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Veteran Member
Jun 22, 2020
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Chapel Hill NC
I'm not gonna bother with trying to migrate all that content, so here's a quick synopsis:

I bought 3 bikes in April, 2013 for $400 total. Two were 71 CB350's and the other was a late 60's 175. Only one was titled.

2014-04-16 09.47.55.jpg 2014-04-16 09.47.49.jpg 2014-04-26 12.06.04.jpg

They had last been registered in 1981 and had been sitting under those tarps since then.

This is what I wanted to build:

honda_cl350_cafe_racer (1).jpg

I had no mechanical or riding experience with motorcycles. I gave the 175 away, so it's out of the picture.

Both 350's had holed pistons, rods were welded to the wrist pins, cams were mostly garbage, lots of rust and even bugs in the crankcase. But I tore them down and rebuilt one good engine:


Started on the frame and made a roller, built new wheels -




Had a seat built and tank painted:


Lots of other assembly and we're basically up to date:


Six years of work truncated into about a dozen picks and 100 words.

I just have an ongoing battle with the clutch. It's been weeks and weeks of tweaks and new parts, and re-adjustments, assembly and disassembly, etc. And it's still not working properly. Intensely frustrating. It's the only thing stopping me from being able to ride. *sigh*

Edited to add that this doesn't begin to cover the amount of work that I had to put in - nor does it even touch on my ignorance about motorcycle restoration. And lastly, most importantly, it doesn't begin to acknowledge the amount of help that I received to get it this far. Couldn't have done this without you guys.


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It won't fully engage (or disengage the transmission). With the bike turned off, and on the center stand, in first gear, with the clutch perch lever drawn, you absolutely cannot turn the rear wheel. While running, on the center stand, in first gear (or any other), clutch lever drawn, step on the rear brake and the idle drops considerably. With both wheels on the ground, clutch lever drawn, it still very much wants to go. It will stall if held for too long.

I've tried 3 different cables (different lengths), new discs and steels, new adjuster screw and cam, new ball bearing, different, but not new clutch lever (inside the sprocket cover), 3 different types of oil (Rotella and now Honda motorcycle oil). I've followed 66's write up at least 25 times now - with him on the phone at least once. The pushrod is straight and the proper length, I took about 0.002" play out of the inner basket with a shim (no play now). Filed the edges of the outer basket to remove any burrs. Tried a 3/8" ball instead of a 5/16". Just talked with 66 again this morning and went through everything that we could think of. I even looked at the discs and steel plates order to see if I had too many in there. I don't. Plate A is clean, wire retainer is in place. Discs and steels were soaked for at least 2 days prior to installation.

Also, I know that a few people had mentioned not clocking the pressure plate properly (which would lead to slipping rather than my problem), but I've looked at this very closely and it fits the same, regardless of orientation. The parts bike plate is exactly the same. Could there be a clue in there somewhere?


But I just had another idea. I wonder if the clutch plate bolt length matters? I'm pretty sure that are new, non-specific replacements. Could they be limiting the travel of the pressure plate?
If you mean the 4 bolts that retain the springs, no - they bolt down solid on the post the springs go over, no affect on the travel. Coil-bind on the springs could limit the travel though
As Ancientdad said, bolt length is a non-issue. I was originally thinking of a different clutch setup. I noticed your cable routing looks a little tight up top too.

There was a very small sweet spot on my clutch adjustment. Maybe an eighth of a turn in or out from where it’s at and it would either pop, or not disengage completely.
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They're Barnett springs, so longer than stock. Maybe I should try switching back to stock?

Nick - I've swapped out 3 different cables. I think the one in the pic is the custom built length (about 6" shorter) which may have caused some problems. But the stock length has plenty of radius in the turns - shouldn't be the issue.
I've never subscribed to their springs, only their clutch plates once. I'd try the stock springs just to see, you have nothing to lose at this point and honestly, unless you plan to do a lot of powershifting you really don't need beefier springs.
I fought with the clutch adjustment on my CL when I first got it running. Followed the manual and Steve's write up to no avail. I resorted to screwing the adjuster clockwise until it bottomed out, then counterclockwise until I felt resistance plus 1/4 turn and let it sit for a minute. Then I back it off turning clockwise until the screw just lost tension from the springs plus maybe 1/16 of a turn, just enough that the pressure plate wasn't being pushed. Locked it down holding the screw in position. Clutch worked correctly then.

