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Old 10-07-2009, 12:06 PM   #1
nashopolis OP
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I don't know much about UJM's but I want to learn thread

Howdy folks

I have touched on this before but never really gotten serious about finding an older japanese bike. Lately I have seen a lot of nice bikes being fixed up from the 70's and 80's. Now I have the itch. That eras prices are right for what I can muster. And I like the standard bike look.

But my knowledge is limited on the subject. Where might I search to see sort of a comprehensive review of the subject? Besides the absolutely most common names all the CB CS GS designations don't register yet. I want to hone in on a few bikes that might be fairly easy to find and find parts for and would be good reliable steeds.

I know it is a pretty broad subject but any direction as to where to start would be appreciated.

And of course if you want to chime in with real world experience on any make/model I would gladly listen

Thanks in advance
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Old 10-07-2009, 12:55 PM   #2
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I'm in some senses paddling the same stream. Can claim no expertise on this subject, but have tooled up and down a few byways such as CL, various forums of usually some worth, and other avenues on the interwebs. Luckily, I'm broke, so I haven't yet had to address the subject by actual purchase.

You did neglect to specify WHAT it is you want to learn and did not hint at any particular goal, but .....

1. One needs to sort thru the issue of NO TITLE et al
2. You can't have too much penetrating liquids in the shop, and an impact screwdriver seems mandatory.
3. Also mandatory, is the bucket of carb dip.
4. In no way wilt thou get out of the finished bike what one has spent in $'s.

Depending on what you want to learn, it is probably irrelevant which particular model you buy, the experience will be similar. For example, I want a 70's Honda 350 SL, however it will be far easier to find any older Honda 70-100cc dirt bike in my neighborhood, the experience will be similar, and I will be lucky to break even when I sell it.

It narrow down the Make-Model search and research that while you monitor Craiglist for possible purchase.
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Old 10-07-2009, 12:58 PM   #3
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old kawasaki?

try this web site:
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Old 10-07-2009, 01:16 PM   #4
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I don't know of any treatise on UJM's but the term generally refers to an unfaired (i.e., "standard"), air-cooled, inline-four, chain-driven Japanese bike from the original Honda CB750 in 1969 up until the early- to mid-80's when most of the big four started moving to liquid-cooling (and V4's in the case of Honda) and phased out their standards for more specialized sportbikes, cruisers, and touring bikes. (That's not to say that there haven't been scattered later UJM's like the Yamaha Radian and Kawasaki Zephyr in the 1990's. Overseas, almost all the Japanese still make and sell big-displacement UJMs. And Honda has said their going to do a retro UJM for 2010 or 2011 - the CB1100F).

Honda's UJM's are usually given the CB designation, although CB (and CL for scrambler models) applies to many twin models as well. The SOHC inline-four models were from 1969 to about 1978 with 750's, 500/550's, and 350/400 displacement. They're all starting to get significant collector interest so nice models won't be cheap. Honda also did a brief run of DOHC 4-valve air-cooled models from 1979 up until 1983 or so, but they're not as common nor as interesting to collectors.

Kawasaki kicked off their UJM's with the DOHC 900cc 1972 Z1 which later became the KZ900 and KZ1000. They also had a number of smaller and larger KZ models through the 70's and early 80's. All are considered pretty good bikes, but Kawasaki has always discontinued parts support at the earliest possible opportunity so parts are harder to source. But there is a healthy aftermarket.

Suzuki started doing UJM's with the DOHC 1977 GS750 and later expanded the line to 550's, 850's and 1000's. Some were shaft drive with a "G" after the model, and the GS850G was considered an superb touring bike in its time. Generally considered the most refined bikes and best handling bikes of this era. And reliable too, although you often hear of stator issues. In the early 1980's Suzuki converted over to 4-valve models (e.g., GS1100E) and they were very solid too.

Yamaha was the last to the party. I believe their first non-twin four-stroke was the XS750, but it was a triple, not a four, so technically not a UJM. They joined the four-cyls with the 1979 XS11 which was followed by the smaller Seca models.

Personally, if you're interested in getting into the classic Japanese UJM thing, I'd tend towards the SOHC Hondas (CB750, CB550, CB500, CB400F, CB350) as they're solid bikes and have a huge following in parts, spares, and people willing to help out with mechanical issues. And I always though the GS850G and later 4-valve Suzuki GS models were pretty cool and relatively nice performers. But get whatever turns your crank. Just don't underestimate how much work it will be to bring back a rough bike. Or how much you might have to spend to get a really nice one. And final note: Lower your expectations of how well these old bikes perform. By today's standards, they're pretty bad - modest power, terrible suspension, and weak brakes. An out-of-the-box "beginners bike" like a SV650 will completely outperform these old bikes in nearly every aspect. You own these old bikes for their looks, simplicity, and nostalgia value, not performance.

