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70s Honda cb400/500/550 practical for commute?

Discussion in 'Bike Reviews, Questions and Suggestions' at netrider.net.au started by buckett, Sep 10, 2012.

  1. Hey everyone

    So I'm thinking of getting an older bike to work on and enjoy, I've done my research on the different models and brands in the category that I'm thinking about. Basically my question is this - Obviously bikes from the 70s will ride different (worse?), compared to my current bike (cb250) and other more modern bikes - will I be really disappointed jumping on a larger but older bike as an "upgrade", in terms of power/ handling etc? also, are these bikes, at this age practical, (If well cared for) to commute on?

    note: mechanically and economy I'm not worried about as I'm very keen to get my hands dirty and learn the hard way about maintenance and mechanics

    I really appreciate everyone/ anyone's input!
  2. The little honda 4's are a lovely thing,but I wouldnt be commuting on one.
    Not fair on the bike or you.
  3. why? please...
  4. They'll be similar to your CB, only with more power, and maybe more clapped out suspension and whatever gremlins have worked their way in through age.

    Are they ok to commute on? How longs a piece of string? How far do you commute, what are your commitments to being on time, how good are you at fixing problems, how reliable is the particular bike you pick up? With old bikes the condition of the particular bike in front of you is almost as important as the quality of the model.

    Could you get one and keep the CB for a while until you determine you haven't bought a lemon?

    Commuting on such a bike will be fine insofar as the bike is sound.
  5. commute is 30 min or less, usually through traffic in suburban Sydney. Yeah definitely a good option to keep the 250 for a while to see how it goes. I think I would take the older bike to a specialist mechanic I know of to get serviced and just stomach the cost, despite the whole point of the bike being a learning experience, that way I'd at least know it is safe and ok.

    thanks matt!
  6. The bike is 30+ years old,and unless completely restored,things will go wrong.Not what you need from a commuter.
    They were a great commuter in the day---but they were new.

    If you want something to tool around with,get an old honda twin-easier and cheaper to play with.

    Classic bikes arnt commuters in my opinion.

    And I ride a few old bikes-its hard work.
    That or im just old.
  7. I was considering a cb450 but was advised that parts aren't super available and that the dohc design made things kinda tricky on the insides.... stupid honda and its lack of bigger twins. I've only heard bad things about the 500t.

    cheers blabs thanks for the advice
  8. maybe I'll just save for another few months and keep my 250...
  9. The best thing about the 500T was the brown seat-if you know what Im saying.
  10. Is your choice limited by LAMS? I don't know anything about older Hondas, despite having a good mate who has commuted on his mid-70s CB750 many days a week since the late '70s. They've never really done it for me. If you can broaden your tastes and sizes you'll find many more options from the other three big Jap companies, which will be much more robust and realistic for riding. But maybe the distinctive look of the middle-weight Hondas has caught you?

    If you want to get into this you should have the approach of servicing it yourself - that will be the least of your worries. Why don't you spend a fraction of the mechanic's fee on joining a local classic Japanese bike club and have one of the members go over the bike with you to do a safety inspection?

    On the twin versus four thing, look at it this way, if you need to replace the carb boots at $100 a pop, that's $100 for a single, $400 for a four. Need to replace the carbs, same thing again, etc etc. The less cylinders on an old bike the better when you're on a budget.
  11. my every day rider is a 1969 triumph, i ride it to work nearly every day and ride it every week end ,,my son rides a 1972 bsa every day to work and most week ends ,, if you want a classic bike you will have to get your hands dirty ,,,,but thats the way it is when you ride a cool bike ... older jap bikes are now worth more than when they were new ,,is say go for it ,the older the bike the more fun they are
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  12. My daily ride is a '68 BSA Thunderbolt, and even with dodgy brakes it's managed just fine in a few romps accross Sydney at 5pm, as well as grumpy Newcastle drivers every day. I just have to make sure I take it on a good long run at least once a week, otherwise the plugs start to get a bit fouled.

    I spent a lot of spare time thinking about it, and I've become far more involved in each ride because of the BSA. I have a 2011 BMW G650GS, which is an ideal commute with ABS and good brakes, a smooth motor, large panniers, heated grips... But it's gathering dust.

    If you commit to an older bike, there's no reason why you can't use it everyday. Afterall, that's what they were designed to do, and that's what everyone did with them when they were newer. But you do need to commit to it. And you'll probably find yourself quickly addicted.

