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The story of this bike begins a couple years ago with a guy called Wayne. Wayne lived well up north in Minnesota near the Canadian border. That’s where he bought this Honda CB250 at a local antique store for an untold sum of money. You see, the Honda CB250 is actually a Canadian bike. That we know of, Honda never sold them here in The States. Sure, we had its big brother, the CB/CL350, but the CB250 was off limits for reasons we still don’t understand. Wayne found one, however, and he had a particular purpose in mind. He needed to get to the Twin Cities to see about a lady. In our estimation, it doesn’t get much more romantic than that. Buy a weird old motorcycle, travel hundreds of miles and try to sweep a young lady off her feet. Sadly, Wayne’s trip hadn’t gone quite according to plan by the time he and his CB250 darkened our shop door.
Now I wasn’t there at the time, but I like to imagine that when Wayne showed up at BlueCat Motors there was a single black raincloud about the size of a refrigerator hovering just ten yards above his head, showering him with a torrent of rain and tiny bolts of lightning. Here he was, all but broke, hours from home, rejected by the object of his affections, and his motorcycle had broken down. He couldn’t stay. He couldn’t go home. Insult was added to copious injury once Jeff tore into his his poor, sick Honda 250. In his lovesick haste, poor Wayne hadn’t bothered to check his oil. A lack of engine oil had fried the top end of the engine. The motor was toast, and Wayne wasn’t going anywhere on those two wheels and empty pockets. The mechanical tragedy of it all is that a single quart of oil added to the engine would have saved his trip and his bike. The CB250 had a lovely gold and white tank that at least made the bike worth something, so we offered Wayne what we could for his dead machine to at least help him get home. The tank went on a shelf and the rest of the bike went into storage.
We have a handful of bikes around the shop that we’ve picked up over the years. Some we’ve collected as parts bikes to fix customer motorcycles. Some, like this CB250, we buy from our customers when they’re unable or unwilling to invest in fixing what’s wrong with them. The trick is figuring out what to do with them. Sometimes we can fix them and resell them, but every once in a while we get stuck with a machine we really like. Lead mechanic and co-owner, Jeff, has had his eye on this CB250 for a while now. It’s a unique bike, but it shares a lot of parts with the much more common CB/CL350. More importantly though, Jeff actually needed something to ride. It’s that old cliché. The doctor who smokes. The cobbler who runs around barefoot. Jeff is the motorcycle mechanic who didn’t have a daily rider.
So slowly over time, Jeff has been collecting engine parts from Honda and from some abandoned CL350 parts bikes. Luckily, the CB250 and the much more common CL350 share most of their valve train components. He was able to source a cam, cam followers and other components to replace the parts ruined by the CB250’s unfortunate lack of oil. As usually happens, the cam had failed and seized the top end of the engine before the deeper, lower cylinder and bottom-end components got too hot from lack of lubrication. So Jeff rebuilt the top end with scavenged CL350 parts. The bike had also sat long enough that it was well overdue for a carb rebuild. We sourced new air filters, tires, chain and sprockets. All in all, the CB250 needed much of the same work any “barn bike” resuscitation would require.
I caught up with Jeff after shop hours — the only time we Blue Cats really get a chance to work on our own machines. The motor was buttoned-up and sitting on the lift all by itself. Jeff tore into the twin carburetors, removing the old jets, o-rings and float needles as he went. One particularly stubborn float pin would set the tempo for much of this bike’s reassembly. The little brass pivot pin that lets the floats rise and fall refused to come out of its holes. It took a dunk in the ultrasonic cleaning tank and some strategic hammering to finally get it out of there. Shiny new brass bits and new rubber from the carb kits had the plumbing sorted. The last bit of bench work we could do with the motor out was to set the point gap and bench time the ignition. Using a multi-meter set for continuity, Jeff rotated the flywheel by hand and listened for the buzzer to end as the timing mark hit left fire or right fire. Seeing this procedure up close and in person finally took all the mystery out of points. They were this mysterious voodoo mechanism that had me avoiding pre-’79 japanese motorcycles — and for no good reason, apparently.
With the heart and lungs ready to go, we were ready to reassemble the motorcycle. That, however, would have to wait for another day. In the meantime, I eyed that gold/white tank on the shelf and thought about Wayne. I wondered what became of him once he left our shop. I wondered what ever became of the girl he couldn’t win that weekend. I wondered what the CB250 would be like when it was all back together. It’s funny how even after sitting for so long, there’s still some romance left in this little gold bike.
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