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Discussion Starter #1
Hello, as you can tell my name is Gary Oak and I am an aspiring rider/hobbyist for cafe racers. I rode a little bit when I was younger but I got into cars and went that route. A couple years ago the Honda NM4 came out and I was thinking it was a cool bike, but it wasn't enough to get me into motorcycles physically. My favorite bikes to look at were the old Indian bikes. Those things always had something that was cool to me. Anyways, I recently got to talking with a friend about cafe racers. I've been going around the internet and from what I have seen there are a lot of options for building a cafe racer. One of the prominent bikes I saw was a Yamaha SR400. It looks great, seems to be a good start. I've also seen Honda XS650's being thrown around for older bikes. Lastly, I've also seen Honda CB350's as somewhat common... I know there are more but these are just what I've seen the most of. It will be my first bike, so I am assuming you'll suggest that I get something cheap and used. Since the SR400 is something I'd most likely by new should I stay away from it?

I don't really care too much about top end speed. I'll be driving it around the city and on highways sometimes. I might even try to go for a long cruise (1000+ miles) but I don't know how comfortable it would be. I am just looking for some advice. I saw a video for Cleveland CycleWerks where it's a company from Cleveland that designs their bikes but has them manufactured in China then they ship em to the dealer. Seeing as they're Chinese, I would normally stay away. They have new bikes for 3500$ so I was curious if it's even worth spending that amount cash on a bike that's essentially finished for a beginner.

Any help or advice on what to do would be greatly appreciated!
 

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First bike, right?

Purchase something that:
Is in one piece
Has a title
Runs
Is servicable.

Resist anything that tempts you to immediately tear it apart to make it "better".

Learn how to ride the wheels off it.

Make known improvements to it in handling and stopping and avoid the popular fashion statements of the day.

That said, since it is a current model and has been since 1978, the SR400 would be a fine choice, once you "master" the starting ritual. There is a huge knowledge base here and out there on the interweb. Nice thing is, you can pick one up for not a hell of a lot more than one of the current "in" bikes (once you factor in what it'll take to really do them right.

You want a reliable bike for that 1000 mile cruise, right?
 

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"company from Cleveland that designs their bikes but has them manufactured in China"

should read: Cleveland based company that sells bikes made from cheap off the shelf China manufactured parts.


… you could do it too if you don't mind buying China motors and bike parts by the container load.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
First bike, right?

Purchase something that:
Is in one piece
Has a title
Runs
Is servicable.

Resist anything that tempts you to immediately tear it apart to make it "better".

Learn how to ride the wheels off it.

Make known improvements to it in handling and stopping and avoid the popular fashion statements of the day.

That said, since it is a current model and has been since 1978, the SR400 would be a fine choice, once you "master" the starting ritual. There is a huge knowledge base here and out there on the interweb. Nice thing is, you can pick one up for not a hell of a lot more than one of the current "in" bikes (once you factor in what it'll take to really do them right.

You want a reliable bike for that 1000 mile cruise, right?
Correct! Thank you for the reply!

I'd stay away from the Honda XS650, since they didn't make one.
Lol, I'm sorry it was late and I made the post before bed without proof reading it. You're right :p

"company from Cleveland that designs their bikes but has them manufactured in China"

should read: Cleveland based company that sells bikes made from cheap off the shelf China manufactured parts.


… you could do it too if you don't mind buying China motors and bike parts by the container load.
I just don't know manufacturing standards when it comes to bikes. That's the whole reason I asked. Didn't sound good to begin with but I guess it's as I initially thought.
 

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They have new bikes for 3500$ so I was curious if it's even worth spending that amount cash on a bike that's essentially finished for a beginner.
This is dumb logic. First off what CCW sells is a new bike. If you are looking at a new bike the question is no longer what's the value of a used bike but what is the best value for the money I am going to spend. the CW misfit is an ok bargain bike but you get what you pay for. It makes more sense to spend $10K for a brand new bonneville plus accessories, or $6K for a Royal Enfield continental with accesories because you get more useable motorcycle plus a dealer network. Basically the more you spend the more value you get so it is not worth it to spend $3500 when $10K will get you a heck of a lot more value for your money. Ca va? good.

Now, no offense to your friend but he doesn't know shit about cafe racers. It's no big deal, since most people don't. The guys who do wouldn't steer you to Japanese cheap bikes - they would steer you to italian, european, and british because those are bikes where in the used market you get a lot more for your money, but you have to spend more initially. The only advantage to a generic Japanese bike is that is is so plentiful as to be cheap for those who look at this hobby as nothing but a low budget thing. There are some good Japanese bikes but like anything they have appreciated as well and you aren't going to find one as cheap as some other models.

but let's stop you right there....what do you really want to do? In one sentence describe it.

