Doing stupid shit is excusable when you’re a kid. You have no experience so you try lots of things. Some of those things work out and some of those things blow up in your face. If you survive, the trick is to quit doing those things that blow up in your face and to stick to doing those things that work. If you follow that method, one day wise-old you can look back and laugh at all the stupid shit you did when you were a kid. Unless you’re a dumbass. In which case you never learn anything. You just keep doing the same stupid shit again and again your whole life.
Years ago, after attempting and failing to rebuild a Honda CBX so far gone it had a piston rod sticking out of a fist sized hole in the engine case, I swore that I would never again buy a vehicle that required repair. It was hard won experience, and because of it I stayed clear of projects for a good long while. But then, a couple of years ago, I entirely forgot about that lesson and brought home a 1994 Honda CB1000. Turns out I’m a dumbass.
The strange part is that I was done with motorcycles. It ended in a perfect storm, a succession of work-related relocations, the birth of my children, and one of the most terrifying highly modified GSXR1100s that ever put tire to pavement. I wasn’t scared, mind you, but motorcycles had stopped being fun. So, when that big angry Gixxer left my garage for the last time, under someone else’s ass, I put my helmet on the shelf, packed away my gear, and hung up my spurs. I was done and, believe it or not, I didn’t even miss it.
The CB1000 that graces my garage today does so courtesy of the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority who announced one winter day that they would be suspending rail service to my area for the entirety of the following summer to repair several long-neglected stations. I already hated being tied to the train and I was not about to ride the damn bus. There was no way I was going to subject myself to the whims of others’ schedules and join a carpool and no way I was going to pay to park in some downtown garage, either. And just like that, I decided I needed a motorcycle.
It took several weeks of watching and waiting, but when the CB1000 I own today popped up on Craigslist in April of 2020, I knew it was the right bike. I had long admired that generation of CB1000, the “Big One” as it was called, and I vividly recall sitting on one in a showroom when they were new. As much as I wanted one, however, the numbers never worked and that dream, like so many others I had back then, ended up being crushed by life. Years later, my interest in the CB1000 was rekindled when, on a lengthy TDY assignment to Washington, I snapped up a well-used example on Craigslist that I rode for several weeks before reselling it at a tidy a profit. Smooth, comfortable, and reasonably powerful, the CB1000 was, I decided, everything I could ever want in a bike. So, when the ad appeared I responded right away.
It must be some trick of the aging mind that causes a person to fixate on a certain decade and then always think of it as “just yesterday.” For me that’s the ’90s and it’s hard for me to believe that it has now been almost 30 years since I sat on that brand-new CB1000. Time is skewed and, with it, my expectations.
The bike, I was told, had sat for a few years since it had last been started but was otherwise in OK condition. The photos in the ad looked good enough to get me out to see it in person and, although I couldn’t hear the bike run, the dust on it backed up the story. It was obviously older but did not appear to be “ancient.” It was complete, relatively unmolested and was, I thought, a perfect project that would take a few days of light refurbishment.
Looking back on it, I can say now that I was overly excited. I should have had my head in the game and gone in a little more critical. I can’t say I was cheated, I am a grown-ass man who is supposed to know better after all, but I think now that I might have saved a few dollars if I hadn’t gone in primed to buy. All the guy really needed to do was offer to deliver it, which he did, and I jumped at the chance. Once it arrived, the bike went straight into the garage and the Hardbody was consigned to the driveway.
I tell my kids and anyone else who must listen to me, that it is usually better to fantasize about an old vehicle than it is to actually own one. While your old vehicle still lives in your mind’s eye, you can solve every problem instantly and effortlessly and nothing costs any money. In the real world, however, real problems take real work and old vehicles can be a huge pain in the ass. Nothing is easy, fragile parts break and replacements, which sometimes cost serious money, are usually days away. And the worst part is that, despite knowing all this, it’s easy to get ham-fisted with stuff and do stupid shit that ends up breaking perfectly good, or at least perfectly salvageable, pieces.
