Honda Twins banner
1 - 11 of 11 Posts

14 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I posted this over at ADVrider but thought there might be some interest here. If cross-posting is a no-no, sorry and please delete.

After participating in cross-country racing for most of this season, (my first attempt at motorcycle racing) I got the itch bad. I started thinking about some bigger races that would be fun and doable. I loved the Desert 100 and was looking toward the Vegas to Reno. But I also started researching some of the classic desert races and desert sleds of the 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s. These bikes are damn cool. Of course, “On Any Sunday” got multiple views on Netflix as well as other classics like “Hare and Hound” and Wes Brown’s “Baja 1000 Classic,” which is footage from Bruce Brown’s Wild World of Sports coverage of the 1968 Mexican 1000.

I decided that I wanted to build a vintage desert bike and to race in NORRA’s newly reformed Mexican 1000 race in April 2011. The original Baja 1000 was called the Mexican 1000. The new Mexican 1000 was conceived as a way of reliving the glory days of desert racing.

People are racing vintage cars, trucks, buggies and yes, motorcycles. I admit, there is just something cool about seeing an Oldsmobile 442 Hugger racing in the sand!

The pace is not as hectic as the Baja 1000; instead it is a 3-day rally with bivouacs in the evening where repairs on the classic machines could be done through the night. Through PM’s here on ADV, HogWild, a participant of this year’s race told me that he had more fun racing in the Mexican 1000 than almost any other race…and he is veteran of the Baja 1000! It would be my hope to finish the race.

So, the race was decided…next was the bike I was going to ride. The rules allow for anything older than 1989 (they also allow alternative-fueled vehicles, but this didn’t interest me in the slightest..not in a vintage race). The idea of using a late 80's bike felt a little like cheating. Compared to a 1970 Triumph, even my 1987 XR250R would be much more race ready and competitive…but where’s the fun in that. I mean, a 1989 XR600R is essentially a modern bike..tons of power, high ground clearance, long travel mono-shock, good forks and disc brakes… where’s the classic vibe? And not to besmirch Jonah Street’s 2010 Mexican 1000 victory on a borrowed late model XR, but I would have loved to see him compete on a true vintage bike…like say a Bultaco, TR6 or 1967 Husky 360!

Being a very basic mechanical guy, I was intimidated by the thought of getting a British or European bike for my freshman attempt. I was also concerned about costs associated with running such a machine. My research pointed me straight to Larry Bergquist and Gary Preston.

These two men raced a nearly stock Honda 350 Twin in the first Mexican 1000 in 1967, and to victory in the second running in 1968!

So that got me researching and thinking:
Honda Twin 350’s are pretty plentiful and were produced in three models: The CB350, CL350 Scrambler, and the SL350.

There is fantastic aftermarket support for these bikes and engines.
They are used in vintage flat track racing and are favorites for bobbing and caféing.
And by all counts they are bulletproof and reliable..if not on the slow side stock.

The search was on. The first thing I found out was that the SL350 is the most rare of the three…and the one most suitable for an off-road race. I test rode this one but felt it was a bit worn for the price he was asking…it was weeping oil and felt a bit loose.

Of course, my 2 Noobs Racing partner, Luke, was quick to point out that I should expect that from any 40 year old bike. I made an offer, the guy never got back to me.

I finally found this 1973 CL350 close to Luke’s house.

The bike was not running but looked to be pretty complete. I loved the look of it and thought this would be a good starting point. It was even red like the Bergquist/Preston bike! And the price was cheap (I got it for much less than asking price). I figured that even if I didn’t use it, I could get some good spares from this bike for the race.

I got the bike home and dug in.

I started dreaming about doing a front-end swap for either a pair of Ceriani’s or something from a dirt bike with a little more travel and lighter wheels. The CV carbs were not in the best shape and I thought it would be a good idea to go with some flat-slide carbs.

