Watson On: My Craigslist Triumph

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Watson On: Craigslist Triumph

Part of our deal consisted of the former owner taking some time to go over the bike with me to explain its quirks and how to do some fundamental things like starting it.

As this is an early 1970’s Triumph it still has the magneto running off the side of the engine block and has no electric start. On one hand it looks cool and when you park the bike up you take one of the leads with you to stop the bike being started. Although I reckon that a couple of husky guys could quite easily lift the entire bike up and put it in the back of a pickup and take it away if they wanted to.

On the downside the magneto means you have no choice but to kick-start the old girl to get her going. That, my friends, is a pain in more ways than one. The owner took me through the starting process before he handed the bike to me. I paid attention on how to prime the twin Amal carbs until fuel dribbled out of them. On no account should I touch the throttle until the bike was started and the rest was up to me and a six-inch piece of metal laughingly called a kick-start.

I spent my first afternoon with my new/old Triumph flooding the engine, discovering that if you don’t time the kick quite right the compression will hurl you unexpectedly off the bike and onto the ground. While the chrome oil filler cap may look cool it is directly in line with my knee, which is why I have a multi colored bruise the size of an orange on my right leg.

Craigslist Triumph Engine

I am  proud to say, however, I did get the bike going and took it up the road. As it’s British the gear lever is on the right and the brake is on the left, which messed with my mind for a few minutes. But it ran really well, stopped surprisingly well and sounded fantastic. I ‘m guessing here, but it probably weighs in at around 350 -370lbs, as there’s nothing to it apart from a saddle, engine and frame. Consequently it felt astonishingly light compared to my big, heavy Harley-Davidson.

Once I got settled in and riding, I felt like I was doing 100mph but it was probably no more than 50mph. There’s no way of accurately knowing as currently there’s no speedo. I also felt extremely exposed on it but loved how nimble and direct it feels on the move.

It was also at about this point my right knee touched the top of the right spark plug. I received a stab of electricity through my body, which I can confirm definitely focuses your attention. I may have to do something about that.

For the moment though, once the bruises and other injuries have healed, I am looking forward to what I can do with this Triumph. The list is endless. But for now you will all have to excuse me as I have blocked out my calendar this morning and possibly the rest of the day because there is a motorcycle outside that I need to go and kick-start.

What project gems have you purchased on Craigslist?

  • Clint Keener

    Nice buy! I take it you paid a non-crazy price for it too.

    • Tim Watson

      Thank you – got a fair deal. The seller was happy and I was happy.

  • Michael Howard

    Congrats on the new ride. Looks like it’s got lots of potential. Nice to read about motorcycles again. Help us, Obi-Watsonobi, you’re our only hope. ;)

  • Nate Terrill

    We purchased our 79 CB750 on Craigslist. We paid a few hundred for a standard black cb with the carbs off “for cleaning”. Whatever is in these carbs resists all efforts at cleaning and my dad managed to break one of the jets. As luck would have it, a friend was selling his 76 cb750 Super Sport and we picked it up for a couple grand and then immediately won best Japanese at a local bike show, as its in immaculate shape.

    So, is anyone looking for a 79 cb750? Uhhhm, ran when parked……..

    • Andrew Pickle

      Have you tried ultrasonic cleaning for the carbs? I had a 1985 GSX550 that sat with gas in it for quite a while, and a tank clean and ultrasonic cleaning on the carbs had it running like new.

      • Snowblind

        Ultrasonic from HB, and a gallon of WD40… will clean almost anything.

        • Nate Terrill

          Thanks for the advice! I will give it a shot.

  • Nemosufu Namecheck

    Awesome Bike Tim – keep that thing forever!

  • chris ordanez

    Cool bike, Tim!

    I think you’re gonna like kick starting it, once you get it down. Kick starting my GS750 brings a smile to my face every time. I wonder if your Triumph has a compression release. I’m told most kick start bikes have one (mine doesn’t).

    You should post a video of the start up process!

