Choose your fighter
The most inexpensive motorcycles to modify are the motorcycles that have forgotten time and style and many are Japanese. That means the Honda CBs in capacities of 350, 360, 500, 550, and 750. Yamaha has the XS series, in capacity of 360, 400 or 650. Forget the XS500 or TX500, except when you have tons of time and money. Then there’s the SR400 and SR500 and even the Viragos get a lot of coverage now.
Be aware of the issues
Very likely all of these bikes would have the same problems, as they were all made at least 30 to 40 years ago. When bikes gained power with each new model year, we’re talking about the 70s, but the handling was missing behind. Nearly every bike was sporting a disk brake up front by 1972-73. Noise from the intake was still visible, and the majority of wheels had wire spokes. For the most part, shock absorber were chrome spring holders, and low-hanging mufflers and centers triggered plenty of sparks (and crashes) at speed while cornering.
It really is a good idea to get a bike with decent accessibility of parts – plus a wide selection of aftermarket goodies. It is the start of a depressing journey to put a lot of effort into a bike that you can’t even buy a head gasket for.
Make a plan
You need a few things. It’s a must start from a place and gather information. You can do what? What is it you should be doing? Where can you find out what, and who can you ask?
If you are searching the web and seeing pictures of 70s racing machines and hot-up street bikes, you will find some hints. Typically, the stance had changed, just like the tires. Aluminum rims substituted steel and the installation of generic aftermarket shocks and fork kits.
You’ll have to dive a little further into the engine/performance department: the pictures below only show the external modifications. You will find air cleaners, larger and better carbs, and exhausts, and maybe some sort of oil-cooler. You will need to read posts from old magazines that have hop-up tips relating to your bike to get an insight into the internal modifications.
Don’t cut suspension budget
It’s certainly vital that the dampening and spring levels suit the weight of your bike and yourself as closely as possible, taking into account what sort of riding you’re going to do. Buying a brand name shock that is not matched, that is already used or that is designed for a race bike may not produce any improvement.
Learn from others
The common theme on all these bikes is to give a crap about the set-up of the frame, bring the motor back to “Blueprinted” stock at least and then use all the same hot rodding techniques racers have used since the internal combustion engine was invented.
If you are considering building the cafe racer, check the 12 Myths About Cafe Racers 2 seater.