For awhile now I have either been doing other peoples projects, building shop equipment in order to do projects, or have been doing projects that I consider a “chore”. I figured it was time to put my tools, equipment, and skills to good use and build something for myself. Every year for the past 10+ years I get a motorcycle itch. I spent my younger years racing motocross and then later on in life riding my dad’s and brother’s street bikes. I have never owned a street bike for numerous different reasons, one of the main reasons was the riding season where I live is rather short and motorcycles typically spend more time sitting rather then being ridden. Well that’s all about to change (the bike part…not the weather)
I am always intrigued by anything considered vintage. I love vintage tools, vintage metal working equipment, vintage bikes, and vintage cars. North America has seem to been hit by a Café racer theme over the last little while and I find myself getting sucked into it. I usually resist the cultural “themes” as they typically come and go however the Café racer is calling my name.
I have spent months reviewing listing after listing on Kijiji and Craig’s list trying to find a worthy candidate that would be willing to join me in my bike adventure. My criterion was rather specific when looking for a bike to modify. My guidelines were as follows; the bike needed to be Japanese (yes I know this already goes against the authentic meaning of Café racer however British is too much $$$), the bike had to be from the 1970s or earlier, under 500cc, single cylinder (this could be tough), preferably in original condition (could be rough shape but I didn’t want someone else’s mitts previously into it), spoked wheels, and under $1000.
Well an ad finally came along for a bike that my fit most of the criteria. A 1965 CB160 was listed for sale. I was not prepared to jump on anything instantly, I have already considered multiple other bikes however I find I need to ponder the decision for a day minimum before I act on it. Usually if a bike isn’t “right” the dream will die within ½ a day. Well the CB160 ad didn’t disappear from my brain, it met most of the criteria except for the single cylinder part as the bike is a parallel twin. Oh well, can’t have it all.
A bit of history regarding a Honda CB160 goes something like this. The Honda CB160 Sport was a 160cc, 4-stroke, OHC, street motorcycle manufactured by Honda from 1965 through 1969. The engine was a parallel twin with dual carburetors and linked to a 4-speed transmission. Apparently there were lots of these built and therefore used parts are available. Some quick internet searches even show active groups still racing these bikes. The engine boasts a fist full of 16.5 horsepower at 10000 RPM, with a top speed of 68 mph and a wet weight of 294 lbs.
I decided to inquire with the owner to learn a bit more about the history of this particular “ride”. Turns out the guy selling it bought it to restore however “life” got in the way and it was time to bail on the project. He never actually did any work so the bike was still in the same condition as when he bought it. The good news is that the bike was all original and most of the components were still present. The tins were in decent shape and the wear, rust, and weather factor wasn’t excessive. Now for the bad news…the bike was not in a running state on account of a hole blown through the upper engine case and cylinder. It looked as though the connecting rod wanted some fresh air so it decided to make a run for it and the quickest way out was straight through the engine case.
Now the owner was selling the bike with a spare engine. The spare had pistons that went up and down and appeared to have compression. The exterior of the spare engine was fairly rough as it appeared to have been sitting in a field for some time. It was impossible to determine just what condition it was in without a complete tear down.
So it would appear that the CB160 in question had both good and bad. One has to expect, and accept, the challenges that will come from the unknown. I suppose you could say that in the case of this CB160 one would have calculate the degree of risk involved in trying to revive the bike. It may turn out to be complete failure however I weighed the options and decided that the money I would have to part with would not leave me broke and out on the street so I opted to make the purchase. Typically the days proceding any type of purchase like this my gut will tell me if it was the right thing to do, in this case my gut is feeling pretty good. No stress yet.
So I picked up the CB160, the spare engine, an engine gasket set, a new seat cover, an aftermarket repair manual, and a Honda parts manual for the tune of $700. So with the bike sitting in my garage it was time to come up with a game plan. I have not committed myself mentally to the Café racer modifications yet. First order of business will be to see if the engine is salvageable. So for the time being no thoughts as to what is going to happen with the remainder of the bike will take place until I have some carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons flowing down the auspuff.
Looks like the metal working portion of the garage will go into hibernation for a little while and the shop will get turned into an engine rebuilding facility. Both engines will get torn down and inspected and then a determination will be made in regards to the fate of the CB.