    • Tim Watson

      Thank you. No compression lever release as far as I know. I think a video of me starting it will end with me setting the thing on fire before being hauled off to Accident and Emergency as I will have probably ruptured myself. But, you’re right once you get the hang of it (and I think every old bike is different) you learn what works. I’ll keep kicking away!

      • Piglet2010

        Mr. Wat…, er Tim – Can you bump start the bike, or does it have to be kick-started?

        • Tim Watson

          Both but I think it’s kinder to the engine to kick start it.

          • Davidabl2

            I wonder about that, & i’d like to know for sure (see reply to Piglet.)

        • Davidabl2

          I use a combination both methods with a kickstart only bike that I happen to have, Usually in combination, when it’s un-cooperative.
          Let me hasten to add that both my street and driveway have gentle slopes. On level ground, bump-starting a cold engine without an assistant
          is not something that most would want to undertake. At least not on any regular basis.
          For my own garage, I’d want one of those electric roller devices that spin the rear wheel. In tim’s case with no double cradle stand that’d be bike on stand, front wheel held a against wall Tim in saddle :-)

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/emmetoconnell/ Emmet

        Tim, good choice on the Triumph. It took me some time to get used to the British shift action (having to preload the shifter with my foot before engaging the clutch) on my 71 Tiger, but it’s my favorite street bike!

  • Scheffy

    “Now that we got the motorcycle article out of the way, we can go back to posting SUV press releases, right? I think that’s how this site works.”

    -RideApart owners

    • thisbeingchris

      +1.

      In their defense, Wes & co are still posting (great) moto articles about as frequently as in the HFL-era. Usually days or over a week between posts – and we payed for it to boot. Now we get daily top 12 lists.. gear of the day press release fodder.. and mediocre suv reviews to weed through in the mean time.

      Congrats on finding the new ride Tim!

  • Heath Collins

    While it’s not my style, it’s a pretty cool bike. Reminds me of the bike on Walking Dead.

  • El Isbani

    If you smile when you get on, and are happy to be alive when you dismount, then maybe that’s part of what riding’s about.

  • Mattin11225

    That’s a killer Bonnie, love the magneto! Use the kick to slowly bring the cylinders to compression. Get it one tick past TDC, then using your right foot, smoothly transfer all your weight to that leg and drop it through. Don’t let the kick lever snap back, try to bring it gently to prevent damage. Also, don’t kick with a locked knee, you’ll end up limping!

    Enjoy!

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/emmetoconnell/ Emmet

      There’s an old saying: When kickstarting your Triumph in public, the number of people standing around watching you try to kickstart it is roughly the amount of kicks your bike requires to start!

  • grb

    It does look good, but I bet thats all it does good. Watson you’re still “riding a slow, uncomfortable, unreliable, noisy motorcycle”, with a similar geometry to your Harley, bobbers are actually not that “completely different” to your Harley… Seems like your more into the cliches of motorcycling then actual riding, and youre missing out on the best part man, which is not about how everybody sees you. I think you should have gone for a normal Triumph Bonneville if you wanted to work on something old and still get the joy/satisfaction of riding it properly, definitely not one that was chopped/ruined to look good in the pose

    • Tim Watson

      Fair points but I’m happy with what I’ve got. I didn’t buy it to get approval from other people. I bought it because I liked it and felt there was a lot I could do to it. And I’ll actually ride it and use it as often as I can.

      • das not compute

        Heck yeah!!!

      • Davidabl2

        For one thing an un-chopped decently running ’70′s Triumph would not have fit your budget.
        A point which many critics here are overlooking. “As often as you can’ will of course depend on your mechanical aptitude, willpower and perseverance. But you know that already..

      • LiberalNightmare

        >> I didn’t buy it to get approval from other people.

        The secret to motorcycle happiness.

