Saturday, September 28, 2013


This morning I was able to finish up the 3,000 mile tune up. All I had left to do was adjust the valves and the cam chain. Adjusting the valves is pretty straight forward on this motor. After pulling the ignition cover, I set the motor at top dead center for the #1 piston and then removed all of the tappets to gain access to the top of the valves. Here the tappets are already gone. When the crank is put at that position, you'll either have the valves for #1 cylinder loose or the ones for #4 cylinder. If you're like me and prefer to start with cylinder #1 (read...completely anal) and the valves for #4 are loose, just turn the crank another 360 degrees back to the timing mark and then the valves for #1 cylinder will be loose. 

The exhaust valves get adjusted to .08mm with a feeler gauge and you just need a flat blade screw driver and 10mm wrench to make the adjustments. Intake valves get adjusted to .05mm. I adjusted all the valves twice to be sure. When you can adjust #1 cylinder valves, you'll also be able to adjust one of the #2 cylinder valves and one of the #3 cylinder valves. Likewise, you'll hit the other two when both #4 valves are open.

The cam chain on this motor is supposed to be self-adjusting but it's good to check it anyways after setting the valves. It's on the backside of the motor just above the starter cover. You'll see a slotted stud with a 10mm nut on it. The adjustment process for this is to put the motor at 15 degrees after top dead center on the #1 cylinder and crack that 10mm nut loose. Chances are highly likely that you won't even see that slotted stud move (it's that minute if at all). Then snug down the lock nut again. Done.I checked this twice as well.

After everything was buttoned up again, the motor fired up and ran better than before. I took it for a longer ride around town. It still wants to idle funky and now, at 3000 rpm's and in third gear (super steady) you can feel it surge. I'm 99% sure it's just filthy ass carbs. I've suspected this all along but wanted to make sure everything else was right before doing them. So...that's gonna happen soon.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Cafe Project

I always complained about how shitty I thought clubman bars looked until maybe a few weeks ago. I'm not sure what changed but it had a lot to do with the fact that the drag bars that I was running would not allow the master cylinder and brake lever to rotate any more than they were. It wasn't terribly uncomfortable but I just didn't like it. So in looking for a solution, I had the options of doing risers with the drag bars, switching to a slightly higher rise bar, doing clip ons, or clubmans. This is what I kept coming back to. So I ordered a set from Carpy over at and they got here today. This was the perfect time to make the swap because last week the front brakes locked up on me. The CB550 only has one caliper up front and so I went back and forth on this decision too (bout like normal) and finally came to the decision that with only 1 front caliper, everything in the system should be totally gone through for safety's sake. So a master cylinder rebuild kit and a caliper rebuild kit is on the way from the folks at Dime City Cycles. I was hoping to get this stuff rebuilt this weekend but that probably won't happen now because the brake lines I wanted (custom sized) are not in stock right now and I'd rather not bleed the brake twice. The stock lines look like absolute shite with these bars. Instead of a banjo bolt at the master cylinder end, I will use a connector that threads straight in to make the new line tuck in more cleanly behind the light and down to the brake switch that is mounted to the lower triple tree. 

The clubman install was easy peasy. Get rid of everything and then bolt the bars on and try to figure out the position as they can be rotated quite a bit. 

Now after having them on and taking the bike for a quick ride around the block, I can tell right away that I will need to relocate the ignition and starter switch just to clean things up. This means I will have to find a welder. Since I no longer work at the previous school, I don't have access to such a kick ass metal shop. That's ok though...I'd rather buy a welder and do it in my garage or just get in touch with a few buddies who have their own. The more I get into this bike, the more I consider just stripping it down so I can get rid of all extraneous tabs off the frame, relocate the stuff up front, repaint it, etc. but I'm just not sure I want to dive that far in yet. I think there's a load of noobs that get a bike and do that and don't get to know the bike. I can also already tell that the gauges will be getting rebuilt with new faces this winter. I see black faces with white letters and red backlighting.  

I love this shot. It really made the bike look more aggressive. I wasn't sure I'd like this look but I'm in love and ready to get the project rolling.

Another shot from the side. I don't know if you can see in this picture but I've marked up the tank a bit. I really like the stock tank for some reason but even with the drag bars it wasn't all that comfortable. It's a bit worse now. So I'll be trying my hand at body work this winter and putting some knee dents in it.

This is also a cool shot. By spring the bike will get new tires and probably a new exhaust as well. I don't wanna be obnoxious but I really dig Carpy's 500/550 4 into 1 exhaust in black. It sounds mean.

I also need to set the valves and then I will need to remove the carbs and rebuild them. This is something that I'm not looking forward to at all. I've never done any carb work but I really think the idle issues and the stumbling are because they are in need of some TLC and then I'll have to synch all four of them as I do not think all 4 cylinders are on the same page.

