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· Premium Member
1,670 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Posting here: If you have a good tutorial on something post it with the description in the title. I'll delete any other posts. If you have questions, post them in the General and Technical sections.


Greetings! Like many others, you've come to because it's the best damn vintage cafe site on the net. Yes, that's right. Accept no substitutes.

There are a number of questions that are very commonly asked by every new guy through the door, and it makes the resident "experts" pissed off to re-answer them for everyone, every time. Plus, if you ask one of those questions , you can be sure of ridicule and embarrassment. That "Search" button sure is hard to find!

Thanks to Borzwazie for this list. These pages will mainly be updated by our members so give thanks to the wealth of knowledge at your disposal.

Without further ado, here is a list of commonly asked questions, and answers:


** Q - What's the best kind of bike to buy?

** A - One that runs, has a title, everything works, and doesn't cost too much. No, seriously. These things are your primary concern. Even "free" bikes don't end up being free in the long run.

The next consideration is the make/model. It would take a lot of work to turn a GoldWing into a cafe racer, but with enough money, you can do anything. How fast do you want to spend?

Vintage bikes like the Honda CB/CL series, and the Yamaha XS series are common, easy to find parts for, and can be picked up pretty cheaply, even in running condition. This is *NOT* a limiting list, there are hundreds of bikes that make good cafe bikes, but these bikes are a great starting point.


** Q - What sort of things do I need to get started on a project bike?

** A - You're going to need, at minimum, the following:

* A complete set of sockets and wrenches that will fit your bike
* A factory manual/Clymer's guide for your bike (factory manual preferred!)
* Money. Lots of it. If you've got a beater that doesn't run, expect to sink several hundred into it just to get it roadworthy. You're not going to do this for $50 bucks. But hey, it's lots cheaper than custom cars!
* Carburetor cleaner. Lots of it.
* Wire and plastic bristle brushes. Old toothbrushes work great! Just don't re-use them on your teeth later.
* A bucket for fluid/oil changes
* Enough engine oil for two full oil changes.
* Brake fluid (if you have hydraulic brakes)
* A bench grinder/wire brush (old bikes have lots of rust...)
* A safe, well-ventilated place to work with good lighting! Living rooms not recommended for the married among you.
* The ability to type your bike model and year into a search engine like google, and to read the results. You'll do a *lot* of this. Online microfiches are also extremely useful.
* Research. Are parts for your bike easily available? Are they affordable? Do other bikes use the same parts?


** Q - I just bought a bike for $XXX, is that a good deal?

** A - That's hard to say, and the wrong time to ask the question. A general ruleset *PRIOR* to any bike purchase is as follows:

* Does the bike run?

* If the bike does not run, does it "turn over" (are you able to spin the crank, via starter button or kickstarter?)

* Is the bike generally complete? What parts are missing?

* Does the bike have a title?

* If the bike does not have a title, have you checked the VIN to make *very* sure the bike isn't stolen? Police departments and your local state reps may do this for you.

* What kind of shape does the bike appear to be in? I.e.:
** Do the forks leak fluid?
** Are the rear shocks working?
** Do the brakes work?
** Does the bike appear to shift gears?
** Are the tires in good shape? (not dry-rotted, bald, flat, etc)
** Is the tank rusting inside? (very important!)
** Is the exhaust rusted through? (very common on barn bikes)
** Does the bike have good cylinder compression (buy a compression gauge *before* you buy a bike!)
** Does the wiring appear to be sound/complete?
** Do the lights and controls (turn signals, horn, etc) work?
** Does the bike have the ignition key?
** Do the speedometer and tachometer work?
** Do the wheels/forks/levers exhibit excess play? Are the bearings in good shape?

And, most importantly, do you know what all these things are?


** Q - Ok, the bike I bought/am buying/want to buy is in bad shape. Should I still buy it?

** A - That totally depends on you. It's pretty easy to find running bikes for less than $500 dollars. If you're being asked for more than $100 dollars for a non-running bike, consider the following:
* It's a rare bike you intend to restore completely that will be worth thousands when complete
* It's a rare bike with lots of valuable parts that would cost you hundreds of dollars separately
* It comes with a *lot* of spare parts in good condition
* You have already done a project like this before (unlikely)
* You have a lot of money to set fire to


** Q - Ok, the bike I bought/am buying/want to buy is in good shape. Now what?

** A - Well, this is pretty much up to you. Do you know what you want to do with the bike? If you're here at, the odds are good you're looking at making a cafe racer out of the bike. If you're not picky, a very simple start to any project bike might be:
* Exhaust system
* Different/lower handlebars (clipons, clubmans, drag bars, etc)
* Tires
* Different air filters

More complex projects might include things like:
* New bodywork (tank, fenders, seats)
* New electrical system/lighting (turn signals, headlight, hidden wiring, etc)

Even more complex projects might include things like:
* New footpegs/rearsets
* Frame modifications (rearset mounting, custom gas tank mounts)
* Engine modifications

Remember, the most important concern when you start any project is the engine - concentrate your efforts here, FIRST. A pretty bike that doesn't run is a useless lump of metal.


