Motorcycle Classics Blogs > Black Side Down

Hands-On

A few issues ago (March/April 2015, to be exact), I told you about our online reader surveys, where we query you for your opinions on a variety of subjects. Your response to those surveys helps us choose the stories we run and the covers we feature, and the comments you leave help us track your interests.

Of note is a continuing call for more tech-oriented stories and columns. When we started this magazine (has it really been almost 10 years?!), we knew that loving old bikes doesn’t always equal loving to work on them. Being mechanically minded, I look for excuses to work on my own bikes, and I can easily get lost in detailed technical dribble. But I also know that non-mechanical denizens of our little corner of the world go glassy-eyed at the first mention of camshafts or carburetors.

As time rolled by, readers began asking us for more technically-oriented articles, and even if it wasn’t exactly a tsunami of requests, it made sense that we should do more in our own shop. We undertook our first in-house bike project in 2007, and in 2011 we cajoled vintage motorcycle mechanic Keith Fellenstein into penning a regular Q & A tech column, Keith’s Garage. That same year, we also started our regular How-To series detailing specific maintenance projects.

Response to both of those has been overwhelmingly positive, and we get more and more people writing in telling us those are the first pages they turn to when their new issue arrives. More than ever, you want to understand how to get your classic bike going and, once it's going, keep it on the road. That makes perfect sense to us, because not only is it satisfying to do your own work, but properly done, it makes classic bike ownership cheaper, too.

To that end, we’re planning a new in-house restoration project to help satisfy your itch to know more about what makes your bikes tick. A quick note, however, about that word “restoration”: In the projects we’ve turned our wrenches on so far, we’ve intentionally strayed from anything resembling a full-on restoration and instead taken the classic custom route. Going the custom route is fun, and sourcing cycle parts is easier when you’re not following the manufacturer’s rule book. It's also usually cheaper: As anyone who’s done one can tell you, a true and properly executed 100-point, show-quality restoration is an expensive proposition. Then there’s the issue of time (there’s never enough around here) and of skill (working on that one, but there’s still a long way to go), both of which are needed in abundance.

Like our earlier projects, this next one won't be a "proper" restoration. Yet we are adjusting our approach, biasing toward originality instead of custom. We’re going to rebuild our bike as close to original as possible, while allowing ourselves to source non-stock parts as necessary or desirable. Our goal is to “restore” a sad-looking and currently disassembled 1970 Honda CB350 to the point that it looks almost 100-percent original, but without worrying about whether we have the correct shock absorbers or hand grips. We’ll work in upgrades that make sense (electronic ignition, for example) and figure out work-arounds for parts no longer available, many of them gleaned from the lessons learned by other CB350 owners.

When we’re done, we’ll have a bike that looks great, runs perfectly and — more importantly to us — isn’t so perfectly restored we’re scared to ride it on the street. Along the way, we'll all learn a little more about keeping our old bikes going.

Richard Backus
Editor-in-chief