One thing I was going to find out about racing/building vintage bikes is that many people love the idea and are willing to step up and help out. First off, Glenn, a motorcycle man from way back, offered up an old, original Honda Twin Clymer Manual from his collection, from when he used to assemble them as new bikes, as a part-time gig in The Dalles, Oregon. about a million years ago.

My friend Lonnie, who has been “sponsoring” my racing efforts on the DRZ by being my “graphics man”, also went with me to pick up the CL350 the same day he bought himself a sweet little vintage 1973 TL125.

Lonnie also let me borrow a sweet old Chilton service manual that covered the Honda Twins!

You meet the nicest people when building a vintage Honda race bike.

I bought new points, a condensor, spark plugs and these beautiful twin carbs from Sudco (which almost costs as much as the whole bike)

I figured, the carbs would work on any Honda 350 I ended up using..and they were big…and brand new, and real pretty!

Next was to attack the CL’s gas tank, which had its Kreem lining flaking and peeling away. After reviewing the knowledge on the interwebs…I felt up to the task and got myself a gallon of acetone and some drywall nails.

After sloshing and rattling, most of the Kreem came out…most of it. It looked like I was going to have to use the scary MEK stuff to get the rest of it out. Let me tell you now, I hate Kreem.

The bike needed handlebar controls, so I went to a bike salvage yard and picked up a throttle control for much more than it was worth. Disappointed with the crappy salvage yard find, I later picked up a Honda dirt bike Motion-Pro throttle controller for the same $20 bucks I spent on the junk part. I then decided that I would just buy new dirt-oriented stuff instead of using vintage controls. This way I could easily get spares and not use 40-year- parts on items most likely to break during training or racing. I got some motion pro brake and clutch perches and levers for $13.99 each.

I read up on points and timing and Luke and I slapped it all together, wired up a $2 Radio Shack momentary switch for the starter, set the timing as close as possible, slid in a new battery, threw on a XR plastic gas tank, and gave the CL350 a shot.

No go. Backfiring only. Apparent timing issue, or maybe an intermitten coil problem…or?? Anyway, I was in the process of figuring out the issue when our own Ladybug0048 PM’d that she knew of a 1972 SL350 that was running that I could get for a “killer deal."

Wary of the killer deal because I had just dumped the money for the carbs…Ladybug assured me again that it would be a “killer deal” and she would deliver the bike from Spokane to the Oregon Coast! Well, sho’ nuff’ she weren’t joshing me. And about a week later I saw this beauty pulling up in front of my house!

Holy Macintosh! This bike was way too nice for me to turn into a desert sled and race it down the Baja Pennisula. “Hogwash” said Ladybug. That’s exactly what this bike needs, she insisted. The bike had been built by her friend Larry from basket cases. It just so happens that Larry is a master Honda Technician and it showed. The bike had been in storage for more than 15 years…although it was last registered in 1999. The only thing it needed was a battery and some de-rusting of the tank. Killer Deal indeed!

Of course, I couldn’t wait for all of that…so I hooked up the plastic gas tank from my XR250 and the battery from my DRZ and gave it a shot.

After a few kicks and slight adjustment of the idle screws, she came to life!! And then she just purred like a kitten! No kidding, this thing ran nicer than my V-strom.

I then set out to de-rust the tank. Having had to deal with the nightmare of the Kreemed lined CL tank, I swore off ever using that crap on anything. Instead I thought I would try this stuff:

I saw it at the local lumberyard and thought I’d give it a try. It worked so well on the rusty pliers I had in my boat for two years, I figured it would work on the tank.

Well, it did.

Not wanting to wait for a battery to be shipped, I took some measurements and went down to my local Les Schwab. I bought what I think was a jet-ski battery and shoehorned it into the SL’s compartment. Some new gas lines from the hardware store and two in-line filters, fresh oil and I was ready to go. First test ride…an evening cruise along the coast.

