Sunday, May 20, 2018

Lucky to be here for #70

Starting my 7th decade on Thursday May 24, I have to stop and be grateful for all the blessings in my life of family and many motorcycle friends around the world.

I have had three different motorcycle crashes that could have taken me out for good, but somehow I survived them all and still enjoy riding my bikes regularly. Current stable includes the 1988 CBR250R, a 2013 PCX150 and a 2013 CB1100. There is a possibility of another CB77 coming my way next week, but that’s not for sure.

I lost track of all the bikes and cars that I have owned/sold in the past 50 years, but I think it has ranged upwards towards 400, starting with my 1967 CL90 Scrambler, the first bike I ever owned. Since then the bike list ranged from a 1954 F Cub to a few CBXs with lots of 250-305s in the mix of all types. In the last year I have had a handful of JDM bikes that I never imagined owning and riding, including a 1997 Dream 50 street bike, 1968 domestic CB350 (with CB77 style fuel tank) and a pair of CBR250R bikes with 18k redlines. It is now just possible to sample more JDM models here in the US due to the 25 year old rule kicking in favoring some of the unusual Japanese bikes and cars which we could never experience until now.

I missed the opportunity to have a long-term "life partner" who shared my enthusiasm for motorcycles, but at least they tolerated them while we were together. I am fortunate to be in a relationship now with a woman who grew up riding Honda CB160s and CB175s (without a helmet). She "gets" the attraction of motorcycles and appreciates that I am a key figure in the world of vintage Honda motorcycles. That is a rare quality in women in my experience and I am grateful for that now.

It is gratifying to see more women become involved in rides and motorcycles in the past few years. Motorcycle ownership and riding is waning somewhat according to the latest news reports. Current generations of eligible riders have delayed even getting a driver’s license at all as other transportation options have become available, like ride-sharing and an emphasis on bicycles. 

The face of motorcycling, as a whole, is changing with the latest technologies in electric cars and motorcycles. It is hard to imagine riding motorcycles which basically are completely silent apart from the gear whirring of the electric powertrains. Future generations will miss out on the roar of the Honda CBX six’s wailing exhaust systems or the mechanical commotion of a small 250cc four cylinder bike with a 18-19k redline as it peaks past what seems to be impossible revolutions for an internal combustion engine.

As we look to the future, however, the continued burning of fossil fuels appears to still have consequences to the global environment. Banning diesel and gas powered vehicles may well help stem the tide of carbon dioxide that filters upwards into our precious atmosphere which has caused the conditions of global warming or at least been a contributor to it for the past 100 years. How different the world will be in another 25 or 50 years, assuming that we are able to reverse some of the climate changes in some way or other.

For people of my generation, we have watched an amazing transformation of automotive and motorcycle technology starting with ancient and ineffective combustion engines that would ping and detonate with an 8.0:1 compression because the fuels were not sufficient to support anything higher than that. Today we have street bikes with 150-200+ horsepower, still running on premium alcohol injected fuels, despite compression ratios in the 12 to 13:1 range.

My first “real car” was a 1956 Ford 4-door with a 272 cu in engine, three speed stick shift on the column and a 2bbl carburetor. I think that it usually got about 14 mpg perhaps, but gasoline was $.25 a gallon back then, so fuel costs were not a particularly big concern. Disc brakes were unheard of back then, apart from being on exotic racing cars or airplanes. Four troublesome drum brakes were the only option back in the 1950s; and you had to keep an eye on them as those asbestos brake shoes wore out quickly hauling a couple of tons of steel down to a halt.

Honda Super Hawks, with their 200mm dual leading shoe brakes, were the epitome of motorcycle brakes in the 1960s. Those brakes were often pirated from dead bikes to be used on roadracers or even other street bikes whose brakes were poorly chosen for their stopping tasks. Despite all the hoopla surrounding the disc brakes on the CB750s, their single piston brake calipers really didn’t do a decent job of slowing down a 500+ lb street bike from high speeds. Even worse, the first generation CBX models had similarly insufficient braking for a 600 lb street machine with 130mph speed potential.

Today, we have ABS brakes available on even the smallest street bikes and even pedestrian scooters. Brake calipers have at least 2 pistons each and extreme cases all the way to 6 piston stoppers. Finally, tire technology has had to rise to the occasion in order to cope with the tremendous braking power available on today’s models.

It is hard to find a motorcycle shop now that has mechanics who understand the functions of carburetors and point/condenser ignition systems. Electronic fuel injection has recently been available for even 50 cc model machines in many markets. Troubleshooting and re-jetting carburetors has become a lost art for many mechanics of this generation.

