Project Bike SOTU 2017: Honda CL125S

IT LIVES! Having just come back from a cruise through my neighborhood, I can report with some excitement that my ’74 Honda CL125S is officially back on the road. Regular readers will recall from past Project Car SOTU articles that I bought this bike in April of 2014 in an attempt to recapture the sensations of my first motorcycle: a one-year-older CL125S that I bought in 1980 at the age of 17. Unfortunately, despite a healthy engine, this second trip down memory lane quickly turned out to be in unexpectedly sorry shape. I’ve had to do at least some work to nearly every component outside the engine cases, including a custom exhaust system.

My original intention to do a stock restoration was quickly abandoned because the original Honda parts were all either 1) impossible to find or, 2) obscenely expensive. The instruments, turn signals, switchgear, handlebar levers, and throttle have now been replaced with non-OE parts, removing from the rider’s view nearly all the vintage parts that reminded me of my first bike to start with. Unfortunately, the process was not as smooth as I hoped it would be. The six-volt electrical systems on small Honda motorbikes of that era are notoriously poor; after four decades of poorly executed patches and repairs by previous owners and the whole thing was a diagnostic quagmire.

Add in a mismatched selection of “universal fit” parts made in Indonesia, and things got unexpectedly complicated.
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Project Bike SOTU: Bultakenstein

“Bultakenstein”, for the uninitiated, is my ongoing attempt to learn all the skills required to build a custom motorcycle by actually doing all the steps myself, from scratch. And I do mean from scratch. When I started, I had a frame, wheels, a swingarm and a fuel tank, all salvage parts not just from different models, but from different manufacturers and even different continents. Since then, nearly all the components I’ve added have been used parts purchased inexpensively off Ebay or Craigslist. I’ve been working on it on and off for almost six years, and while the rate of progress has been somewhere between glacial and tectonic—nay, nearly Wombatic—I manage to do a bit every few months. In the past year, I have made progress in three areas: the front suspension, the rear engine mounts, and the rear frame loop.
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Two-Wheel Tuesday – 19,000 RPM: All Day, Every Day

Thanks to their tiny pistons and rods, production 250cc four-cylinder street bikes could safely access engine speeds that would turn larger engines into jackhammers—and before too long, molten metal. At one time, all the Big Four Japanese motorcycle manufacturers built 250cc fours. But the cost of a high performance four doesn’t change too much based to displacement, so they were never imported into the big-bike-loving U.S., and due to that rather high cost-to-performance ratio these tiny, high-revving wonders are now extinct worldwide. But folks in places like Australia were able to sample this forbidden and super-exotic moto fruit. The custom hybrid featured in this video is a bit of an Internet star, having the higher performance, peakier Kawasaki ZX2R engine slotted into a standard ZR250 Balius chassis. The free-flowing exhaust provides a spine-tingling soundtrack to what is admittedly a fairly ordinary trip through city traffic on a 45 HP bike. But the rider’s cackling laugh demonstrates the endearing thing about these little four-cylinder bikes: even heading to the corner market, you could feel like a racing hero.

Rumors began percolating last month when a spokesman within Kawasaki said the company was “seriously considering” developing a new 250cc four to compete against the parallel twins Yamaha and Honda’s currently offer in that segment. It would be a risky move, but I for one would love to see one of these little screamers make a comeback.

False Neutral #58: Steve Ledsham of JAL Restorations

This week’s episode features England’s Steve Ledsham, the man behind JAL Restorations. We wanted to have Steve on based on the stunning catalog bikes he has built and restored. Unfortunately, this episode was fraught with production issues. First, Garrett on the west coast had to wake up at 5 AM to address the transatlantic time difference. Secondly, the sound quality is marginal. Steve sounds a bit like he’s talking to us from under the Atlantic, even after hours of trying to massage the audio to make the voices more distinct. Add in Steve’s British accent and you have a podcast you’ll have to listen to closely. But do it, because Steve is a true master craftsman, with a wealth of knowledge and great stories to tell.

False Neutral – Steve Ledsham of JAL Restorations

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False Neutral #57: The Six Grand Solution

After revisiting a couple of old topics (The TMax’s odd engine, the Vitpilen 401’s long gestation period, and our dashed hopes for the new Harley Street Rod), we discuss Garrett’s stable of bikes, which is suddenly smaller, and his reserve cash, which is commensurately larger. The three of us put our heads together to come up with the perfect bike for him and his $6000 +/- bike-buying budget. After more than a dozen suggestions, we appeal to our readers to help Garrett find the perfect bike.

Link Mentioned:

False Neutral – The Six Grand Solution

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I Finally Drove A Porsche

Have you ever seen a movie that your friends had over-hyped to such degree that there was no way it could possibly match your expectations? Well, that’s a bit how I feel. At 54 years old, I finally got to drive a Porsche for the first time* last night. The car in question was a 2007 Cayman S with the 5-speed auto transaxle. My impression? I hate to say this, but mostly, Meh. Don’t get me wrong, 295 horsepower in a sub-3,000 lb. car is plenty fast enough to entertain me, and the brakes and handling are super sharp without being harsh or uncontrollable. Those traits I liked. But frankly, I think much of what makes “the Porsche experience” unique is lost on me.
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False Neutral #56: How Many Bikes Do You Really Need?

