Want to buy a cafe racer? Think again.
Once upon a time I purchased a 1979 Honda CB650. It was meant to be a cool little project for me. By the end, I was happy just to sell it for what I bought it for. If you’re thinking of making a cafe racer, you’d better either know what you’re doing, or think again. Here are five reasons not to buy an old motorcycle.
- Hard to find parts: Let’s face it, a motorcycle that hasn’t been in production for twenty years probably hasn’t had new parts made for it in twenty years, so what happens when the manufacturer’s stash runs dry? You’ll have to turn to used parts, which in turn hold their own mysterious paths and problems.
Long wait and backorders for parts you do find: Say there are parts available, or still being made. Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who’s bike is still being sold in some remote, desolate, part of the world. Do you think you’ll simply be able to get the new parts in for the next day? Of course not. I’ve seen parts on back order for 12 weeks. That’s a long time to wait for your bike’s essential needs.
- Kilometers hurt motorcycles: The longer a motorcycle’s been on the road, the more kilometers its likely to have. General wear and tear from road travel and age can wear away at a motorcycle. Even the effects of time can dry up seals, gaskets, and rubber. Tens of thousands of miles of road can leave an engine, tires, filters, oil, fluids, seals, brakes and more, beat up and in need of servicing.
- Neglect hurts motorcycles too: So you’ve found an old bike with only a few thousand original miles on it. Is it a catch that you’ve found? Not really. It’s the sign of a motorcycle that’s spent most of its life sitting, neglected, alone in a garage, or outdoors. Engines and moving parts seize up. Tires crack. Filters, fluids, carburettors, and gas lines get gunked up. Even something with very few kilometers can be a significant investment.
Few repair shops and mechanics knowledgeable about older bikes: What’s the “points” system anyway? Fewer and fewer new mechanics are learning this and the ins and outs of older bikes. Let’s not forget that in the past we saw a lot fewer twins like we do today. There were tricky british tripple cylinder engines. Finicky japanese inline four cylinder and V-4 cylinder engines that take time to scrub clean and balance. Simply put, finesse wasn’t always guaranteed, and every twenty year old motorcycle’s particular quirky characteristics won’t be common knowledge in today’s motorcycle repair shop as it was two decades ago.
I wish I could have kept my 1979 Honda CB650 but it was just going to be too much headache for me. Ultimately, I bit off more than I could chew. I broke even on my purchase and signed up for a weekly motorcycle maintenance class. Maybe next time around I’ll get it right.
In the end I bought a 1979 Vespa 100 Sport instead. One cylinder, one carburetor, instead of four cylinders, four carburetors. A simpler vehicle, for a simple man. If you’re still undecided about what to do, please read 5 Reasons to Buy an Old Motorcycle.