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Posted: 9/23/2011 11:00:31 AM EST
A friend offered to sell me a 1976 cb550 for $300. He said all of the parts are there, but it needs the carbs cleaned, needs the front brake worked on (he said it's a little sticky), and it's been sitting in his garage for a few years. Said it ran when he got it, but it won't run right now.

This would be my first motorcycle. Just looking for a cheap way to get around town, and if it is reliable maybe the occasional longer trip. What can you guys tell me about the cb550? Are they reliable bikes? Are they easy to find parts for and maintain?

I'm no motorcycle mechanic but I am mechanically capable. He works on bikes a lot and said he'd help me get it running. He has some of the tools I would need like a carb sync kit. What are your thoughts?

Link Posted: 9/23/2011 11:05:21 AM EST
[Last Edit: 9/23/2011 11:07:58 AM EST by Aimless]
Link Posted: 9/23/2011 11:07:53 AM EST
Plan on rebuilding the carbs, rebuilding the front brake, and new tires. Possibly a new chain and sprockets if the old chain is rusty.

Once all of that is done the engine itself should probably run until the end of time as long as you keep oil in it.
Link Posted: 9/23/2011 11:09:27 AM EST
[Last Edit: 9/23/2011 11:11:56 AM EST by Aimless]
Link Posted: 9/23/2011 12:05:24 PM EST
[Last Edit: 9/23/2011 12:07:47 PM EST by Stasher1]
I've owned a few CB550's and they're generally solid, reliable bikes. The carbs will most likely need to be rebuilt, but that's a fairly easy project as long you 1) take your time 2) don't lose anything, and 3) don't try to force anything that doesn't move freely. Your local Honda dealer should be able to order any/all of the parts you'll need to complete the task, but they don't offer a complete "factory" rebuild kit for those Keihin carbs. Complete kits are available from aftermarket manufacturers, like K&L. I've used their kits on numerous occasions and they always fit well and work great. Plan on a new petcock seal when you rebuild the carbs, as well. A leaking petcock seal combined with improper float settings or worn float needle/seat will result in a crankcase full of gas and a big puddle under the bike.

The brake stickage is common on vintage bikes and can be caused by a few different things, depending on how the bike was stored. If it has been sitting out in the weather for years, plan on replacing the caliper piston and seal. The piston can/will corrode, and seize the caliper. The best way to check the overall condition of the caliper and piston is to undo the brake line and remove the two bolts holding the halves of the caliper together (they're the same ones holding the caliper to the bracket). Remove the caliper halves and set them somewhere clean so you can work on them. Take a standard airgun (the kind with the little rubber tip work best) and insert it into the empty hole where the brake line connects and give the caliper a blast of air. You may want to do this inside a cardboard box or something (and wear safety glasses) as the piston will come flying out like a bullet. Once the piston is out, inspect it well for pitting and flaking of the plating. A little pitting/flaking isn't a big deal, but keep in mind, this has to be smooth enough to form a seal with the caliper o-ring. If it's not, it'll wear the caliper o-ring and your brakes will leak. If the pitting/flaking is minimal, you can just clean it up and reuse it, though.

Next step is to remove the caliper o-ring/seal. These are pretty cheap, so there's no reason to try to reuse it. Pry it out with a hook scribe or similar tool and clean the groove it seats in very well. Trash/corrosion can accumulate under this seal and is a common cause of caliper sticking. Once this is done, give the caliper a thorough cleaning with some aerosol brake cleaner and it should be ready for reassembly. Make sure you give the seal and piston a light coat of brake fluid before reassembly. Simple.

The fork internals ought to be fine, but plan on changing the fluid and seals. Look at the area right above the fork lowers for rust/pitting chrome as this will lead to premature fork seal failure.

The rear shocks might be fine as well, but you won't know for sure until you ride it.

These old bikes only made about 50 hp, so don't plan on beating anyone in a race. They're good around-town bikes, and are capable of longer freeway rides, but they really don't like extended runs over 70 mph. Keep it at 70 or below, though, and they'll be happy.
Link Posted: 9/29/2011 11:50:18 AM EST
So...what's the word? Gonna buy it?
Link Posted: 9/29/2011 3:59:11 PM EST
I've got some time to decide, so I've been doing research based on what he said and what you guys told me.

It looks like I'd be into it about $150-200 if I have to buy carb and brake rebuild kits+lines. New tires look to be about $80 a piece, new battery anywhere from $30 to $100...

So, potentially I’m looking at over $400 to get it safe and running. I talked to him today and asked how much he thought I’d have to put into it to make it a commuter, and he couldn’t say for sure. Hopefully the carbs just need cleaned and not rebuilt, but it’s hard to know without doing it. He said tires have plenty of tread but are very old and should probably be replaced. He doesn’t know about the rest.

I’ve only got about $500 right now. If I can get it to run with $200 and then do the rest as I go, I’d be fine. But.. if not.. I have a 400lb paperweight.

So, right now I’ve just been looking over craigslist trying to see what’s out there. Most of the stuff that is running and in good shape is going for a grand or more. I don’t know if I should just save up for a while longer, or take a chance. It’d be nice to have the transportation now, just have to figure out how much of a chance I’m willing to take on it.

