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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
As I said in the new members area a few weeks ago, I'm the proud owner of a 1974 CL450 Scrambler and for the past two months I've worked hard to get her trip ready. It was an ambitious goal, considering the bike set up for 40 years, but she was stashed away in the corner of a fairly decent outbuilding so it seemed within the realm of what's possible. With a great deal of hard work, long hours and lots of reading here on the forums, I set out with three other riders from Monroe, LA this past Friday morning looking like a mountain Sherpa (see pic below) . Below is a recap of the trip, more for posterity sake than anything else.

Thursday 8/9/18 - I spent the evening going over everything once more, torquing all the nuts, changing the front fork oil, tire pressures and battery voltage. I felt decent about the trip, but I got the trailer and straps ready just in case I had to be rescued roadside. I could barely sleep as I was going over everything in my mind.

Friday - We had checked the weather throughout the week, even planned a southern alternate trip, but there was a chance for storms that direction to, so we stuck with the original plan of riding up to Fort Smith, AR on Friday. With one last check of the weather in the morning, getting wet looked unavoidable. We immediately ran into light rain, so we decided to grab some breakfast and hope for it to pass. Right as we stepped out from breakfast a heavy down pour started but was gone within minutes, leading us to believe we'd be able to sneak past the worst of the storm. Not so, five minutes down the road and we ran right into a monsoon downpour, causing us to pull to the shoulder. While my buddies scrambled for rain gear, I sat waiting, watching my boots literally overflow with water. With them geared up, barely another five minutes down the road and we ran into blue skies and bright sunshine, a welcoming site to say the least.

We rode steady, having to stop only for fuel every hour or so and made good time until we were 15 miles outside of Fort Smith. The guys decided they wanted to pull over a take a few pictures of the scenery and that's when the ride got interesting. Maybe two miles before, after being paranoid about every new sound and feeling, I started thinking that things were going great! Vibration was minimal, the engine was purring and pulling like a beast up hills and cornering was a breeze. I thought, "This is why so many love these 450s" and then it happened.

As we slowed to a stop, at the very last moment, I grabbed the front brake and instead of a controlled stop I was thrown forward. I thought in that moment, maybe the brakes seized, but what I saw really took a moment for me to process. My front brake cable was wrapped around the shaft a couple of times and on the opposite side, the speedometer cable was the same. I pushed the bike into a nearby parking lot where we started to work out what to do while baking in the hot sun. One look and it was easy to see what had happened, the hub brace was dangling. I'd lost one bolt on the wheel and the one on the fork was half way out. DOH! I was kicking myself pretty hard, while I focused so intently on getting everything right on the engine, I'd neglected ensuring the front-end bolts were torqued well and had some blue Loctite. The week before I had new tires installed and never thought twice about checking over the work done.

Credit to my riding buddies for being patient and creative. We searched the bike for a non-critical replacement bolt and settled on a rear grab handle bolt. It was too long, so we cut a make-shift washer from some of the extra fuel hose I had brought. (I'm telling you, I thought I was prepared, 6 extra plugs and full carb rebuild kits.) We tentatively rode into Fort Smith, AR ready for cold drinks and a better replacement bolt.

Saturday - The afternoon before, I called the Honda dealership to see if they had something that might work and the closest they could get was an ATV cable but we'd have to wait until 9 AM to check it out. Today was really the entire purpose of the trip, to ride up to Eureka Springs and then head down the Pig Trail. A full day of hill climbing and curves was about to be ruined. The ATV cable wasn't even close to working and I seriously considered purchasing a new bike on the spot, which was the CTX 700 or the Africa Twin Adventure, but the CTX didn't have leg clearance and the Africa Twin was an intimidating beast of a bike that would require a stool to mount.

With no front brakes and not wanting to ruin the trip, we decided not to try to go all the way to Eureka Springs and set out north on 71. I rode in third position, giving me plenty of time to slow down while having one more person behind me with comms in case things got bad. If I had to choose, I'd rather have lost rear brakes than front, but it didn't take long to get put it out of my mind and just focus on the ride. After an hour of hills and curves I wanted to know if the pig trail was worse than what we'd already done and the two guys that had ridden before thought the only real difference was the sharp 180s. We were going to pass right by it so why not? Let the bike slow down on its own and brake only when needed, piece of cake right?!

It kind of was, other than getting rained on and the threat of 18 wheelers hauling hay, (which fortunately passed by us while we were at the scenic overlook, pic with me below) the bike corners so well and has plenty of power I hardly had to brake with well planned approaches. Was a blast and I can't wait to go back with some good brakes!

