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Black Dawg

1993 Honda CB750 'Retro' Rat-Bike!

Meet the 'Dawg'

Dawg is a 1993, Honda CB750F2N. What it used to say on the side panel, was "CB Seven-Fifty", and what every-one calls it is the 'Retro' one!

As every-one will tell you, Honda released the 'First Four' to the world in 1969, getting to most markets for 1970.

1970! What a year! The Range Rover; the Honda 'four' and ME!

The world would NEVER be the same again!

Any how; the original 'K' model CB750, had a long stroke single overhead cam, in-line four cylinder, eight valve, air cooled engine, wire wheels, a single disk front brake, chrome mudguards, and the height of sophistication for the time, an electric starter.

There was nothing particularly revolutionary about the 'four'. There had been plenty of fours before. Like many of it's other 'features'. What was remarkable was the number of such 'features' all packed into one bike, at a price that was within the means of common man.

Mine however has very little in common with the original 'K' apart from the name. The model was hastily launched in 1992, following Kawasaki's 'Zephyr', to fill a new niche in the market for 'real world' motorbikes, in antithesis to the ever more daunting and technology laden hyper-bikes.

July 2004. I had been formally diagnosed as suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, having been the victim of domestic violence from my ex, who I was trying to divorce. I was suffering depression on top of everything, and was horrendously in debt.

When a HM Inland Revenue envelope dropped through my letter box

Like THAT was ALL I needed! Last one had been a demand that I repaid over a grands worth of Working Families Tax Credits that my wife had claimed but not been entitled too. Err... yeah. HOW do they work that out eh? She claimed WFTC. Money went in her bank account. I knew nothing about it. She leaves, and they demand that I pay back the money. I told them I knew nothing about it; pointed out my signature wasn't on anything, and had never had any of the money. Doesn't matter they told me; We were legally married at the time the claim was made, so it was automatically deemed a 'joint' application, and I was liable for at least half of the repayment, and unless they could track down the woman, who had done a flit, they would pursue me for ALL of it!

Any way; I'm sure that the civil service is here simply to confound us; and you some-times wonder how they EVER manage to do anything with such distinct lack of organisation or co-ordination; BUT, there are times when the dissociation between left and right hands knowing what the other is doing, can be quite welcome.

This was one

While ONE department was chasing me for between 500 and a grands worth of her WFTC; this letter came from another department, and contained a 500 rebate cheque for income tax I had paid in 2003, before I gave up work!

Any way; I looked incredulously at the large dot matrix printed cheque; fingering it, sniffing it; putting it on the table and staring at it.... you know, like you do. I mean, how often does the tax man give YOU money!

And I contemplated what I could do with my new found riches.

I quickly realised that such a sum would do little to dent ANY of the major liabilities I had, or even much for many of the lesser ones. so if it wouldn't stop or lessen any-one giving me hassle, I might as well use it to do something 'useful'.

So I looked at Novemba-Papa-Yankee

Seen here, in a somewhat forlorn state, as she had languished, I am ashamed to admit, for the best part of five years.

There is a story behind that; she had started making a horrible knocking noise, about a fortnight after I got married; and with far too many other demands on my time and finances, had been parked up, with the notion of 'having a look at it for the summer'....

So I kind of realised, that the old girl sort of represented my id. Her decrepit condition matched my own, and the cause was the same. Marriage.

This idea struck, that fixing her up, would be a bit of 'therapy' that might also help fix me up a bit.

So, I set too, and started doing some diagnostics. Then spending a bit of time on Dave Silvers web-site totalling up how much the parts I would need were likely to cost.

When I got to 1300 and hadn't factored in any major components within the knocking engine.....

Three things became apparent.

First: 500 was not going to go ANYWHERE near letting me fix the old girl up

Second: I could get another VF-thou, in working order for a lot less than fettling my old lady

Third: Taking on an unfeasible, and difficult project, without all the necessary resources, was HIGHLY unlikely to make me any less depressed. In fact, quite the contrary!

In vague deliberations on the bike forum; the advice was 'scrap it' get another bike.

Entirely logical, and reasonable advice. But not really accounting for the 'id' factor, that said I NEEDED to fix the old lady up, no matter what the cost, so I could see something tangibly 'fixed' that had been damaged by my marriage.

But, one of the other forum users kind of twisted my arm, offering me the 'Dawg'!