Garrett’s back! Yay! We have a lot to catch up on with him this week, so our episode is longer than they’ve been lately. After we update each other on what’s been going on, we debate the question of how many bikes a motorcyclist needs. What is the optimal number, and how many is too many? There’s obviously no single answer for all riders, but we have fun discussing it even if we don’t definitively answer the question. Along the way, we relate owning bikes to firearms, personal watercraft, houses and children. We also debate when a parts bike ceases to count as a motorcycle, and the merits and pitfalls a Turo-style bike rental app would present.

Websites mentioned:

Due to time constraints and the nature of our conversation this week, there are no bike images included this week. As a consolation, our lede image features the contents of Garrett’s garage.


False Neutral – How Many Bikes Do You Really Need?

Race, Daily, Restore: 4-Door Rotaries

When we think of Wankel rotary engines, usually what comes to mind are sporty coupes, compact econoboxes, (or perhaps mini-pickups, if you’re particular twisted). But there was a time that the Torqueless Wonder was considered a viable means of propelling a crew of four or more, with vier Türen or shi doa. Today, your trilemma is to sort through how you’d employ three such cars.

  • 1967 NSU Ro80 – From the earliest adopter and first champion of the Wankel engine, the Ro80 has timeless elegance, disc brakes and independent suspension all around, and a funky auto-clutch. And probably a trio of worn-out apex seals.
  • 1982 Mazda Cosmo Turbo – Long after NSU went belly-up and Audi had given up on rotaries, Mazda kept the Holy Church of the Wobbling Triangle alive. Stuffing a turbocharged 12A good for 163 horsepower under the hood of an HB Cosmo/929 sedan was a remarkable sign of their passion, to say the least.
  • 2009 Mazda RX8 – This one is really a sports coupe, but it barely slides into 4-door territory thanks to its two rear slave doors. People either love or hate the RX8, but proves that a Wankel engine really can work well in a modern car. Until it doesn’t.

You say you prefer POCKITA-POCKITA to HMMMMMM and two doors versus four? Too bad, those aren’t your choices today. You are restricted to these three. Which would you choose to:

  • RACE – build into some sort of dedicated racing machine (not street legal) for your choice of competition — any legitimate, sanctioned form of motorsport: road course, rally, drag, LSR, Baja, etc.;
  • DAILY – have as your sole street-registered car, for all your commuting and general transportation needs.
  • RESTORE – do a museum-quality, factory-correct, frame-off restoration, then add to your collection, but not register to drive on the street.

Your choices should be accompanied by your persuasive justification, or at the very least which choice you felt most strongly about. As always, more caveats (there are always caveats) appear after the jump.
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Found on Ebay: Fiat 131 – A pretty little liar?

Peter Tanshanomi April 19, 2017 For Sale

Fiats are known for breaking, rusting, and generally not being very durable. So this very nicely preserved 1978 model is a remarkable find for someone who likes Italian tin. I personally have a thing for ’70s Fiats thanks to my 8th grade math teacher, who drove a dark red (rust red?) 128 four-door. But this 131 has it all over Mrs. Sharp’s old 128: rear wheel drive, a longitudinally mounted twin cam engine, two doors, and lots of Abarth visuals splashed around the exterior. The squared-off, generic 2-door-sedan shape may not be sexy, but it is definitely the box sexy comes in. Now, about all this “Supermirafiori” and “Abarth” stuff: I’m not buying it. The VIN tag identifies this as a Federal-spec car. There was no Abarth version offered; it’s just a standard ’78 Fiat SuperBrava. I find it interesting that in the , the description makes nary a mention of the Abarth name. I guess Supermirafiori sounds more desirable and exotic than SuperBrava.  The seller does indicate that it has the larger 1995cc engine, so at least that emblem is appropriate. Even though this is a fake/clone/tribute car, I still totally dig what it is, and the effort that the past owner has put into preserving and improving it since it came to America.

It’s currently with less than three days to go. This isn’t the first time it has been listed, however, and .

False Neutral #55: Gettin’ Horizontal

Garrett’s still AWOL this week, so Eric and Pete keep this episode a bit briefer than usual. Our topic is a bit obscure: horizontal-cylinder engines. We start with Guzzi’s Falcone and Nuovo Falcone. Then, we fawn all over the Ducati Supermono, explain how reciprocating counterweights work, and school Ducati on what the Scrambler Sixty2 should have been, and why. All this leads Pete to a sudden epiphany regarding Honda’s worst bike ever. Moving from thumpers to multi-cylinder bikes, we wrap up with BMW K-bikes and the obscure, Aermacchi-based Linto racer.

NOTE: “Falcone” is properly pronounced fal-CO-nay, not fal-COHN, as I say repeatedly. I’ve had it wrong in my head for years, and know it’s wrong, but the right way just doesn’t stick.

(I didn’t slack this week, and we talked about a lot of bikes, so there’s a full 21 images after the jump.)

False Neutral – Gettin’ Horizontal

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