Building my first bike: A CB350?
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Building my first bike: A CB350?

This is a discussion on Building my first bike: A CB350? within the Project Builds forums, part of the Caferacer.net Forums category; This is my first (and quite a long) post, but bear with me here, I do have a couple of questions towards the bottom that ...

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  1. #1
    Meekle's Avatar
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    Building my first bike: A CB350?

    This is my first (and quite a long) post, but bear with me here, I do have a couple of questions towards the bottom that I could really use a hand answering.

    Ok, So... I learned to ride in Taiwan a couple of years ago* and fell in love with it. I mean- really, it suddenly made transportation fun (and slightly terrifying with their traffic, but that was just an adventure)! And it was really just the only sane way to travel, so I got back and screwed around for a year or so, and then finally got my license last Fall... then winter hit... in Minnesota. So no riding for me, didn't bother mucking around looking for a bike or anything either.

    Cut to: I move to Portland, spring arrives, and damnit, it's time to get a bike! So I take a look around and realize- I hate most of the bikes they have here! They're big and unwieldy and they don't have that quick, zippy response and control that I had learned to love in Taiwan. Most of them are modeled after choppers or crotch rockets. Then finally I discover this small hardcore band of cafe racers- huzzah! This is exactly the type of bike I've been looking for... and it went out of style decades ago... shit. That leaves me with either parts bikes, that someone's apparently been dragging through the dirt and filling with gunk since the 70s, or these pristine, vintage bikes that everyone wants an arm and a leg for... Well then, the obvious solution is: Make my own!

    Don't ask me why this is the obvious solution, but it is... I think. Maybe. Or maybe I'm insane. My mechanical experience is limited to preflighting airplane engines, doing some routine maintenance on them, and flooding lawnmower motors. Oh, and jerryrigging the carts that pull those baggage trains at the airport so that the governor is disabled and I can get a lot more power (and people can actually get their bags). So... obviously building a Motorcycle is the way to go. I mean, at least I'll sort of know what the hell goes wrong with it later when it blows up. And I'm thinking of doing the Mongol Rally next year on a bike and being able to understand and do maintenance may be crucial for making the 10,000 mile trek... but hey- best way to learn to swim is just to jump in, right? errr... yeah, anyway.

    So I think mainly because I'm a cheap bastard, and it was the most produced bike in America, so it shouldn't be too hard to get parts for, and they're cool, and it's about the size I want, etc, I decided that I was going to build a CB350... or something in that family. Now, you have to realize- I wasn't born until after they stopped producing these things, so I really don't care if it's vintage from this year or another year or so on or so forth, I just want it to run. And be cafe racer. And it would be an added bonus if I could make it look cool too. So I'm looking around and there are, in fact, plenty of parts for these bikes laying around on ebay, and I'm sure at some of the salvage places - to the guy in Seattle complaining about no cycle salvage places around in some other post- I know it's a ways, but there are two of them that I know of so far in Portland, and I've only had my eyes open for a day or so, so there may be even more if you want to diddybop on down here to take a look.

    But I'm confused on some things- I read that for the most part, the bike was changed pretty much only aesthetically from year to year, yet all of the listings for CB350 frames specify what year they're from... as do many of the other parts... and I was looking at one site that listed parts, and some years would have the same product number, for a part, but other years wouldn't, and so on and so forth... So... does it matter? I mean, I guess I'm just assuming the frame is the best place to start- but, I mean, if I get a CB350 frame from 1969 and a CB350 engine from '72... are they going to not work together? Are there some years that things work together and some years that the parts are just incompatible? And it sounds like CL350 parts fit on the CB? And I'm just confused a tid bit, but I'll get over it soon... The big question is, if years do matter- does anyone have a suggestion as to which year to look for? IE- not which year had the coolest bike, but which year had the sort of most universal parts, which year would be the easiest to find the parts for? Which years would be least compatible with each other? I mean, I'm basically trying to make a Frankencycle, probably based around a CB350, on a budget... the more different parts that are incorporated... well, unless it makes it way to complicated, hey, why not? So- does it matter what year I build it from at all, what year it's heart (or frame, or engine) is from, or is it all pretty much the same? And if that does have an effect, what year would y'all recommend for being the most universal/ being the easiest one to get parts for?

    So yeah, that was a really long post, and obviously I'm new here, but bear with me, and I would most appreciate any answers or suggestions that you might have. Thanks for reading this.
    Ta,
    Michael


