Starting to look for next winter’s project

I'm not aware of any reliability issues, it's just an irksome design in my view and like I said, I hated the snatching, expecting something to go bang all the time, and that was with a new chain!
This is the SOHC version, but the DOHC version is much the same, just has two cams.
All bike engines have design flaws I suppose, just look at the XS, but a primary chain in the middle of the crankshaft is just too big a flaw for me.
I have run several 4 cylinder Hondas, CB’s with single & twin cams over thousands of European tour miles. Never had a problem. Honda Singles and V-twins, without issue. Of all the bike brands I have experienced Hondas have been the most reliable, even the ones with primary chains.
 
I had occasion to ride a 1975 Bonneville some years back. It was terrible. I did not want to get off of it! It's funny how that works.
I owned Triumphs (propper ones) back when you could afford to buy one, loved riding them, but can't agree with 'terrible'. They were great bikes.

But back to the Nighthawk: Never owned one but did have a DOHC CB750, an absolute pig of a bike, worst bike I ever owned. Reliable as you can get, but still a pig, but its not about reliability, its about not being a pig.

Had a horrible snatching noise from the primary chain, replaced that and put the engine back together, still had that horrible snatching noise. An odd chain, more like a steel drive belt with teeth, four rows from memory, so, not an insubstantial chain

If you like pig bikes, you'll love the Honda, its the epitome in pig bikes.

I didn't know about the chain drive for the starter and alternator on the Nighthawk, the CB didn't have that. But, I guess that would make it a 'big' pig of a bike.
 
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but can't agree with 'terrible'. They were great bikes.
Yes, a harsh word. I used it to mean my ass was numb, my feet were numb, my hands were numb and the clocks were spinning in their clamps. The XS650 is very smooth by comparison. I agree the old Triumph is a great vintage bike.
 
In general I never liked Hondas much. Never got used to my 80 Goldwing. Cb750s not bad Cb450 terrible. How ever the CB550 is one of the smoothest bikes I have, just terribly slow. Kawasaki and Yamaha are my go to.
 
In general I never liked Hondas much. Never got used to my 80 Goldwing. Cb750s not bad Cb450 terrible. How ever the CB550 is one of the smoothest bikes I have, just terribly slow. Kawasaki and Yamaha are my go to.
I started out with a S-1 Kawasaki 250 triple, then a Suzuki GT-750 followed by a '76 H-2 Kawi 750. The first time I rode a CB750 I thought something was wrong with it. Seriously, CB's are great bikes, but when you start on smokers...
 
Yes, a harsh word. I used it to mean my ass was numb, my feet were numb, my hands were numb and the clocks were spinning in their clamps. The XS650 is very smooth by comparison. I agree the old Triumph is a great vintage bike.
That's odd, I never had any problems with vibration on my Triumphs or BSAs, no numb anything. I tell you what though, when I first started up my 74 TX650 for the first time after rebuilding it, I was amazed how much the thing jumped around, the engine was in a wheeled, engine cart. I had to use a piece of rope to tie it up to the bench grinder to stop it walking aroumd the workshop, rev it and the thing jumped up and down like like a jumping bean.
 
My 1970 TR6, one the very last in the 'old' pre-OIF. Don't recall excessive vibration, definitely less than than the XS650 so it felt like a smooth bike. Beautiful to ride, small, narrow, handled well, just enough power, just enough brakes - with fear assistance, you needed to pull hard to stop hard.
 
Funny, good brakes and Brit bikes just never went together: My 63 A65's front end went up and down like a pogo stick when the front brake was applied (ovalled drum), very little else happened though. The rear brakes were different though, push your left foot down (where the brake pedal 'should' be) and nothing happened, until you pushed realy, really hard then the rear wheel locked up. My 71 (first of the OIFs) had a twin leading shoe front brake, that was actually a very good stopper, the rear brake was good too. But it was all down hill from there, returning to typical Brit bike brakes. My 82 Bonny had disks, they looked nice, but didn't really do much unless you grabbed the brake lever with both hands and pulled like crazy, then the bike slowed down very so slowly, the rear brake wasn't much different.
The 71 OIF TR6 was a damn good bike, everything worked great, terrific brakes, excellent power to weight , excellent handling, comfortable, even the high seat wasn't noticeable or off putting. Unfortunately, I had the model with the bread box tank, I always wanted one with the tank rack.
 

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I owned Triumphs (propper ones) back when you could afford to buy one, loved riding them, but can't agree with 'terrible'. They were great bikes.

But back to the Nighthawk: Never owned one but did have a DOHC CB750, an absolute pig of a bike, worst bike I ever owned. Reliable as you can get, but still a pig, but its not about reliability, its about not being a pig.

Had a horrible snatching noise from the primary chain, replaced that and put the engine back together, still had that horrible snatching noise. An odd chain, more like a steel drive belt with teeth, four rows from memory, so, not an insubstantial chain

If you like pig bikes, you'll love the Honda, its the epitome in pig bikes.

