As the café racer “scene”
pretty much exploded at the same time I bought Oldbike I fall into a chronological
category of people that have been wrenching on and riding vintage bikes
probably since before the bikes were considered vintage, definitely before
riding an old bike was considered to be “cool.”
Luckily I fell into the Caferacer.net
forum purely by accident and/or dumb luck.
I looked around on the website and managed to largely avoid the virtual
berating/bashing that I have now seen hundreds of newbies go through most
leaving with their tail between their legs.
I say that I was lucky to find them because I have avoided doing a lot
of STUPID things to Oldbike just by browsing through the site. One of the first benefits I was able to take
away was in identify and understanding the phenomenon of the “L-bike” fad of
I might try and do a more detailed write up based on the
observations I’ve gleaned from Caferacer.net
but for now suffice it to say that “L-bikes” do not make good café racers. Early identification of this fact saved me a
lot of wasted time and effort in trying to make a bike into something that is
not in its DNA.
Armed with that knowledge I focused my efforts towards
converting Oldbike into a sort of urban assault commuter bike. With that as a goal, the sacrifice of comfort
and utility in the name of outright speed went by the wayside. That doesn’t mean that I’m not interested in
making the bike run smoother, accelerate faster, handle better and stop
quicker. That is where this most recent modification
comes into play.
Over the years I have seen a ton of people that have made
the mistake of taking off the front fender off their “café racer” project,
chasing the café racer “look.” Heck… the previous owner had done it to my bike.
Thankfully he had the
thing laying in a barn still. I’m not
even sure where the idea originated but I am pretty sure that when the original
café racer scene was going on I don’t think that people were pulling the front
fenders off their bikes. Maybe the
people who do this are making an attempt at saving weight, they are barking up
the wrong tree. I’ll go into a little
detail as to why; while the forks are held together by the triple trees and the
axel at the bottom of the forks this is not enough to provide the stability and
handling that you want in a motorcycle.
If you think about it, on a standard (non upside down) fork, the
skinniest part of the fork is what is attached to the triple tree. This is going
to give you front to back flex no matter what.
Now, each lower portion of the fork cartridge moves independently of
each other unless they are joined together.
Joining them with just the axle may seem like enough but it’s not when
you take into consideration all the forces that your front wheel experiences
with bumps, braking and acceleration many times not when the bike is
upright. Having that single point of
union will still allow the forks to compress and rebound at different rates,
affecting the bikes handling and the feel you get in through the
handlebars. The front fender gives you a
second structural union to between the two forks which forces them to move at
the same rate and keeps the front wheels’ attitudes as intended buy the
manufacturer and as desired by the rider.
I would always see the guys telling the newbies that if they
wanted to take off the front fender they needed to get a fork brace. I had no idea what one was but once I had an
understanding of the aforementioned workings of front forks, seeing one for the
first time made perfect sense.
Not to jump ahead chronologically in the photos but this is
the only one that I have that shows the inner side of the fender clearly. You can see that even the manufacturer had
attempted to bolster the strength of the connection between the forks with some
extra material. Even with the front
fender installed on Oldbike I got a lot of feedback through the handlebars,
there was so much vibration through the handlebars that I couldn’t tell what
the front end was doing, the useful information got lost in the (excuse the
Being that I the two sets of discarded handlebars as well as
some engine guards and a welder I got to thinking that I might try and make a
front fork brace for Oldbike. The
difference would be that I would mount mine over the fender keeping it in
The above pictures are of the mounting brackets I cut off of
the engine guard, which you can see in the picture below.
Above you can see the two sets of handlebars collected into
the front fender. I basically cut them
up into straight portions and curved portions.
An effort was made to keep the mirrored portions the same lengths.
The leading portion would be made up of four sections and
would be more “square” than the trailing portion which you can see in on the
floor in the above picture.
The trailing portion was made of three pieces and was more
Here you can see them tacked together.
And with the welds ground down and one of the mounting
Here is the basic layout I was going for.
Once I got the first mounting point attached I was able to
put it on the fender and use the mounting holes and some clamps to keep
Here it is completed.
Because of the clearance issues with the forks I had to
remove the front wheel and then slide the brace and fender up between the
And above are a few shots of the finished product. Things could still be cleaned up more really
but right now I am testing for function, I’ll worry about form later on. After the first ride I was amazed at the
difference the brace made. Almost all of
the extra chatter that I was receiving through the handlebars was eliminated,
and only useful feedback was coming through.
The front end was hugely improved!
I would not have expected such an improvement!
At first I had concerns about adding the extra weight to the
front end (the brace is pretty heavy) but I think that the improvements were
well worth the increase in weight.