    • mms

      Geometry and looks aside, there is something really and truly uncommonly fun about an obnoxious, old, temperamental bike that is tricky to start and always reeks of petrol and doesn’t go fast. I experienced this on a borrowed Enfield and again on my Dnepr. Every time you ride it feels like an adventure. Big stupid grins are par for the course. Finding some obscure part for it at a swap meet is a total thrill. Go go gadget Tim Watson!

      • grb

        I get it, but its still a cliche. That was the sort of stuff motorcyclist had to deal with in other to be able to ride their bikes everyday, they didnt search for those troubles, they only wanted to ride their bikes, but its what they had to live with at the time and it became a cliche. Now people search for those troubles before thinking about the ride, they try to reenact those cliches in hopes of becoming a motorcyclist, as if that is what makes you a biker.

        But like I said, its the other way around, you have to want to ride, because you want to ride (not because you want to look like something), then you become a motorcyclist, and then there will be perks that come with being a motorcyclist, today they might not be the same things riders had to deal with 3 decades back, but they will be yours, your obstacles and they will be as fun and challenging, its the the things you will have to deal with in order to be able to enjoy riding your motorcycle, and who knows, maybe one day they will also became motorcyclist cliches and kids in the future will try to imitate them in hopes of looking the part, wishing that looking the part will make them a real motorcyclist.

        You can have your hands dirty and wear overalls while you drink your coffee, but fixing cars is what makes you a mechanic.

        • mms

          It’s only a “cliche” if you buy it to look cool or to feel cool, not to have fun , which to me sounds like is what he did. It’s not like it’s his only bike. My Dnepr? That’s my 5th bike. The other 4 are all modern and are completely different. Not better. Not worse. Apples and oranges? More like apples and fish. I ride in the snow and the ice and the rain and I don’t own any flannel shirts. It’s truly not all about the performance OR the handling. It’s about the experience. Enjoying riding even though nobody is watching or critiquing your choice of aftermarket exhaust or whatever. And I hope nobody’s watching, because I look like an idiot most of the time.

          There was a chick with a Honda Rebel who tried to convince me to build her a cafe racer with 26″ wheels a few years ago– after a lot of back-and-forth she ultimately admitted that she was looking for a bike that would “impress bike geeks”. That is the sort of sparkle helmeted nonsense to which you are referring. But give people the benefit of the doubt! Not every aging bobber is a hipstercycle. Not everybody with a BMW owns a yellow Aerostich and sleeps with “Two Wheels Through Terror” under their pillow. Not every Hayabusa rider sports a suction cup mohawk. Cultural indoctrination is a problem. Pop culture stifles creativity and innovation. But sometimes a Triumph is just a Triumph, and sometimes enthusiasm is genuine ;)

          • Piglet2010

            Hey, what’s wrong with owning a yellow ‘Stich? I even ride my TW200 wearing mine, and the Tee-Dub is of course an old design, slow bike.

            • mms

              Hahaha i thought of you as soon as i hit submit, and edited to specify a brand new yellow Stich ;) Ideally one that is at least 5 years old but still has not a speck of dirt upon it.

            • sixgunsteve

              I have a grey ‘Stitch that I wore while riding my KLR. I wanted the yellow one but my wife said I would look like an overstuffed banana.

              • Piglet2010

                I refer to mine as “The Banana Suit”. :)

          • grb

            Hmmm this Triumph is not just a Triumph, it was chopped, and the only reason they ruined its frame was “to look cool or to feel cool” who ever cut this bike obviously wasnt thinking about riding but rather how he was going to look doing so. I think I explained very eloquently in my other reply (down there) how searching for the look, the pose, the oil leaking, dirty hands, etc you are searching for the things that make you LOOK like a motorcyclist but not interested in the things that actually make you a motorcyclist, and in this case, this motorcycle enthusiasm is not genuine, sorry, thats called a poseur.

            • Davidabl2

              Unmolested vintage Triumphs are more expensive in CA, and our author previously declared that he’s on a strict budget.

              • grb

                Youre right.. In which case Triumphs would have been out of my budget altogether, I would have searched for something else before buying a chopped bike.

