Cylinder head porting is probably the most cost effective power increase on a older bike, but this must be done right or you will loose power.
If it feels twitchy or unstable, it could be anything from the forks to the swing arm bushings. Common sense is the key here.
Most bikes motorcyxle be able to hold a steady idle of around RPM. Does it pull well when accelerating? The Honda CB range is also easy, but a little more costly. Hondas as a rule like long mufflers, such as Dunstall reverse cones… they just run right with the right exhaust.
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motorcucle Even new vehicles screw up now and then… so one that was built before Star Wars was heard of will be a labor of love. When the forks are dry of oil, the front end becomes a pogo stick and very dangerous… so worth fixing. Check the steering is light and free from notches.
It has to be able to breathe in AND out efficiently. Short mufflers or just head pipes usually loose you all your low range power, but will run OK at high RPM. Most cafe style bikes and bobbers are badly made with no thought to mechanical integrity.
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Use your lizard brain. I always say get a Yamaha XS instead as they weigh the same, have more power and are a whole lot easier to get parts for… plus they are simply great bikes. Most things people do to get more power out of an old bike are the wrong things. Use your lizard brain.
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I cannot stress enough how dangerous they are, especially in the wet. Does it run well? These are generally a very bad thing.
Common sense is the key here. Buy the best you can afford.
Ignore any crap about it accelerating the gas out of the exhaust and making more power… unless you are track racing, you will never notice. Otherwise, walk away and get someone who knows what they are doing to build one for you… it will work out cheaper and better in the long run. If you come across those hideous Firestone trailer tires on a bike, plan on getting a set of real tires.
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If the wiring looks like a singke old birds nest, then you may be in for future charging and lighting problems. Even if it has been rebuilt, it is still a year old machine with 40 year old parts. The best way to get power is to get a faster bike to start with.
It adds no more stress to the engine in fact, it removes stress and your power to weight ratio goes up… which is what you want. This bug over hours of labor on average, plus whatever parts it needs.
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Any bike in good condition should feel well mannered and safe. This is probably the most overlooked thing as people have a habit of buying with their hearts rather than their he. Stick to popular bikes. Remember, as with ANY old machine, it will need work to make it good. Speed is a question of money, how fast can you afford to go? Remember, as with ANY old machine, it will need work to make it good.
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Unless it is completely rebuilt when I say completely, I mean every single nut and bolt by someone who knows that bike very well, and you will have issues at some point. Most bikes should be able to hold a steady idle of around RPM.
Make sure it has proper fasteners and not horrible standard Home Depot bolts everywhere. Cheap pod filters are way worse than the stock air box as they not only flow too much air, but they flow it all in the wrong directions.
If you are dead set on having one… take a close look at the quality of work. If this is the case, the bike obviously has been abused.