Project Car SOTU 2016: 1974 Honda CL125S

About two months ago, I took my other project bike on its maiden voyage — a whopping 19 miles to the KC Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club’s Spring Show and back. The bike cruised quite nicely at 45-50 MPH and handled just fine, though the brakes are a whole lot weaker than I remember them being back in high school! The aluminum restrictor cone I made to fit the outlet of the universal muffler brought the exhaust volume down to acceptable levels, but it’s still pretty raspy. My stainless steel heat shield worked well and no parts fell off, so I guess that’s something. Overall it was fun. But…

Yeah, there’s a big but. While I was thrilled to finally get to actually ride the thing, some fairly significant teething pains became apparent:

  • SPEEDOMETER: The Express SR speedo (my FOURTH!) shot craps about 5 minutes into the ride and screeched noticeably the rest of the trip, even over the louder-than-stock exhaust.
  • FUEL TANK: The gas cap leaked, dribbling fuel all over the tank. To add to it, the quickie spray-bomb engine paint on the tank was never intended to be fuel safe, so the paint is lifting all over.
  • CARBURETOR: Making left-hand turns from stoplights, the bike would sputter for several seconds. I’m guessing it’s the float level. The idle also varies dramatically between cold and warm. Couldn’t find one setting for the idle adjustment screw that wasn’t either coughing and dying or racing way too high at some point. I assume some additional carb work is in order.
  • LIGHTS: The 6-volt turn signals are pathetically dim. My wife was riding right behind me and in bright sunlight she couldn’t tell if my turn signals were working, even when she was staring right at them.

So, while I would like to be spending more time on my “real” project bike, I’m working my way through the punch list for this bike, too. I ordered a replacement fuel filler gasket. I refused to buy another used speedometer, and decided to get a cheap mini chopper unit instead. Since the original speedo housing contained the indicator lights, I also bought a separate dash light module from a CB350. They need a more attractive, custom bracket than the kludgy mock-up in the photo.
Since the 6V electrical system is so substandard, I made a call to the awesome folks at Rick’s Motorsport Electrics and got very detailed advice on converting the bike to 12 volts. I’ll need to replace the regulator/rectifier unit, the battery, and a couple of other charging and ignition components. The bulbs will also need to be replaced, so it’s good that the speedometer and the indicator lights are already 12 volts. Rick explained that the headlight can’t be increased over the stock 25W/35W specification because there is no way to upgrade the alternator’s paltry 50–60 watt max output (due to intrinsically weak rotor magnets). This has me rethinking which bike will get the low-draw, high-output LED headlight I have on the shelf, currently earmarked for Bultakenstein.
I will probably wait until all that electrical work is done, then give the carb a complete tear-down, cleaning and rebuild. I may replace the goofy internal throttle and worn cable with something aftermarket while I’m at it.
As I’ve stated, the CL125S was supposed to be something fun to ride while i worked on Bultakenstein. Instead, it has become its own involved, long-term project. I’d like to be done with it, but as it sits, I can neither enjoy it nor get a decent return on my investment on the used market. Even though I have already put a lot more time, money, and effort than I ever intended into this supposedly “quick and dirty” project, I have little choice other than to keep plugging away at it.
Grumble, grumble.

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  1. mseoul Avatar

    Great looking bike. How similar is today’s Taiwan made Sym Wolf to your bike? Are you familiar with the Wolf? I see them often in Taiwan and Korea and they look like fun.

    1. Tanshanomi Avatar

      Sym used to build CB125s under license to Honda. The Wolf is an outgrowth of that, not quite a blueprint-copy but very, very similar. It’s a great little bike.

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