Off the Pig Trail and on to the Interstate. Because we got a late start, the Interstate portion of the ride was becoming unavoidable if we were going to make it to Hot Springs before dark. While we ate lunch and discussed our options, I later discovered that was completely misheard when I said "I'm NOT comfortable riding the Interstate", without front brakes for the first time. I was beginning to question if these guys even liked me... down the pig trail and now the Interstate, but at least my life insurance was paid up. Even though I made it the 35 miles or so going 70+ for the first time, I'm not entirely sure I want to do it again.

Down Hwy 7, the home stretch to Hot Springs was fun, but half way along the way I realized that the bike was behaving drastically different when it dawned on me that for the past two days, we'd ridden through at least 5 good rain storms and the foam filters probably had most of their oil washed away. With a quick check of the plugs and filter, my thought was confirmed and of all the things I didn't bring, filter oil was the other thing. We still had a good hour or so to ride so the best I could do was use the chain oil spray that I'd brought. It helped some, but I still ran with the choke at about a 1/4 to be sure.

We made it into Hot Springs around 19:30 and everyone was really impressed by how well the bike had done. The only new issue was that the clutch was slipping and causing the engine to rev when going up hills in third. I guess I'll need a new clutch pack since I used the engine to slow me down so much, not wanting to risk being completely without brakes! Supper, lots of well deserved cold drinks and sound sleep was all to be had.

Sunday - After breakfast, we started on the clutch, which took about an hour of wrestling to get it right. A couple of the guys ran to the auto parts store and grabbed a quart of oil (was only 1/4 of quart low) and some proper foam filter oil. Ready to go! Well, almost, I pulled out on the highway with the fuel on without realizing I was almost empty, so as soon as I tried to open her up, blah, blah, blah... nothing, so I switch to reserve, flipped the choke up and first tried to pop the clutch to get her started again, but I didn't have enough speed so I had to try the starter and got her firing but being flustered, forgot the choke and back dead again. UGH! I got that squared away and managed to sputter to the opposite shoulder where everyone was waiting. I'm sure they thought "that's it... she's dead", but I gave a quick thumbs up and off we went.

The bike performed so well coming home that I like it more than when I left. When it's dialed in it pulls great between 5k and 7k, so much more than I thought it would. On Hwy 167, I'm sure we got up to 70 again, although I can't be absolutely sure without a speedometer, but it purred and would pass without any problems. It is such a visceral experience riding that bike, especially for a long trip, but the sense of accomplishment can't be replaced.

I pulled into the house around 15:30, right at 650 miles ridden with a downpour beginning. As I watched the rain wash over the bike, I couldn't help but dream about the next ride.


P.S - Thanks to the community for all of the great information found on this forum. I wouldn't have made it without the wealth of knowledge that was so kindly placed here. Loctite those bolts where necessary and don't forget your foam air filter oil if you plan on riding through the rain! Lesson learned!

Bike_1.jpg bushfix_1.jpg pigtrail.jpg
 

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Quite the adventure and story, glad you made it through okay without a front brake - don't know that I would have tried it. Definitely surprised the torque arm bolt came out with a lock tab on it (unless it was discarded over the years) but good to hear it didn't cause you to crash. You certainly made the best of what could have been a bad situation... and as always, we motorcycle riders have to be creative at times - good job.

Edit: here's what you need - they don't show #15 available anymore but #14 would likely work with a little modification

https://www.cmsnl.com/honda-cl450-scrambler-1974-k6-usa_model558/partslist/F++06.html#.W3GzXGeWy00

https://images.cmsnl.com/img/partslists/honda-cl450-scrambler-1974-k6-usa-front-brake-panelfront-brake-shoe_bighu0030f6s06_debd.gif
 

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Congratulations on a completed ride and the perseverance to finish it when things went wrong.
You've now got an education on riding in the rain, lots of fun. :lol: You've learned that downshifting and rear brakes work very well for mountain roads, I probably use my rear brake more than the front in those situations since it tends to squat the rear suspension giving a bit more grip. My only concern of riding w/o a front brake would have been the unforseen emergency braking situation or moderate to heavy traffic.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks Jim! I'm not sure I'll do another trip on the bike of that distance, even though the guys I rode with were more than accommodating and helpful, I felt like a burden in some ways. There was a lot of encouragement to get a "newer" bike that we wouldn't have to fiddle with so much. I'm not sure what's next for the bike though. I like that it is original and not that pretty with a family connection that I'd like to pass along. Weekend rider that I maintain as is for as long as possible? Guess we'll see...

-Toby
 
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