Best CB Build platform


New Member
Hola DTT forum,

I have been asking this question and reading a lot about the various 70's CB's and I'm trying to get a sense of the best base bike for my build. I am dead set on a 1970's CB, but which one?

Here is what I'm looking for in a base bike:
  • Decent stock handling (which can be easily improved, I AM prepared to do SOME frame welding in order to stiffen up the rear end)
  • I'm going to try to keep this a two-up with a removable seat-cowl (think Thruxtons)
  • A fair amount of stock power. I'm not looking to do major engine work right now, ie I'd like something that can get me to the ton and maybe a bit over...but not looking for a death machine
  • In good shape, running at the LEAST, and an engine that won't poop out while I'm taking home
My budget right now for the bike itself is in the 1-1.5k range. I'd love to keep it in that range.

Your opinions are ALL appreciated! Let me know what you think. Also, if you're in New England and know of any of the following please let me know: A cheapish garage space to store/work on a bike, a bike itself, a place with a REALLY good selection of helmets (esp full face with slideable sunvisors or vintage lookin' 3/4's). Thanks everyone!
just buy a GS750
more power and better handling compaired to a CB and MUCH MUCH cheaper to find...

In the land of 4 cylinder hondas your going to have a hard time finding something in good shape for your range....
but then again you might be talking about that case most dont have much power....

actually now that i think about it you didnt say much about what kind of riding you want to do, your riding level, mechanical skill level....your physical size...

need alot more info to really help.

but really there are plenty of bikes out there other then a CB...
That's a pretty tough list... I would opt for a CB450 or CB550. The CB400F might fit the bill, but it might be a bit more $$$ than you're looking to spend. The CB450 will be a bit more expensive as well, but you can find one within that budget if you look around.
@Surffly - Ha! Yeah, sorry ... I'm a beginning rider (I've ridden scooters for about 4 years, nothing over 150cc). I don't have all that much experience with motorcycle mechanics, but I've been wrenching on cars for a few years as well. I maintained my scooter myself as well.

I'm ideally looking for a commuter bike. Something I can ride around town (Boston) and do the occasional longer run to NH, NYC etc.

I was initially looking into 350's, 360's, 400's and 450's, and I've found a few 3 twins around the New England Area. I fell in love with the 450 after following the Bonita Applebaum build by Spiderman ( I love the look of the twins, but I am concerned about power. Like I said earlier, I'm not planning on trying to race or beat the shit out of this bike...not looking to go 2 bills on 2 wheels...etc. 150 would probably seem a bit too fast for my taste.

I'm building this bike for the obvious reason: "Built not Bought," and because modern sports bikes and harley's are not my style. The classic Triumphs, Nortons and BSA's ARE though. After seeing Dustin Kott's bikes I was sold that I should try doing something similar to a Honda.

Also, I found a 450 just outside Boston, low mileage (6,600), but the battery was dead, kick wouldn't get the bike to start...the key pulled out the tumbler from the ignition switch, it was leaking gas from a bad hose on the choke petcock, the right carburetor was hanging loose, and the current owner told me it had a false neutral (correct term? - where the bike would occasionally pop into and out of gear when idling...) I might have been tempted to buy it just because of the mileage, and because I'm looking for a project, but without being able to test ride it (or get it to start for that matter) I was very cautious...Guy was asking UNDER 1k... (I'd love to discuss this bike further if someone more mechanically inclined has the time)

IDK, pretty much a total newb here...but trying to do this right...
Well, more cylinders generally means more power and a more versatile bike, but they can be more work as well.
(4 carbs to tune, etc.)

There are a lot of other factors to consider as well, like:
How much of a project are you after?
What kind of tools/skills/workshop do you have?

If I am reading right, it looks like you are after a runner that only needs small things to start with.
Considering your budget, I would second the opinion of broadening your vision a touch.
Lots of GS's out there, KZ650's and the occasional XS that might fit the bill if you look around.

That's not to say that there aren't nice CB's around too, but they seem to be getting rarer and more expensive of late.

If you are looking at being 2-up a fair amount, I'd stick in the 500-750cc ballpark.

Tell us some more about yourself and your vision, and we may be able to be more helpful.