I didn't know about the chain drive for the starter and alternator on the Nighthawk, the CB didn't have that. But, I guess that would make it a 'big' pig of a bike.
IMG_0078.jpeg

I found a picture of the day. I’m sitting on a brand new 2001 Bonneville. The 1975 is on the right. The 2001 was appliance like. Smooth and silent. The 1975 just eaten up with character.
 
Well here I go changing my mind again. 🙄 I’ve been thinking, as time moves on, my interest in “fixing” and tuning multi cylinder bikes diminishes quickly. Looking at singles (bikes that is), I have become interested in a Yamaha SR500. Always thought these thumpers were kinda cool so I’ll keep an eye on the radar for one of these (too). Who knows next week I may be looking for something else but that’s ok as winter is a long ways away.

Anyone have experience with these bikes?
 
Maybe not the best plan then? Did your buddy’s bike gave a compression release?
believe not. This was a while ago. He prolly still has it, but changed to riding a 250 suzuki street bike, that he REALLY likes. He also has Allison's ole' shadow 750.
 
I'm not a big thumper fan generally, even electric start ones (eg GB500). The SR though has really classic, eye-catching styling in stock form. If one is into customizing, well, there's an amazing array of parts available to build a really cool bike. Alas, the kick start only requires more "athleticism" than I'm willing to muster on any kind of regular basis. They do have a compression release, but it's actually only used to get the motor in the correct position to then really kick (sans decompression) - pity. IMO not an old man's bike
 
Buddy made me ride his hot rodded SR500, was fun Very Hooligan. With a high compression engine, kicking a 500 single isn't "trivial".

That reminds me of a funny story (funny now anyway, not so much at the time!).

I had already broken my 78 TT500 (the off road version of the SR500 thumper) while practicing my flat tracking skills on an off weekend. I was leading my class in points in this AMA series season so in my panic, my Dad generously loaned me his almost brand new 79 TT500 to race that coming Saturday night in hopes of maintaining my lead.

Everything went well in practice and I won my heat race. We were lined up for the main up on the starting line when the starter/flagger indicated there was a delay....not wanting to overheat my air cooled engine, I shut my bike off as did several others on the line...big mistake!

Unexpectedly, the starter/flagger suddenly indicates we're all good to go and starts waving to get ready...in my hurry (read: panic!) to get my Dad's bike fired up, I dont exactly do the best job of making sure I nudged the piston just past top dead center like I've done thousands of time before.

I hurriedly jab at the kick starter and wham...I feel something really let go. Kick starter wont budge now, compression release or not....I wave my hand to flagger to give me a sec to get started while I try to bump start it. Obviously bump starting a big thumper on dirt in a panic situation is futile too...it didnt budge so I had to sit this one out. 😔

Got the bike home and dissected it the following morning...turns out I had exploded the kick starter gear and a large chunk of it wedged between the clutch ring gear and the center engine case, cracking the center case!! No wonder it wouldn't budge?!!

My Dad was soooo pissed at me...he was already convinced I was cursed when it came to breaking dirt bikes and this did nothing to alleviate that perception of me with him, to say the least!

I devised a fix and tore the clutch and everything out, took it to local machine shop and had them weld the case backup good as new making it all oil tight again, calming my Father down in the process.

Definitely a lesson learned about panic starting big thumpers!! 😄😄😄
 
I'm not a big thumper fan generally, even electric start ones (eg GB500). The SR though has really classic, eye-catching styling in stock form. If one is into customizing, well, there's an amazing array of parts available to build a really cool bike. Alas, the kick start only requires more "athleticism" than I'm willing to muster on any kind of regular basis. They do have a compression release, but it's actually only used to get the motor in the correct position to then really kick (sans decompression) - pity. IMO not an old man's bike
Thanks for your input @jpdevol. Well that scratches this one off the list of possible winter project candidates. This old guy isn’t looking for for that type of leg exercise! On with the search!
 
How about a Triumph or a Sportster? Heirloom bikes.
Always fancied a Brit bike.… maybe? Also used to consider getting a Harley but have gotten off that path. Soooo many bikes to choose from. Selection criteria (not in any order):
- price
- parts availability
- on line or local support (wishful thinking but something like xs650.com)
- not too complicated to work on
- vintage
- not overly large or heavy
 
Also used to consider getting a Harley
Is a Sportster really a Harley?

- price
- parts availability
- on line or local support (wishful thinking but something like xs650.com)
- not too complicated to work on
- vintage
Both a Hinckley Triumph and a Harley-Davidson Sportster check all of these boxes.
- not overly large or heavy
What is overly large or heavy? Both the Sporty and the Bonnie are kinda porky beside an XS650, but not by much.
 
The early Bonnies, pre-Hinckley are just over 400 lb.
Sporties while considerably heavier are plentiful and can be got pretty reasonable for price. There are ample accessories readily available for all sorts of build types. But the derisive nickname for Sporties amongst the "Hankie Heads" though was "Skirtster" as it was considered a girls bike.
In my opinion though it's undeserved as ready power can be achieved and Sonny Barger, former Pres and Hell's Angels rode one frequently.
 
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