11 Ways to Upgrade Your Classic Motorcycle

Gear Driven

| May/June 2011

Price and availability confirmed at time of publication. Subject to change, please visit the product website for the latest prices and availability.

From motorcycle carb kits to new motorcycle tires, there are plenty of parts available to upgrade your classic motorcycle. Here are 11 reviews from the editors at Motorcycle Classics:

1. Probably the quickest, most effective way to update your classic bike is to add a new pair of motorcycle  tires. Unless it’s a show bike and you want an old-school tread pattern, update to something softer and stickier. We recommend Continental ContiGO! motorcycle tires, which we’ve put on several bikes with great results. A cross-ply tire designed for all-around use, they’re not as sticky as a track tire but not as hard as an old-style touring tire. The ContiGO! provides a perfect mix of good grip and good water displacement, while lasting many miles. Price: Starting around $70.

2. Many old bikes are still running stock ball bearings in the steering head. Upgrading the motorcycle steering head bearings to tapered roller bearings is, in our opinion, a must. They last longer, handle steering loads much better and generally outperform the old ball bearing setup in every way. We used an All Balls steering bearing kit on our café Honda, and it was excellent. The kit includes bearings, races, spacing washers and instructions for which washers to use. All Balls carries kits for a variety of bikes from the Sixties, Seventies, Eighties and more. Price: Starting around $33.

3. Even the best damping-rod hydraulic forks can’t match the performance of newer “cartridge” fork valves, as their fixed orifices limit tuning and response to varying load inputs. YSS PD Fork Valves are available in eight sizes from 17.5mm to 42.5mm to fit a variety of motorcycle forks, and once installed, fork damping can be adjusted to the rider’s preference. The improvement in ride quality is immediate, giving better control over both small and large wheel inputs as the PD fork valve allows progressive fork compression and rebound. Price: $135.

4. When was the last time you checked the swingarm bearings in your old Honda? If you’ve never replaced the stock bushings, chances are they’re worn out. While new stock bushings are available, these sweet C630 nickel-aluminum bronze bushings from Charlie’s Place should outlast and outperform stock bushings. And because they’re shouldered, they’re much easier to install than stock bushings, which can require careful placement. Cost is $60 a set, about the same as stock bushings.

Richard Backus
12/30/2011 5:15:09 PM

I guess it would help if I actually included the link! http://www.motorcycleclassics.com/classic-motorcycle-repair/1973-honda-cb500-4.aspx

Richard Backus
12/30/2011 5:14:44 PM

Gary, glad to know this was useful to you. Is it a job you can do? That depends of course on your level of experience. If you can replace wheel bearings, I'd say you can do this job. It's not technically complicated, but takes time and patience. We conducted a photo tutorial of the process that might help guide you through. Follow this link to learn more. And John Rodgers was right about the GL1000, we inadvertently said it has Mikuni carbs, and of course it came with four Keihin CV carbs.

12/30/2011 1:43:23 AM

Many thanks to the MC staff for compiling this. I have a 76 Honda 750 - 4 and have been putting off doing the steering bearings but now know what to get. Is that a job a non-mechanic can do or should I take it to a shop? I've had the ignition coil and wires replaced already. I put Continentals on about 8 years ago and have been very happy with them, but need to replace again, so nice to know they are still a recommended tire. Great article and I will save for future reference.

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