I've been riding a 175cc scooter for the past 1.5 years. It's actually pretty nice, it's liquid cooled and will do about 70-75 mph, but it's an automatic. Currently my wife and I share that, but we had to move farther from work/school due to unforseen circumstances.. and our older SUV gets poor gas mileage and needs some work. The hope is to let her ride the scooter and I'll ride the bike, and save the car for when it snows. We both rode the scooter all last winter, as long as the roads were clear. The cold sucks, but with the right clothing it was workable.

I haven't ridden a bike with gears since I was a kid and riding my friends dirtbike, so all I want is a smaller bike that's easy to work on but freeway capable. All it has to do is get me through the next 2 years until I'm out of school and can hopefully get a good job, then I'll buy something more modern and trouble-free.
Link Posted: 9/29/2011 4:42:13 PM EST
Link Posted: 9/29/2011 6:40:17 PM EST
Originally Posted By MeestaSparkle:
So, potentially I’m looking at over $400 to get it safe and running. I talked to him today and asked how much he thought I’d have to put into it to make it a commuter, and he couldn’t say for sure. Hopefully the carbs just need cleaned and not rebuilt, but it’s hard to know without doing it. He said tires have plenty of tread but are very old and should probably be replaced. He doesn’t know about the rest.

I’ve only got about $500 right now. If I can get it to run with $200 and then do the rest as I go, I’d be fine. But.. if not.. I have a 400lb paperweight.


Whatever you think it will cost, it will end up costing more. I bought a 1978 Suzuki GS550E last year for less than $500, figuring that I could get it up and running with another $300-$400. It's all running now, and the total cost ended up around $1300; another $400 beyond what I thought I'd be spending.

Oh, it's not worth it to try to "just clean" carbs. You'll at least need new gaskets, probably some various O-rings as well. If any jets are really gummed up, easier to just replace them with new ones, as you'll probably have some in the carb kit that provides your new gaskets and O-rings. I'd figure about $80 for carb parts on an I4 like the CB.

If you are looking to use the bike as a commuter, then you definitely want to make sure you have good tires on there, unless the ones on it are only a couple of years old - figure another $200 there.

Brakes will probably need new parts, which can vary quite a bit based on what you actually need.

Then there's all the things you don't think about, but inevitably end up needing to be replaced, like random electrics, wheel bearings, etc.


Originally Posted By MeestaSparkle:
So, right now I’ve just been looking over craigslist trying to see what’s out there. Most of the stuff that is running and in good shape is going for a grand or more.


Yeah, that's fairly typical. A late 70s / early 80s UJM in good running shape should be around $1000~$1300.
Link Posted: 9/29/2011 7:19:04 PM EST
Originally Posted By Aimless:
Oh, pass on this, it's not reliable and cheap transportation.

Posted Via AR15.Com Mobile


+1
Link Posted: 9/30/2011 3:45:48 AM EST
Originally Posted By Walkure:
Whatever you think it will cost, it will end up costing more. I bought a 1978 Suzuki GS550E last year for less than $500, figuring that I could get it up and running with another $300-$400. It's all running now, and the total cost ended up around $1300; another $400 beyond what I thought I'd be spending.

Oh, it's not worth it to try to "just clean" carbs. You'll at least need new gaskets, probably some various O-rings as well. If any jets are really gummed up, easier to just replace them with new ones, as you'll probably have some in the carb kit that provides your new gaskets and O-rings. I'd figure about $80 for carb parts on an I4 like the CB.

If you are looking to use the bike as a commuter, then you definitely want to make sure you have good tires on there, unless the ones on it are only a couple of years old - figure another $200 there.

Brakes will probably need new parts, which can vary quite a bit based on what you actually need.

Then there's all the things you don't think about, but inevitably end up needing to be replaced, like random electrics, wheel bearings, etc.




x2

If you decide to just "clean" the carb, you'll need to buy new float bowl gaskets at the very least. Last time I checked, they ran ~$15 each from Honda. A complete aftermarket rebuilld kit will include that gasket, plus all of the other gaskets, o-rings, and jets you'll need to rebuild a carb for ~$20. Cutting corners won't save you any money when it comes to bike repairs.

Link Posted: 10/1/2011 9:39:43 AM EST
It seems like most of the used bikes I am running across that would be near my price range are either Honda cbxxx or nighthawks, kawasaki kz550's, or suzuki gs550's. I read that the nighthawks don't charge at idle? That might be an annoyance for me as most of my driving will be city, won't spend much time at higher rpms for my commute. What are the advantages/disadvantages of shaft drive vs chain? One thing that's an issue here is they salt the roads a lot all winter. A scooter has most critical parts covered with plastic so it remained surprisingly clean after a winter of riding.. but from working on my car I can see any exposed metal get's raped by the salt water. Would a shaft drive do better in this environment? Of these bikes does one stand out as a better option or are they all pretty similar?

After reading I like the idea of solid (or not spoked) wheels so I have to worry less about punctures, and I can clean the salt off of them more easily. Our roads are not the cleanest and I'd like to be able to just keep a can of fix a flat on hand to get me home if need be.

I understand that I'm not going to get anything incredible in my price range, but after more thought I'm willing to spend more time working on it to get it going. It will be a good learning experience and I'll have more confidence in it down the road.

Thanks for your time and input, it is much appreciated.
Link Posted: 10/2/2011 5:52:55 AM EST
Most of the 70's-80's Hondas don't start charging until they hit about 3K rpm.
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