        • Ken Lindsay

          Everyone has to start someplace. Sometimes it starts as posing and it eventually becomes authentic. He has a goal and went out and is on the path to achieved it. He went and got an old bike to play with and learn work on where it wouldn’t break the bank. Nothing wrong with that. You can’t get skills by wishing for them. Good for him for getting off his duff and working on his goals!

          • grb

            Yes, but when trying to achieve a certain goal, that phrase is used to indicate you have to start someplace along the intended path, and not meaning that just any path will take you there, its usually told when starting at the very bottom, “everybody has to start someplace” right?

            Like I said in my other comments, If you want to be a mechanic you don’t start by working on your look, dressing like one, being dirty like one, talking like one, and preparing coffee like one, and hope that with that you will eventually become a mechanic, absurd, thats whats called a poseur and you will never learn how an engine works doing this which is what mechanics do. You need to start learning about engines and how they work, then the grease, the calluses, being dirty, they come as a consequence.

            Same with motorcycling, if you’re only concerned with looks and cliches, and because of this you ride a deformed bike for appearances, which rides horribly and on which you cant learn how to ride properly, you’re a poseur… If you don’t learn and aren’t interested in learning how to ride, you will never be a true motorcyclist. Everything about being biker comes as a consequence of riding and your desire to ride, its not backwards.

            Everyone has to start someplace, but not anyplace.

            • Ken Lindsay

              I guess I look at learning on how to work on something in the same fashion my dad taught me. When I wanted to buy a snowmobile when I was 16, we went and bought machines that were 4-5 years older than I was and in need of some TLC. I spent the next two years learning how to fix, recondition and modify them to make them work right and be reliable and fun. We spent summers going through swap meets looking at parts and other do-dads to get them where we wanted them to be. Once we had them figured out, we sold them and bought newer ones and repeated the process. I didn’t start out knowing how to work on this stuff, but I learned. I still wouldn’t call myself a mechanic since I don’t make a living at it, but I can fix my own stuff now. I plan on doing similar with my boys when they are old enough.
              At what age someone begins this journey makes no difference to me. If you are drawn to something and you aren’t hurting anyone, good for you, even if I don’t understand it.

              • grb

                I dont get how this relates to my thoughts about chopped bikes… I think you lost the line of the conversation somewhere in all those comments… But what youre saying sounds awesome, and your dad seems like a really cool guy, congrats

      • http://krtong.com/ Kr Tong

        I agree with grb that it’s cliche in the same sense “rebelling from your parents” is cliche. Still we gotta do it at least once. Im guessing Tim’s plan is to turn the build into a however-long running piece here on Rideapart, which folks will find fun and interesting. I’m all for journalists doing the things we’re too smart to do ourselves.

        • mms

          I get what grb is saying but it just sounds so anti-clique clique. Motorcycles really are about more than “handling and performance” and technological evolution to a lot of people– and the alternative isn’t always fashion, which seems to be where grb is going with the comments. I mean. http://www.motorcyclecannonball.com

          • http://krtong.com/ Kr Tong

            I could speak for hours on this subject but I’ll point out a few things.
            1. Don’t look too hard at that cannonball. They’re only going 250 miles a day, and every other day the cannonball rests at a place they can service the bikes.
            2. Whether it’s a “handling and performance” bike or a pre-unit triumph, it’s still a challenge to keep it on the road. You’ve gotta be honest with yourself when something’s not working. Now a good friend of mine has a very successful Lemons team and i’ll pass down some knowledge he passed on to me:

            The internet is wrong about a lot of things. Most of the Tour of Lemons field is made up of forum fanboy-types who think their favorite year-make-model car is the bessssst car in the world. They’ll go to great lengths to tell everyone how good their car is, how reliable it is, how cheap it is to run, how it’s going to win the Tour of lemons, but it never does, it’s never cheap, and it’s never reliable, but race after race, year after year, you hear these guys telling folks that their car is still the best.

