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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 And even though the handling was superior for the time, it's long-out-of-date chassis technology today.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.
 

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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.
 

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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.
 

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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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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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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.
yeah bc the dohc cb900f's and 1100r's, gs1000's, and gsx's were ugly jap 80s cruiser bikes... Cxs are a really shitty bike to get all defensive about.
 

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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.
If a cx500 is so well designed then why do you have to pull the engine and split the case to do a water pump or a stator? Name another bike that that is necessary. Or how about having to pull the engine on a cb750 to do anything beyond a vave adjustment? Since when are distortion prone torsion bar valve springs good design? And if cbs are so well designed, how come all the small ones have top end oiling issues?

all those sources you spewed, bikeEXIF, cafe racer TV, etc.... Yeah those aren't anybody whose opinion I would trust as to a "good" bike. All they know is a pretty bike. Tht cx500 you keep posting a picture of is a prime example of functional failure.
 

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That CX is incongrous. Bottom of tank is not level, a major faux pas in my provincial book of moto aesthetics. AND, it has nothing to do with an early 60's Honda, which is what it's weird tank is implying. The potential is just not there. Design potential, nor any form of pedigree, so to speak. Hipster bandwagoneers don't have any context for the proper bike. They think 1980 is vintage. Starting to ramble...

NE
 

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And, just EWWW! It's like staring at a hare lip.

NE
 

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The only reason people bother using CX's and CM's as cafe platforms is they are cheap. That's all.

CX500 is still the only bike I have been offered for free that I refused to take. Still don't regret that decision.
 

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Since moving to NYC I've seen in person a good bunch of motorcycles that feature on sites like bikexif, and dare I say it, the abortion that is pipeburn. Most, if not all (and I'm not even remotely kidding), do. Not. Run.

This has been over 8 motorcycles that people fap to.

But fuck this.

At some point in history a cb350 was mad advanced. But we as a species (brilliantly so) look for the faults. We improve things. Progress progresses. So I totally subscribe to the school of tinkering in this regard. Bultaco? Is it running and riding? Fucking awesome. Have fun. Don't see many look at me types sporting beards and flannel pumping around on Spain's finest.

Is it a Honda 750/4? Riding it further than 30mph surface roads? Sick balls. Go for it.

A 20's scott is on my list. Why? Cause it's bad ass and it fascinates me.

Ah. Now to look into why XL350's cam chains smashing through barrels laterally.
 

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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?
The CX500 reminds me of a fat chick in a bikini.

And, quite frankly, the "Ton Up Pirate" sticker doesn't help.

I like sleek, sexy. Something that looks fast. Something you can walk into the garage everyday, look at it, and say wow.
 
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