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Old 10-09-2009, 09:13 AM   #31
buls4evr
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I would look for a Suzuki GS850G or a KZ650 Kawasaki. Understand that a vintage bike is not cheap to rejuvinate or own. At least you don't have to see yourself coming and going to work on the same bike as everyone else rides. An added bonus is that you will really learn EVERYTHING about your bike. They have many fewer parts than modern bikes and are basically understandable. Go into restoration with the pre-conception that every seal and rubber piece is probably in need of replacement as well as most bushings(especially swing-arm) and some bearings (wheel?) and you will be more realistic on your purchase price. I mention these bikes because they had good reputations back then and you can still get parts and support today. Markjenn said it very well also. I also suggest you spend that money and get support from VJMC or some similar club so that you have someone to answer your specific questions about your bike. Have fun.
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Old 10-09-2009, 09:59 AM   #32
rufusswan
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nashopolis
maybe I can ask questions about bikes that catch my eye.
He gives himself the best advice yet. Starting with a vague idea of 'want', prowling CL ain't like pagin' thru a Bass Pro catalog. The descriptions may not (or will not) match what you see in person. What's is available to buy may not be 'near at hand' either. Best to find something you can actually see and get your hands on, and speak to a seller in person.
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Old 10-14-2009, 10:53 PM   #33
JR Greenhorn
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Lot's of well-intended advice in this thread, but so far the most critical aspect of buying an old bike hasn't been directly addressed.

The most important thing to remember when shopping for old bikes is that this is purely an emotional decision! Nothing about owning, working on, or buying old bikes makes any kind of sense if you get down to it, so it's critical to find a bike that speaks to you from the start. You need to find something you can just stare at in the garage for hours, find out which engine's sound makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck, and which bike's power character matches how you like to ride.

Who cares what kind of brakes it has, how many cams, or whether or not it's got less damping in the suspension than a storm door shutter (with the torsional rigidity to match). If it's not a bike that draws you in, you may never finish the project, or if you do, you might end up just getting rid of it at a loss when it's done.



Luckily for someone just getting into old Japanese bikes, nearly every model worth considering has some sort of cult following these days, so once you get an general idea of what grabs you, digging into the details will be a cinch.


One of the best ways to start getting acclimated to the different models out there is to dig up old magazine tests on the different bikes. Here's one nice site that will get you started: http://motorbikearchives.com/. You'll also often find scans of old magazine articles on websites devoted to a particular model of bike. I've had good luck with dirt bikes by searching sites devoted to competitive models that have shootout-type articles that cover the bike I'm actually interested in. One nice thing about digging in this way is you get a more objective perspective of the bike from when it was new, instead of hearing every reliability horror-story about some component guaranteed to go bad. Learn about the bike's own merits first, then dig into the 30+ years of reliability "reputation" and decide what you want to get yourself into.






If you like that Bonnie, I suspect the only thing that's going to scratch that itch whilst being Japanese and (relatively) avialable, cheap, and reliable is Yamaha's XS650. No four is going to have that great parallel twin "blat", and neither will some other twin with it's crankpins spaced at some silly angle other than a proper 360-degrees. However, with something like an XS650, you'll have to decide if you can like it for what it is, or if it will always just be an imitator to your truly beloved Bonnie. At least you can tweak an XS to make what you want of it and not have to feel bad about cutting one up.

For me, the engine that comes next closest to that parallel twin "blat" is big mellow 2-stroke singles. Plod around on a Yamaha DT400 for an afternoon, and you'll see the similarities in the power delivery (although you'll be giving up a lot of top-end compared to the twin). However, a DT or [Suzuki] TS is going to be a short-hop street bike at best, and these days they're truly happiest lazily cruising ATV trails and minimum maintenance roads anyway.


I wouldn't worry too much about maintenance on an old four cylinder. If you can chisel the varnish out of two carbs, surely you can chisel it out of two more. Same goes for pretty much anything you'll be wrenching on. Remember, there's only more pistons, rods, valves, and carbs. The cams are just longer, and everything downstream of the crankshaft will have similar part counts regardless of how many cylinders are driving. In short, you're buying an old bike to work on it, so don't be scared off by a little extra wrenching.

What may end up scaring you off when it comes to the four-cylinder bikes is the totally different feel they have compared to twins or thumpers. Fours carry their weight higher than twins, and you'll feel it. You won't have the low-end grunt (although you'll get it paid back on the other side of the tach), and you'll likely be rowing the gearbox much more often. These are exactly the qualities that draw many of us to fours, and they're a hoot when you get after it on one. However, I'd recommend snagging a ride on somebody's old UJM four before diving into one, based on what you're accustomed to now.


If you really want to ride the wheels off something, consider the old 2-stroke streetbikes. The Kawi triples are all motor, if that's your thing, while the Suzook's are somewhat mellower and more well-rounded. For a smaller, lighter bike you can ride the wheels off of, you'll be hard-pressed to find something better from the '70s than Yamaha's RD350. These bikes love to be ridden hard, but don't count on being able to tool around much--7/10ths pace or better or the bike won't be happy.