Below I have a video if I took of the complete product,
installation and reactions after a first test ride.
And as a bonus of sorts I made a video eleven days prior of
a ride on Oldbike Basically I took one of my gloves off, shoved it into the
breast pocket of my jacket and then stuck my iPhone into the said pocket so the
camera lens stuck out. Consequently you
get a view to the left side of the road I am on but I figured you could hear
how the GS sounds in all the gears and up to around 60-62 miles per hour in
Thanks to all who read the blog! Not sure what the next installment will
entail but I’ll try and make it sooner than later!
(From The Song) What Do You Do With The Mad That You Feel?
What do you do with the mad that you feel When you feel so mad you could bite? When the whole wide world Seem oh, so wrong And Nothing you do seems very right? What do you do? Do you punch a bag? Do you pound some clay or some dough? Do you round up some friends for a game of tag? Or see how fast you go?
It's great to be able to stop When you've planned a thing that's wrong. And be able to do something else instead
And think this song: I can stop when I want to, Can stop when I wish, Can stop, stop, stop anytime. And what a good feeling to feel like this, And know that the feeling is really mine. Know that there's something deep inside That helps us become what we can, For a girl can someday be a woman And a boy can someday be a man.
Hey everyone, sorry I haven’t been updating much this
summer. I’ve pretty much just been
riding Oldbike around so there hasn’t been too much to talk about.
One thing that I noticed in as I have been riding around is
that the front brakes were starting to feel spongy. Realizing that I never really did anything with
the brakes I decided that I should flush out the old brake fluid, bleed the
line and see if that helps the stopping.
As soon I opened the master cylinder I realized that I may have been
dumb to wait so long to check this. Look
at the coloring for the brake fluid! I’ve never seen brake fluid that dark!
So I drained the fluid out of the system, using my MityVac…
…it goes pretty quick when there is only a single brake
caliper and brake line involved. The
inside of the master cylinder was coated in residue from the old fluid. I didn’t take a picture of that but here is
what it looked like after I cleaned it up.
The rubber in the cap was in good shape.
I flushed and filled the system with Valvoline Syn-power
full synthetic brake fluid.
You can see in the background that this fluid is a million
times clearer than the old fluid. After
getting my hands dirty with the brake fluid change I felt like doing a little
more work. If you remember earlier I had
the exhaust system pieces together in an attempt to get rid of the exhaust
clamps and completely seal the system from exhaust leaks. At that time I left the welds raw and didn’t
do any grinding on them, I had noticed some soot coming from a couple pinhole
leaks where I had welded so I decided that I should finally get the exhaust
off, grind down the welds and seal up the pinhole leaks.
You can see that I welded the H-pipe to the headers and then
welded the reducers onto the headers and then to the Harley Davidson silencers that
the previous owner had put on the bike.
As I mentioned before that doing this makes the exhaust
slightly harder to remove and install because you have to pull the headers
apart to get them around the lower frame tubes in front of the engine but it is
doable and I don’t have too much trouble with taking them off and on. I just want to mention that in case anyone
else decides to do this. It was a lot of
grinding to get the welds cleaned up but after I got them looking good I got
the welder out and sealed two or three exhaust leaks and ground them down
The end result looks much better.
I am a point of conundrum with the exhaust system now. It’s obviously still a cobbly exhaust
setup. It’s completely effective but I
am trying to decide how much more time I want to dedicate to it. There are spots that are rusty the chrome Harley
Davidson silencers have some scrapes and scratches on them and so do the
headers. Do I want to try and dress them
up even more cosmetically? I could rough
up the chrome and get the wire wheel after the headers and paint them with high
temperature exhaust paint, but experience tells me that that sort of paint doesn’t
stay pretty forever. Should I just use
it the way it is and if at some point I l find a good deal on a MAC 2 into 1
exhaust for it do that. I’m still up in
the air about that. I definitely don’t
want to spend a lot of money on an exhaust seeing as how this one is doing the
job just fine.
The last thing I did to the bike was finally adding rearview
mirrors. These bar-end mirrors were
donated to me from a friend and were originally on his Speed Triple. The brand I believe is “Napoleon” and it appears
that they are no longer made but the reviews are
generally positive about them. I
have to admit that they have great visibility and they look good!
That pretty much should bring you up to speed with
Oldbike. I’ve put on over 700 miles on
the bike this summer (all around town) and it have been very reliable now and
ton’s of fun. If I do more work on the
bike before fall I’ll make sure to update here on tap for the winter will be a
engine teardown and rebuild, should be fun!