If you want to ride forget cafe racers and learn to ride. Get a standard reliable cheap bike and find out if you like riding. There really isn't a point to "building" a custom motorcycle unless you are going to use it as a motorcycle. But there is a larger lesson here and that is how are you going to know if you are doing a good job with your bike project if you don't know what you like about riding and your preferences for setup, etc...

If you just want to apply your "car" skills to a two wheeled vehicle I caution you - they don't directly translate. I mean a weld is a weld and all that but motorcycles operate along more axis than cars do and changes affect things differently. Again I point you back to learning to ride because the more you do it the more you understand it.

So basically, get a license, get a cheap modern-ish bike, get some proper modern gear, and learn not to be killed by an inattentive motorist on a cell phone. Once you have mastered that, we will talk about your "custom bike".
 

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Discussion Starter #7
This is dumb logic. First off what CCW sells is a new bike. If you are looking at a new bike the question is no longer what's the value of a used bike but what is the best value for the money I am going to spend. the CW misfit is an ok bargain bike but you get what you pay for. It makes more sense to spend $10K for a brand new bonneville plus accessories, or $6K for a Royal Enfield continental with accesories because you get more useable motorcycle plus a dealer network. Basically the more you spend the more value you get so it is not worth it to spend $3500 when $10K will get you a heck of a lot more value for your money. Ca va? good.

Now, no offense to your friend but he doesn't know shit about cafe racers. It's no big deal, since most people don't. The guys who do wouldn't steer you to Japanese cheap bikes - they would steer you to italian, european, and british because those are bikes where in the used market you get a lot more for your money, but you have to spend more initially. The only advantage to a generic Japanese bike is that is is so plentiful as to be cheap for those who look at this hobby as nothing but a low budget thing. There are some good Japanese bikes but like anything they have appreciated as well and you aren't going to find one as cheap as some other models.

but let's stop you right there....what do you really want to do? In one sentence describe it.

If you want to ride forget cafe racers and learn to ride. Get a standard reliable cheap bike and find out if you like riding. There really isn't a point to "building" a custom motorcycle unless you are going to use it as a motorcycle. But there is a larger lesson here and that is how are you going to know if you are doing a good job with your bike project if you don't know what you like about riding and your preferences for setup, etc...

If you just want to apply your "car" skills to a two wheeled vehicle I caution you - they don't directly translate. I mean a weld is a weld and all that but motorcycles operate along more axis than cars do and changes affect things differently. Again I point you back to learning to ride because the more you do it the more you understand it.

So basically, get a license, get a cheap modern-ish bike, get some proper modern gear, and learn not to be killed by an inattentive motorist on a cell phone. Once you have mastered that, we will talk about your "custom bike".
In one sentence? I want a bike that I can learn to ride and learn to work on so later I can modify it into a cafe racer.

I'm not going to pretend that this entry level bike is going to be my end all be all for my bike purchases. I understand that I don't need it to be a cafe bike up front.

The reason I looked into Japanese was because I saw more Honda's and Yamaha's being converted with a relatively cheap entry cost and much like cars it seems like there were plenty of parts around.The BMW's cost more up front from what I've seen. If you have any suggestions for me I'd be open to it. That's why I made the thread. I need help because with the wealth of information that I am getting doesn't seem to be sufficient. I've checked Reddit and searched this and other motorcycle forums but I must not be searching right because I'm obviously not getting the information.

As for logic, coming from cars there are good cars for lesser value. I assume it's the same with bikes. If I am wrong, again that's fine. I just need the information.
 

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The information is inside you. You need to please yourself and what we like, you might not. Your best bet though, is to let go of the notion of "building" a cafe racer. Your second best bet is not to purchase a bike manufactured in a time that the manufacturers no longer support the units with OEM parts.

If you can't fix what's broke, you can't ride it. If you can't ride it, you can't learn to operate it within reasonable safety parameters. If you can't operate a standard motorcycle within reasonable safety standards, riding a "modified" (not necessarily improved) motorcycle with poorer ergonomics and resulting sight lines turns you into a danger to yourself and others around you.

Not sure you mentioned having much saddle time. Do yourself a favor. Go find and take a MSF beginner rider safety course. It'll open your eyes to your level of skill and proficiency. Then purchase a normal standard bike with fairly modern gear. Then purchase the best possible riding gear you can afford.