    Just because it might be classic, doesn't mean it can't be ridden.
  13. Yes definitely enchanted by the look of middle weight hondas. Also allured by parts availability. I'm open to suggestions for other options of sub 600cc twins or 4s from other Jap producers. Not really sold on the single thumpers tbh. LAMS restriction is a yes unfortunately otherwise cb750 might be in the equation but I kind of like the idea of something lightish for the city anyway. That's a great idea about the bike club I'll check it out!

    awesome awesome awesome. Yeah I'm kinda resigned to the fact that I'll have some troubles and a steep learning curve but that's the point I guess.. To learn and enjoy.

    ok cool this is pretty encouraging. I think saving for a few more months so that I can have an overlap while I clean up the older bike is my new path. That way I can get it in top shape before I put it through the wonders of 21st century traffic.

    thanks guys!
  14. Keep in mind the effort you'll have to put in, but unless something goes hideously wrong it's nothing crazy.

    I need to check oil, cables, look for new oil leaks (don't clean new leaks off, or you'll never know where they come from), listen for new noises, tighten bolts (check for loose bolts when you clean the bike), check wiring for any fraying, check and clean contacts.

    That's a rough list of things I'm looking out for on a regular basis. Doesn't really take much time, and you get to know your bike very well. That's not mentioning oil changes, valve adjustments and the like which I do when needed.

    You just get into a habbit of checking these things though, and isn't difficult. I'd imagine a '70s jap bike would be easier to live with than a '60s Brit bike.

    Have you considered a Yamaha XS650? Or even a BMW R65? If you aren't planning on taking it on the freeway, you shouldn't discount a single cylinder. You'll be pretty surprised by how light and torquey a thumper can be, and with some reasonable brakes they're the perfect city bike.
  15. Depending on the use you make of your bike it could be a very realistic proposal to go a Meriden Bonneville alongside your CB250 (the CB in back up as the reliable, cheap spare). It depends of course on whether it means a lot to you to go the Triumph. They are a different kettle of fish - many backyard mechanics (and shops, of course) can help you out with a Jap bike but not the Bonnie, and Jap parts are cheaper and easier to source when it comes to used parts, or a second bike for parts etc. If you have a passion for the British bikes then maybe go the above proposal, if you don't then in the opinion of most you'll have an easier and cheaper time on a Japanese bike.

    What's your budget?

    Why don't you look at a Yamaha XS650? Twin cylinder, very capable, highly robust, cheap and easy to get parts for. The early '80s 'Special' tends to be quite cheap, but I've seen the early utterly gorgeous ones, grey imports, for $5k on the private market with increasingly regularity.

    There are also some midde-weight Kawasaki Zs (fours) which are very nice.
  16. I didn't see Fronk's first post and his second came as I was typing, so...just to back up what these guys are saying. I now do all my commuting on my Royal Enfield Bullet. It's great for it, despite at first seeming so much work (slower, right side gears, vague gear box, kick start only when it stalls at the lights (as it does) unbalanced etc compared to a modern bike). Sure, mine's an Indian-made model from 1995, but the British ones were actually built to higher standards so it's less reliable than a 1950s British made one.

    As I reiterated though, if you want to go British you need to really want to - they are a much more involved bike than a '70s Japanese bike, and less capable.
  17. Suzuki GS550 is still a lot of bike for the money if you can find a decent one. Vastly superior in every way to the CB550. Stick a rec/reg not made in Toytown on it and it'll provide years of pleasure. Kwak Z/GPz 550 is good too, from a slightly later era. The Z650 falls outside your capacity bracket but is otherwise a good choice. Buy one now before they follow the bigger Zs into unaffordability.
  18. Ah that little list will be very helpful down the track cheers! Yeah definately aware there will be work. Kind of using it as a way to force myself to learn and do, in comparison to the cb250 that I just lube chain/ change oil and it runs for eternity ahaha.

    Definitely a big no on the british. Too hard. Too expensive. Don't like the look of them as much. - not to belittle anyone else's interest in them!:angel:

    Yeah have been seriously considering the xs650s and keeping an eye out in terms of price. I guess the thing is for a bike I'm going to be riding everyday that extra 50kg seems like it could be a to maneuver around - splitting/ parking etc etc (compared to my current front runners cb400f or cb450). I'll check out the z650 I think I saw one the other day actually (it was definitely bigger than a 650 though). gs550 I have looked at as well but the only ones I've been able to find are VERY worse for ware or are in a cruiser type configuration, which I guess isn't hard to change. Also I just can't get my head around the BMW look with the cylinders sticking half way across the lane hahaha.

    Much food for thought thank you very much guys.
  19. When i was 16 , My mates dad opened up the shed and said you can ride this?
    A yama sx650 special sitting their . I was cruising down the road about 2 mins later

    The Weight might be a issue if your some kind off jelly legged creature.

    BMW? , well you best be riding one before talking to much smack. My 300kg beast will eat smaller older bikes for breakfast
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