Let’s just say this bike is smooth as silk and runs as new. There are no drips, seeps or weird sounds anywhere! What a great place to start for my desert sled project. I will be including some modern touches to make it a little more functional like adjustable rear suspension and low-power-draw LED lights.

Stay tuned…the fun is just beginning. Next up, custom bash plate, new handlebars and rear light solution…and I hope to get that CL350 running and maybe use it as trading stock against another SL350 parts bike for spares for the race.

272 Posts
Awesome story, great pics and sounds like it has a fun future. Thanks for sharing.

Where at on the coast are you? I grew up in Portland and spent a lot of time in Manzanita at a relative's vacation home. Was in Lincoln City a couple of weekends ago, when it was like 85 out there. Nothing like our NW coast line. Cold as hell most of the time, but rugged and beautiful.

68 Posts
Great story so far. You make me want to drag my spare CB 350 out of the back of the garage and build it into a CL clone to go desert racing.

They may not have the following up in the North West that they do down here but the 350 twins are very popular down here for WERA Vintage road racing. The grids in GP350 and V1 are packed with CB 350's. Look up some of those racers and some of the things they do for their bikes. Several of them have been switching to the SL frame for the better frame and swingarm.

I was in the process of building a CB350 for GP350 racing with them but being underemployed for a few years and now unemployed has made that project difficult to pursue. I know most were splitting the cases and replacing the cam chain and guides/roller. It is a week point apparently why you run the motors hard. May not be an issue for you if you do not plan on turning any RPMs for extended times.

I will certainly be keeping an eye on this thread and story. Keep it up!

108 Posts
Looking good, enjoying this and can't wait to see where it takes you! Keep it up! Love the Goonies ocean shot!!! Awesome man


14 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for the really does keep me motivated to update

Ok, so for me, a lot of the fun of this project is figuring out what I want the final build to look like. Therefore, I spend a lot of time drinking beer and doing this:

I have been scouring the web and classic bike magazines for pictures of classic desert sleds...and while I have no delusions of this being a proper Triumph or a BSA desert racer...I am nonetheless inspired by them.

I find myself getting ideas from images like this one of Bud Ekins:

One thing that is constant is that the taillight is non-existent on desert sleds....but since I want this bike to still be used on forest roads legally (and have a plate), it will have a light. But like on my DRZ, minimalistic is the key, and low power draw is essential. I have this LED taillight unit that broke while I was race training on my DRZ..the license plate holder part broke off..but the light still works fine.

I also love that it is small and round and with a simple aluminum mount, could still look retro.

This is Ray.

Ray is a local friend who is originally from New York, so he and I have that east coast thing going as far as understanding each other. We both also have ADD, so there's that. However, Ray is a master welder. Of anything. He does a lot of work for local cheese factories building all of their cheese making equipment among other things. He once re-welded the kickstand bracket on my old XR and no ****, that simple weld was the best looking one on the whole frame. He is a perfectionist when it comes to welding.

Luckily, he also likes interesting projects...and he considers this SL350 build interesting. He came buy, drank a beer and started taking measurements for the new bash plate and taillight bracket. I hope to have the taillight bracket soon...the bash plate will have to wait a bit longer.

I must say, just removing that huge original taillight assembly made me smile a bit :D And I love the look of the aluminum fenders...warts and all

I mocked up the bars from the CL350 onto the SL with a faux bar riser set up...just to get some ideas. Immediately, it transformed the bike into a dirt bike in my eyes..and made the ergonomics of the bike much more usable for me. I could now stand on the pegs and be in a proper attack position.

They were a little high..and those old steel bars are crazy heavy. I ordered up some cheap Tusk Aluminium bars in the KX high bend, some Protaper pillow top grips (I was sold on these while racing the DRZ) and some bar risers from Rocky Mt. MC/ATV. The bar risers are on back order, but the bars and grips came today. I again used my faux bar riser set up and mocked the bars up (without the cross bar installed). I liked them. I'll have to wait to see how they work with the proper bar risers in place.