My initial review found that the fuel in the tank had turned to varnish and that the inside of the tank itself was coated with rust. I’ve been told that this is common these days and is the result of ethanol in our gas, but whatever the cause I drained the tank, sat it outside to dry, and turned my attention to the petcock which was thoroughly gummed up. Today I know that petcocks for 1994 and 1995 Honda CB1000s are rare and precious things. They were only used on this one model, and this model was only sold in the United States for two years. All other CBs, newer and older, use different designs and there is no cross application. But you don’t know what you don’t know and so I thoughtlessly destroyed mine trying to clean it and stupidly laughed as I chucked what was left of it into the recycle bin. I then sent the tank to Florida to be cleaned and lined while I popped on-line to order another – only to discover that there wasn’t a single one to be had anywhere in the world…
While the tank was gone, I pushed forward and covered the basics. I did a thorough power washing and overall cleaning, changed the oil, replaced the spark plugs, charged the battery and bled the brakes. I removed a well-worn aftermarket carbon fiber muffler that added nothing to the bike’s appearance and would be too noisy for my taste anyhow and, after carefully sanding and polishing out some scratches, re-installed the stock silencer, stainless steel and as big around as my thigh, that the seller had graciously included. Next, I pulled the carbs and put in a Dynojet Stage 1 carb kit that was basically a small improvement over stock but nothing extreme. After re-installing the rack, I rigged up a temporary fuel supply and fired the engine. It started easily enough but ran rough, so I pulled the rack a second time and went back in to replace all the pilot jets which, unfortunately, were not included in my Dynojet kit. With those in and the carbs re-installed, the bike ran fine and I moved on to the bottom of the bike where I swapped out all the brake pads for new high-quality EBC pieces and then replaced the chain and sprockets.
None of this happened quickly and, as I worked, the days turned to weeks and finally into months. The tank remained in Florida for the entire summer, and to be fair the reason for this is that the owner of the shop was doing his best to use his personal contacts to run down a petcock on his own while I continued to pull my hair out in a fruitless world-wide search of my own. While the days stretched on, I went ahead and installed a motorcycle drive recorder with front and rear cameras and, because I felt like the key action was bad went ahead and did the ignition key and all the locks. I did other things as well, probably a lot of small, pointless things I am overlooking now, but by this point I was mostly tinkering around the edges while I waited on the two important pieces I needed the most. Summer turned into autumn and the waiting and watching got to be a drag.
I hit my breaking point in mid-September. With the tank still in Florida and my own search for a petcock bearing no fruit, I found a used gas tank on Ebay and, after being told there was a petcock on it, agreed to pay $500 to have it shipped to me. It was a lot of money, but at that point I just needed to be done. The tank arrived as promised with a working petcock mounted and, although it had a couple of small dents that I was able to pull out, some quick work with some polishing compound and some new pinstripes got it looking good enough that I didn’t bother swapping it out when the one I sent to Florida returned. Sometimes, I figure you just need to leave good enough alone.
On October 11, 2020, my completed project finally rolled out of the garage for a real maiden voyage. The day was cool and crisp and, being from Washington state, it seems fitting that I even got rained on a little as I rode my first few miles. In the year and a half since, the bike has proven to be a reliable runner. Although I don’t regularly commute with it, when I have taken it into the city it runs out well on the freeway at up to 80mph and shows no hint of its age. It looks good, sounds good, and has been a pleasure to own.
It seems, however, like a Pyrrhic victory and I still feel pretty stupid about the entire thing. The “restoration” consumed a lot of time, effort and money and caused me a lot of stress. Maybe I am easily stressed, I don’t know, but my victory tastes a bit tainted. There is a part of me that suspects that, even though I showed that I had the skills and fortitude to complete a job of this magnitude, I was only able to succeed because I was able to throw money at the problem. Worse yet is the fact that some of the major problems I faced and overcame were problems of my own making. That leaves me feeling like a dumbass. Maybe it’s just too soon to look back and laugh, I don’t know, but I wonder sometimes – usually as I am looking at old vehicles on Facebook Marketplace – if I will ever learn.