"Look; I have got this old CB750" he said. "I got it a couple of months ago, in PX when I flogged my old Beetle. Had the idea that I'd use it as a winter 'hack' but, I've thought better of it, and want rid, 'cos it's scaring my R1, sat menacingly in the corner of the garage!"

We conversed by e-mail. He wanted 500 for it. I was sceptical. You don't get MUCH bike wise for 500, and he reckoned it still had tax and test on it, and was a pretty sound runner.

And I have to confess, I had presumed that by 'old' he meant it was a seventies or early eighties vintage 'four', which for some daft reason fetch silly money as a 'classic' even though most of them aren't.

When he explained it was a 'Retro', I was even MORE sceptical, since half decent 'modern' bikes also seem to demand dubious prices.

But I thought it was worth a look. And what I saw was this!

Poking out of the back of a lock-up garage, scaring a pristine Any Sunday R1.

It had every right to be scared. It scared me!

BUT, closer scrutiny provided promise.

It was obviously an ex-dispatch hack. It had high miles, and a distinct lack of 'finish' and numerous improvised 'repairs', like the exhaust U-bolt holding the footrest on!

The pint job was simply AWFUL, but hey, beggars cant be choosers; and there were awkward little niggles like the warped front disk, and mirrors that didn't let you get your fingers around the levers properly. 

It had obviously had a powerbronze 'wind-jammer' fairing fitted at some stage; because the headlamp was mounted still on a bit of angle iron designed to support one, but hack sawed off, where it no longer did!

More comforting however was a recent MOT certificate, and a Honda dealer service history, that showed a lot of contentious maintenance; by approved dealers in the warranty period, but detailed by subsequent owners, including receipts for service parts for much of the remainder. Again, pointing at Dispatch service. (service gaps were too close together for anything else!)

But, physically, it had a new stainless exhaust, brand new matched tyres, and started on the button.

I took it for a pootle round the block. It tracked true; though the front disc clanked. Engine pulled cleanly, and well.... it worked. Not brilliantly, but it worked, and with a bit of fettling, would at LEAST see me able to get out and do some riding again. We negotiated for about.... 30 nano-seconds, and I bought it! Riding it home that evening, 120 miles!

Now, while I was not a fan of that paint scheme; it was not something that I was unduly worried about. Until I rode it.  Loud pipe, and loud paint, are NOT my bag, and drew FAR too much attention of the unwanted kind. In three days, I had five rozzers checking the tax disk, ALL pointing out that that footrest was 'unsafe'! Sorting out that warped disk, and giving the engine a service were re-prioritised!

THAT paint job HAD to go!

I went round to my local motorfactors and grabbed an armful of aerosols. Grey primer to cover up what was there; gloss black to cover that, and some clear lacquer to make it shiny!

It was an arbitrary choice. Rat bikes should be black, shouldn't they? And while Matt black might have been more fitting, its also goes grimy very quickly.  'Enamel' black, the universal covering was what I was looking for.

Actually, looked quite good in primer grey. And I was tempted to just throw the lacquer straight over the top of it. But I persevered.

A large parcel from David Silvers appeared, containing a new disk, new filters, new spark plugs, and a plug wrench.

The plugs are the same size as the VF, an awkward one, and I remembered borrowing a mates deep snap-on socket every time I had to change them on that, so thought having my own spanner would be useful.

So, while the paint set, I set too, swapped out the warped disk, and gave the engine a once over.

Changing the oil, however did NOT do much to dampen the annoying Honda death rattle!

Any one familiar with air cooled Honda's will know what I'm talking about.

They all do it at some stage. Usually it's the cam chain tensioner blades worming their way loose, and they can suffer it quite happily for many thousands of miles.... or die horrendously a few nano-seconds after they start rattling!

In my case, seems to be the alternator chain, though.

A bit of probing with a mechanics stethoscope indicated that the rattle was in the bottom end, not the top, which is not that much of a relief.

The 'old' Hondas, only had one cam shaft and one cam chain. If they DID rattle, it was possible to effect a repair by pulling the cam covers, splitting the old chain and threading a new one in, and re-attaching via a 'soft-link'.

And more dexterous mechanics could even fiddle new tensioner blades into the cam-chain gallery without needing a complete top end rebuild.

This engine, taken from the CBX750, however has two camshafts, and a lot less room for manoeuvre. Still possible to do a soft link cam-chain trick; but that was not my problem.

The 'original' 'four' had a generator on the end of the crank-shaft; which made the engine wide, and if dropped, the impact of generator on ground could bend the crank!

