The CL72 was side-tracked by work on the 1963 “Silver Special” CB77 Super Hawk this month. Part of the delay was deciding what to do with the cheap seat cover, which had been installed without benefit of keeping the stainless steel trim and seat strap. A donor CL77 seat had been kicking around the shop for a year or more and finally the remains were stripped of the seat trim, which was in good shape except for a flattened out spot on the rear. My friend Scott turned me onto a couple of the local wizards; one who can rework bent metal and the other who is a high-end upholstery expert. Danny, the metal man spent an hour or two on the seat trim piece and had it looking nearly perfect again. Howard, the upholstery expert, had a look at the pile of bits and felt he could make a good-looking seat from the items which were brought along for evaluation.
The seat turned out looking great, but it took more than a little help from my friend, Ed Moore, who fixed me up with some amazing seat material which had a near-perfect grain pattern, plus some special narrow width piping for the seams. On top of that, Ed sent along some seat strap hardware which made the seat correct once again. The early bikes had a removable seat strap, much like those on the CB72-77s, where you can just loosen an anchor screw and remove the strap if you were going to ride solo or head out on the trails and didn’t want to be sitting atop the strap during the adventure.
Using the donor seat cover remnants as a pattern, Howard was able to stitch up a nice cover, but then had to vinyl-dye it as the material was originally a rustic brown color. This style of material is nearly impossible to buy now, so having to change the color was well worth the effort to get the seat looking right again. We were all amazed when Howard stripped back the cheap seat cover only to discover that the original red rubber foam was in nearly perfect condition. He did have to peel it back a bit to do some welding on a few seat pan cracks around the rear mount before pulling the new cover over the old foam. The pan was marked underneath with locations of the ten seat trim screw holes, which were apparently done by hand at the factory, as there was no symmetry to the locations of the screws.
The seat strap anchor hardware was fitted to the pan through existing bored holes where the original strap was located. After punching the screw holes, the trim piece was worked into place, but had some bulges here and there. It would appear that a few more screws are going to be needed to secure the trim correctly. The seat strap was made of the same material and folded over twice and double stitched. One end was drilled for the 6mm sized screw to anchor it to the seat strap buckle end, then fitted to the seat to determine the exact length needed to trim the strap material to fit snugly.
Prior to the seat rebuilding efforts, new air filters were secured from my buddy Scott’s dwindling supplies and new reproduction rubber bits were ordered up from Clauss Studios in Hesperia. Little tuning or adjusting of the engine has been done, beyond replacing all the o-rings in the carburetor flanges and insulators. The bike starts on the 2nd kick with full choke and settles down quickly to a smooth, quiet idle, so there is little reason to dive deeply into it. The exhaust pipe baffles were missing, so the slip-on muffler, normally seen on 1965-later models, had been installed and will continue to be until new baffles can be sourced.
The Cloud Silver fuel tank and air filter covers have badly worn paint surfaces, but haven’t suffered any significant dents or rusting. The rims have some normal pitting down in the valleys and the spokes are on the dull side, but a few hours of detailing and clean-up will have the bike looking markedly better. The silver paint work does need to be redone, however, but once you make one portion of an original bike look too good, then it lessens the effect of the whole machine.
As things were winding down, the only non-functioning electrical part was the neutral light. Generally, this is just a dead bulb problem, however after changing the bulb, the light still failed to illuminate. A quick probe with a 12v test light showed power going in and out of the bulb socket wires, so that leaves the neutral switch or wiring to blame. Removing the kickstarter cover requires taking the footpeg assembly off first. Once the remaining cover screws are loosened then the cover slips right off, this time revealing the cause of the neutral light issue. The neutral switch was hanging off the engine with one remaining loose screw and the switch wiring connector keeping it from leaving the bike altogether. Usually removal of the neutral switch screws is somewhat of a challenge as they have been anchored in place for 50+ years and are tough to loosen. This should have been an easy fix, but things took a turn for the worse afterwards.
The neutral switch was reattached with the old screw and a replacement for the other side. Once it was indexed back to the end of the shift drum, the light came on with no further problems. In looking at the kickstarter cover case, the slot in the clutch adjuster was pretty well gouged out. A new clutch adjuster (now NLA from Honda) was installed and lubricated prior to reattachment of the cover. Apart from the neutral switch problem there was no other concern about the kickstarter parts, which are straightforward on these applications. However, when the cover was screwed back in place and the footpegs reattached, the kickstarter arm stuck in the downward angle and didn’t want to return on its own. This was not a problem prior to the cover’s removal and very unusual in my experience. Checking the kickstarter spring, the winding direction seemed to be normal. When the lever was pushed downwards, it hung up repeatedly and the whole cover seemed to be rocking over a high spot on the engine. All that is there is the stator, which on closer inspection was ground away in a few places to help give clearance for the kickstarter cover installation.
The kickstarter cover is actually a sand-cast part which is heavier and more rigid than the later die-cast items. The battle to find a solution raged on for over an hour, as the cover was checked for warping and interference issues. When the cover was screwed down tightly, the kickstarter lever would hang up in the downward stroke. If one or two of the screws in the middle of the cover were loosened slightly, the lever would spring back upwards as normal. Tightening the screws caused the lever arm to bind again. Everything was checked and lubricated and even the screw holes in the cover slightly enlarged to give the cover some “float” but nothing really seemed to improve this new condition. Rotating the kickstarter arm to the downward position and then tightening the screws seemed to improve the overall function; however it remains a problem at the moment. It is quite a mystery as the kickstarter arm knuckle has sufficient room to move laterally in the cover and the spring doesn’t seem to be catching on anything else as it winds up when the lever is rotating downwards. It is one of those situations where nothing makes sense, all repair attempts have proven fruitless and yet the problem remains.
It will be a few weeks before the new knee surgery trauma subsides to the point where more investigation can be done. There is obviously a solution, but it isn’t obvious at the moment. Beyond this little quirk, the rest of the bike is doing well. The engine starts up and runs quietly even when cold. There was a performance problem at full-throttle conditions, which turned out to be caused by someone’s main jet selections of #100 on one side and #120 on the other carburetor. Honda specifications call for #115 main jets. With the deficient fuel available now, there is a tendency to jet these bikes richer to compensate for the alcohol dilution and lack of fuel energy that comes with these gasoline blends. A second #120 main jet was rounded up and installed, replacing the #100-sized selection from the past. While the bike appears to be mostly original and unmolested, there are these little clues, here and there, which make you wonder what kind of work was done to it in the past.
The odometer shows just over 4900 miles now, but with odd issues like loosened neutral switches, mis-matched main jets and abused clutch adjusters, perhaps the previous owners were not as skilled and knowledgeable in the areas of maintenance and repairs as one would hope. This is another case where it is easy to assume that a low-miles bike was just maintained and cared for, but a reminder that it really calls for deep inspection and checking to ensure that the bike is fully functional and tuned to OEM specifications. Had the bike been taken out for an extended trip, it is highly likely that the neutral switch might have come dislodged altogether and caught up in the drive chain and/or the lean jetting on one carburetor could have caused a piston seizure sooner than later.