Reviving a Honda CL350

Discover the love of improving classic bikes with time and care while reviving a Honda CL350 by applying problem-solving skills.

| July/August 2020


You know how occasionally, someone says something that’s obvious to everyone but yourself? Years ago, a girlfriend commented (most likely while watching her BF grapple with a derelict car repair), “You know, I’ve never seen you happier than when something’s broken.” That offhanded compliment stuck with me for years, but its oddity also gnawed at me.

Because, what did she mean exactly — that I’m some moto-bumpkin who doesn’t know that life is better when you buy new things on the E-Z Pay Plan, that always work as advertised? Or was it just an innocent observation, from her disinterested-in-mechanical-stuff standpoint, about her guy’s penchant for mechanical pain? Hopefully it was only the latter, but many times it’s made me wonder — not just about myself, but about other people who like classic bikes and cars, and the more broken the better. Such as the 1973 Honda CL350 Scrambler shown here … beautifully original but lame with a sour cylinder and needing love.

A case for broken bikes

Are such classic bikes actually physical manifestations of Greek mythology, like wheeled descendants of Centaur who’ve selected hosts … us … to fulfill their mission? Maybe that’s a little far-fetched (unless you’re quarantined with a bottle of Patrón), so here’s another possibility: Fixing classic motorcycles makes us feel good, because applying problem-solving, tool skills and persistence can transition them from lumps of useless metal into rolling art that can also serve a functional role in our lives — the joy of riding. And maybe also, resale.

The small original gauges and braced handlebar (top left). The heat shields and exhaust are in good condition (above). As found, once a cover and blanket were removed (left).

As my Cycle magazine editor Phil Schilling counseled, we feel good about old motorcycles because while new bikes can only go downhill with miles and years, classic bikes — especially original ones found in non-running condition — actually improve with time and care. Any decent shrink will confirm that you feel better with accomplishment, and so adopting old bikes is a useful tonic, especially in trying times.

10/28/2020 9:07:36 PM

I made a big mistake a few days ago after reading this article: I told my 16 year old son about it! Now, he's combing facebook marketplace for derelicts, and I'm getting very willingly sucked in to it! Problem is, an old beater in his price range is next to impossible to find. Any pointers on where I can find a "rode hard and put away wet" enduro or scrambler to us to wrench on together? Thanks! -Hal

7/30/2020 9:38:45 PM

In 1973 I rode my CB 350 from Woodstock, Ontario to the west coast of Canada Vancouver BC. Then rode it home. It wasn't without incident a broken exhaust stud in Edmonton, Alberta and a blown clutch push rod oil seal on the way home in Indian Head Saskatchewan. The engine had to be pulled to replace the cam and the cam ignition bearing. Got it done in a day and was on my way. What a trip. Don Totten

7/30/2020 5:06:23 PM

Great write-up! Having torn down a few of these (and other 4 cyl Honda engines of the same era) I'm anxious to see how this turns out. I know we can't save them all (vintage bikes), but it makes me smile when I see someone taking up the challenge!

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