I included this picture because it's in my spank bank. Pretty sure this is a seat and tank combo from Benjies. That's a lot of coin sitting there but the knee dents and lower bars are what I've been looking at more and more lately. That front rotor aint shabby either. Or the paint. Thanks for checking in and stay tuned for more updates. This will be a fun project.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Cafe Racer

Got a bit more done on the Cafe Project tonight. New spark plugs went in. Right side exhaust and rear shock was pulled and polished. Rear wheel was polished. Chain was tightened. 

Here are some pics of the filthy rear wheel before I started. 

Another shot of the rear wheel.

Here's everything back together again. I did replace another head stud for the exhaust and got the rear wheel as clean as possible. While reinstalling the right side exhaust, I could feel another stud getting ready to pull out of the head but I'll address that later on.

Right now I have done everything involved in a 3,000 mile tune up but adjust the valves, adjust the cam chain tension, and look at the points and set the timing. I'll try to do that real soon here. It still runs a bit rough. I'm able to ride it around town with no issues but I know it can run better. I think it's running really rich (at least on some of the cylinders). Idle is a bit fawked up. Sometimes it hangs at 2 grand and I have to futz with the idle screw. I'm sure that I will end up rebuilding the carbs soon and synching them and that should make things a lot better.

I'm also trying to figure out what I want to do with bars. Right now I'm running drag bars but the issue is that I can't lower the levers to where they need to be because the master cylinder hits the top triple tree. I could run risers to address this but I'm also now looking at Clubman bars which I've always said I wouldn't run.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Cafe Racer

Not sure how I got as much done to the Cafe Project tonight as I did but...I did. I got the neutral wires all tucked back in and out of the way, pulled the clutch cable and lubed it, reinstalled the left side cover, adjusted the clutch cable, pulled the left rear shock and polished it up, pulled the left side exhaust and polished it, cleaned the left side frame and then went to reinstall the exhaust and had a header stud pull out of the head. It doesn't appear to sit too far into the head though so I'm hoping I can get by with a bit longer stud and finding fresh threads a bit deeper. I only need like another quarter of an inch. My life story. Bike is coming around. It fired right up instantly tonight with a good charge on the battery. I hope to get the right side exhaust, shock and frame cleaned and polished by the weekend and then I'll have to tackle the rear wheel. It's a mess. I'll probably pull it and soak it in engine degreaser and then spray it off and polish from there. My air intake parts got here yesterday. I think the motor runs fat so we'll see if the box and filter even things out a bit. If not, then I'll probably look at ignition and adjusting the valves next before finally messing with carbs. The goal is to get this thing as reliable and clean as possible over the winter and be able to ride it next spring/summer and then figure out what I want to do for long term looks like paint. I have some ideas. I also have an issue with the bars. They are drag bars which I really like but the master cylinder hits the top triple tree and can't be adjusted down low enough. It's rideable but not comfy by any means. So since the bars I want are out of stock, I'll either wait until they are back in or throw on some small risers. I'll also go through the wiring over the winter to make sure nothing looks bad. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

More CB500/550 Stuff

So I posted a picture of my new to me motorcycle on an older CB forum. Someone said..."Hey are you sure that's a CB550?" He noticed that the brake pedal wasn't the one on the 550 model. So...after looking at the VIN on the frame and the motor I realized that I bought a 550 frame with a 500 motor in it. The frame is a 76 but the motor is a 71. I was a bit bummed because I pretty much got taken but the 500 is still a good motor. If I was wanting to do a full restoration then I'd get rid of it but I just wanted a project to play with so it doesn't matter all that much and this one is pretty clean with good potential. 

As I was going through the front end, I noticed that the front brake did not activate the stop light. I did have a switch on the front brake but no wiring. So last week I started looking into that. The issue for me as a novice was that I didn't know if I had a 500 or a 550 wiring harness and that makes a difference when looking for specific wires. After a lot of time with a multimeter, I finally located the correct wires. 

I got the switch wired up and now...the front brakes activate the stop light. The bike sat for the rest of the week. One of the things I have learned about owning an older CB is that parts are damn hard to find. Right now there is no filter on the carbs. The airbox alone costs 150 and that's if you can find it. I managed to find all the intake parts I needed (NOS boots from the box to the carbs, hardware, and new UNI filter). The only thing I didn't find is a spring that holds the filter in the box. Apparently these are like finding a brick of gold. I'll have to come up with something. This stuff should be here this week and then I'll feel better about starting it up.

For some reason, I happened to be looking at the under carriage of the motorcycle and noticed a drop of oil. For those that know me, this is a problem. I pulled the left side motor cover to reveal this mess.

This is the same damn repair I did on my friend's CB650. The shift shaft seal was leaking. This one was pretty much gone. I replaced the counter shaft sprocket seal too after cleaning everything up in a manner that only I am capable of.