In the past 25+ years, I have published helpful books and electronic media information to help carry what I have learned to future generations. I originally typed my first books on a word processor machine and then printed out the masters to take to a copy shop for reprinting into paper books for sale. That process worked well for about 10 years before I was able to get my hands on computers with some real fire power that allowed sharing of more and more information to more and more people in the world. Now I can offer thousands of pages of information via a download to just about anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice. Yes, the world has changed a LOT in the past 70 years…

I appreciate all the positive feedback from readers through the years. I continue to learn more new facts and nuances about the 250-305s and plow that information back into my offerings. I welcome questions about the vintage Honda models and can usually offer an answer from my experience or will find out what an answer might be from friends and other enthusiasts.
So, to all my readers: Thanks for the memories and support, in our combined search for the answers to our technical questions and discovering the history of these amazing vintage bikes.

Bill Silver 
aka MrHonda

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Time flies, whether you are having fun or not…

Dear readers,

My apologies for failing to update this blog recently. I have had quite a lot going on wrangling my 1997 Dream 50 street bike and the Rickman CR750 project bike, of late. In addition there are the transient repair jobs that come in and out of the shop that tax my patience and shop space at times, too.

The little Dream 50 street bike arrived a few months ago, packed with a built from scratch 89cc race motor, featuring a dry clutch conversion, race head and cams, HRC crankshaft and 5 speed transmission. The head was ported and a monster 26mm Keihin CR carburetor adapted to the cylinder head. The engine was built with a new set of cases and all fasteners, which caused a problem with registering the bike in CA. California requires engine numbers for the titles and the new engine had none.

The bike did come with the original 5.5 horsepower stock engine, which was restricted by various methods. The cylinder head had a small 16mm port leading to undersized valves. The carburetor was a 16mm Keihin, tied to the stock air box. Honda’s CDI ignition system was married to a transmission switch that sensed when the bike was in 4th or 5th gear. The spark timing was limited in the top two gears to prevent the bike from exceeding 36mph (60kph) speed limit which is imposed upon 50cc motorcycles in Japan. Additionally, the front drive sprocket has only 12 teeth, which is the same as a Z50 mini-trail model. A little digging around on eBay turned up 13t and 14t options, however.
It is sad that a bike with such flashy good looks and disc brakes on both wheels is so restricted, but of course there are ways around those issues, which have been shared on the internet over the past 20 years. One of the gear indicator leads had been rewired with small little resistors between the wires to over-ride the speed limiter functions in 4th and 5th gears.

The stock cams top out the power output at about 10,500 rpms, despite a 13,500 rpm redline on the tachometer. An XR75 20mm carburetor was acquired from an eBay seller, which is a bolt-on for this bike. Jetting wound up in the #85 range vs. #75 for the stock 16mm carburetor. With all else basically in a stock configuration, the bike will tach out to 13k in 4th gear burying the speedometer needle to approximately 60 mph on a long downhill run with a 14t front sprocket.

When the stock engine was reinstalled to get the registration accomplished, the 89cc big bore kit was installed on the engine, using stock cams and the 20mm carburetor. While displacement increases are always helpful on small-bore engines like this, the compression ratio was 11.6:1 and kicking it over was quite a chore, given that the kickstarter system was designed for a 50cc piston at 10:1 compression. Eventually, the bike was reassembled back to stock 50cc size, still keeping the larger carb in place. So far the engine has been out of the bike three times!

Getting a JDM Honda motorcycle registered in CA isn’t always easy, however the combination of having an Indiana title and the fact that the bike was less than 49cc allowed an over-ride in the CA registration system and a fresh CA title and license plate were issued to me for the little tiddler.

The bike was offered up as a package: stock bike along with the race motor and a lot of rare spares on eBay. The auction page count was nearly 2,000 with over 100 watchers, but failed to rise above $6700 at the end. After that, just the race motor and other racing parts were offered as a separate package, which drew several hundred page hits and over a dozen watchers, but no bids at the end.

The bike may wind up in a trade situation for a 1964 CB92 Benly Super Sport deal soon, but that hasn’t been finalized. As beautiful as the little Dream 50 is, its overall usefulness is limited for the type of riding that I hoped to be able to use it for, locally. Perhaps my expectations were overly optimistic for a 50cc bike that I outweigh by 10 pounds. I have fond memories of owning a 1970 SS50 which was brought in from Japan when I was in the USAF. That bike was always capable of 60mph in dead stock form. It is funny that with the passing of time and the improvements in technology haven’t yielded a faster machine than that little 2-valve horizontal single in the SS50, dating back 45 years.