As always, my thanks to Jack for continuing to provide this forum and for his continuing willingness to accept the articles I sometimes write. I look forward to any comments or questions below.
I certainly can’t sling any arrows at you Thom .
The bike looks good and if you like riding it all is good now .
Thanks Nate. I think Tom Petty said “even a loser gets lucky sometimes.” If I’m smart, going forward my “projects” will involve planting things in my yard…
Whoops ~ my great grandson came in so I had to hit send .
I’m curious how comfortable this bike is for you ?.
Last September craigslist notified me there was an old Ural Moto for sale so I schlepped out to look at it and thought the seller, an old man, was goofy, just wasting my time (I had money in hand yet he refused to sell) .
A week later he called and I drove the seriously unsfae combination rig home, took the side car off and am still riding and enjoying the crap out of it .
The fiddles I’ve had to do were for me just par for the course, I paid little for the entire rig so expected to find problems, there’s always more than they tell you .
Tanks are super easy to clean at home and you’ll likely do a better job .
I hear you about fuel petcocks, I hate the modern vacuum ones as they nearly always fail allwoning gasoline to flood the carbys and dilute the engine’s oil to catastrophic results .
Please check back and detail how you like riding it in various weathers .
It has a decent, upright but slightly canted-forward riding position. I think the bars may have been swapped out or lowered just an inch or so at some point. It’s not uncomfortable,I usually set-up my bars like this on a standard bike. Leg wise, the seat puts your feet right over the pegs. I hear some people think these are just a bit tall, but I have no issues with putting my feet on the ground.
I don’t go out in all weather these days. I can do it but I just prefer not to. It’s not like the old days when I had to. I will say that it had been a while since I’d ridden a bike without a fairing and I have been surprised at the amount of wind I get. In the summer around here, the atmosphere in the afternoons can get pretty unsettled and you can get pushed around pretty good.
Also, the bike feels awesome at 55 to 60 mph, but even though that is the limit you’ll get killed if you go that slow on the freeway around here. I usually end up in the 65 to 70 range and it’s just a bit more wind than I like to deal with. I’ve had it a bit higher than that but it puts me too close to the edge of my comfort zone and I just don’t feel like doing it.
I envy you for your Ural. I used to be infatuated by those, especially with the idea of a side car. Although I have never ridden with a side car, it seems like it would be hard to control a bike with one on it. Does yours have the powered side car wheel?
The petcock kit you found is to rebuild the vacuum side, I destroyed the fuel side – and I did a damn fine job of it with a drill bit. This particular petcock is a very strange beast – it has an odd shape and uses a pair of short cables to actually actuate the petcock because of the shape of the tank. I find it odd that they still make CB Super Fours (now 1300ccs) for the Japanese market but that they pretty quickly dumped this particular petcock design. I still look for used ones on Ebay from time to time just so I can have a spare on hand. Still no luck finding one and there are zero bike wrecking yards around here.
I was hoping there would still be an ample supply of new-old stock parts for these bikes but they were pretty expensive back in the day and were not big sellers. What you I have been able to find is pretty expensive – even the tires are an odd size these days because of the 18″ rim. The early ’90s just doesn’t seem that long ago to me. Imagine how surprised I was when I found out Honda USA’s parts departments don’t fully support these anymore. What’s more, my local “classic” cycle repair shop won’t even work on it because they know that if they damage it, it’ll be hell to get replacement parts. The price of exclusivity, I guess…
? What model number is it ? .
I can’t find a USA ’94 but the ’93 (r) looks the same and have a vacuum petcock .