            Subarus, E30′s, knuckle heads, preunit triumphs: the internet loves these. They’re beautiful they sound good, they’re very popular if you have one in your instagram feed, but even Max Schaaf will tell hipsters to fucking knock it off with the vintage bike thing unless you have the chops he has.

            • Davidabl2

              “When time and money are valuable, you’ve got to be honest with yourself when the ‘return on investment’ isnt there.”

              I know some members of the AMCA (Antique Motorcycle club of America) who’ve spent years putting classics back together from boxes of pieces. When they’re finally done they tell me that the satisfaction of finally actually riding the things is “priceless.’

              In their own ways, guys like Max S. are doing something quite similar.

              • http://krtong.com/ Kr Tong

                That reminds me of taxidermy. The whole hobby is about finding carcasses and making them look as lifelike as possible.

                Max Schaaf makes rolling artwork than motorcycles. The “utility” of a bike like that doesnt exist unless hes the one riding it.

                • Davidabl2

                  Taxidermy is exactly what it is if the bikes wind up as ‘restorations” on display somewhere, and started up only if they’re competing in concours d’elegance or if “custom show bikes” in bike shows. I usually use the term ‘embalmed’ but ‘taxidermied’ works for me too.

                  What the AMCA types and guys like Max are doing is more like what the mad scientists were doing in the “Jurassic Park” movies.
                  Bringing extinct creatures back to life,and then riding them afterwards. Unlike the mad scientists;-)Or the collectors. Riding them until they break, and fixing again. Most AMCA bikes don’t look like restorations at all. If they were people they’d have wrinkles and scars..and some would even have bad haircuts:-) Certainly not like they were back ‘fresh’ from the embalmers. Or taxidermist.

                  Max’s stuff is rolling artwork..but so are Ducatis,, MV’s etc. .Beautiful rolling artwork, less reliable and more difficult to maintain,more expensive than they would be if they weren’t “art.” The performance envelope is different, because the bikes were originally built decades apart. Sometimes six decades apart. Any bike that is going to be maintained by the owner will require a skilled owner..and if it isn’t maintained by the owner it might as well be maintained by ” the pitcrew that built the car, an endless supply of parts and funding, etc.” Pans and Panigales, Gixxers and G3 Matchless’ the principle’s the same. The older machines will naturally require more attention.

                  Kr if you can make it to San Francisco on the last Sunday in October of any year, you should come see the AMCA Annual SF 49 mile ride.
                  Lots of machinery from all epochs and all parts of the world. All seem to be actively driven..and there will be a couple of Max Schaaf bikes there. and most years, the guy himself. Best of all the event never seems to be rained out, and modern bikes are well tolerated. Even if the announcement says “pre 1975 bikes.” So you could ride the ’49 if you wished.

                • http://krtong.com/ Kr Tong

                  You should go to that event and ask them what they think a good commuter bike is, what a good long distance tourer is, what a good bike for the race track is, or what’s a bike they think someone who can adjust their own valves and change their own tires can keep on the road. I don’t think any of your comparisons hold any truth.

                • Davidabl2

                  No, no mantra. Just trying to explain that they’re different sports/hobbies/whatever. As are ,say,bike commuting and ADV touring.
                  There is no conceivable way that any old bike is “is just as good as a modern gixer”

                • Davidabl2

                  Kr, You’ve just nailed the appeal of old bikes: “all it takes to ride an MV Agusta or a Ducati is to show up at a dealership and buy one.’
                  That’s it EXACTLY.

                • http://krtong.com/ Kr Tong

                  Only independently wealthy can pull off the “I ride/drive this to be different” line. Everybody else just buys stickers.

                • http://www.flickr.com/photos/emmetoconnell/ Emmet

                  The AMCA Rhinebeck meet in upstate NY is the Woodstock of motorcycle shows. Nothing like getting drunk around classic iron!