Here's the motor with the new counter shaft sprocket seal, and shift shaft seal in place. The upper left seal is the clutch push rod seal and I couldn't find one. It looked fine. I put it all back together and went to start it up. I heard nothing but the breeze and rain outside. This was either Friday or Saturday night.

I pulled the cover back and off and hit the starter button and it fired up. Then I wondered if I had pinched a wire while putting the cover back on. Everything was fine. Then I started looking at this thing. This is the neutral switch. It only allows the starter to spin and start the motor while the trans is in neutral. As you shift gears, the cylinder rotates and no longer allows the 2 copper pieces to make contact. I was able to find a testing procedure but kept getting readings saying that it was broken. But there's not really much involved in this switch. It took me pretty much all damn day today to figure out that the contact between the copper points was weak. By this time the battery is drained so I don't know  if I'm making any progress or not. I removed the switch totally. I cleaned it and bent that tab on the left a bit more and reinstalled things. Then I tested it again and got readings indicating that the switch was fine. It was then that I got excited. Too bad the battery was too weak to find out for sure. So...I pulled in a car and hooked up some jumper cables. I had a moment of silence with Heather. Turned the key on. Pushed the starter button. It fired right up. I think I'm in the clear. Now I just have to recharge the battery and wait for my intake parts to get here. I also have new plugs and carb cleaner to start running through the system to see if that helps.

Monday, September 9, 2013

My New Project

I couldn't help myself. After working on my friend's CB650, I started looking more into these older Honda's. The more I looked, the more I found myself looking at slightly older models of the 500 and 550. Mostly, I liked the look of the spoked wheels versus the mags and I wanted a little bit lighter bike with a little smaller motor as a platform. I passed on several bikes over the last month. I quickly found out that they do not sit for long once a for sale sign has been put on them. This one had been up for 3 days on Craigslist before I saw it. On Thursday evening I sent the seller a text asking if he still had it. On Friday morning I forgot my phone at home when I left for work and, at some point during the day, got a text saying he still had it. We spoke on the phone a bit Friday night and I agreed to come look at it on Saturday. 

My friend Steve was nice enough to loan me his F150 so Heather and I headed down to Pueblo. The seller was extremely slow in getting back to me on Saturday during the drive down (I needed his address). I really thought he had sold it Friday night or earlier that morning and just wasn't going to bother letting me know (sorry Tom but...that's what I thought). We got to his house after finally getting a call from him (pretty sure he had forgotten we were coming down). He shows up at the house about 20 minutes after we got there and rolls it out of the garage and it fired right up. 

I hopped on, made it about a mile from the house died. It refused to start again. And I began the push of shame. I saw one lady doing yard work and casually mentioned that I was just taking this motorcycle out for a walk and she kinda gave me the stink eye. I continued to try to start the bike and, low and behold, it started up again and I was able to make it back to the house. It was then that I realized there was no stock airbox or filters of any kind on the bike. Then I closed the choke and it ran much better. I took it out again and it rode fine. Tom was a great photographer because it was a bit more rough than what the pictures had indicated but I really liked it. I made it back to Tom's house and he mentions that someone else is on the way to look at it and I believed it because Heather said he kept trying to call people on his phone and was asking if they had just called about a motorcycle. Apparently Tom can turn a spanner but the Blackberry is a complicated device. He wanted 1200 for the bike and that was my limit so I really didn't want to have someone else show up and start a bidding war. 

Tom was a nice guy though and insisted that I take his absolutely mint condition Kawasaki KZ900 for a ride. It looked like it had just been made yesterday. He also had a gorgeous Harley and several more older Honda's. Turns out he's a flipper. When I got back from the ride, he had the title ready to go along with a repair manual and a Pabst Blue Ribbon sticker. I asked if he would take 1100 for it and he immediately said, "Nope but I'd like to get it loaded up so I can go to lunch before that other seller arrives." I got in the truck and backed it up as Tom grabbed a ramp. 

Here it is after we got it out of the truck and into it's new garage. 

Those that know me know how completely anal I am about things being clean so Sunday was spent taking things off and getting to know the bike more. I hit all the front end chrome with steel wool and Mothers polish. The front wheel looks amazing now. The forks have been painted silver and, although I don't like it, it'll work for now. I redid some wiring just to make things cleaner looking. I also tried to get the stock airbox back on but was unsuccessful. I wasn't sure if the carbs needed to be removed to do this but have no determined that it is not. It's just a super tight fit. I'm gonna hold off on that for a bit until I get new boots that join the box to the choke side of the carbs as the current ones are rock hard and don't give too much.

This light cleaned up nicely after some steel wool.

After a loooong day of cleaning.

I have no clue what direction I'm heading in with this thing yet. Right now my plan is to get the stock box back in and see how it runs before I dive into rebuilding all the carbs. I will do a 3,000 mile tune up  which is pretty inclusive and then just ride it and figure stuff out as I go.