Sometimes I just can’t help myself. I love Cafe Racers. Simple. A purpose built/modified machine that can get from here to there quite fast in high style. A cafe racer is a function before fashion machine but…the fashion is definitely there too.
A good friend of mine has recently discovered Cafe Racers. He started his life on a Harley Davidson Sportster, all blacked out, then moved on to a Street Bob (a big twin Harley), again all blacked out and loves it. He is a part time member of the “Harley Culture” but he is expanding his views. My subtle hints and sending pictures of cool bikes seem to be working!
I was living in Las Cruces New Mexico when the original Gold Wing was introduced. The GL1000 was at first thought of as a big bore Sportbike, but as we all know, it became the Supreme Leader in touring bikes. Why the change in thought? The original was a touring bike to go up against the Harley Davidson Electra Glide, but the molds for all the touring accessories were accidentally destroyed so the bike was brought out naked and American Honda tried to market it as a Sportbike. Well, the aftermarket (in particular Craig Vetter) had a field day with accessories. In no time at all you could make a Gold Wing as comfortable as a Winnebago. It is the motorcycle that changed touring motorcycles forever.
I rode it back in 1975 and thought it was rather Ho-Hum (I was riding a Kawasaki H2 750 at the time). Fast forward a few decades when I bought my father his Gold Wing, I came to realize just how good this motorcycle is. I started looking at Gold Wings as more than just an ‘old man motorcycle’ but as a platform for some serious fun. Granted, you can’t convert a modern Gold Wing to anything other than what it is but get an old GL1000 or 1100 and the fun begins.
I found a very nicely done Cafe Racer ‘Wing’ on ebay this morning and it looks very appealing. A little too blingy for my taste but very well done. Pretty low miles for a bike it’s age…my wife says the same thing about me. NOT. Some really nice upgrades and like I said, a little on the ‘Blingy” side for me but nicely done.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and info. This is a very cool bike.
I really dig Gold Wings with Sidecars. My favorite by far is a ’75 GL1000 with a Vetter Terraplane that I saw at the Griffith Park rally a few years back. Picture a Cafe Racer sidecar rig…it was perfect!
So today I found a more sedate (classic) rig on ebay. A nice ’75 Wing with a Watsonian Sidecar. Now, it is really pretty cool. It’s got a couple of different covers, to handle different weather conditions ands a very comfy seat. The bike has been given some good love but needs a bit more, not much but a little.
If you have never driven a sidecar rig (and the proper term is driving, not riding), what a blast! Your whole view of the motorcycling world changes instantly. Flying the car first time, makes you pull over and check your underwear. The first time you fly the car with some one in the car…well, you’re both checking your undies and your passenger is calling a cab. By the way, ‘flying the car’ means the sidecar is off the ground as you go around a right hand turn. Great fun seeing the look on your passengers face when all of a sudden they feel like they are on a carnival ride!
It’s funny, but when you are driving a Sidecar rig, everybody looks at you differently. You’re not a biker anymore and your cool factor just went up 100%
This is a nice rig, a little pricey but cool factor doesn’t always come cheap. Click on the pics below for more pictures and info
I have written before regarding the GL Silver Wings, I love these bikes. I bought my dad a GL500 Silver Wing Interstate when he wanted to start traveling with me and his old CB350 just wasn’t going to cut it. He had a great couple of years and quite a few miles on that bike and loved it…until, some riding friends convinced him he needed a Gold Wing. I went along with his new passion for touring and bought him a Gold Wing…side note here, he crashed his, as he called it, ‘real Wing’ the first day he rode it home…cost me almost as much to fix it as it was to buy it??!! But he was Ok.
Honda was on the right track with this bike, a mid size all around motorcycle with a distinctive look, sound, and feel but the motorcycle buying public just wasn’t going for it, The first iteration was just plain ugly, I believe it was called the plastic pig. Next they made a touring version, the Interstate, better, but still… OK, let’s make a turbo sport bike out of it, better again (the CX500 and 650 Turbo models are highly coveted these days). How about a flat track racer? A good bike in the hands of Bubba Shobert, but still….a flop on the sales floor.
OK…it was a bit heavy for its size (549lbs!!!) but with a couple of modifications to the suspension, it wore its weight well. Sixty five horsepower out of a 650 twin doesn’t hurt either.
Honda pumped up the CX500 to a 650, the GL models got good improvements as well. Honda upgraded just about everything on the bike and really made a wonderful motorcycle. Still, everyone looked at it as a ‘Gold Wing for beginners’, my dad is the perfect example of ‘if its good, bigger must be better’.
