Wednesday, March 7, 2012

#115 January 2012 Burning the Midnight Rice

I’ve never been opposed to chopping up Japanese bikes, but I’ve never actively done it before. I’ve said in the past that I’ve never really subscribed to the school of thought that “It doesn’t matter what you ride” because... well I just haven’t. I’ve always thought that a cool Brit chop or one utilizing an American power plant was just a superior motorcycle.
On the face of it, it’s a little strange, since my first few motorcycles were all Japanese. I started off with a 1968 Suzuki T200 two stroke twin and then ‘graduated’ to a Honda CB250K4. Of course a lot of my bike choices were limited by the motorcycle laws in the UK at the time. New riders were limited to 250cc or below, so the choices were few as far as non-Japanese bikes went. At the time, the affordable British bike was the BSA Bantam, it was a two stroke single knocking around in 125cc and 175cc form. These bikes were known to be pretty damn slow, but there was a decent cool factor with them. The other viable Brit bike was the BSA C15 250cc, but these were rare.
Once you passed the dreaded Ministry of Transport test, you were allowed to ride any size bike, so before I even passed my test (on the third attempt) I had bought a brand new Honda CB900F that I would sneak around the block every now and then. After the near death experience of locking up the brakes at 125 mph, I traded it for a BMW R90/6 and took off on a European tour that I wrote about in issue #11. I found the BMW to be a boring motorcycle and traded it for a Triumph T160 750 Trident. I loved this bike, it did everything I asked of it well, and it looked good and sounded good... I was hooked. I had to trade it when I first came to the USA, I got a 1975 Bonneville and £400, enough for a round trip ticket to Michigan at the time. After I got back to the UK in December 1981, I started making my first changes to my bike. I painted the tank and sidecovers, added a pair of 6” slugs to the forks and bolted on a pair of air horns to the front fender, the compressor was mounted on the frame downtubes and worked great until the first time it rained and they became anemic water-pistols.
The point is, here, that after this, I never owned another Japanese bike. I always had a lot of distaste toward the Yamaha XS650, as its styling was obviously aimed at the Triumph market, similarly the Japanese V-twin bikes were obviously trying to capitalize on the HD market even though the early Shadows and Viragos were styled as generic street bikes, when the Intruder came out, all bets were off.
Many people liked these bikes and that’s just fine, I never really understood it, but I don’t have to.
Fast forward to now, although the price of a running Harley has come down a lot (Shovelheads abound for 5K), the reason for all that is nobody has any money, so people are chopping whatever they can find in their price range. The aforementioned XS650 Yamaha is probably one of the most chopped bikes around these days, simply because if you look, you can find great deals on these bikes. The most popular choice for Japanese bike chopping, was always the SOHC Honda CB750. Back in the ‘day’, it seemed these were everywhere with wild front ends and molded tanks etc. These days, you can pick one up for a great price, people like Ken over at Cycle-X make some kickass parts for these bikes and there owners seem super happy with them.
So, with that in mind, I decided to look for a CB750A for Nurse Nut to ride. These have an automatic transmission (using the same torque converter as the Honda Civic), but otherwise are quite similar for the regular 750. I spotted one on eBay for $90 with a couple of days left to bid, I expected it to run up a little at the end, but I ended up picking it up for $205. My initial thought was to run a two part series showing how one of these el cheapo bikes can be chopped and on the road for under a grand. I grabbed a universal hardtail kit from TC Bros, and took the bike over to Chop Docs in Waterford, Michigan to have the back end hacked off and the tubes welded on. I don’t know what I was expecting, but during the process, the bike started looking pretty good. I’m now inclined to try and make this into a really good looking chop instead of the cheap and dirty one I originally envisioned.
I’ll still run the build here in the magazine, but the concept appears to be changing on me. Usually I have a clear-cut vision or where I want my bike builds to end up, so it’s a little weird for me to have the goal posts moving on me like this. Stay tuned to see where it goes, I, for one, have no idea.

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