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Hello fellow Cafe Racer fans,

My name is Dana and I currently reside in Minnesota. I have been a motorcycle and car enthusiast for as long as I can remember and now - at the age of 28 - I am preparing to buy my first motorcycle. Not only that, but whichever bike I purchase, I will slowly begin the process of converting to a Cafe Racer. I enjoy sport bikes, as well, but would like my first bike to be something that I create. The bike will only be used for short rides - to and from work - which is about 4 miles round-trip.

I am currently considering the following models:

1. Honda CB 450-550
2. Suzuki GS 450-550
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̶4̶.̶ ̶K̶a̶w̶a̶s̶a̶k̶i̶ ̶K̶Z̶4̶4̶0̶-̶6̶5̶0̶

I have read on previous builder blogs that the Yamaha Series and the Kawasaki KZ440 are harder to find parts for and work on, which is why they are my lower two choices...or not a choice at all, really. I was highly leanings towards a CB500, but have found that they are hard to find in MN at a decent price and condition. They are either in very bad shape/requiring lots of work, or above the budget I have allowed myself - which is $1,000-$1,500 for the donor bike before upgrades.

This has lead me to start further researching the Suzuki GS 550. I like that it has a slightly higher fuel capacity and that it is essentially the same engine power as the CB500. I also appreciate that both models would be chain fed instead of shaft. The only information I have yet to be able to confirm would be the difference between the shocks. The CB500 specs I have found state that the bike comes with "Double Hydraulic Shocks" vs the GS 500's "Twin Shocks". I know that when either bike I will need to change the shocks but I would still like to learn more about the differences and if they are interchangeable for the type I.E. can I put Hydraulic shocks on the GS if I found those were the best for my riding conditions, style, etc.

Thanks for reading!
Dana
 

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Greetings from the UK, Dana.
Hope you are enjoying your search. I have a Kawasaki ER500 that I'm getting ready to play with. Like you, I have a short commute and it's perfect for that. Hope you have as much fun as I am.

As for the cold weather.... this summer has been amazing here in the UK but now (like most of the time) it's wet and cold. All year round.... Good tyres are the first thing on the shopping list, good brakes and definitely mudguards...sorry, fenders....
Enjoy and welcome from another newbie :)
 

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I have read on previous builder blogs that the Yamaha Series and the Kawasaki KZ440 are harder to find parts for and work on, which is why they are my lower two choices...or not a choice at all, really. I was highly leanings towards a CB500, but have found that they are hard to find in MN at a decent price and condition. They are either in very bad shape/requiring lots of work, or above the budget I have allowed myself - which is $1,000-$1,500 for the donor bike before upgrades.
Welcome Dana

The older CBs are commanding more $$. So many were thrown into the "cafe wood chipper" that fewer and fewer good examples are still around. Also...depending on what your definition of a cafe bike is and what your skill sets are....most anything will do.

Ironically my son who is one year older than you would like a cool, classic cafe bike. But hes way smarter than I was at 29..... in that he wants to get the Indian Scout because it has classic lines, modern technology (fuel injection) and he would rather ride and ride a reliable machine with a warranty rather than wrench on a clunker and risk his life. Whatever.
 

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Dana you need to by a running bike and learn to ride, do maintenance and learn why the systems are designed as they are.

" "Double Hydraulic Shocks" vs the GS 500's "Twin Shocks" I know that when either bike I will need to change the shocks but I would still like to learn more about the differences and if they are interchangeable for the type." This is a great indication that you are not really ready to "create" something that will be ridden. If you can find a clean, decent running, roadworthy, middle weight, for your $1000, buy it and ride. Find out what you like and don't about it. Most of the bikes that are "cafe racers" are horribly built and would be atrocious to ride.
 

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Hey Dana, those are really big bikes for a first bike unless you are a really big person or have some previous riding experience.

Things to consider; one cylinder bike is easy to work on, everything else is exponentially more complex and costly to learn to service, maintain or modify.
A chain drive anything Inside your engine is a high maintenance item, a rubber belt drive anything inside your engine is also a high maintenance item.
KZ440, is that the one with the chain drive primary, chain drive valves, chain drive starter motor and chain drive anti-vibration balancer, but all the sprockets are machined into the crankshaft?
2 or more carburetors require balancing, 1 carburetor :| well it's just 1 carburetor, it works good or it don't. CV (vacuum controlled) carburetors suck if you don't plan to leave the motorcycle completely stock. If you live in a cold season climate area, you are going to need to be cleaning the carburetors sooner or later.

Budget: lol up here you would need several times your donor budget over to insure the thing for one year. You live in USA where there are no bikes available cheap but insurance is; no problem, shop in Canada, we can't afford to ride them up here because we simply can not afford the insurance, your dollar is still pretty bloated right now, plus I hear we just shook hands on some kind of USMCA thing that I'm guessing works out pretty well for you.
 

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I've got a GS850 and I love it, its a heavy bike, and shaft drive, however I'm sure the 450/550 are much lighter and chain drive. It is my first bike too, and has been great for teaching me how to ride and how to work on it. But having seen a bunch of CB's it has me kicking myself a bit for not going honda, it seems they have a lot more aftermarket support, and I think they look a bit better
 
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