Kit for the vacuum part is here : https://www.cmsnl.com/products/cover-set-cock_16953my5b60/
This vacuum petcock was used for many years, not just two .
If you’d not binned the old one I might could figure out the non vacuum typ one that will fit .
My Ural’s vacuum petcock was of course bad, IIRC I used a Yamaha one instead, I don’t mind needing to turn it on every time I ride having replaced many Customer’s ruined engines .
Consider yourself a genius.
Your petcock reminds me of my new “hobby”.
I’ve never owned a boat and in a similarly optimistic state of mind bought a 1958 Century Resorter, which is an antique wooden boat. Only a total ignoramus would have the courage to make that impulse purchase.
I will not calculate the hours of labor and dollars spent per hour on the water other than to tell you I finally bought a pick-up truck to tow my problems around.
However, the feeling on the water is probably similar to while on your bike; Life is good, men can build amazing machines and an old cool thing is better than a new cool thing!
Nice job and Congratulations!
Nothing worthwhile is easy and the people you meet along the way are the real prize.
I had to look that up just to see one. Those are gorgeous. Dennis Gage on My Classic Car went to some show where they had vintage cars and vintage boats and while I am not a boat person – I swore a long time ago that I would never buy anything I had to trailer around – the wood work on vintage boats is amazing.
Thank you for sharing
We have all had to relearn lessons now and again.
A good reminder to enjoy what you had and remember why you no longer have it.
With my son safely away at school and unable to cast longing glances at me, I figured that this will be the year to get back on a bike. It was 71° here the other day, so I wheeled the old super glide out from the far recesses of my garage, next to the old Triumph, and cast a gimlet eye on it.
The tires were original, 15 years old- too old to trust with my life. The fluids were fresh, it had sat in the bike for the past four years. The battery: kaput, even after two days on the charger. The gas had also spent four years going bad, although I had put marine sta-bil in it before parking it. This bike is injected, so no petcock or float bowls to become fouled.
I gave it all a good look, then put it on a trailer and brought it to a guy recommended to me by some friends.
It looks to be in good hands there.
I’ll let you know how I make out, but four years has been the longest I’ve been off a bike since 1983. I’m looking forward to loping along some back roads in a couple of weeks.
I’ll keep a look out for old CB1000s as well.
A wins a win, and getting it to run is a clear vvictory. Many projects never make it back on the road.
The bike looks great. Congrats
Okay Thom ;
Sounds good to me .
It doesn’t look too tall to me but I’ve been riding old Beemers since the late 1970’s…..
The Ural is a fun bike and dead simple although the newer ones have electronic fuel injection .
I dislike side cars, you don’t ride a hack rig, you _DRIVE_ it and carefully too as unless it’s perfectly set up it will try to kill you .
Ridden Solo they’re much faster than you expect and handle well as long as you don’t have the triangulated front end .
Lots of guys buy them on a whim then never ride it and some years later it’s for sale, if poorly running the price drops like a rock .
The 2 wheel drive is only useful on glare ice ~ snow and mud etc. are no problem for the single wheel drive rigs, again American men want to feel !MACHO! so they buy a 2WD rig and either never use the driven sidecar wheel or leave it engaged so it grinds the differential to junk in short order, then they blame the ‘crappy Russian bike’ .
Riding Motos, like most things, should only be done as long as it’s fun .
There’s plenty of time to not ride later .
The shape of the hole in the gas tank will discern if there’s another typ of tap or not .
Well done Thomas. I would feel no guilt about throwing money at the minor problems to get the bike on the road. At our age that’s a perfectly acceptable thing, and I’m always cognizant of the clock ticking on how many years of wrenching and riding we have left. And if you’re dreaming of dumb vehicular adventures that means you’re young yet!
Whilst recovering from a certain currently popular virus, I had a fever dream that I needed to buy another 450 Honda Twin. So now I’m browsing for a 1982 CB450T, pretty sure it’s a bad idea but that never stopped me before.