                • Davidabl2

                  I’d love to go to the met sometime, but i live on the left coast

            • Dennis Newman

              It’s the 24 Hours of LeMons…

          • grb

            Im sorry, I never said motorcycles are only about handling and performance, tho they are primordially, I mean they are not about posing, or braking down, nor leaking oil or making you look like a revel, they are built for riding, riders want them to ride not to take pictures with them, its all about the ride, and when I say “want to ride, feel the handling, the performance” I not talking about high performance machines, any motorcycle in the world whether its a touring bike, sport bike, dirt bike, city bike, it expresses its character through this aspects, how it handles and performs, whether it handles comfortably, sharp, nervous, etc.

            All this inevitably goes in hand with “technological evolution”, motorcycles exist only because they were a technological evolution. This doesn’t mean we cant like and appreciate classic bikes and look back , I do, but chopping a bike with the only purpose of how it looks, even if it means ruining its riding characteristics and handling, is definitely fashion and posing, obviously they are doing this for the looks and not for riding, which brings us back to my point, some people think that by looking the part they will be the part, as if you pretend to be a mechanic because you got the looks, act like one, talk like one and get grease on your new overalls, No, its the other way around, you want to be a mechanic you need to start being interested in how engines work, and when your deep into fixing machines, then youll be a mechanic, and youll inevitably look like one, a real one.

            Motorcyclist are interested in riding, not looking like motorcyclists.

            • Davidabl2

              “Motorcyclist are interested in riding, not looking like motorcyclists.”
              True, but at the same time some are also interested in experiencing what our ancestors experienced.

              • grb

                Yes, I respect that, but have in mind that those are the things our ancestors had to deal with to be able to ride their bikes, because all they wanted to do was ride, they never searched to expirience those things, they were true motorcyclist, passionate about riding, and thats why some of their every day actions and experiences became cliches. You do the activity you love because you love doing it, and this is how you get to live and understand the cliches that come with it, but it is ridiculous to think you can start backwards trying to imitate the cliches, the looks, reenacting others experiences and think/hope that this way you will live and understand motorcycling.

                • Davidabl2

                  I’d never suggest that somebody only own&ride antiques, just that the experience of riding/wrenching them has it’s own rewards.
                  In one or another of his Garage shows Leno says that “you have to really understand these old bikes to be able to ride them’
                  That’s actually one of those “good news, bad news’ kind of things.

                • grb

                  Im not against riding old/classic bikes, thats cool and definitely a great experience, I agree with you. Im just talking about poseurs, chopped bikes are exclusively for people concerned with appearance and who dont care about how their bikes ride, its obviously implied in the nature of this bikes

                • Davidabl2

                  That magneto suggests that it might have a racing pedigree, from some earlier incarnation. If it still has it’s other go-fast good stuff various interesting things might be done to it. Conceivably, grafting on an original rear end might be a worthwhile “investment” who knows?

                • grb

                  if it had any racing pedigree I can assure you it was completely lost once they chopped it

                • Davidabl2

                  ..looking again at the pics I see that it’s a welded on hard tail. Sigh, I’m afraid you’re right. Although some great engines have wound up in choppers, from which they can be removed.

              • http://krtong.com/ Kr Tong

                Reminds me a bit of taxidermy. Whole hobby is about finding dead animals and retuning them to lufelike condition with painstaking detail.

    • Davidabl2

      Au contraire mon frère.. There are people who do ride thèse things cross-country today. It’s just a very different experience than riding a retro.
      And when he does ride it, even if only for short distances, no one will think he’s a poser. Though they may think he’s crazy to ride it.

  • Justin McClintock

    Nice bike, although not my cup of tea. I will point out that I agree with some here in that this thing isn’t really that much different than your Harley. Yes, it’s older and lighter. But you wanted something different than your cruiser, and you bought a cruiser. When I wanted something different than my SV1000S, I bought a DT175. Now THAT is different! And for the record, little enduros pretty much meet every single one of your criteria and are cheap. I’d put a third bike in the garage if I were you….

    • Tim Watson

      Stop tempting me Justin. Two bikes are enough for now… but that does look pretty cool.