    *(Long story, but trust me- lying to the rental guy about your experience and then taking a bike out into the traffic of Taipei for the first time... my whole theory on- It can't be much harder than riding a bike, that just pedals itself -was shredded abruptly instantly... probably not the wisest decision I've ever made. Oh, and I had a passenger on the back. And all of our belongings for a month long trip. And my chinese sucks so I can't read street signs. And it Taipei you are EXPECTED to whip between cars, at breakneck speed to keep the traffic flowing. Even when traffic is already flowing. Fast. And if you aren't constantly swerving around cars and putting the bike in the tightest places possible, at top speed, you get yelled at by drivers and other cyclists (during rush hour, stopped at a stoplight, it wouldn't be uncommon to see 40 or more totally unrelated motorbikes or mopeds at a time, and they all swarmed through and around the rest of the traffic) and ran a much greater chance of getting hit by someone who assumed you were going to be zipping through some other hole in the traffic rather than staying in the one you were in. I mean, they have big sections at the front of every intersection that the motorcycles and mopeds are supposed to all gather at, ahead of the cars, before the light turns green again... So a different sort of dodge'em driving than we have here... Probably not the best way to learn to ride a motorcycle, but I will say this- the learning curve may be more of a cliff out there, but when I did come back to get my US motorcycle license, I was the only one in the class that seemed completely nonplussed by weaving through obstacles at high speeds and slamming on the brakes to stop on a dime.)

  2. #2
    chrisf's Avatar
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    Hi michael:

    I built a 350 and a 360 and like the 360 much better. Mind you, I'm going to be doing a huge tune-up on the 350 this week, but the 360 feels like a much stronger motor. I also think the 360 has a better made frame, though I like the riding position and lightness of the 350 better. If I were building another cafe today, I'd build an RD-series Yamaha or a cb450. If I could not find one of those on my price range, I'd go with a 360.

    I spent $500 on the 350 and $200 on the 360. So these things are cheap.

    --Chris

  3. #3
    Senior Member krapfever's Avatar
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    Nice back story and welcome to the forum. (To think, a lot of new members get flamed for simply not filling out their bio).

    Yeah, 350's rule. My first bike was a 71/70/69/?? Franken-350 I bought ten years ago. I've beeen through a half a dozen other bikes (both new and old) but the 350 will NEVER leave my stable.

    Yes, MANY parts are completely interchangeable from year to year. Some parts require minor mods. Any year or model has its advantages, i.e. '72 and later came with a disc brake (of questionable value, true, but a stock drum setup can be downright greasy in panic stops), first generation Type I ('68 - '69) 350's had mildly hotter motors, so they're a little bit harder to find, the SL350 has a different frame with some geometry advantages and a very similar engine (but it is a little harder bike to find), etc.

    Just find a runner of any year (avoid the 350G -- its a dog) and dig in. It doesn't have to be perfect. Parts are thankfully still plentiful (even those parts that have rarely withstood the test of time, read: stock exhaust cans or stock seats -- but who wants either of those anyway?) and there is a vibrant aftermarket for 350 replacement parts.

    I'm gonna stay out of the 360 vs. 350 debate. You could probably guess my preference anyway.

    One other thing: Avoid the temptation of jumping on the first CB550 or CB750 you come across on Craigslist. They're great bikes, but they're a bit more complex than a 350. Keep it a cheap little twin at this point. Other good, simple, cheap twin models from the 70's:

    Kawasaki: KZ400, KH400

    Suzuki: GS400, GS450, GT185, GT380, T350, T500

    Yamaha: RD Anything, XS650

    Honda: CB450

    There are certainly other models out there; these are just the easiest "cafe" candidates in my opinion.

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  5. #4
    Meekle's Avatar
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    Hmm... I just talked to a guy who's selling a Yamaha 1981 XJ650 for $400 that still runs well, and is flexible on the price. I can't tell exactly where the pegs are on this thing by looking at the pictures of them on the internet... does anyone know if this would make the conversion to cafe racer well, or whether it's too much of a laid back, cruiser style?

  6. #5
    Senior Member krapfever's Avatar
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    and fill in your damn bio!!!!

  7. #6
    Senior Member krapfever's Avatar
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    An XJ seca or maxim?

    Seca would be easier to cafe, I guess...depends on your taste.

    Seriously, though, think twin.

  8. #7
    Meekle's Avatar
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    The guy didn't even know that it was an XJ... he just knew it was a yamaha 1981 650 and it was a 4 cylinder rather than a twin. I looked it up, and the XJ was the only 4 cylinder 650 they made that year. I'm going to go look at it tomorrow. Might take a tour of the salvage yards today.

  9. #8
    Meekle's Avatar
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    also, since I'm obviously a newb at all of this- what is the advantage of twin?

  10. #9
    Senior Member BANDIT's Avatar
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    ...basically, 1/2 the cylinders, 1/2 the moving parts, 1/2 the headaches, 1/2 the cost. Do you see a pattern emerging?
    Just 1/2 the stuff to work on, compared to the 4 bangers.
    If you beat me all you have done is beaten an old fat guy. But If I beat you then you have been beaten by an old fat guy!

  11. #10
    Senior Member OC Steve's Avatar
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    quote:Originally posted by Meekle


    I hate most of the bikes they have here! Most of them are modeled after choppers or crotch rockets.

    . . .

    Then finally I discover this small hardcore band of cafe racers


    . . .


    Well then, the obvious solution is: Make my own!

    . . .

    Or maybe I'm insane.

    . . .

    I'm a cheap bastard.

    . . .

    I'm confused on some things-
    Michael, you are going to fit right in here.

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