Buy a Yamaha XS650 if youre dead set on a twin, or a Honda CB 500/550four if youre dead set on a CB. The XS is extremely versatile, theres a massive aftermarket, theyre fast (enough), and still can be had on the cheap. The CB500/550 is all of the good things about the CB750 as well lighter, better handling, and better looking (in my opinion) and can also still be had on the cheap if ya look hard enough. 4 cyl bikes are a hair more complicated than twins obviously, but if ya get one in good nick, its just a matter of spending more time (and a little more cash) to get them straight. Now as stated above, if you can find a CB400f in your price range, you better buy it. That (again, my opinion) is hands down the best Honda of the 70s. Fast, agile, light, and sounds amazing. Not to mention that in stock trim it already looks the part. Good luck, and keep us posted!
@Bozz - Me: 28, I've wanted a caff for a few years now, and was initially planning on buying a 2010 Thruxton, but I started reading more about cafe racing and realized that basic mods to a Thruxton would result in a bike that like 9000 people in southern cali already own and think is "unique". So I started reading about other bikes...found a few blogs about Dustin Kott, Read Spiderman's build thread on here...subscribed to pipeburn, moto-mucci, vintagent, etc for vintage motorcycle info and found that I really liked the look of what a lot of people are doing with CB's.

Mechanical skill - low to moderate I'd say...I built a 97 honda civic (with a hondatech friend) up from stock to a 275-300 hp kicker. We rebuilt EVERYTHING...suspension, brakes, wheels, interior, exterior, MASSIVE engine mods including a new port/polished head, intake manifold, throttle body, and fuel/air/exhaust/cam to match. I have your basic tool set, no air tools unfortunately but I have several complete sets of wrenches, an assortment of screwdrivers, torque wrench, impact driver...etc (What tools I don't have I'm willing to spend a little on - I'm planning on getting an angle grinder etc).

Location: I don't have a work shop, and I'm trying to find 1) a very nice shop which might let me work on my bike in the back during off hours...2) a nice forum friend who might either have shop room in their garage or shop, or know of someone else who might...etc Networking.

Plans: I want to design something that is aesthetically pleasing and not just functional (although function will always come first). I am trying to come up with a good design that integrates a flat-track style bike with some cafe flair. (Using some sort of track style square-ish tank with a two up seat...clip ons or clubmans (which ever feels best) and rear sets possibly, depending on where I can relocate the passenger pegs, and what kind of welding that will I will have to send out for that...

I want to ride the base bike stock for a few months to figure out what I really want to change about it. Then I plan to strip it down to the frame, cut off and smooth out the brackets I don't whatever welding I need to do (reinforce/stiffen the rear end of the frame, relocate passenger pegs, rear sets...etc) then bead/sand blast the whole thing and powder coat it...I'm not planning on doing any engine mods aside from air box removal and 4-2 exhaust (Definitely going with the Norton commando style exhaust...probably going to have to have an exhaust shop weld me up something). Sticking with spoked rims...

Phew...I hope this is giving you lot some good ideas, ask me anything you'd like!

Around here you could pick up a pretty nice CB550 or CB750 for that kind of money, one that all you would have to do is get on and ride. I'll just make the short case for the Honda-4's. There are more of them than anything else so your chance of finding a good one is greater. Parts for them are plentiful and mercifully inexpensive compared to some other brands. There is an amazing amount of information available on performance upgrades, to include both power production, handling, and brakes. Even pictorial How-to's are common for the Honda's. And finally what is probably best, once put either back into pristine stock shape or a well executed Cafe, they command a very nice price.
Tools ypu need but that angle grinder CRTV is not really what it's about. Sure there may be bits that need to come off, but not too many if you want a reliable 2 up, 100+ capable bike in that price range.

XS650 is a great twin to work around and has the sort of Brit twin look and feel but drops a few less parts in the street and leaks less. All the stereotypes you can handle for no extra charge ;-)

CB500/550 are good but getting more expensive.

GS750 under rated and still available - great bikes

Same for KZ550/650 Kawasakis and even some of the older 600/750 Yamahas. On of my favorites is the old Fazer street rod which is perfect for cruising around town and the occasional Angeles Crest Hwy run.

No old bike will handle or perform or brake like a modern rocketship, and that's the beauty of an older bike. All teh fun without the fat/speed/cost.

Of course the more you modify, the bigger the bill . Try to get a neat running bike with title and no back fees and run it and keep it as a sweet ride and if you really get into bikes, take you time to plan what you ant to do, but ride it for now. It's better to come in from a great ride thinking about what you want to do to it next than to be stuck in the shop with a pile of bits wishing you had never started.
Also, look for a EARLY Yamaha XS400.

Neat style, fast (enough), reliable, and a great beginner bike.