Then ride the piss out of what ever that is, all the while thinking about what the bike does while under your control. Then research, ask questions, find a shop near you that knows their shit and hang out with them. As much as they will tolerate you. Forget about making it faster. Work on making it turn and stop. 99% of all bikes made in the last 25 years are faster than 99% of us can ride them.

...and no matter what, NEVER LOWER YOUR BIKE THINKING IT'LL HANDLE BETTER!

Learn learn learn. Never stop learning.

Carry on
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Learn to ride on one of these below. Browse this site for which bikes are good canvases with which to begin. Only then, start to design your bike.

Great bikes on which to learn to ride:

http://portland.craigslist.org/wsc/mcy/5166536100.html
Maybe $500 overpriced

http://portland.craigslist.org/clc/mcy/5166389606.html
I'd buy this myself if it weren't 3000 miles away

http://portland.craigslist.org/mlt/mcy/5166274782.html
HERE'S YOUR TICKET
A very strong thank you for those recommendations!

The information is inside you. You need to please yourself and what we like, you might not. Your best bet though, is to let go of the notion of "building" a cafe racer. Your second best bet is not to purchase a bike manufactured in a time that the manufacturers no longer support the units with OEM parts.

If you can't fix what's broke, you can't ride it. If you can't ride it, you can't learn to operate it within reasonable safety parameters. If you can't operate a standard motorcycle within reasonable safety standards, riding a "modified" (not necessarily improved) motorcycle with poorer ergonomics and resulting sight lines turns you into a danger to yourself and others around you.

Not sure you mentioned having much saddle time. Do yourself a favor. Go find and take a MSF beginner rider safety course. It'll open your eyes to your level of skill and proficiency. Then purchase a normal standard bike with fairly modern gear. Then purchase the best possible riding gear you can afford.

Then ride the piss out of what ever that is, all the while thinking about what the bike does while under your control. Then research, ask questions, find a shop near you that knows their shit and hang out with them. As much as they will tolerate you. Forget about making it faster. Work on making it turn and stop. 99% of all bikes made in the last 25 years are faster than 99% of us can ride them.

...and no matter what, NEVER LOWER YOUR BIKE THINKING IT'LL HANDLE BETTER!

Learn learn learn. Never stop learning.

Carry on
I appreciate the advice on the safety course. I'll go check it out for sure. For the gear I was reading how important it is. I am definitely not going to skimp on gear at any point. I actually had a teach in highschool who didn't wear a helmet or jacket, he got into an accident and they had to surgically repair his face and put his skin back on the right side of his body. Gruesome stuff.

Thank you for the tips!
 

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In one sentence? I want a bike that I can learn to ride and learn to work on so later I can modify it into a cafe racer.
I want you to really look at that sentence and ask yourself "am I trying to do too much?" I mean I think you are if you do it in one purchase, but that is just me.

I'm not going to pretend that this entry level bike is going to be my end all be all for my bike purchases. I understand that I don't need it to be a cafe bike up front.
that is a pretty smart way to look at it. and even smarter way is to say, I don't need the initial bike I purchase to do it all either, and even smarter than that is I don't need to own just one bike.

The reason I looked into Japanese was because I saw more Honda's and Yamaha's being converted with a relatively cheap entry cost and much like cars it seems like there were plenty of parts around.The BMW's cost more up front from what I've seen. If you have any suggestions for me I'd be open to it. That's why I made the thread. I need help because with the wealth of information that I am getting doesn't seem to be sufficient. I've checked Reddit and searched this and other motorcycle forums but I must not be searching right because I'm obviously not getting the information
It only looks cheap because that is all that the people buying those types of bikes focus on. They talk about their purchase price blah blah blah and how much they cut corners yakity yakity but if they sat down and really figured it out, a one lump sum purchase for a nicer bike to start was actually the cheaper way to go. I want you to remember these points:

- In the used bike market you buy all of your previous owner's newly installed parts at a 75% discount and all their labor is free. The value is in the quality of the part and the work as the discount on price rarely changes.

- The cheaper the purchase price of a motorcycle the more expensive the restoration is going to be. The most expensive bike in the world is often the one you got for free. If you had to build a brand new motorcycle out of new parts bought - the cost would be a thousand times more than the nicest example selling anywhere.

- The most valuable part in any project bike is the ownership papers (title or transferable registration). Anything hard parts can be bought, legal status however can sometimes be a punch in the dick.