If they have good parts availability, a little Honda like that would be a fun project. The trick, I think, is to find something that was super popular or has a lot of parts interchangeability with other popular bikes that is “classic enough” to be supported by the aftermarket.
I think most bikes from the late 80s through the 90s are orphans right now. Remember the Super Blackbird? Man, I would love one of those now. Just beautiful top-of-the-line motorcycles, but I can’t even imagine what it would be like to source parts for one today. How something like that would go from being a brand’s halo bike to being totally unsupported is beyond me but that’s the world we live in today.
I don’t think buying Motocycles is _ever_ a bad idea…….
Great article Thomas, good to read one of your pieces again.
Kudos to Jack as well.
“There is a part of me that suspects that, even though I showed that I had the skills and fortitude to complete a job of this magnitude, I was only able to succeed because I was able to throw money at the problem.”
Don’t feel bad; this is true for most things in life.
Five years ago, I bought a 1996 Chevy S10 5sp because I used to own one and had fond memories of it. I got a good price because the A/C didn’t work. Over the next winter, I had it in my garage re doing the A/C — replacing everything but the evap core. Since 1996 was a transition year, parts/hoses were impossible to find. It was easier to convert to the 1998 A/C setup and hose routing. I spent a lot of time poring over photos of 1998 engine compartments and trying to buy parts/brackets for my new frankenstien setup. Finally I got it running with ice cold A/C. Big victory.
Drove it for a year and I noticed a sweet smell in the cabin and foggy windshield. Sure enough I had a heater core leak. I pulled out the entire dash up to the firewall and replaced the heater core. Took a week of evenings, working slowly, taking lots of photos, and putting all the parts in little baggies in the truck bed. Finally got it together. Major feeling of accomplishment.
Drove it for a few more months and was done with it. The nostalgia was not as strong as I thought it would be, and I was nervous driving around in something with so little crash protection. Finally put it up for sale during summer of 2020. Got slightly more than I paid because the A/C worked. Buyer was grateful to get it because he needed it for his business and his tool box fit that model (having blown the engine on his current S-10).
Eight months later, I get a letter from an insurance company saying my car was involved in an DUI accident. Didn’t make sense since I was at home all day that day and the car was still in the garage. Two days later I get a letter from a towing company saying “my” S-10 was at their tow
yard. Then I figure it out: he didn’t register it yet. Fortunately I had printed a copy of the notice of sale I filed with the DMV. And I had a photo of his driver’s license from when he test drove it. Called the insurance company and towing yard and set them both straight. Didn’t feel so bad throwing him under the bus for a DUI accident since he had dragged me into this.
So I got my “cars from my past” itch out of my system. No longer to I need to troll Craigslist for 1980’s Saabs, or old mercedes diesels. I’m just happy driving my Lexus.
In 2014/2015 I revisited my Turbo Dodge roots and bought and 83 Shelby Charger from another TTAC user. Great little car, well restored and came with a warehouse of spare parts. I really enjoyed it but was only able to hang on to it for a year because my follow-on assignment was Japan. I ended up selling it to my cousin, though.
I cut my teeth on Turbo Dodges back in the day, but the car I had was an 88 Turbo Dodge Shadow. It was a very different beast than the Shelby – especially when I consider the fact that the first two or three years of Shelby Chargers were not turbocharged. Hell, the one I bought wasn’t even fuel injected.
It’s hard to have real nostalgia for something you didn’t have when you were young, but driving the Shelby didn’t bring back all of the feelings I had when I drove my Shadow as a young man. I remember those cars as they were, new, tight and on the cutting edge of technology, but now, even if a car is pretty well restored like the one I purchased, they are just old. The Shelby didn’t bring back those good old days, it just made me feel sadder that those days are lost now.
