RD350 Cafe Racer Build Part 2 – Design Considerations

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A Honda cafe racer.
On this Honda cafe racer I am a particular fan of the board seat and unpainted tank. My tank isn’t nice enough for this treatment.

I started this post with the idea of laying out some of my design goals while giving a small update of my progress. At around the fifth paragraph I decided it was probably better to separate the design goals from my progress update. Here are the results of this edit.

Life is all about making hay while the sun shines, and right now the sun is blinding. The weather is about right for me to work on the bike in my garage, which features no climate controls whatsoever. I expect the garage to be comfortable well into fall. Winter however might be tough in the Pittsburgh climate. Additionally, I am planning my financial commitment to the bike out with the hopes that I can purchase many of the big ticket items before that holiday season crunch hits.

As you can tell by the title of this series I have decided to build my RD350 into a cafe racer. I have decided to go this route for many reasons. The best reason, in my opinion, is that that many of the stock Yamaha parts have degraded to such a degree that they need complete replacement. That left me with two options. First, I could restore to original conditions. Or second, I could go the route of the cafe racer and have a host of choices of parts and pieces. If I were to choose the first route, I would want to make the bike as close to stock as possible. Thus, preserving the RD350 legacy as best as possible. Unfortunately, that route is simply cost prohibitive for me. I also live by the mantra that everything can be made better or be tuned. That left me with the obvious answer to my own question. It was time to make my RD a cafe racer.

Rd350 cafe project.
I’m a big fan of how this RD350 turned out and will take many cues from the design.

I started researching the project over a year ago. The bike was in poor shape when I casually looked it over many years ago and obviously that condition has degraded since. I also unfortunately must conform to a rather modest budget. I’ll do the majority of the work myself, but I won’t restore items that are going require excess labor or be a problem in the future. I want the bike to be reliable and easy to ride.

One of my goals of the project is create a bike that is unique and refined but to do this while retaining some of the bikes original character. I will modify the bike heavily, but if I go too far the bike will not retain any of its original form. I do not want to cross that line. From a distance a bike knowledgeable person should know I’m on an RD. Up close, a bike knowledgeable person should be able to admire the work I have contributed to the RD.

Moreover, I will attempt something similar on the engine. I am going to rebuild it, but I do not want a 60 horsepower monster. It needs to be reliable and ride-able. I know I could plop down a bunch of cash and have a fire breathing devil machine between my legs, but I am not capable or riding that devil machine apply. I’d rather have a 50 horsepower machine that I am actually able to kick start.

One of the biggest changes I will make is the electrical system and gauge components. I’ll start by building an A123 battery and then add LED lights throughout. Then, becuase my existing dash is not in great shape and the information it provides is paltry I will replace the stock unit with a modern digital data acquisition system. I can do this for less money than I’d have in fixing the old unit. This falls in place with one of my favorite themes. I like to mate aging designs with modern technology and do so in ways that adds function but does not detract from original style. To accomplish this, I’ll build an understated dash bezel that and tuck away wires meticulously.

Finally, I have decided upon the colors for the bikes. I am going to incorporate the use of naked aluminum and clear powder coated steel. Additionally, black anodize and black paint will be present with the main parts of the bike such as the gas tank getting covered in British racing green. To top the bike off, the seat pan, inner rear fender, and several other bolt on parts will be fashioned out of Birch aircraft plywood that I will laminate into the correct forms and cover with a clear coat of its own.

As you can tell, this project is going to be one hell of an adventure. It already has been, and I’m just getting started.

 

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