- with old bikes, residual value matters. If I buy a BMW airhead and I dump some money into it - as long as I do a good job I should be able to see some of it again on the back end. The same can be said for British and Italian machines. The Japanese bikes? not really. If you buy a $500 Honda 350 and dump $2500 into it making it custom, you may see at best $1500. There are just too damn many to be worth anything and the people that buy them only value them because they aren't the $3500-$6000 that a British 650 would be. You can get nice tonti framed moto Guzzis or airhead bmws for $3500 pretty easily, and they are a hell of a bike with a hell of a following which if you do nothing to you can pull your money out of later on or if you hang on to for a while will be worth more in the future. japanese junk will always be bottom of the barrel.

- If you can't identify what it is right away, don't know what it does, or don't trust it don't put your money or your dick in it.

As for logic, coming from cars there are good cars for lesser value. I assume it's the same with bikes. If I am wrong, again that's fine. I just need the information.
I don't know what you mean good cars for lesser value. Desire drives value in motorcycles and desire isn't just how good it looks but how easy it is to repair, how rare it is, how much parts support it has...etc... Here are some things about cars that don't apply to motocycles:

- Low mileage: this is the ultimate red herring because people will see a honda that has been sitting for 30 years with 3000 miles on it and think "there's nothing wrong with that once I get it running again". Truth is you can't fight entropy and when it comes to bikes I am going to ride it is always better to buy a "high mileage" example that has been regularly ridden and serviced than something that has been sitting for an age. Keep in mind "high mileage" in the bike community is often considered 30K miles and above which is barely broken in for a car (except for BMW motorcycles - high mileage starts at 150,000).

- frame mods: for some reason people will not cut the frames on their cars without a lot of careful measuring and a lot of research, but they will grab a sawsall and excise major structural sections out of their frame with out a second thought to chase a look. Don't buy modified Japanese bikes till you have some experience, there are way way way more rolling death traps than there are good well built bikes.

- Aftermarket: there aren't a lot of orphan cars that are 15 years old these days. But there are a lot of orphan motorcycles. What's an orphan? a bike without even basic parts support. Untill you can magically shit out perfect cnc machined parts, don't buy a bike that doesn't have parts support. You want a custom bike? buy one that has a great aftermarket support so you can get well tested racing parts to bolt on.
 

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If you ever question whether you should wear ATGATT, just go here and find the answer:

Motorcycle road rash

Those pics should be required viewing when you get your motorcycle permit. Made my ass pucker up, some made me nearly puke. It is a big pain to put on the boots, long pants, jacket, gloves and full face helmet, but not as much as having no face left......

That shot of the foot with all the skin and meat gone was horrid......never ride in sandals or sneakers!

ATGATT or at least most of the gear all the time.
 

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Just find yourself a not too beat up Honda Nighthawk 250 of recent vintage and ride the hell out of it for a while. It isn't retro, and it isn't old, it is kind of a timeless design. They hold their value because they are such great starter bikes. Learn to do the basic maintenance on it then sell it down the road to some other person just starting out. Don't modify it, just ride it.
 
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Take your local MSF class. I've taught it for 15 years and there is nothing better and you get to use THEIR bikes to learn - we use 250 Nighthawks in MD.
 
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first and foremost, you stated in your opening that you are looking at the SR400.. Great cafe potential , yet you wish to ride 1000 mile trips .. having owed the sr500 for decades I can tell you the SR's are not a 1000 mile trip motorcycle... for that you'd want a bigger and more comfortable bike. Yamahas Bolt would be the step up I'd go from the SR... Not knowing what you favor as to brands and your wanting to take trips, I'd look at the honda , yamaha and suzuki bikes as they have a large dealer organization's here in north america and you'd be able to get parts more readily while on the road ... my 2 cents anyway...
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Take your local MSF class. I've taught it for 15 years and there is nothing better and you get to use THEIR bikes to learn - we use 250 Nighthawks in MD.
I checked into it and this it looks fantastic.

first and foremost, you stated in your opening that you are looking at the SR400.. Great cafe potential , yet you wish to ride 1000 mile trips .. having owed the sr500 for decades I can tell you the SR's are not a 1000 mile trip motorcycle... for that you'd want a bigger and more comfortable bike. Yamahas Bolt would be the step up I'd go from the SR... Not knowing what you favor as to brands and your wanting to take trips, I'd look at the honda , yamaha and suzuki bikes as they have a large dealer organization's here in north america and you'd be able to get parts more readily while on the road ... my 2 cents anyway...
Thanks for the heads up on the long trips. That's kinda what I've been reading and seeing on the internet. Even though European bikes are great, it seems like Japanese bikes just have flat out better part availability and they seem to be much more reliable. I obviously don't know about reliability. From what I was seeing it just seems to be the best deal even if it's resale isn't as good. I'm not worry about resale value though.
 

