Here is our new project! We have decided to take this tired old cruiser and turn it into a lean and mean little cafe racer. It is a 1980 GS1100L. The GS1100 debuted in 1980 and was quickly dubbed the "King of the Dragstrip" It's 100 horsepower engine beat out Honda's mighty CBX and made it one of the fastest bikes of the day. So this bike has good bones, but being an "L" model, the poor thing was dressed up like a cruiser from the factory (yes those ape hangers are stock) compared to the sportier "E" models. So our mission will be to strip this thing down and turn it into something that will be a blast to carve up a few mountain roads on. We will update this article as we go and hope you follow along. It should be a fun build.
And here she is:
Really doesn't look too bad once we got her to the shop and cleaned her up. But, she's been sitting and hasn't started for years, so it's time to start digging in and see what we've got.
The first order of business will be to get her running. So as anyone who has dealt with a bike that's been sitting outside for years knows, the carbs need to come off and get a thorough cleaning and inspection. After popping the tank and seat off and wrestling the airbox for about an hour, I finally got the carbs out. The good news is that while I was taking her apart, I found the wiring to be completely intact and unmolested (which has proven to be a rarity for me), the carbs on the other hand . . .
After getting the carbs out, I found all of the butterflies and slides to be frozen in position with the superglue-like sludge that once was gasoline. So it's time to get them apart (and yes, that hammer will unfortunately have to come into play)
After copious amounts of penetrating fluid and nervous use of the hammer and impact driver, all of the screws, jets, etc. were removed succesfully and the carbs were completely dissassembled. I had to pry the slides out very carefully with a piece of wood so as not to damage them. You can really get a good look at the sticky brown sludge in the bowls above that was spread throughout the carbs. So now it comes to cleaning. They will be dipped and rebuilt with new jets, o-rings, fuel screws, gaskets . . . the works.
You can see how the dip really eats away all that bad gas and the carbs come out nice and clean. Once everything has been dipped and cleaned very thoroughly, I just installed all the new parts and . . .
. . . there you have it. One carb done. Perfectly clean and all moving parts operating smoothly. Now to finish the other three and reassemble.
While I was waiting for all the carb parts to take turns fizzling in their dip, I decided I couldn't take those ape hangers looking at me anymore and swapped them out for some clip-ons. I also finished taking off some of the other extraneous pieces that we won't be needing, like the fender, tail light, signals, and gauges. You can really see the old girl starting to take shape now thast she's a little more stripped down. It's amazing what a simple bar change can do.
Okay, now all the carbs have been cleaned, rebuilt, and put back together. They're finally ready to go back on the bike and see if she'll start. Cross your fingers . . .
She lives! After putting the carbs back on, she started right up and ran smooth. Although it is now apparent why it was parked years ago. Quite a bit of oil came leaking out of the vale cover once she got warmed up. So now it's time to install a new valve cover gasket, and I may as well check the valve clearances while I'm in there.
After the confidence inspired by finishing up all the motor work and knowing it was running good, I was able to start modifying the frame into something a little sportier. This will be a solo cafe, so I chopped off the long subframe and shaved off all of the brackets for the electronics and shock mounts. The electrics will be mounted under the seat and some new shock mounts welded on for a clean look.
It's really starting to take shape now with the excess frame rails cut off.
Decided as long as I had the grinder out, I might as well grind the bar clamps off and smooth out the top triple since this bike will have clip ons.
And now the holes drilled in the frame where some new shocks mounts will be welded in. Mounting the shocks here will look much nicer, but will also lower it by about an inch. I plan to make up the height with some longer shocks.
And here are the shocks mounted up. I'm liking the stance now and the cleaned up look of the new mounts.
It's finally time to start making some of these parts look pretty again. Here is a before shot of the rear wheel. They are not too bad, but I am going to hit the outer rim and spoke edges with a wire wheel and some scotch brite, then repaint the inners to give them a brand new look.
And here is a shot of the finished rear with the unfinshed front behind. Quite an improvement.
A good shot of the finished front wheel. Now that the wheels are done, I will continue to paint some of the smaller bits and pieces and start to take some of the engine covers off to give them the same wire wheel/scotch bright treatment that the wheels got.
Whooooah, this is what it looks like when a sprocket cover has never been off in 30 years. There are handfulls of gunk built up in this thing.
Time to break out the degreaser!
Aahh, that feels better. Time to start getting it ready for paint.
So here's the battery tray/rear seat mounts all welded up and primed.
And a couple of how the battery will be mounted under the tail. It's a tiny, lightweight lithium ion battery that will tuck up under there very nicely.
Stay tuned . . .