I don't know much about UJM's but I want to learn thread

Discussion in 'Old's Cool' started by nashopolis, Oct 7, 2009.

  1. nashopolis

    nashopolis Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2006
    Oddometer:
    721
    Location:
    Nashville, Tenn
    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
    #1
  2. rufusswan

    rufusswan Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2007
    Oddometer:
    962
    Location:
    Branson MO
    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.
    #2
  3. Daleah

    Daleah Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2009
    Oddometer:
    101
    Location:
    East Iowa
    try this web site:

    kzrider.com
    #3
  4. markjenn

    markjenn Long timer

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2003
    Oddometer:
    10,479
    Location:
    Swellvue, WA
    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
    #4
  5. bpeckm

    bpeckm Grin!

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2008
    Oddometer:
    6,097
    Location:
    Road Island
    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" :huh


    :D
    #5
  6. nashopolis

    nashopolis Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2006
    Oddometer:
    721
    Location:
    Nashville, Tenn
    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. gen.info 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
    #6
  7. Uncle Ernie

    Uncle Ernie Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2007
    Oddometer:
    3,978
    Location:
    Asheville NC
    Well, probably a good place to go (but you have to pay dues) is the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club.

    http://www.sohc4.net/ <there's a huge amount of knowledge regarding the CB Fours here

    DoTheTon And CafeRacer.net 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.
    #7
  8. East Coast Rider

    East Coast Rider Just Me...

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2007
    Oddometer:
    4,039
    Location:
    Stuck somewhere in motorcycle Purgatory
    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!!!
    #8
  9. kz1

    kz1 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2006
    Oddometer:
    780
    Location:
    Ohio North Coast
    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: www.cb1100f.net

    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 www.xs11.com

    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: www.kzrider.com

    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: www.thegsresources.com
    #9
  10. bwringer

    bwringer Gimpy, Yet Alacritous

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2008
    Oddometer:
    2,262
    Location:
    Indianapolis
    Perhaps I'm biased, but I've heard many times that the Suzuki GS community based around the forums at http://thegsresources.com 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-├╝ber-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.
    [​IMG]

    And they handle just fine, with a bit of updating.
    [​IMG]
    #10
  11. markjenn

    markjenn Long timer

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2003
    Oddometer:
    10,479
    Location:
    Swellvue, WA
    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
    #11
  12. bkrmoto

    bkrmoto Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2008
    Oddometer:
    222
    Location:
    Pennsyltucky
    This Brit site is sorta fun to read and has some useful info, but take it with a grain or two-

    http://www.goodmotorcycles.com/

    click on the "Used M/C Guide" on the left hand side and search by manufacturer and then model.
    #12
  13. Kismet

    Kismet vagrant philosopher

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2005
    Oddometer:
    387
    Location:
    rural WI
    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.

    Yahoo Radian Group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/radian/photos/album/0/list
    #13
  14. squish

    squish Out of the office.

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2003
    Oddometer:
    6,461
    Location:
    Where the Ghetto meets the sea.
    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.
    #14
  15. El_Oel

    El_Oel Laugh. Out Loud.

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2009
    Oddometer:
    182
    Location:
    Chi-Caw-Go
    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.
    #15
  16. markjenn

    markjenn Long timer

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2003
    Oddometer:
    10,479
    Location:
    Swellvue, WA
    Sorry, have to disagree with much of this advice.

    Low miles on a 35-yo bike often mean its been sitting for long periods. Probably barely runs now if at all. I'd much rather have a higher-miles bike with some regular use and is a daily (or at least weekly) driver rather than a barn bike with 2K miles on it that hasn't run in ten years.

    And how many 35-yo bikes have complete maintenance records and one or two owners? Less than 1%, I'd guess. Nice if a bike has a history like this, but its not really a realistic expectation when buying old/cheap bikes.