My brother and I bought my mother a first-year ’78 Plymouth Horizon, then nine years later an ’87. It was amazing how effective those years of continuous improvement were on that car. A few years later a 1986 Dodge Omni Shelby GLHS was running around Brookline, Massachusetts with a for sale sign on it. I was sorely tempted to dump my ’85 Scirocco and buy it but it was one of those situations where driving a collector car (as I knew it would become) would be sinful in the frozen north with five months of slogging through salty mush.
https://icdn-1.motor1.com/images/mgl/oQgPL/s1/1986-dodge-omni-shelby-glh-s-ebay.jpgShelby GLH Omni
Link to the photo: ACCESS DENIED.
Let’s try this article by Patrick Bedard: https://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/a35288282/tested-1986-dodge-omni-shelby-glhs/
People like to look down their noses at these cars nowadays – young people who don’t know what it was like to live in that era. Sure, most base model passenger cars could run the ass of a turbo Dodge these days, but back then we made due with what we had and we had a lot of fun doing it. The GLHS is legendary for a reason.
I have a bad tendency of talking myself out of the impulse buys. I think there’s a lot to looking at the work you’ve done to make something right and enjoyable, though. The money can always go someplace else with young kids :\
Just the other day I said to my friend, “You can always find reasons NOT to do something.”
We’re going to be dead for a long time though,
Great looking bike Thomas. As a 2013 CB1100 owner, I get the appeal of these machines. I’ve got 22k on mine, all rode by me as I bought it brand new in early 2014. They’re great off the line and can do a 1,000 mi road trip no problem.
I’m not seeing any ‘dumbass’ at all in your story. Everything you’ve done sounds methodical and well done. Even chucking the petcock is forgivable in the ebay age.
To flip your opening premise on its head: being older is the perfect time to be a dumbass. You’re going to have disposable cash/garage space/alternative transportation to pull stuff like this off that a typical youngster wouldn’t.
Now, commuting on that in the DC Metro area? Whoa, Nelly.
I am fortunate that I live right outside the beltway and that 66 is pretty much a straight shot to my job. Mostly I stick to the slow lanes and try to run with the cars. Sometimes people cut it a little closer than I might like, usually when they get impatient with some slow poke in the fast lane and bounce over into the slow lane to make a run on them.
You are right about the extra space, cash, and transportation. Also, I’m not sure if it is just that I am more experienced these days or if it’s because I feel like repairing things like this is “low stakes” (since I don’t have to rely on it to carry me to work or whatever) but I feel OK going a little slower. But I spent a lot of time as a guy without the space, cash, or transport and I still feel a bit stupid when things don’t go exactly as planned.
Great story! I went through the same tribulations as you with my ’94 CB1000. It took me about a year complete the restoration. A bit of a backstory…I purchased the ’95 version new when they first came out. I kept it for 9 years and sold it for an ’04 VFR. I kicked myself everyday…I loved that CB1000. Fast forward 16 years, I see a ’94 for sale about 100 miles away that needed work. I have restored several ’70’s era CB500s and 550s,,,can’t be that difficult, can it? Yes, it can!
This one had a small oil leak and fuel leak (from the petcock). It needed painting, caliper rebuilds, carbs rebuilt and synched, starter rebuild, electrical work, etc. etc. etc. Sourcing parts is difficult…and expensive! Thank God for the CB1000 Facebook Groups. I had to get parts from Europe and Asia to complete. The final product is incredible and runs as good as new. My goal is to keep it running for as long as I am able to ride!
The CB1000 “Big One” is not the fastest, nor the most agile bike, but it is a pleasure to ride. They are extremely rare and I get so many inquiries about it. I’ve been offered way more than it is worth but refuse to sell.
Great story. Thanks for sharing!
I am on the facebook groups, but had little luck sourcing the petcock. One guy in Holland, I think, said he thought he had one and would look, but then he forgot about me. That kind of thing just frustrates the hell out out of me. It cost more than I wanted and I had to buy an entire extra tank to get the piece I needed but what is done is done.