I have seen CX Honda’s made into wonderful cafe racers and customs, but still, for a solo tourer, the Silver Wing ‘Interstate’ package is a bike that shouldn’t be overlooked. Reliable as the riding day is long, comfortable for all and plenty of power to cross the Rockies or drone through the plains of Middle America.
Today I found a really nice GL650 on ebay in great condition with low miles and a few extras. It’s an ’83 with a variety of windshield sizes (personally, I would never ride with the big one in the pictures…) and the extra seat for a passenger. Really, this is a wonderful motorcycle for someone who travels solo and wants a reliable and unique ride. It will need new tires and probably a good go through by a mechanic, but after that, it’s time to put in your request for a vacation to the boss (wife) and go for a ride.
Click on the pic’s below for more info and more pictures. The Honda CX/GL series V-Twins are really worth the time and money because they work so well and are quite special.
You want to travel around the country on a motorcycle, me too. I love nothing more than hours upon hours riding secondary roads all around the Western USA. I love tiny towns with one gas station where you actually have to knock on the owners door to get him to turn on the electricity, unlock the pump and sell you 5 gallons of premium (yes, my old bike still has to have premium to be happy…). Where the one restaurant in town is also the social hub (other than the Baptist Church on Sunday). The crazy weather from day to day and stopping 123 times during the day to take pictures. What a great ride. And when you finally get home the first thing you do after kissing the wife, patting the kids on the head and giving your dog a belly rub is pull out the maps and start planning your next ride. Been there, done that and brought home the coffee mug from East Asscrack Wyoming.
But wait there’s one small issue…your sportbike, cafe racer that you ride on Sunday’s just isn’t going to cut it and…you’re not the Gold Wing kind of guy. On top of that you have a budget. What’s a soon to be moto traveler to do? Find a good used, low mileage, high quality, kind of sporty bike that the bank (your wife), will agree with. It’s got to be comfy, it’s got to be reliable (the wife, kids and dog may or, may not, want you to come home…) and it’s still got to be fast enough to have fun. I have an almost perfect bike for you.
Honda really did set the original benchmark for Japanese big bikes with the CB750 but it was Kawasaki that created the King Kong of big bikes with the 900cc Z1. Better handling, great styling and more importantly at the time…faster! The other thing that happened along the way was the reputation Kawasaki had built for reliability. Remember, Kawasaki Heavy Industries (the parent company) was also building steamships and locomotives at the time. The big Kawasaki fours were bullet proof. As evidence of that, police departments around the country were trading their Harley ‘Copsicles’ in for the Kawasaki. The KZ1000 was undisputedly the bike of choice when looking for speed, handling and reliability in the mid ’70s through today.
So, back to you and finding a bike to take on every backroad from here to East Asscrack Wyoming. The Kawasaki KZ1000 ST is a perfect choice. It’s got the motor that will take you across deserts, over mountains, through the farm lands carrying you and all your gear (including the wife, if she is of the traveling type), good ergonomics, a smooth shaft drive, and reliable as the day is long. The KZ1000 is a perfect platform for full touring modification (fairing, hard bags, etc…) or even a big Cafe Racer.
The KZ1000 is a big bike, weighing in at around 600+ pounds full of fuel and oil. But, my remembrance of the ride was that as you got going, it felt a lot lighter. The handling was not on par with some of the true sport bikes but this is not a pure sport bike, this is one of the first sport tourers, it’s also Kawasaki’s first 1000cc shaftie. The motor put out about somewhere in the vicinity of 90HP (good for its day and design) and a top speed of just over 130mph. Last time I rode one, 1983, I was pleasantly surprised at how good the bike was, considering I was riding a 900 Ninja at the time.
My daily cruise through ebay this morning landed me on this great deal of a traveling sportbike, A 1979 Kawasaki KZ100 ST. This bike has only 6557 miles on the clock (barely broken in), has been recently serviced including a new front tire (I would probably replace the rear as well), and according the owner, runs great. The bike is stock, which is always a good thing, and looks to be in really great condition. A KZ1000 ST with this many miles in this condition is a great find and I believe will be a great buy for someone.
This truly is a motorcycle that will take you anywhere you want to go anytime and give you nothing to think about while you’re riding except where are you going to spend the night…even if it’s at home after just riding to and from work. But…take it somewhere far away, you’ll be a better person when you come home.
For more info and pictures, click on the pics below and get yourself a great classic sport tourer.
