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Not the Cafe Racer

Triumph cafe racer

(by Guy ‘Guido’ Allen, Travels with Guido series #260, November 2020)

Honda CB250N

Hatching a bold new plan might be over-rated…

“My Lord,” as the infamous Baldric of the Black Adder TV series would say, “I have a cunning plan that can not fail!” You see I was staring at the humble family CB250N the other day (an experience that’s unlikely to get the pulse racing), pondering its future.

The poor old thing has done its job admirably. It was bought as a cheap device for the kids to learn on, and is now serving time with another batch of learners as part of our 7-Up project. What then?

Though solid enough and dead easy to ride, its purpose in life will become unclear.

I’d sell it but for two issues. First I hate selling motorcycles and have been known to hang up on prospective purchasers when they start asking dumb questions. Second, it’s worth roughly the same as a second-rate packet of crisps, so why bother?

Ours is nowhere near as pristine as the one you see here. Some clown decided to try some gymnastics on it a while ago (a barrel roll with half-pike, as I recall), so it’s a little dinged up. Plus, it was never exactly a work of art to start with.

Almost as annoying is that it lacks a bit of grunt – just a tad more would be nice. Honda designed this model as a 400, with a bigger bore and longer stroke, which was better. Unfortunately, with the 250, what you get is 400 weight without the horses.

As luck would have it, I was riding a Triumph Australia latest concoction around the same time this scheme got hatched – a Scrambler-based café racer, and loved it. Which got me thinking, why not do something like that to the unsuspecting CB?

Yeah, I know. The trend towards giving the café or bobber treatment to smaller Japanese motorcycles has probably peaked, but it’s not hard to see why people have a go at it. The basis of the project costs sweet Fanny Adams, and, with a touch of luck, you’ll end up with something that looks good and still has decent reliability.

So, where to from here? First, the engine. It’s as tough as old boots, and is happy to rev out, so I reckon some bigger pistons would do the trick. A pair of CB400 items will, if you leave the stroke alone, will bring it up to a little over 300cc. Not a huge jump, but a 20 per cent lift in capacity should be enough to give it that extra little zest it needs.

Then ditch the exhausts. There’s a Motad two-into-one which should do the trick nicely.

I reckon the bodywork needs to go. It’s got a confused seventies-eighties styling thing happening and seems to be missing the virtues of both. At this stage my punt is a more rounded and shapely CB360 tank, with a traditional TT-style seat. Not sure about the sidecovers, but something really simple and unobtrusive seems the best bet.

Of course the minute you start delving in to one of these projects, with a cheerful “how hard can it be?” you open a proverbial Pandora’s box. If you fix the bodywork, the engine cases will look tatty, so they’ll need cleaning up. Which in turn means the cables should be ditched and replaced, maybe the instruments, then the tyres. Oh, and those wheels! Nup, they’d have to go, which means tracking down a nice set of wire-spoked units.…it goes on. I can see the costs getting completely out of control.

Maybe the smart thing to do would be to go and buy the Triumph…

See more Travels with Guido columns


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