Originally Posted by markjenn
A new Honda CB500 costs about the same (in constant dollars) and is vastly better in every functional way. The good old days weren't that good.
Maybe not, but I'm betting a lot of us could quite easily do every bit of work - including fork seals and engine rebuilds - on a CB400F over that of the new 500. THAT is what many of us mean by a good basic bike... at least I do. There is also a certain joy in riding a very elemental bike that isn't there with newer stuff. It's like sitting on the bench seat of a 68 Chevy C10 versus being coddled and absorbed into the bucket seat of a current Chevy Silverado. Just something I still love about the feel. Fact is the only thing I didn't and don't like about older bikes is totally curable - suspension.
For the OP I agree, nothing like an 80s UJM. Only thing they need to really do a great job is suspension. A set of good shocks ($300-600) and a Race Tech Gold Valve cartridge emulator or the like and Progresive Suspension fork springs in the forks to have a ride to rival the new stuff, which usually need springs or damping fiddled with too.
There is adventure in riding the basic motorcycle over the modern compartmentalized bikes. A UJM is more touring than a sport bike and more sporting than a touring bike, lighter than many sport tourers and more comfortable than most sport bikes. That is the UJM. My favorite was the Nighthawk S 700. It was better for me than my bare standard 83 Gold Wing and definitely better than any sportbikes I'd ridden. The seat and ride position was virtually perfect.
At this point, I am going totally single cylinder, serious elemental. My Zephyr will be sold. My KLX650 will get 17s for road use, and a KLX250 was added to the garage for more serious real dual sporting. My project/play bike is an SR500 street/tracker. It just suits the way I have become over the past few decades, as I started finding riding secondary roads as much as possible (including dirt/gravel) and not finding any joy in sheer mileage and wide open highway/freeway riding. Only one draw back to dual sports and most singles I know of is the seating for highway use - and that is why I have a pick up and trailer. When there is a drone to a place we want to be I'd rather sit in the cab with a few friends shooting the breeze on the long boring run to the destination. Besides 15 mpg in a truck with four guys is the same as 60 mpg on four bikes with four riders - no energy consumption increase.
In addition I can deal with virtually anything on these bikes. For me the reward isn't in the miles droning down a freeway, it is the ride on the roads that are fun. But if I had to, I know I can add a bit of a pad (ATV cushion) to the seat of the 650 and hit the highway. I also kind of like the elemental kind of character - nothing more than is needed to do the job. Especially with the manual compression release kick start equipped SR500. Pure elemental motorcycle - no "alloying" extras like electric start or counter-balancers.
You see, my dual sport 650 had done everything that all the new stuff had done. I rode it and hung close to sport bikes, packed up some stuff on it and rode some longer distance stuff (nothing major, but it could go touring with some side bags hung on it, no power problem), and it certainly does the around town and general screwing around as good as any current bike... it also goes easily on dirt/gravel too - BONUS! So it does do what the new stuff does in pretty much as good a fashion when you talk general purpose motorcycles. Only thing that would be nice to have would be EFI, but my carb does the job without any more than fiddling with the choke when cold.