The first time I saw and rode a Gold Wing I was living in Las Cruces New Mexico working for the local newspaper. The dealer, Las Cruces was a small down and had only one Honda dealer, was having a big coming out party for the new Honda and I was there to write a story about it. Honda was touting the bike as a tourer but at the same time…maybe sporty? They, Honda, weren’t really sure where the ‘Wing’ would really land.
It was kind of lined up against the BMW R90/6 and, at the same time, Kawasaki’s King Kong…The Mighty Z1. The Gold Wing was BIG…somewhere around 100 pounds bigger than the Z1 but, still had pretty respectable performance numbers in comparison tests. Comparing it to the BMW was a lot easier. Give it a big smooth comfortable ride that could easily eat up hundreds of miles a day and have you wanting to keep going and be late for dinner. Honda was also looking at the Harley Davidson Electra Glide, the touring bike of choice at the time here in the states.
When I was at the Gold Wing debut, the Honda rep started the bike then balanced a quarter on its edge, on the engine, to prove how smooth the engine was. We were all pretty impressed. Maybe not as much as watching David Copperfield make the Statue of Liberty disappear, but nonetheless, impressed. The bike was quiet, thanks to a boatload of engineering…and liquid cooling, but still had a distinctive sound and feel. I didn’t care about the quarter balancing act, I just wanted to ride the bike…I was there to do a job. Well that, and I just love riding new motorcycles.
The Honda rep was a little reluctant to turn me loose on his new bike, especially after he saw my cafe’d out Kawasaki 750 sitting the parking lot, but, after a bit of convincing him (lying to him…) that I would treat his new toy carefully (he actually fell for it…), we arranged a ride the next morning. The clincher was when I promised to buy him breakfast.
My first ride on the GL1000 was quite an eye opener. The bike had gobs of power all over the place but was eerily quiet and way too smooth for a guy used to British twins and a raucous two stroke triple. But I really liked it. The roads around Las Cruces aren’t what you would call over challenging or even entertaining but, we made the best of them long enough that I had to call the newspaper and make up some story that would keep them from sending out the search party or worse…firing me. For a 600 plus pound motorcycle, the new Gold Wing was surprisingly agile and fun to ride. The sales rep was a riding the dealers own CB750 that had been tweaked a bit and still had a hard time keeping up with me, not because I was a better rider ( I was…but thats beside the point…kind of) but the Gold Wing really worked well and was easy to push around the roads of Southern New Mexico. We did get home in time for dinner.
First generation Gold Wings are great motorcycles in so many ways. The obvious is as a tourer, hauling around a sidecar is easy for a GL1000 and a few brave souls have turned their big Honda into Cafe’ Wings…my favorite. I found this really nice GL1000 on ebay and looks to be a great deal for someone looking for a classic bike that can almost anything. This Gold Wing has only 20,000 miles, barely broken in for this bike, the owner put in a new clutch, timing belts, water pump, hoses, rebuilt the carbs…I would imagine just because it has sat for a long time. This is a great classic that can be the platform for so much…a great naked tourer or find a Vetter Windjammer on ebay and travel across the country, get a cool sidecar from my friends at Sidestrider and take the dog for a ride. This is a good bike for a good price. There is only one thing I’m not sure I like about this particular bike, the owner replaced the cool aluminum spoked wheels with later model Comstar mags, which isn’t a bad thing, I just like the original wheels better. Click on the pics below for more info about this nice Gold Wing.
Every rider has their own version or vision, of motorcycle touring. You have your moto-minimalist; whichever motorcycle in the garage has a charged battery and starts up is the mount of choice, basic riding gear (old high school letterman jacket, metal flake easy rider helmet from 1970 and a pair of leather work gloves), maybe a tank bag (if it was given to you as a gift), a couple of throw away cameras (twin pack at Walmart for $6.99), a Motel 6 directory (from your last trip ten years ago) and a credit card.
At the other end of the touring spectrum lives the Honda Gold Wing. The ‘Wing’ didn’t start out as a touring bike (Honda actually thought of it as a new generation Superbike…and, in many ways it was / is believe it or not), but has become the two wheeled Winnebago of the American Highways. A Gold Wing truly is the standard by which all other touring rigs are measured against. I can’t remember a Cycle world Magazine Ten Best List that didn’t have the ‘Wing’ as the choice for Touring Bike of the year, decade, century….Gold Wings have all the creature comforts of a modern limousine including an airbag nowadays. People that just bear to leave anything at home when the they tour, choose a Gold Wing.
