over function and then try to justify it with arrogant BS about "style" deserve all the crap that we can throw at them. On that I am right there with everybody else. But neither lame, unsafe mods nor affected, pompous attitudes have anything to do with the model motorcycle they started with. Even worse, it's truly pathetic to see a noob pick a real turkey strictly out of ignorance. I'm just saying that objectively measurable results such as lap times and dyno charts can't tell the whole story, and shouldn't be the only things worth pursuing. Bruce Finlayson once described motorcycles as "a failed experiment in transportation that hasn't been abandoned." Motorcycles, on a very concrete level, don't make objective sense. Let's admit that without the purely emotional connection we have to bikes, few of us would have such a strong attraction to them.

    So why shouldn't turds get polished? Sure, financially speaking its a losing proposition, it will take more effort to get less gain, and there are going to be other bikes that will perform better no matter how much you improve it...but unless you're starting with fairly late model, fairly expensive, fairly large-capacity machine, that's always going to be the case. If you know what you're asking for going in, the extra challenge of choosing something substandard/goofy/strange can be just as (or more) satisfying.

    I'm enjoying working on my cobbled-up Bultaco junkpile even though I realistically predict that the end result will be only barely acceptable by any objective measurement. The process is worthwhile not only due to the skills and experience I am gaining (which is my real objective), but also because I think there's something inherently valid in attempting to redeem a fiasco*.

    *Even if in my case it's my own.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Geeto67's Avatar
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    it isn't stupid for people with knowledge, experience, time, talent, and money. It is only stupid for those who have none of those things because they will run up against a wall before they can ever make any substantial improvement.

    The thing that makes jap "terrible" bikes worse than say a bultaco, or a parilla, or an BSA bantam is that they are needlessly complicated. The Japanese are credited for putting real GP technology into their street bikes and to their credit it has worked really well for most of their products. however they tend to solve some of those problems with equally technologically advanced but NOT race tested solutions - which is why you end up with something like 4 spinning chains inside a parallel twin 400cc motor that doesn't make any more power than a same size BSA and weighs twice as much.

    But here is the real thing - no old bike is really all that great. They all have their issues. The difference is the marketplace. For the beloved bikes, the ones that work (sort of) there are enthuasist groups, and people making parts, and people solving problems, and people doing all sorts of cool things. If you are a newbie then you want all of this because you want that network of support. 1) it increases the liklihood that your project will actually get finished, and 2) it gives you room to actually learn from other peoples trial and error without it getting horribly expensive.

    If you see the level of people who usually buy these "cheap" horrible bikes, most of them have little to no experience with motorcycles to begin with, often they have no idea what they just got themselves into and that their dreams of coolness might be so far above their heads they blend with the sky. And that's why it is a bad idea.
    Tanshanomi likes this.
    Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.
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    Senior Member freedomgli's Avatar
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    good point vs. counterpoint.

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    Senior Member Geeto67's Avatar
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    I wholeheartedly agree people should challenge themselves. And sometimes working on something out of date and obscure is really fun. But if you go too far above your head it becomes less fun, then becomes a chore, then becomes an albatross. I love the idea of surfing, but I have only done it a couple of times, I imagine if I went out and tried to tow in big wave surf tomorrow all I would get is hardship and heartache (literally, I am in terrible shape right now and paddling out might give me a coronary). I love to fly, but if I tired to build my own full size airplane right now I can't imagine it would be much fun at all. Got to work up to these things.
    Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.
    - Samuel Beckett
    A tool is just an opportunity with a handle
    - Kevin Kelly

  6. #5
    Junior Member CafeRay2's Avatar
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    My definition of crap bike is something poorly designed and unreliable. CXs and CBs don't fall into that category. I cringe when I see someone take a nice vintage bike and ruin it with cafe mods. Cx500s are the poor mans Moto Guzzi, but more reliable than a Guzzi 500 ever was.

    The best cafe I've ever seen started as a Virago. Hageman understands this, which is why he starts with ugly bikes with good engines and shaft drives.

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    Senior Member Joep7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CafeRay2 View Post
    . Cx500s are the poor mans Moto Guzzi, but more reliable than a Guzzi 500 ever was.
    except cxs are ugly as shit

  8. #7
    Junior Member CafeRay2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joep7 View Post
    except cxs are ugly as shit

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    Senior Member BigAl8295's Avatar
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    So, you think that looks good?

  10. #9
    Junior Member CafeRay2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigAl8295 View Post
    So, you think that looks good?
    Well, a lot of people do, the bike has been in 2 magazine features, Bikexif, TV...

    I'm curious, what is your definition of looks good?

  11. #10
    Junior Member CafeRay2's Avatar
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    The point is, some builders have a vision of what a bike should have been. The Japanese made a bunch of ugly cruisers in the 70s-80s to chase the US market that was obsessed with Harley-looking bikes with fluffy seats.
    At their heart, they made very reliable engines and bikes that put most manufacturers out of business, because people af the time were fed up with leaky bikes that broke constantly.

    It goes many ways, I've seen some turds polish up nicely to ridable bikes, most disasters, and many very nice looking trailer queens.

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