- Mark

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Old 10-07-2009, 01:34 PM   #5
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Mark, good points.

Personally, I like the twins and thumpers for their looks and relative simplicity compared to the fours. I have always called the twins UJM's, but hey...who cares what category they fall into. Find one you like!

As said above, stick with what is popular and has good parts availability, and be prepared for a "learning curve"

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Old 10-07-2009, 02:26 PM   #6
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yep sorry if i was too vague

I guess I didn't know the ujm moniker referred to 4 bangers
I am interested strongly in 2 cylinder bikes as well

Rufusswan asked what i wanted to know

as far as what i trying to learn

1. which bikes have a good reputation and parts still available

2. suggestions where to do some more research (unless you want to fill in what you know, which is always appreciated)

3. advice from those who have experience with this era of machine...where should I start. I want to ride a bike once i get it up to a safe level of function not have a concourse resto.

4. on that era of Japanese bike (common faults/things to look out for)

none of my bikes are modern performers so i wouldn't know the difference probably. My first ride ever was on a 70 bonneville. So that is where I am starting from ;).

thanks for all the input so far it is very helpful
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Old 10-07-2009, 03:25 PM   #7
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Well, probably a good place to go (but you have to pay dues) is the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club.
DoTheTon And are all about modifying the old Japanese bikes. I don't know how good they'd be for stock info, but you might learn something from just perusing.

Most models have specific sites, especially on Yahoo.
For singles, the Yamaha SR500 is a terrific bike, and it's very versatile.
The GB500 is one of the best looking and performing, but they are harder to find all of a sudden- and around $5K.

Yamaha XS650 is a great all 'round bike that can be inexpensive initially, has a huge following, and makes a good bobber, cafe, flat-tracker, chopper, or is great restored.

Then there's the 2-strokes; in a class all by themselves, IMO.
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Old 10-07-2009, 03:33 PM   #8
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Well, I am biased...I own an 82 GS1100EZ. All shaft drive air/oil cooled Suzis (no matter the displacment) are 2 valve engines, even after 1980. If you end up with a GS of ANY sort, check out the R/R & stator, especially if the bike was stored outside for any period. I got lucky with my 1100. 80,000 miles and stator and R/R are original.

If you lean toward the cafe style of modding, a GS450/550 do nicely, but I think the Honda CB's lend themselves better to the cafe style..

Good luck!!!
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Old 10-07-2009, 03:49 PM   #9
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My 2 cents

Late 70's to early 80's:

Honda: Stick with the inline models, a nice series is the CB750F, CB900F and CB1100F or the 1983-1986 CB650SC or CB750SC. Stay away from the V4 models. They had problems with the oil not reaching the back cylinders. Honda has always been number one in the models sold which means there are a lot of nice bikes currently for sale and there are a ton of parts online. Website:

Yamaha: The most popular line was the XS series. XS650, XS750, XS850, and XS1100. The larger models had 2nd gear problem that can be fixed. Not as many sold as the other manufactures which means parts are a little more difficult to come by. The XS650 is a great small 2 cylinder. The XS750 and XS850 were 3 cylinders (something a little different) and the XS1100 was a 4 cylinder beast. I had one and loved it. Website: I think it is

Kawasaki: The King Kongs of their time. KZ900 and KZ1000. All about the engine. Not much in the handling department. They can be expensive to find a nice one today. The KZ650 was a nice little inline four. They made two KZ750's. A weak two cylinder and a nice inline four. The GPZ line had problems with the fuel injection which lead many owners to change over to carbs. Website:

Suzuki: The GS series was in my opinion the best all around bikes built in that time frame. GS550, GS650, GS750, GS850, GS1000, GS1100, GS1150. They had electical problems which can easily upgraded today. Most were chain driven except for the GS850 and a GS1000G. Website:
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Old 10-07-2009, 04:36 PM   #10
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Perhaps I'm biased, but I've heard many times that the Suzuki GS community based around the forums at is the most supportive, friendly, active, and useful by far.

I would warn that we've seen some problems with top-end oiling on the 81+ 16 valve 750 engines. Other than that, find the best GS that you like and can afford within a reasonable distance and jump in! You might also join the forum and post in the bikes wanted section. Look for "Basscliff's" super-über-mega welcome, which amounts to an FAQ and a zillion links useful for n00bs.

The electrical problems are actually quite easy to fix (and there's an excruciatingly complete guide on the site called The Stator Papers), so don't let that worry you overmuch.