    Shaft drive? Fine if you want it, but 80% of the bikes shipping today don't have it and find owners, so I have no idea why you'd make this a general desire for an old bike. While I have two shaft-drive bikes in my stable, in this application, I'd prefer the simplicity and easy-to-replace nature of a chain. Shafts are for high-mileage tourers, not hack-around Sunday driver vintage bikes.

    Dual discs? Not very common with old Japanese bikes. Even dual discs weren't very good twenty+ years ago. You're buying an old bike here and drum or single disc brakes are often part of the program. If you want great brakes, get a newer bike. And hydraulic brake systems are one of the big maintenance bugaboos on old bikes. I've rebuilt too many master and slave cylinders in my time.

    Anyway, that's my $0.02. Do look for something that isn't beat and is in good shape, but don't limit your choices by wanting new technology on your old bike. If you want great brakes, low miles, not many owners, etc., then best just to buy a five-year or newer bike.

    - Mark
    #16
  17. El_Oel

    El_Oel Laugh. Out Loud.

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2009
    Oddometer:
    182
    Location:
    Chi-Caw-Go
    I present to you my UJM.

    [​IMG]


    11K mi, original owner, bought new in '84, ridden every year, (sparingly), dual front discs, shaft drive @ 11K mi doesn't need replacing, and has no hassles, especially with the original owner keeping up on service, bought it, and rode it 120 miles home. Have since put well over 1,000 miles on it, grabbing the Central tag almost 400 miles into Iowa on a whim (picture is from the trip), and the bike has been as reliable as a stone axe.

    Oh yeah. Paid $800 for it. :deal

    And CL is loaded with these deals, if you just pay attention. Have you been actually shopping for an UJM, or are you just talking?
    #17
  18. markjenn

    markjenn Long timer

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2003
    Oddometer:
    10,479
    Location:
    Swellvue, WA
    I'm looking all the time. I own two. My CL isn't "loaded" with such bikes and I doubt yours is either. And my guess is that if you were to sell yours, you'd want more than $800. I'll also note that your bike is on the much-more-recent end of UJM's and as such, yes, you get more recent systems.

    Let's leave it at that.

    - Mark
    #18
  19. El_Oel

    El_Oel Laugh. Out Loud.

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2009
    Oddometer:
    182
    Location:
    Chi-Caw-Go
    Actually, my CL is. It is finally tapering off for the fall, but bike prices plummeted towards the end of summer. Bikes are pretty cheap here in the Flea Market, as well. You are free to check Chicago, Milwaukee, and Rockford's CL ads, just like me. No need to doubt. In the middle of summer, there would be 4 or 5 pages of Motorcycles for sale each day. Plenty to choose from, and everyone was selling, due to the economy.

    I really wanted a Seca 650, so I passed on $800-1100 CB750 and 900Fs, Plenty of Suzi GSs, but not too many Kaws besides the 440s, which don't count as what the OP called UJMs. I bought one for my last GF, though. Second owner for $800 last year in the middle of the height of overpriced scoots. :deal

    And if you actually read what you quoted, you would have realized I never said to get a 2K mile bike, I never said you had to have dual front discs, and never said to get a 35 year old bike. Drum brakes would get me killed in Chicago traffic, and I know I have no need to adjust or pay $100 replace a chain and sprockets. The fact that my UJM is newer is the whole point. Get as much as you can for the price. Why would I want drum brakes for something ridden regularly?


    Oh, and my Seca is not for sale. I wanted one since 80-81 when all the cycle mags cried that we couldn't get it here, but Europe had it. Yamaha brought here, and it bombed. I didn't have the coin to buy one, and bought an FT500 instead. I hated that bike. :D
    #19
  20. nashopolis

    nashopolis Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2006
    Oddometer:
    721
    Location:
    Nashville, Tenn
    Howdy all thanks for the continued advice. There are a lot of bikes out there that vaguely fit this category and the plan is to get an overview so I know vaguely what I am looking at as I start searching for the right one. Keep em coming!
    #20