      • Justin McClintock

        Tell ya what….you buy it and I’ll let you store it at my place. :-)

    • Piglet2010

      While the Aermacchi built H-D’s are cool, I would rather show up to a HOG meeting on a Topper scooter.

    • Davidabl2

      The WTF factor on that SX would be priceless-and not just at HOG meetings. It serves as a reminder that the MoCo once made a full range of bikes. Like Honda.

  • juliansr

    Craigslist you say….?! Yeah, i have had few wrecked and abused things from there…
    tends to take a little dirty work but they basically pay you to ride them.
    Besides, What else am I supposed to do with my winters?

    Sadly the ducati was stolen in DC. Still missing if anyone sees it. it was a basket-case at first.
    The VFR is my daily ride. I paid 1500$ and rebuilt the front half.
    The EV is my weekend frankenbike I dragged out a yard for free..
    Old Airhead was sold for a little profit and it’s coming by this weekend for a little maintenance.

    I’d save more when i make space and time. VFR is almost ready to go, but it’s hard to give it up with weather getting nice.

    http://el8id.com/arthive/wp-content/gallery/bmw-r65/img_1623.jpg
    http://el8id.com/arthive/wp-content/gallery/vfr/img_1168.jpg
    http://el8id.com/arthive/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/IMG_0630-300×224.jpg
    http://el8id.com/arthive/wp-content/gallery/duc/duc2.jpg

    • NOCHnoch

      Are those OEM plastics on the Viffer? If not, and especially if they’re the cheap Chinese ones, what do you think of them? If you like ‘em, who’d you buy from?

      • juliansr

        These are OEM, i had a OEM grey cowl (cheapest on ebay at the time 50$ i think) and rode like that for about 8 months until a RWB one showed up for sale, go that for 100, replaced one decal on it and now i’m looking for oem side panels.

        I looked into chinese plastics for a while. supposedly slightly thinner and might need a little work to get lined up perfectly to the fairing mounts. Lots of people are happy with them but there are a few better “brands”. Its really hard to beat the price on those.They’re still cheaper than an OK paint job and you end up with a spare set of beat up plastics to cut up or sell off.

  • John

    Looks great, Tim. The best bike is the one you ride!

  • Luke

    I think Craiglist is an excellent place to buy a used bike (it’s where I got mine). Be wary of “salvage title” or “no title” (i.e. STOLEN), but it’s a nice way to get a used bike without having to pay dealer overhead when buying a traded-in bike.

  • Aaron

    That’s a nice bike. Good find.

  • Dennis Hightower

    Simplicity … very nice

  • William Connor

    I have a Yamaha XT 500 in the shed that belongs to a friend. Kick only. I have discovered that if you just kick it, versus a half hearted attempt it won’t buck you off. I just give it a rip with every attempt. It has a compression release but the cable is long gone.

  • eddi

    Cue the theme music from “Love Story”. You lucky guy you. :-)

    • Davidabl2

      ..and hope it doesn’t turn into “Breaking up is Hard to Do” (Neil Sedaka,1970)

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbad22CKlB4

      Listen to the lyrics…they’re pretty close to old bike reality, or a certain stage of it. For many people.

  • Davidabl2

    “Once I got settled in and riding, I felt like I was doing 100mph but it was probably no more than 50mph.”
    That may be about right. On the rigid cruiser I ride it always feels like i’m riding at least half again as fast as the speedometer indicates.
    This is actually a good thing for maintaining a guy’s “driving privilege” in the great state of California.
    Given the lighter weight of yours the 2x factor could be about right. One of those bicycle speedometers will tell you the truth, if you really want to know it.

    • Snowblind

      Amen.

      100 on the BMW is a number.

      100 on the CB550? That is doing the tonne!

  • jlxn

    I like it!

  • Snowblind

    I responded to an ad for a 75 CB550. No picture. Had been there for 3 days, which is an eternity for a mid 70′s bike.

    So I called. I went over expecting to see a sad pile of parts. But no, it started. It ran. I bought it and took it home for a right good price for a market with $2K parts bikes here in sunny California.