Honda, for the CBX engine, prudently decided that it would be better to locate the generator behind the cylinders, and drive it with another chain!

IF they were renowned for good internal chain drives, this might not have been such a big concern. But they are not. And it's an endless chain, and the ONLY way to get at the damn thing is to tear the bottom end apart!

So, that's 'Dawg'. And she has proved remarkably capable, and a whole heap of fun since I have had her, and the list of things to do, has been growing ever since.

She's currently sat waiting for me to sort out a few electrical gremlins for her MOT, and fit a new rear tyre, which I cant afford at the moment; but summers a ways off yet!

She's acquired a few 'mods' since I got her, and racked up a few thousand miles training newbies, going to rallies or just tooling about.

And I'll probably detail some of that in a later 'update' or other articles!

But, so far, I'm plenty pleased with what the tax man bought me! And, yes, she HAS alleviated a little of my depression!

But I REALLY must get round to trying to do something with Novemba-Pappa at some point!

UPDATE 26/12/10

Well I haven't added anything to this really since I wrote it. That was back in the spring of 2005.

Main reason are those 'few things' she needed for her MOT. She actually got them all, and a few besides. When she went for test, they didn't like the back dampers, which for all they'd been relatively new when I got her, were cheap budget shocks I suspect rated for a lighter 500 or 550, and were shot within the year. They also didn't like the head-lamp adjustment. That bent wind-jammer fairing bracket was to twisted to twiddle the beam anything like.

So, she was set aside, and I tackled bits here and there, as and when, and with Jaqui taking rather a lot of my attention, and available funds, with the stress of the court proceedings in full swing, and my health deteriorating, the as and when was little and far between.

However, she got a new head-lamp. actually two. Two, round chrome, after-market 7" H4 items, which I coupled together and squeezed between a pair of cheap mounting bladed clamped to the fork stanchions, and bent out rather a lot to get them to go round the very wide twin-beam set-up.

This promptly blew the head-lamp switch! So, I acquired a second hand one with the right switches in it, that happened to be off a Kawasaki, then did a relay job to take load off it to stop that melting, only to discover that the choke lever didn't have enough travel to work the choke! The old switch was cut in half, and the choke lever clamped some-where up the handle-bars. Messy, but it worked!

Meanwhile the suspension came in for attention, and biting the bullet, I got a complete set from Alf Hagon, who did a sterling job, and made up a pair of HD rear shocks for me from MX Shock bodies, to get the length I wanted, which was rather a bit more than standard. about 2" or so, actually! which with the HD springs, don't sag very much when you sit the bike, meaning that the ride height, actually sat on the bike is err, about 3-4" higher at the back end! Coupled with progressive wound springs, and heavier oil in the front forks, dropped about 1/2" in the yokes, its a LITTLE more, err..... 'aggressive'!

To be honest, the back end is probably a little bit too firm, but the attitude adjustment has really livened up the handling, making it a lot more flick-able, and the back end isn't pattering all over the place on braking now!

But that was as far as I got, before the MOT ran out completely. She sat, sad and neglected for the best part of a year, until the spring of 2006, when overwrought by the shear effort of replacing Jaqui's steering box, I turned my attention to her again, to get her tested and on the road for the summer. She didn't need much, main thing was a new battery, a service and a new pair of tyres, which I decided to leave until the MOT man told me that was ALL she needed.

So, I got a battery and set-about fettling. All seemed pretty promising, apart from big black clouds out of the exhaust suggesting a rather rich mixture. A sticky choke mechanism, was beat into submission with a 1/2" spanner and some 3 in 1 oil, and I decided she should 'do', and with some fresh petrol and a good blast to the MOT centre to clear the cob-webs, be fine.

I got as far as the petrol station for the fresh petrol!

She felt good, but stopping at the pump, I put the side stand down, and went to step off the saddle, and as I lifted my weight onto my left leg.... it crumpled beneath me, and I fell in an ignominious heap onto the fore-court floor!

This lead to much soul searching. Following my own advice to Newbie's NOT to ride unless they are confident in thier own abilities, could I in all conscience carry-on riding? The answer, after a lot of consideration, was 'No'.

In the balance, if you'll excuse the pun, was the risk, that my un-co-operative legs, would let me down at a critical moment. Practically the risk was pretty small, and not much different to the risk of ANY biker mis-footing at a junction, or slipping on something on the road. Basically, no big deal. IF my legs didn't work, I'd fall over! But since I'd only be propping the bike up when I was stationary, wouldn't cause me to crash. Just be embarrassing! and leave me struggling to pick the bike back up! WHICH was the more practical reason for deciding it wasn't worth perusing it. That and the costs, given I'd only ride on the days I felt more up to it.

