Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Cafe Racers Pt.2

So in my previous post I'd mentioned a CB750 I once owned and terrorized the world with. It was my first street bike. I had been riding dirt bikes for many years. I don't remember quite when I purchased the bike. Sometime in the early Nineties. If I remember right, I had gone over to a friends house and found it sitting out behind his shed. It had been out there for 3 or 4 years. He had originally bought the bike, rode it a few years and then sold it to a soldier. About a month later Fort Carson called my friend and said his bike was sitting in a field down on the base and he needed to come pick it up. Apparently the soldier hadn't bothered to get the title changed over before he abandoned the bike. So my friend got the bike back. No longer feeling the lure of the open road, he parked the bike behind the shed until I found it. I traded a pair of waders for it.

Once I got the bike home I set about cleaning the carbs, added a new battery and plugs, and then promptly began riding it around like a regular, "Mike the Bike." I did some crazy stuff on it. CB750's are like big friendly dogs. They're not particularly fast but they are fairly indestructible. Just what I needed. We have a street nearby that goes uphill and then flattens out rather abruptly. If you go over the top at about 65mph the front wheel of your Honda will come off the ground and shake like a Pitbull killing a bunny.

The first thing I had to do was get rid of those goofy ape hanger stock handle bars. Level of customization number one; Drag Bars! They actually looked pretty good. I remember doing a lot of hanging off the seat as I carved up the streets here in town. The stock pipes hit if there was any kind of bump in the corner. Second level of customization; trade stock pipes for a used 4 into 1 header. Now we're talking. It surprised me how willing the guy was to trade me those clunky old stock pipes for a header. He let me choose between a flat black turned up MAC style or a racy looking header with a little reverse cone that barely reached the rear wheel. I knew how loud the cone would be so I chose the MAC. The sound it made was music to my ears.

The only ticket I got on the bike was for reckless driving. I was leaving work one afternoon and it was starting to rain a little. As I reached the 3rd intersection on the way home, I saw the light turn yellow. So I did what every young man does when they're on a motorcycle faced with a yellow light and it's starting to rain. I gassed it. On entering the intersection I suddenly realized that all the cars that I thought were moving through the light in front of me were actually stopped right on the other side.

If you've ever ridden a CB750 you will notice that the lack of efficiency of the front brake has been made up for with the on/off action of the rear drum brake. As I grabbed every brake I could find, the front disk started siphoning off speed, but my back brake just locked up due no doubt to the light layer of moisture on the pavement. Having spent plenty of time on out of control dirt bikes gave me the ability to keep the bike upright while the rear end tried to pass the front. However, I suddenly had a new problem. The lady's car directly in front of me was coming up way too quickly. Instinctively I let off the rear brake just enough to get the rear wheel back where it was more or less suppose to be and aimed the bike toward the right side of the car. I got past but my rear blinker made a little mark down the back fender of her nice Buick. I thought, "rats, I almost got away with that" instead of, "wow, I almost lost my leg." That's why they send young men off to war I guess. It cracked the blinker but I didn't care. It was time to take those "police lights" off the cafe racer anyway.

Well the blinker tweeking incident convinced me to start slowing down with my hand on the brake at intersections. Even if the light is green. But the desire to Cafe was still strong. Once again my memory fails me but some how my brother and I wound up at a place called "The DUMP" in Denver. DUMP stood for Denver Used Motorcycle Parts. They had a building full of shelving lined with labeled used bike parts and in the back was a black Cafe kit. It consisted of a fiberglass half faring, giant bread loaf tank, a stubby seat/tail piece, rearsets, and clipons. Cool. I briefly considered buying what ever bike I needed to so that I could put that cafe kit on it. Then I checked the label and low and behold it was for a Honda CB750. The only problem was that I didn't have the $375 to buy it. The story of my life. After 24 hours of wanting I called them and asked if they would trade my tired Husqvarna for the kit. "Bring it on up" they said. I remember unloading the Husky and trying to get it started out in front of their shop. It refused to fire even after the owner came out and gave me a new spark plug. I went in dejected, dripping in sweat and told them it wasn't going to start. They said that's OK and traded me anyway.

The truth was I really didn't like the shape of the faring and tank very much. I kind of felt that the faring was too big, the tank chopped off oddly and the seat was strangely molded to finish off the back end of the tank. On the bottom of the tank was the apparent brand name, "Kings." I have never seen another Cafe kit like it. Everything seemed to be pretty well made and it certainly made my bike stand out. Now when I look at the old picture it doesn't seem so weird. The truth is that I was judging it against the styling of the Ducati 750SS and the Laverda 750SFC.

Eventually I tried selling the Honda as a cafe racer in the classifieds. I couldn't get anyone to come look at it so I took the kit off and just sold the Honda as a stock bike. Later I sold the Cafe Kit on ebay. I believe it was the first thing I ever sold on the internet. My goal was to get at least $175 for the kit. The bidding started off at $10. It reached $200 with a day to go and sat there until the last 15 seconds when a full on bidding war broke out and the price shot up to $650.

And so the river flows.

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