    Totally stock daily runner, and I have kept the Grease Monkey more or less stock, just updating the ignition, O-ring chain conversion, and suspension, but nothing external.

    Her she is, touring in Yosemite valley, looking just like the day I bought her.

  • zedro

    What a delightfully masochistic bike.

  • Davidabl2

    The comments re this bike reveal the vast chasm between old-bike ‘bikers’ and new-bike bikers”
    Obviously in terms of reliability, practicality, performance there can be no comparison between the bikes of yesteryear and the bikes of today.

    It’s like comparing sailboats and “cigarette boats”

    Each kind of boat will appeal to different people..and sailing each is a different sport.

  • Khali

    Really nice bike. I want to have a project bike to work on…really liked it when i had the old GSXF.

  • http://bloodsweatandgasoline.wordpress.com tad diemer

    I’m really sorry I didn’t check this article out a couple days ago,
    because the comments section held the answer to a question that’s been
    keeping me up nights of late: exactly what is a “real” biker? How can
    you tell a poseur from the real thing?

    You can imagine what a crisis that kind of ambiguity can cause.

    I
    mean, it’s great to have these sorts of questions answered by real
    experts in the field, people who can make the hard decisions about
    whether or not we actually qualify to be bikers.

    So to be clear:
    if you spend the morning up to your elbows in the guts of a pre-unit
    Triumph gearbox, then spend the afternoon cruising along at a gentle
    pace, feeling the mechanical clunk of every gearshift, enjoying the
    fruits of your labor, but your bike’s a hard-tail chopper, you’re a
    mechanic, not a biker? Not both, you’re one or the other.

    Because
    your bike sucks at going fast, you’re not a real biker. You enjoy
    working on your bike as much as you enjoy riding it, so you’re a cliché.
    I mean, I couldn’t possibly enjoy an old bike because I like to turn a
    wrench, don’t ride quickly, and love the look of a bobbed Triumph.
    Sorry: I am allowed to to that, I just don’t qualify as a real biker.

    Glad I’ve got the commentariat around to make that distinction for me.

    • Send Margaritas

      “I’m really sorry I didn’t check this article out a couple days ago,
      because the comments section held the answer to a question that’s been
      keeping me up nights of late: exactly what is a “real” biker? How can
      you tell a poseur from the real thing?

      You can imagine what a crisis that kind of ambiguity can cause.

      I mean, it’s great to have these sorts of questions answered by real
      experts in the field, people who can make the hard decisions about
      whether or not we actually qualify to be bikers.

      So to be clear: if you spend the morning up to your elbows in the guts of a pre-unit
      Triumph gearbox, then spend the afternoon cruising along at a gentle
      pace, feeling the mechanical clunk of every gearshift, enjoying the
      fruits of your labor, but your bike’s a hard-tail chopper, you’re a
      mechanic, not a biker? Not both, you’re one or the other.

      Because your bike sucks at going fast, you’re not a real biker. You enjoy
      working on your bike as much as you enjoy riding it, so you’re a cliché.
      I mean, I couldn’t possibly enjoy an old bike because I like to turn a
      wrench, don’t ride quickly, and love the look of a bobbed Triumph.
      Sorry: I am allowed to to that, I just don’t qualify as a real biker.

      Glad I’ve got the commentariat around to make that distinction for me.”
      Quoted in full, for this was the best post on the topic. Kudos!I identify best with those that see the merit and character in most every bike they see.Of course, I felt the same way about women, and that was expensive too! ;)

  • di0genes

    The magneto is an aftermarket item probably a joe hunt stock was points and coil ignition, the hardtail is bolted on, it would be easy to go back to rear suspension as the rear sub frame was a bolt on as well. The kickback is likely because the timing or advance is not set right. Keep riding it that way and you could ventilate your piston DAMHIK

  • Rusty Patina

    Do your thing, Tim. These bikes are fun and challenging, both to work on and to ride.