Back in 1980 when Honda actually brought out the first true ‘touring’ Gold Wing the Interstate was it. Big fairing, big saddlebags and a tail trunk. I think the Interstate had more storage space than my VW van!? And if that wasn’t enough, just stick a trailer on the back and bring the kitchen sink with you! They had already proven to be as reliable as I40 is long, as comfortable as your sofa (a great ad campaign for Honda would have been mating a Gold Wing with a Barcalounger…just a thought) and as smooth as a nice cold beer at the end of a long days ride.
A few years ago I found my dad his Gold Wing on ebay and today, I found another one just like it, but this one is in better condition. Which really means you don’t have to work on this one to get it ready to ride, just put gas in it, turn the key, hit the button and go. This is a 1982 Interstate model It has all the goodies and has been serviced. The carbs got a rebuild, the motor got new timing belts and even the brakes got serviced. Nice. The bike looks to be in great condition and it seems to me that possibly the only thing you may have to add is new tires. This is a nice classic ‘Wing’ ready for riding anywhere you want to go. A vintage Gold Wing taken care of is always a good investment. They will run for miles and miles and miles with no worries, if you do have to work on it, you won’t spend a whole day just to get the body work off and program the computer you’re carrying along with you to find out you need a fuse…do the new ones still use fuses?
This is a really nice traveler and if you’re in the market for a reliable ride across the country, this might be the Honda for you. Click on the pics for more info. And one more thing…anybody that tells you Gold Wings are no fun to ride, well, they just haven’t ridden one the right way.
Economical, reliable, easy to ride, comfortable and a little odd looking. All those and more describe the Honda CX series of motorcycles. When thinking about the CX motorcycles, the first question is why? Honda already a fantastic middleweight machine in the CB550-4, so what was the need to build something new? The answer…because they’re Honda and they can.
Back in the mid 70’s thru the early eighties the mid size (under 650cc) motorcycle was king. Really. Each of the Japanese manufacturers had no less than five models in that class, and I’m not talking about the baby bikes either, freeway legal real size motorcycles. Remember, this was at a time when gas was expensive and motorcycles were being touted and bought as the real alternative to driving your gas guzzling car everywhere all the time. Mid-size bikes were also very sporty, the 2 strokes from Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki were easily quicker than than many of their larger brethren and fun to ride to boot. Eventually though, the desire, the need, and yes, the lust for more speed and power took over. The days of the easy to ride and economical middleweight motorcycle were numbered.
So, back to the CX500. The CX was designed by Soichiro Irimajiri, the man that penned the original Goldwing and later created the stunning six cylinder CBX. The CX was targeted at younger riders that were looking for something different and with the CX500, that’s exactly what they got. The CX has often been compared to the MotoGuzzi V50 from Italy and in a number of respects they are quite similar. V-Twin motors, shaft drive, close in power (both right around 50hp) and designed as an everymans motorcycle. But the CX went farther with water cooling and a more modern engine design.
When the first CX500 prototypes rolled out, testers commented that the motor was too smooth (no personality) and the carb’s tended to hit the riders legs, neither, a good thing. The V-twin motor got a bit of a redesign…the cylinder ‘V’ angle was tightened up to narrow the motor, the cylinders were twisted some so the carburetors wouldn’t bang into your shins and the exhaust was redesigned. Now you have the CX motor that we all have come to know and some of us to love. I think the CX has probably one of the most unique exhaust notes in all of motorcycling. It’s not a sound that will stir your soul or intimidate the driver in the car next to you, but it is unique and distinctive. Pooka,pooka,pooka,pooka…..
There is a lot you can do with a CX500 commute to and from work, ride it to school, travel the country on it, go after the bad guys or turn it into a really cool cafe racer. The CX has developed quite a loyal following over the years and deservedly so. It is a much better motorcycle than many think.
I found a very nice CX500 Deluxe on ebay yesterday. This 1980 model is completely stock in excellent condition with only 11,000 miles on the clock. There is no rust ,the paint is good and according to the owner, runs great. So what makes this a ‘Deluxe’ model? Not a whole lot really. They changed the rear wheel to a 16 incher instead of the standard 18″ rim for a more cruiserish look I imagine, changed the seat to accommodate the wheel change and to go with the new look, and Honda designers changed the headlight/ instrument cluster from the ugly unit used on the standard CX to something more normal and better looking. This bike does really look nice and at an asking price of $2495, a good value. The CX500 is a really well made motorcycle that, given basic care should give you many happy miles. Click on the pics for more info and more views of the bike.