Cables. I need cables...but while ordering a stock throttle tube from my small, local Honda dealer ($15 bucks), he told me that he would be set up to make cables there very soon. I hope that happens.
Pegs. The stock rubber pegs are horrible and completely unusable for an off road racing bike.

I was sitting in my comfy orange chair...sipping a NewCastle and looked around my messy garage. The CL350 pegs were the same, the DRZ pegs didn't look like they would fit...and the XR250R ones..also didn't look too good...but that poor bike is buried under **** so I really couldn't get a good look. Then I looked at the DL650 Wee Strom.

They looked that they might fit. :wink: They did! Even this early in this build, I get pumped finding non-specific, see cheaper than vintage/NOS/hard to find parts that work.
I also remembered that my friend Zac had bought a pair of metal pegs for his Wee that were actually made for a KLR650 and they were cheap. Here they are:

Less than $20 bucks..are you kidding me?? Ordered. You HondaTwins guys can thank me

It is fair to say that the suspension is not going to be that I am looking at some units that are fully adjustable (both compression and damping) with variable height adjustment :deal
Another problem is finding an aftermarket or otherwise larger capacity tank that will bolt on or weld on with minimal customizing..anyone have any ideas?? I have the people at Clark looking at it...and I've also checked into some mustang custom chopper tanks..which actually look sweet and properly vintage and hold more fuel..but are not cheap.

Stay tuned for more.....

52 Posts
Great post! I just just watched "On Any Sunday" a few nights ago and it made me want to desert race my CL450. It's a long hawl to any desert from upstate NY though. I'll be watching this thread for sure.

14 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Last Night, I was sitting here....sipping on a beer (or three), watching the tail end of the "Baja 1000 Classic" on Netflix on my computer. If you liked "On Any Sunday," and you have Netflix, you need to watch this film.

It is a rework-up of a piece done for ABC's Wide World of Sports in 1968, by Bruce Brown. Commentator Jim McKay does an amazing job of interacting with the racers and you walk away wondering.....why are there no more shows like this on television?? Everything now, has to be fast edits, speed-metal music and Jackasses jumping schoolbuses in gas-powered bath tubs. Oh well, just being nostalgic...even though I was born the year this race occurred

Here are some screen shots..first up, Larry Bergquist on the Long Beach Honda 350 Scrambler, the inspiration and the reason I choose this bike for this build:

That is a nearly stock Honda 350 Twin. Bergquist is miles ahead of the competition at that point and will be handing the bike off to his parter Gary Preston for the second half of the race

Some of the other competitors:

Continuing on 3 wheels:

Malcolm Smith DNF'd in a buggy:

You could smell the patcholi and weed from the chopper:

And Preston coming across the finish line after riding the Honda Twin for 11 hours with Jim McKay right there with the microphone :D Preston and Bergquist finished the race in just over 20 hours, beating the previous record by 5.5 hours!

When asked by Jim McKay what his and Bergquist's racing strategy was, Preston coyly answered: "Go Fast."

He added, "It's more of an endurance race than and out and out race."

Words I am building this bike around. Thank God the current Mexican 1000 is a 3-day rally..and not a balls out Baja 1000!!


14 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Some pictures of the bike so has changed a little since these were taken last week, but not much. The LED taillight is on and I should be figuring out the LED Headlight soon.

I will be selling some new Mikuni carbs that I had bought for the CL350, if anyone here is interested.

Here are some pictures taken by my friend Allan:

Bike should be seeing some new YSS racing shocks and some emulators and a fork brace for the front end of things. Power is good. I also seem to be getting about 47 mpg, does that seem about right?? I will need to figure out some auxiliary fuel tank to carry more fuel. I haven't found a good source for a bigger tank, but I did pick up some fuel canisters that may work.
1 - 11 of 11 Posts