Parts availability and pricing is surprisingly good. Suzuki's parts bin engineering philosophy really pays off for the vintage rider. By contrast, Honda and Yamaha seemed to change everything every year (with the exception of a few long-lived models), and Honda's famed complete parts availability is fading fast.

I think the GS850G is the best, obviously.

And they handle just fine, with a bit of updating.
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Old 10-07-2009, 04:45 PM   #11
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If you're a novice at this, I'd tend to look at twins - half the carbs to clean and get out of sync, have the cylinders to have problems, etc.

The small Honda twins from 68 up to the early 80's are all nice little bikes: CB175s, CB350s, CB360s, CB400s, CB450s. The water-cooled CX500 is a bike that has a huge following and is a legend among British courier pilots, but is super funky looking.

650 Yamaha twins are plentiful and cool, although I never cared for the "Special" variants which are often though to have been one of the first Japanese cruisers. Other early Yamaha four-stroke twins have a sketchy reputation (e.g., TX500's), especially concerning oil leaks.

Kawasaki continued to dable in twins after they converted most of their lineups to fours. KZ400's are the Kawi equivalent of the ubiquitous CB350 and Kawi even tried a large 750cc twin in the late-70's, although it is not well regarded and very rare.

Suzuki has had a small GS twin for a long time - I think you can trace the current GS500 back to the 80's and it probably had roots even further back. This is more of a choice for someone looking for basic transport, not a collector bike.

I've owned four CB or CL350's of one sort or another and to me they are the 1957 Chevy of motorcycling. This would be my choice to dabble in an early Japanese twin. My second would be an nice non-cruiser XS650 Yamaha.

To build up a cafe bike, I've always thought something based on the Honda XR600 or XR650 would be a neat way to go - virtually unlimited hop-up parts, although most are kickers and can be troublesome to start.

As always, condition is EVERYTHING in a 35-yo bike. Among similar models from the different mfgs, it matters little what emblem is on the tank vs. how the bike has been cared for. Cast a wide net, look at a lot of bikes, and get something that grabs you and runs well, not a ratty example of something that is the concensus here as the most trouble-free or coolest.

- Mark
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Old 10-07-2009, 04:51 PM   #12
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This Brit site is sorta fun to read and has some useful info, but take it with a grain or two-

click on the "Used M/C Guide" on the left hand side and search by manufacturer and then model.
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Old 10-07-2009, 05:58 PM   #13
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Yamaha took their 550 inline four, moved it up to FJ600, then looked at the parts' shelves and made one of the great entry bikes, the Radian...with the same 600cc engine (basically, except for tuning).

I've had two...the current one came from a farm auction. In Chicago, the short wheel base made for bumpy rides on Lake Shore Drive's expansion joints, and the bike was almost too quick with the wide bars. Sold it.

Out here in rural Wisconsin got the second one, added some bags, convinced a Kaw 650 4.5 gal tank it wanted to fit on the frame (Radian was 3.2 gal), and put a saddle from a Kaw 454, and it is just a terrific day-tourer. Kinda bullet-proof, in my experience.

I ride easy, but this 600 can go like a banshee.

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Kismet screwed with this post 10-07-2009 at 10:05 PM
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Old 10-07-2009, 08:37 PM   #14
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I don't know jack about the bikes other then Hondas

However here's some more info

Most of these bikes had poor suspension to start with
It's really bad now 20-30 years later.
Same for the brakes.

That said they called them UJM for a reason.
There were tons of them.

As other have said Honda's had single, twin and four cylinder CB
all CB's were four stroke and most of them overhead cam.

If your looking for a smaller bike
Get a CB350 twin or a CB400 four
Shy away from the CB350 four, the CB360 twin
The CB500 and 550 fours are a very nice bike
Striking a decent balance between the cost of a 400four and the weight and cost of the 750sohc bikes.

The later (after 78) DOHC 750,900 and 1100 Honda's are nice but the styling was not as rounded and older looking as the earlier bikes.
These later bikes also had solid state ignitions (that are now starting to age)
The earlier bikes had the traditional points

VJMC will help you a lot as well.
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Old 10-07-2009, 10:07 PM   #15
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There are tons of UJMs out there.

Get one with a title.

Get one with relatively low miles, only one or two owners and decent maintenance records.

Shaft drive is very nice.

Make sure it has at least one disc on the front. Two would be even better. Drum brakes- no bueno.

Check everything made of rubber on it, and expect to at least replace the brake lines with stainless. Carb boots go bad, as well.

Get something that isn't beat half to death.

Take your time. UJMs are everywhere for dirt cheap. This isn't a singles bar, and there is no last call. You'll find the right one to jump on if you wait for it.
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