Meanwhile, though 'some-one' had reported my 'disability' to DVLA, who attempted to suspend my driving licence. NOT just my motorcycle entitlement. Curiously this was not my Doctor, who knowing I'd been an instructor, and knowing my dilemma over riding, and unbeknownst to me, when asked by DVLA wrote a very supportive letter, providing that my 'infirmity' did not effect my ability to drive or ride, any more than it would any-one else, who woke up in the morning feeling a bit hazy with a hang-over or mild cold, and had to make the decision whether to drive or not, and providing that my house-bound circumstances, and my attitude to my riding was such that in such a situation I would be far more cautious than most motorists! Which made me rather happy! But, still uncomfortable about riding 'the-dawg'.

Ideas bounced about my head for a long while, and fitting a side-car featured prominently, as did selling her and buying an outfit. The idea of an outfit, is not one that inspired me. My opinion of them is that they have all the inconvenience of a motorcycle, all the inconvenience of a car, and none of the benefits of either! Like trikes. Trikes are a 'custom' vehicle, and as such don't have to make any sense, but triking the Dawg would be a cop-out. No point building a Custom unless you do the job properly. Adding a chair, was more appealing. Chairs are curiouse devices, and there is a perverse skill in piloting one, that I do find a bit appealing. BUT, sticking a chair on the side of the Dawg, wasn't going to be a cheap fix, when I looked into it, or at least not on the budget this bike is allowed! AND footing an outfit backwards, with wobbly legs would probably half defeat the object!

An outfit with a reverse gear was the solution, and a Dnipnier or Ural the obvious answer. My uncle had bought one four years old, on the road, T&T's for just 500 about the time I got Novemba-Pappa, and I thunked long and hard, about it. The Dawg has had quite a lot of work, and rather more money than I'd like to remember spend on her, and selling her, I know that I'd like as not, not even get back what I paid. BUT, for what she could realise, IF it got me a Ural, I could actually regularly use? Made some sense. Until I discovered that the price of brand new Ural out-fits has gone from being approximately the price of a new 125 commuter-bike, to that of a new CBR600, and the age of the 500 outfit has long passed. Conclusion, I couldn't afford it!

I was still scratching my head over than one, though when I met Donna, and she had ideas that IF the Dawg was given a bath, I might re-consider using her again, or perhaps she could!

WHICH, has got us into another fine mess, Stain-ley! Yup, she started by taking the brakes off, and then filing the petrol tank from another one, which she dragged across the Dawgs paint-work! so she took the plastics off to re-paint it all! Eventually, with bits and bobs lying every-where trying to keep up with her frantic attensions..... we got her started on 'The-Pup-Project', to satisfy her spanner twiddling needs!

Meanwhile, to put right some of the stuff that was in need of attention, a box of bits was ordered from Dave-Silvers, that included a new set of clutch plates, a regulator, a seat cover, and a new rear brake piston and seals, which are waiting to be fitted up.

Between times, she my little brother, 'helpfully' moving her so my mother could take the dogs out in the car, managed to drop her, smashing the remains of that clamped up foot-rest hanger, begging a mate to met-fab me some mild rear-sets from plate, with a pair of BMX 'stunt-pegs' bolted to them in as footrests. It was my 'get me home' fix. Bought for a fiver from Halfords and bolted, in roughly the right place on one of the footrest hanger plate bolts! And a pair of 'LC' bars, to replace the slightly twisted and rather high originals.

Yamaha DT125MX Air-Cooled Trail-BikeSo she still runs and rides, and doesn't need much but a little work and a pair of tyres to make her streetable again, but with the Little-Dream bikes, not the first in the queue, and I'm pondering whether to do a full tear down on her, and go a bit to down doing her up, or whether to carry on, as was intended, making do and mending as a cheap hack.

But, NOT a decision I have to hurry over, as turning up The DT, I have a bike that shows more promise as a means of weaning myself back into the saddle.

Needs more work, but with a seat height that's even higher than the Dawg's on her jacked up back legs, and about half the weight, it fits me well enough that when it comes to stopping at junctions, I can hold her up with my leg-locked, so less chance of wobbling, and if I DO fall over, well, darn site more likely to be able to pick it back up again! so for the moment, that's the one that's got to get more attention.

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