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> It will be in a junkyard within ten years though. I won't be able to find those sensors in a few years.

Not true. You will be able to get an aftermarket ECU that can just ignore the sensors and run in open-loop mode. That will be exactly the same as running with carburetors: fixed fuel/air ratio that is almost always wrong. This is also the failure mode for OBDII cars - sensor failures lead to the ECU running in open-loop mode, which lowers MPG and increases emissions, which will eventually foul the catalytic converters.

> I'm looking for a 1969 Honda CL350 right now. They're still around and running fine. They're much simpler and much more maintainable.

My wife has owned a CB175 and a CB550. Both required tons of work and were maintenance nightmares. They really are piece of shit bikes when it comes to reliability when compared to most Japanese bikes from 1990 onward. The prices old Honda bikes command on the market are completely out of whack with what you get because of strong demand from both the vintage bike enthusiast and hipster demographics. I would not ride one if it was given to me for free.




Maintenance "headaches" are part of the appeal of old bikes. It's much easier to learn how an internal combustion powered vehicle works on an old Honda bike than a new one, or on a new car.

Compared to other bikes of their day these are very simple to maintain and they were designed from the start to be kept running by the average person. It really depends on what you are looking for in a bike.

If enjoying turning a wrench on a Saturday makes me a hipster then pass the beard wax.


There is weekend wrenching and there is dealing with design flaws and poor manufacturing. Problems with the CB175 and CB550 that were not regular maintenance (carburetor/timing/valve/etc/etc) related:

* fast cylinder wear (poor materials/manufacturing, engine rebuilds all around)

* unreliable electric system ("mostly" fixed on CB550 with Charlie's solid state ignition and rectifier)

* Leaking gaskets (design flaw)

I know a lot of vintage Honda collectors and a few racers, and also a lot of vintage BMW collectors. BMW motorcycles from the same era do not have these problems.


What gaskets leaked? Side covers? I haven't had a problem with side cover gaskets but I did have some replacement non-JIS screws back out because they were not torqued properly. Can't speak to cylinder wear, my bike has close to 10k hard miles and doesn't compression test real well but does work fine.


Old side cover gaskets did, those were easy to replace. Something else was leaking before the engine rebuild, and then something else entirely started leaking after the rebuild.


I have a hard time blaming either of those on design flaws.


I used to share your opinion, but hours of searching for no longer-made parts and obscure wrench sizes and other tools that often simply don't exist anymore cooled my enthusiasm somewhat (fixing 1960s camera lenses)


All the fasteners I have seen are standard metric sizes, what speciality tools are you referring to? The side cover screws can be stubborn but even a Philips #3 with an impact driver ($20.00 at the pawn shop) pops them right off. Conversion kits to standard allen head screws are cheap, on the order of $50.00 for the whole engine.

There is a special nut on the oil spinner but that's the only specialty tool I can think of on the bike until you start actually disassembling the whole thing and you don't even have to remove it to do an oil service. I guess the shock/steering head adjuster is a specialty tool? But that was included with the bike so not hard to find either.

Parts can be a bit harder but since these things were so popular it's a lot easier than any other bike from 1969. Also the aftermarket is huge if you don't care about staying totally stock.


did you have fun converting JIS to metric? I learned that one the hard way. Three EZ-Outs later...


To clarify, using three easy outs instead of the right tool is kind of like saying config files are flawed because they have to be edited. Tools are created for a job and it is up to us as engineers to use them properly.


i should really say the PO who stripped the engine bolts with a phillips head instead of a JIS driver made it kind of inevitable. 40 year old machines are interesting.


Most of the screws I have seen are trashed from people using screwdrivers instead of impact drivers. Even with the proper JIS bit the screws will still be ruined if you don't use an impact type tool. There's just no way to apply enough axial force to the fastener with a normal hand tool, even if the shape is correct.


That's what the impact driver is for. I didn't have to convert any bolts to metric, all those are already metric. Only the screws need to be converted.


Newer than 1990 doesn't mean fuel injected and sensors out the wazoo. I have a 2001 Bandit and it's brilliant, same power and fuel economy as the current model and pure old fashioned air cooled carbie goodness. Nearly 70k kms and the mechanic reckons it'll be good for as much again.


Exactly. 1990s carbureted Japanese bikes are far superior to 1970s ones in reliability both in terms of design and manufacturing quality. But CL550s go for more than Super Blackbirds. The only reason is the steep vintage/hipster markup.

The Bandit is a good example that parts availability has nothing to do with the technology used and everything to do with the market. My bike is actually a 2001 Bandit 600. The 2nd generation 1200 sold well in the United States, the 2nd generation 600 never did. The 1st generation 600 did sell. So there are a ton of aftermarket 1st generation 600 parts availabe in the US, but pretty much the only new replacement parts you can get for the 2nd generation 600 here (that are not in common with the 1200 or SV650, if you can figure out which ones those are) are rebuild kits for the off-the-shelf brakes and carbs, and you can get the gaskets cut. Everything else you either have to import from the UK or get custom-made, which usually ends up being cheaper (things I have had custom made: throttle cables, fork tube).


Did Honda even build a CL550? Was that a huge parallel twin or a four cylinder scrambler? Never heard of either of those configurations from Honda.

Do you mean CB550? If so they demand a higher price because they are 1) older and 2) look way better. Super Nighthawk performance isn't much to write home about relative to newer bikes for the same price and vintage bikes look really nice.

Now is probably a great time to pick up a Super Nighthawk because as with almost all vehicles their value drops off continually for their first 20 or so years until they are truly part of a previous generation of vehicles that is no longer available. Then the value starts to rise again due to scarcity.

We saw the same thing in the 90s with 1970s domestic cars which peaked in the 2000s. It's happening now with 1980s Japanese cars and has been happening to 1970s and 80s Japanese bikes.


As it stands, the Suzi's input pressure sensor is malfunctioning (a $200 part where available) and the bike backfires and splutters badly. So I'm not convinced that an open loop mode ECU won't end up with an engine fire or a hole in the piston.

Other folks have mentioned that the mechanical points can be swapped out for a solid state ignition on the CL, closing that loop of maintenance for starters.


My solution to carburetor issues on my CL was to replace the carburetors with another design from Mikuni. You do have the option to swap a megasquirt system on to your bike and then use sensors that are cheaper or more readily available. I'm not sure if that would be easier or not but it is an option and it is something that will become increasingly more common as "new" bikes become "old" over the next 10 or so years.




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