Not as popular as similar models either so they can often times be had on the cheap.

a honda twin will suck on a ride from boston to NYC...
and not really be fun two up any time

really you should think about a bigger bike.
and with a tight budget you might want to think about other things then a CB
large but these are GREAT distance muscle bikes
very under valued
uuummmm maybe i should take a trip north
if it must be a small bike
See you get alot less for the money...
they can be found.....but this isnt ready for the road and is a risk
I still dont think a 350 will be fun on the highway unless you like buzzy motors...
see the trend yet with 70s hondas?
not bad

you want a GS.....
if you must i wouldnt go smaller then the cb550s
@surffly -

first one - pretty engine, too much power for me I think
2nd - same story
3rd - hondamatic...
4th - need a runner
5th - not bad, but I think I can find better
6th - contacted the guy before I posted this, looking at it on Saturday, buuut he upped his asking price to was only firing on 2cyls
7th - I agree with you on this one
8th - need a runner, although for the price...But I need to find a workspace first (may have found something...working out details)
9th - also not running...
10th - I love this one...might even be able to talk him down on price

But, check this out...oh and anyone else from New England...Dibs:
-it's a bit of a hike for me...but totally worth it if it just needs a new batt (jump to test it?)

If I can talk the guy down on that 750 I might take that too...just a little big for me, plus the 400 is mint...miiiiinnnnnt (as far as I can tell from the pics and description).

Thanks for your advice!
That 400 is nice.
acually its to nice to cut up into some cafe....really i mean that.
If you want something to ride and use then go for it.

If you really much cut up something please be mindful of hte people that appreciate these bikes stock
One of your comments struck me. In one of your responses you said "too much power for me". While it is true that there are bikes that do in fact have too much power for everyday use you will not find one of them in the price range you're talking about but much more importantyly many of the bikes you are talking about have far too little power for highway use.

You take an average size guy, weights somewhere north of 150 but hasn't hit the double-ton weight-wise, and put him on an air-cooled bike of 500 or less cc's, and then take it out on the interstates for 3' or 400 miles at a shot with any frequency at all he had better be a pretty good mechanic. Now I'm not talking about the small engine modern crotch-rockets, I'm talking about 250~650cc bikes built between the early 1970's and maybe the late '80s. They simply will not hold up to hard highway ponding.

I believe a few responders have suggested the 650 Yamaha. I have a personal feeling about them that I'll share with you, take it with a grain of salt. Most of my life (I'm old) I have thought that the best looking bikes that were built to any style, be it cafe or even chopper, were the old Triumph twins. Not that I'd buy another one today. Nope, they were junk* in most ways other than being something that could be made to look good. Their good looks did not go unnoticed in the industry though and there were copies made. Of them the 650 Yamaha had to be the best. Depending on where you are in the country it might not be all that hard to find a good one too. Here in Harley land they are rare (though there are a surprisingly large number of old Hondas around*) but if you are anywhere near a medium to large city they should be plentiful.

* By "Junk" I mean that even for their era they were poorly built. They had terrible electrical systems, they had ineffective brakes, they were uncomfortable, they vibrated horribly, they leaked oil like a burlap sack, they had very poor handling, and when you drove them parts simply fell off going down the road. The fit and finish from the factory was terrible, they were often shipped with huge gouges in the polished parts and some of the worst stock paint jobs every put on any motorcycle ever made. That my friend is the definition of junk if you ask me.

** Northern West Virginia, about 70 miles from Pittsburgh. When I went hunting for a CB550 a year ago within a week I found and looked at over a dozen and bought 3 of them that were running, each for $500 or less.
There are definitly XS650s to be had on the cheap.

Just picked one up in Maryland (thanks again Justin) that ran, and just needed some love for $400.
Thanks for continuing on this thread guys, I really appreciate all your opinions and comments. I am definitely steering towards a 750 (if staying with a CB) and I am now looking into the XS650's as well.

This is actually driving me nuts now, because I know I want the power/reliability to do some highway driving (even if its just local highways), but there are so many options for bikes. Couple that with limited resources, finances, time, and space...

Ultimately...I want a bike I can ride around on for a year, without needing MAJOR repair (complete engine rebuild, brake rebuild etc) within that year. After that, I'd like to tear it down and make it sexy and maybe add a little HP. At this point I'm not looking for an interstate bike...(I realize I'm contradicting an earlier post...sorry...I'm a lil indecisive as you can probably tell), I'm really looking for something I can cruise around on in town (longest ride MAYBE 200 miles tops) use to commute to and from work, that will be somewhat peppy (I'm coming from a 125cc scooter that weighed like 200lbs here...) and be fun to ride.

Also keep in mind guys this is my first REAL bike...I've ridden the modern classics (Bonnie, Thrux) and loved em, but I don't want to drop 9k+ on my first bike.

Really though, you guys kick ass...all the knowledge and expertise in this forum is an AMAZING resource, and I thank you all for your help!

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