Living and riding motorcycles here in Southern California for most all of my life, I have seen pretty much everything rolling around on two wheels. Every brand, size, style and condition. Basic stock to wild customs and everywhere in between. Southern California is Mecca for motorcycle people. Year ’round riding, more dealers and shops than probably the rest of the country combined, all the major Japanese manufacturers are based here, all the magazines…this really is heaven for riders. Hey, we even have Jesse James…uh, is that a good thing though??
Years ago, I cut my canyon riding teeth in the Santa Monica Mountains; Mulholland Highway, Decker Canyon, Encinal, Yerba Buena, Stunt Road (its real name), Latigo Canyon…and all without meeting the CHP. So far. Every ride included a stop at the Rock Store. The Rock Store is arguably the most famous Southern California motorcycle destination and a required stop on a Sunday ride along the Malibu coast. The Rock Store is a Sunday bike show that features every type of motorcycle imaginable. Custom Harley’s, Gold Wings, dirt bikes, scooter’s, cafe racers, vintage Brit bikes and bicycles too. Harley Davidson, in general, is the ride of choice for the Rock Store crowd; baggers have become quite popular of late, you still see classic longbikes once in a while, a Sporty here and there, and more women riding their own instead of on the back.
One type of bike that you rarely see at the Rock Store is a Cafe Racer style Harley. Back in the 70’s, Willie G penned the XLCR for The Motor Company (see the header pics) but it didn’t sell well. Harley riders have always, and will always want, big heavy cruisers so that is what Harley makes…give the customer what they want. However, there are some adventurous souls that take it upon themselves to break the mold and build a Harley Davidson Cafe Racer. A few years back while cruising the parking lot I came across the ‘DUCHNTR’. That was the license plate on the back of a very cool Harley Cafe Racer. I met the owner once, can’t remember his name right now, he told me all about his bike and why he did it. It was a good story about a very trick and fast Harley. That was the last time I saw a really well done Cafe Racer powered by Harley Davidson. Until today.
This morning on ebay is this stunning 1989 ( ok, not really vintage but hey, it’s my blog, my rules) Sportster Cafe Racer. The owner of this bike has gone all out and I mean all out. First, he built up the motor to put out what he thinks is an honest 70HP at the rear wheel, impressive for a Sportster. Second, modified the frame and suspension to make it handle not like a Harley. Third, sweet body work off a Ducati 750SS and an MV Agusta gas tank. This bike is spectacular. Look at the details, this is a work of art. The love, time and cubic $$$$ put into this bike really shows. If you want to be the stand out at any bike gathering, this is the sled for you. One thought here though, the regular Harley crowd might think you stand out a bit too much…maybe you could put some old school Electra Glide bags on it??? Nah. Click on the pics to get more pictures and a full list of all that was done to make this Sportster what it is…a beautifully fast motorcycle.
My neighbor Ray is moving and clearing out the garage. Buried deep in amongst table saws, chop saws, compressors and who knows what else, is this first generation Honda Gold Wing. Ray can’t ride anymore due to a stroke. The motorcycle has been sitting for years. Dead battery, flat tires, gummed up carbs, etc, etc….just what you would expect. However, the bike was fully serviced before it was parked by a very reputable mechanic, so I would imagine that all the settings; valves, carbs, timing are spot on.
This Gold Wing has been set up for touring, as most were. Honda took note and instead of thinking they were making a superbike, realized that touring was where ‘The Wing’ was destined. The front fairing is not a Vetter nor a Wixom and the owner doesn’t remember the brand either, but it’s pretty nice. The saddlebags I think are Buco? The tail trunk is the unique part of this bike. It was originally designed to hold a pull out tent, well…the tent is long gone but the trunk is still pretty cool…uh, maybe. The seat is kind of standard for the era…if you like ‘Diamond Tuck’ upholstery but, the back rest is adjustable for either the passenger or the rider.
All in all, if you’re looking for a first generation ‘Wing’ this is a good one. If you don’t like the touring stuff, take it off and ebay it. Or…attach a sidecar to it, or…after you’ve taken off and sold the touring stuff, use the money and make it into a way cool cafe racer.
This is not an ebay bike, I’m just helping a friend and I don’t need a Gold Wing in my garage. The motorcycle is overall, in really good condition. Paint is nice, accessories are good. You will need a new battery, tires and have the carbs gone through. I believe that after that relatively small amount of work, you will have a very clean and very fun to ride first generation Gold Wing.
As for the price, well, here’s Ray’s comment…” I just want it out of my garage”. He’s not quite that easy so if you’re thinking you can just drive up with a trailer and slide away with a Gold Wing, think again. If you have more questions, send me an e-mail…firstname.lastname@example.org