Clearly I've got the most experience with old Yamahas, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I've found Yamaha to still have the best stock of parts around for old bikes, although every part that leaves an inventory shelf is one less out there these days. Also, I'm just not into well-rounded--that's what new bikes are for. I like unique, and most of the bikes I mentioned specifically don't really have any thing that compares very directly. As far as I'm concerned, that's how you know you're getting close to selecting the right bike--when nothing else really compares.
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Old 10-15-2009, 03:27 PM   #34
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thanks for the thoughtful response

I would like to get some seat time on a few bikes...
I really have been feeling lately that my possessions own me as much as I own them so might as well make it a good marriage.

right now it all comes down to time or the lack of it. No time to go look anywhere but on the internet. I was bummed that I had to miss barber. I'm sure i wold have been able to ogle a few bikes there. Anything else good to attend in the southeast this fall?
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Old 01-07-2011, 03:34 AM   #35
asiafish
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markjenn View Post
The OP didn't ask for a commuter for Chicago traffic, he said he wanted to get into a classic Japanese bike. All I'm saying is that when you desire a classic bike, you are signing up the technology of that era. If you main objective is to have a bike with modern brakes and shaft drive, then maybe you'd be better served by buying a newer bike. ABS brakes are better still, so one could just as easily make ABS brakes a requirement and you'd start reducing your number of 80's options to perhaps one ridiculously expensive BMW.

You decided it was a priority for you to have shaft drive and dual discs in your older bike. Great. Nothing wrong with that. But as general advice for someone wanting to buy an old UJM BECAUSE he likes old UJM's? Not that useful advice IMHO and unnecessarily limiting. Mostly I see it saying "buy what I decided to buy because my priorities are the right ones". And you aren't selling. As but one example, a 1971 CB350 is a very cool bike and great fun to ride. Yes, it has drum brakes and chain drive. As well as crappy suspension, points ignition, and a lot of vibration. You buy one for these things, not in spite of them.

- Mark
An interesting "modern" Japanese twin is the Kawasaki W650 from the late 90s, which adds modern reliability to vintage charm.
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Old 01-07-2011, 03:38 AM   #36
asiafish
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Quote:
Originally Posted by buls4evr View Post
I would look for a Suzuki GS850G or a KZ650 Kawasaki. Understand that a vintage bike is not cheap to rejuvinate or own. At least you don't have to see yourself coming and going to work on the same bike as everyone else rides. An added bonus is that you will really learn EVERYTHING about your bike. They have many fewer parts than modern bikes and are basically understandable. Go into restoration with the pre-conception that every seal and rubber piece is probably in need of replacement as well as most bushings(especially swing-arm) and some bearings (wheel?) and you will be more realistic on your purchase price. I mention these bikes because they had good reputations back then and you can still get parts and support today. Markjenn said it very well also. I also suggest you spend that money and get support from VJMC or some similar club so that you have someone to answer your specific questions about your bike. Have fun.
A strong +1 on the GS850G. Mine is a 1980 with 36,000 miles that looks and rides like it did 31-years-ago, but with better tires.


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Old 01-07-2011, 04:34 AM   #37
RobbieO
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Honda CB350 Twins!
This 35+ year old bike has a smoother transmission than my 2007 BMW.
Dead reliable and fun!

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Old 01-07-2011, 07:27 AM   #38
MODNROD
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Suzuki GS500 twin.

Typical UJM........round headlight, roundish tank, fat squared-off seat, pipe each side, boringly reliable.

Best bit is they last forever (a thousand couriers around the world can't all be wrong), are cheap as chips, and many parts can transfer from other Skuzi 4's........which is good, coz the bastards never break, are fast as crap, live under trees and rocks all over the world, and although I've never had one I've been trying to catch the bloody things at the drags for 20 years!
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Old 01-07-2011, 07:31 AM   #39
bk brkr baker
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This is a clone of my first street bike. I bought in 1973 when I was 18. I waited til my parents were out of town and got my uncle to co-sign a loan to cover half of purchase. I already had the other half.
!0,000 miles later I got my dad to drive me to the Kawasaki dealer. I was 19 and spent all the money I had on a 1975 Kawasaki 900 Z-1.


So I'd recomend getting a 350 Honda and riding it 10,000 miles before moving to a 500 lb. 4 cylinder.

The extra weight and horsepower of the big bike is no joke. And if you don't open the throttle, you're just riding a heavy lump.
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Old 01-07-2011, 12:50 PM   #40
drhach
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nashopolis View Post
thanks for the thoughtful response

I would like to get some seat time on a few bikes...
I really have been feeling lately that my possessions own me as much as I own them so might as well make it a good marriage.

right now it all comes down to time or the lack of it. No time to go look anywhere but on the internet. I was bummed that I had to miss barber. I'm sure i wold have been able to ogle a few bikes there. Anything else good to attend in the southeast this fall?
I personally own a Suzuki GS1000, I love it and it suits me fine. Based on some of what you have said, I would echo the XS650 as a consideration. It seems that given what you do or don't want, it might be best to stick with bikes that are already in good running shape but not necessarily showroom fresh. This would give you the opportunity to basically sell the bikes for pretty much what you pay for them (assuming you take good care of them). You can buy a twin or a four or a triple or whatever and not really be out more than a couple thousand dollars. If you lose a few bucks here and there, call it the "leasing fee". I think that for me, I probably would like any bike that I got though. I think that my GS is the best of the bunch. I'm sure if I had gotten a Z1 or a CB, I'd be saying the same thing. They're called "Universal" after all. They all pretty much stop the same, get the same fuel economy have the same performance, etc.; not exactly the same but they are all peers. Honestly, I think if you love your Bonnie that much, consider the XS650. Otherwise pick a four. A four isn't really "four times the work". There is the issue of hte carbs, but it really isn't that big of a deal.
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