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Thanks for the heads up on the long trips. That's kinda what I've been reading and seeing on the internet. Even though European bikes are great, it seems like Japanese bikes just have flat out better part availability and they seem to be much more reliable. I obviously don't know about reliability. From what I was seeing it just seems to be the best deal even if it's resale isn't as good. I'm not worry about resale value though.
You are generalizing and that is what is going to get you in trouble. SOME Japanese bikes have better parts availability, just as some Europeans and British bikes have good parts availability. Something like a Suzuki RE5 or a 1960's Honda dream have terrible parts availability and used spares are very costly. for years even semi-popular bikes now like the cb350F had no parts availability and really popular bikes like the GS750 have good service parts availability but very little aftermarket support for non-mechanical race parts.

As for reliable, that all depends on maintenance. airhead BMW's are considered very reliable but that's because they are easy to maintain and their owners have a reputation for being good about maintenance. Japanese bikes have a reputation of being reliable because when they were new their quality control was better than the British or the abut now Americans but now entropy has caught up with everyone and those "reliable" 1970's bikes really aren't any more reliable than any others from the same time period.

In terms of new bikes HD and Triumph have the best build quality of all the motorcycle brands, but the Japanese still have the engineering advantage. japanese bikes have always been disposable due to their engineering and pricing - they aren't meant to last forever.

Again if you are dead set on looking at old japanese bikes only look at the following:
- Honda SOHC cb750/550/400F/350F
- DOHC cb750F/900F/1100F
- CB450 twins from 1967-1974
- cb350 from 1968 -1973
- Kawasaki KZ900/1000
- Suzuki GS750
- Yamaha XS650
- RD350/400 (two stroke)

and that's about it. All of the above mentioned bikes are going to need brake and suspension upgrades out of the box just to keep up with a new rider in traffic. I would much rather you learn on a ninja 250/500/650 parallel twin, or an SV650, or a cbr250,etc...than one of those old nails but people can't always help their bad decision making.
 

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IS the next cliché going to be "I want an old Japanese bike because they are so simple"?
Love when I hear that when talking about an over head valve multi cylinder air cooled bike that makes 100hp/L
 

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Discussion Starter #20
You are generalizing and that is what is going to get you in trouble. SOME Japanese bikes have better parts availability, just as some Europeans and British bikes have good parts availability. Something like a Suzuki RE5 or a 1960's Honda dream have terrible parts availability and used spares are very costly. for years even semi-popular bikes now like the cb350F had no parts availability and really popular bikes like the GS750 have good service parts availability but very little aftermarket support for non-mechanical race parts.

As for reliable, that all depends on maintenance. airhead BMW's are considered very reliable but that's because they are easy to maintain and their owners have a reputation for being good about maintenance. Japanese bikes have a reputation of being reliable because when they were new their quality control was better than the British or the abut now Americans but now entropy has caught up with everyone and those "reliable" 1970's bikes really aren't any more reliable than any others from the same time period.

In terms of new bikes HD and Triumph have the best build quality of all the motorcycle brands, but the Japanese still have the engineering advantage. japanese bikes have always been disposable due to their engineering and pricing - they aren't meant to last forever.

Again if you are dead set on looking at old japanese bikes only look at the following:
- Honda SOHC cb750/550/400F/350F
- DOHC cb750F/900F/1100F
- CB450 twins from 1967-1974
- cb350 from 1968 -1973
- Kawasaki KZ900/1000
- Suzuki GS750
- Yamaha XS650
- RD350/400 (two stroke)

and that's about it. All of the above mentioned bikes are going to need brake and suspension upgrades out of the box just to keep up with a new rider in traffic. I would much rather you learn on a ninja 250/500/650 parallel twin, or an SV650, or a cbr250,etc...than one of those old nails but people can't always help their bad decision making.
Thank you again for your help! I am not dead set, but knowing that information for Japanese bikes is extremely useful!

IS the next cliché going to be "I want an old Japanese bike because they are so simple"?
Love when I hear that when talking about an over head valve multi cylinder air cooled bike that makes 100hp/L
I don't know, maybe.
 
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