1981 GS750 vs. 1974 CB550???
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1981 GS750 vs. 1974 CB550???

This is a discussion on 1981 GS750 vs. 1974 CB550??? within the General forums, part of the Caferacer.net Forums category; Hey all, I'm looking to buy my first cafe racer (not my first motorcycle, but my first vintage one). I need something that is relatively ...

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  1. #1
    Junior Member ilDoppio's Avatar
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    Question 1981 GS750 vs. 1974 CB550???

    Hey all,

    I'm looking to buy my first cafe racer (not my first motorcycle, but my first vintage one).
    I need something that is relatively light and short (I'm only 5'5" and 130lb), and I would like something that is (as far as vintage bikes go) reliable and isn't super expensive/difficult when it does need work done.

    With that said, I'm currently looking at 2 options: a 1974 CB550 (with larger pistions & and a cam from a 650), or a 1981 GS750. Both have been worked on by their current owners. The CB was rebuilt from pieces by the owner (an auto mechanic for 15 years, but this is his first time doing a bike). The GS had some engine top-end rebuild work done by its current owner, and the electronic ignition was done (and needs to be redone) by some company in... wisconson maybe).

    Any thoughts?

    My concerns (model-wise) are GS750 will probably be a good bit heavier than the CB550. Does the GS have that much more power? Is either bike more reliable?

    Thanks in advance!!

  2. #2
    Senior Member TrialsRider's Avatar
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    Pictures might help us develop an opinion on which of these 2 is the better bike to pursue, imho at 5-5 and 130# you are a featherweight like myself and any 4 cylinder motorcycle is going to be relatively big and heavy, because old 4 cylinder motorcycles are big and heavy. GS has a gear primary drive and the CB has a chain, CB has cable slide type carbs and the GS has CV carbs and there is a good chance you plan on modifying intake and exhaust, so the CB would be easier to work with if that is the intent. Neither will fit high performance tires, brakes and suspension on either is uninspiring to say the least. To my thinking engine modifications doesn't increase the resale value, is an indication the thing was blown up at least once and now the engine is on it's last over-sized everything before engine replacement is the last resort.

    ... that doesn't help you much does it :/ Instinct tells me go with the CB if it test rides nice, if you can't test ride an old bike that has been modified, pass on it and search for a low-milage bike that is stuck in the back of some widow's garage. A very low-milage, complete, old bone motorcycle is always the better buy from a reliability standpoint.

  3. #3
    Member Oldjeep's Avatar
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    Can you put your feet flat on the ground on both bikes? At 5.5 that is going to be a challenge on a lot of bikes, even old Japanese stuff. At your size I'd be looking for a twin or single cylinder if you want to café it. I've got a KZ750 4 cylinder and it has plenty of power for its age, but is pretty heavy and wants to be on its side a lot more than my FZ1 does.

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  5. #4
    Senior Member Geeto67's Avatar
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    The 650 pistons and cam is a popular engine upgrade for the 550 for more power, if it is done right. If it isn't, that's a problem.

    The cb550 has the better aftermarket support. I assume by "cafe racer" you mean you are just gong to stick some dumb bubble tail seat on the back and some "low bars" and maybe remove the fender, but once that stupidity passes, you'll actually be able to get good parts like fork braces, rearsets, and actual racing bodyowrk.

    Also the GS750 is the size of a freight train. All the 80's superbikes are, the 550 is more your size and speed (but will still feel big).

    In addition to finding a bike that physically fits your size, if you want a custom bike and you are not a master fabricator with years of motorcycle racing experience you want a bike that also has the following qualities:

    1. Large aftermarket support
    2. Large knowledge base of enthusiasts
    3. History of being used as a performance bike or race bike
    4. continued factory support (i.e you can get parts from honda or suzuki).

    The CB550 has all these attributes. The 16V gs750 has some but not all - there isn't a lot of aftermarket support, and the factory support, while still strong, is less than the 550. Also, by the time the 16V zook was out racing had mostly moved on to 1000 and 1100 machines so....there isn't a lot of source material for prepping them for performance riding.

    you don't need to "flat foot" either machine, just be on the ball of your foot and not your tip toes. with the GS750, it's a heavy, and esp top heavy bike, so you'll want to know you can hold it up.
    Last edited by Geeto67; 07-09-2019 at 07:38 AM.
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  6. #5
    Ews
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    Lots of support for CB's here.

    From what I've seen CB's are the most popular to Cafe, due largely to the things Geeto listed above. Which is great, downside is I have seen the CB's fetch a hefty price compared to other bikes of similar age/size. If you can score the CB550 for a reasonable price, go for that, better looking than the GS IMO.

    My best advice I can give for a first Cafe project, make sure you don't get into something that will end up being more money/effort/headache than you are willing to deal with. I personally know a lot of people who got a project bike only to give up half way through because they were in over their head.

    As long as you know what your getting into and are ready, then have fun with what ever you get. You will find a lot of good information here, as long as you follow the golden rule: Function over Form (that means it's more important to have a bike that is safe and road legal than it is to have something you'd see on sites like Pipeburn).
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  7. #6
    Ews
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geeto67 View Post

    Also the GS750 is the size of a freight train. All the 80's superbikes are

    At 6'2" and 190lbs, maybe that's why I prefer the 80's bikes like mine.
    Dream as if you live forever, Live as if you die today.~ James Dean

    I feel the need, the need for speed.~ Mavrick (Tom Cruise before he was a big ol' bag of crazy)

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