** Q - How do I get a title for my bike?

** A - The best way is to get one when you buy the bike. If your bike didn't come with a title, you *DID* run the VIN through a stolen vehicle search first, didn't you? It would suck to lose your bike after you bought it...

Assuming your bike is clean, there are a number of ways to title a bike, which vary by state. Some states allow you to simply show proof of purchase (bill of sale). Others have more strict requirements. There are services available online that will re-title your bike by "buying" the bike from you for a fee (usually $75 - $150 dollars), and then "selling" the bike back to you. The bike never changes hands, just the VIN and a bill of sale.

You can also get salvage titles if you're building a bike out of parts, but the laws for these vary widely by state. Check with your state's department of transportation for more info.


** Q - What kind of tires should I get?

** A - Good ones. Good tires aren't cheap, but they're worth every penny. Start by looking at Avon and Bridgestone, but there are lots of great tires out there. If your bike's tires are several years old, replace them before you ever ride the bike. Bad tires can get you killed.


** Q - What parts should I replace?

** A - It all depends on the condition of your bike, but there are some common things that you need to check, *FIRST*, before you put your bike on the road:

* Tires
* Chain
* Brake Master cylinder and caliper piston seals (for bikes with hydraulic brakes)
* Engine and carburetor gaskets and seals (Carburetor rebuild kits are highly recommended!)
* Front and rear sprockets
* Fork seals and fork oil
* Wheel bearing seals
* Throttle, brake and clutch cables (inspect these carefully for frayed cables!)
* Wheel, fork and suspension bearings and bushings
* Hoses/brake lines
* Lightbulbs
* Speedometer/tachometer cables
* Battery


** Q - Clubmans or clipons?

** A - Whatever you like, just don't ask Geeto.

In all seriousness, clubmans are cheaper, and probably easier to install. However, clubman bars will hit the gas tank on many bikes, causing dents and pinched fingers. Research to see if they fit your bike first. Adjustable clubmans can also be found, but for the price, you might be better off with clipons.

Keep in mind that if you move from the stock bars to something low like clipons or clubmans, that the original footpegs will probably be very uncomfortable to use, and may need relocated. This can mean things like frame welding and metal fabrication, so if you're not up to this, consider drag bars.

You can mount clipons above the triple tree by sliding the forks up, but this will change the rake and trail of your bike, and make the handling much different. Research first!


· Banned
6,272 Posts
Here is some more free advice for the beginner.

1. Make sure you have plenty of room to work on your bike and for storage.

2. Since you have plenty of room get a parts bike or two. You will need the parts and having a spare running motor is a good idea. Check through the threads here and you will see plenty of members here who had a running cafe bike until it spit a shim or melted a piston.

3. Get a spare set of carbs cleaned and adjusted all ready to go.

4. Either find or start a motorcycle boneyard so you can find parts from other models that will improve your bike. Cafe racers are bitsas.


Vintage racing - old guys on old bikes

· Premium Member
10,189 Posts
Please Fill out your Bio/Profile....minimally you should give your real FIRST NAME, and the CITY/TOWN and STATE/COUNTY/TERRITORY where you currently live. This is an active motorcycle community. We are here to support each other...and no better way is to realize that a member here you like is the next town over. Welcome to the board!



· Premium Member
10,189 Posts
Please Fill out your Bio/Profile....minimally you should give your real FIRST NAME, and the CITY/TOWN and STATE/COUNTY/TERRITORY where you currently live. This is an active motorcycle community. We are here to support each other...and no better way is to realize that a member here you like is the next town over. Welcome to the board!



· Registered
10 Posts
Hi Guys, My name is Bang and I'm pretty new to motorcycle community and also the forum community so I apologize if I wasn't suppose to reply to this. but I had a bike that my Dad wrecked and now I'm without a bike. I'm thinking of building one from the frame up but, I have little experience with bike building and would very much like some help. Please message me if you're willing to help a beginner! Thanks!
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