Just saw the post of using longer springs. Go back to correct length ones.
Yeah, I swear I've tried every derivation from 1/4 turn overloading to 1/4 underloading and everything in between. I'm not joking when I say I've gone through that procedure at least 25 times. Maybe I just need the planets to align because I've been over and over this and can't get it right. Then again, as Steve said this morning - it's gonna be something stupid simple that you overlooked. It always is.

I'm using an all purpose grease (like bearing grease) in the cam - could that possibly be an issue? (Yeah, that's how far gone I am - questioning the lubricant!!).
One other thing I did before adjusting was zero out the cable adjustments, then take any slack out at the bottom adjuster with the sprocket cover off. This was also with the adjustment all the way out on the cover. You can hold the cam in and squeeze the lever to make sure there isn’t any play there. Also check that the cam is rotating smoothly and nothing is catching there.

Likely though reading about the springs it may be that they are too long.
OP, what condition is your pushrod in?
can you post a photo of it and the part it engages.
Perhaps you have an assembly issue?
OK, so I decided to basically start over from scratch. Again. Release all of the tension in the cable. CCW on the adjuster screw until pressure, then back off 1/8 turn and lock it down. I used the borescope to watch what was happening with the cable adjustments. With very minor adjustment, the clutch lever is at the 7-8 position (over the spike) and rotates about to 10. But unfortunately, the lever doesn't ramp up. So the adjuster is obviously above the key in the case and everything (adjuster, ball plate, clutch lever) is just rotating in place. So I replaced the 5/16 with a 3/8" ball and I could at least get it to ramp. Went through the adjustment process again. And I pulled the right side cover and replaced the Barnett springs with the originals. I also mic'd the Barnett steels (0.0472ish", I think). The original steels mic at 0.0464". Put everything back together and now it creeps and slips. At least I think it's slipping. I got some shuddering in 4th and 5th. This is getting ridiculous.
No. CW *turning to the right* pushes the adjuster outward towards the push rod.

Where did you get CCW (counter clock wise) from?
My Bad....Was looking at 76Twin's bike list (450, 500T) when I responded previously........Knoxes bike is a 350......

You guys are comparing apples and oranges.........However, each was correct for his own bike........
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Out of curiosity, what oil are you using? I've found my own clutch to slip when using certain oils, especially the synthetics. Other oils, Mobil's Delvac and Shell's Rotella work exceptionally well.
This is the exact text from that Steve "guy" on HT btw LOL

Put slack in the cable.... I recommend you "set" the threaded adjuster at the handlebar perch at about 1/2 way in....That way you have some adjustment left in either direction.
Cable bottom adjuster (at case cover): thread it ALL the way in so you have maximum slack inside......
With case cover off engine, VERIFY the #10 ball bearing is in place (grease it in)....
Loosen adjuster locknut on case and screw the slotted bolt FULLY CLOCKWISE until it stops (This is the maximum clearance point, "Arm" should be fully " down" as pulled by the spring).....
Replace cover and snug the Phillips head screws...... Tighten the slotted adjuster COUNTERCLOCKWISE (anti-clockwise) until you feel it start to apply pressure to the clutch (you actually feel the springs push back)... Turn it CLOCKWISE until the pressure JUST releases, Then 1/8 turn CCW, and snug the locknut......
Pull the clutch lever against the grip..... Tighten BOTTOM cable adjuster (out) until the lever JUST touches/closes at the perch.....Lock it in place......
Minor adjustments for desired lever "reach" and release points can now be done at the UPPER (perch) adjuster........

It took me longer to type this than it should take to adjust the clutch.........

This is the exact text from that Steve "guy" on HT btw LOL

Tighten the slotted adjuster COUNTERCLOCKWISE (anti-clockwise) until you feel it start to apply pressure to the clutch (you actually feel the springs push back)... Turn it CLOCKWISE until the pressure JUST releases, Then 1/8 turn CCW, and snug the locknut......


That's what I did (many, many times). Maybe I just wasn't typing it clearly. But to be honest, that final 1/8 turn was away from the pressure (most of the time). But I found that resulted in more dragging, so more recently, I've been turning it slightly into the pressure (CCW). So while I clearly didn't read that correctly, I ended up getting it right anyway. But it still drags/creeps. And now it slips (I think).

Jays - I've tried Rotella organic and now running a Honda motorcycle specific oil because I had the same concerns.
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Follow this video. Note that he's referencing a post Steve made on this on the old HT site LOL

At 2:50 in the video:

"tighten it CCW until you start to feel the springs push back
from there, you...uh... turn it CW until you feel the pressure just release..you feel it let up
And then turn it back an eighth."
Can I suggest that you take it for a long enough ride to get everything hot and working. If you encounter slip at higher rpm back off so there is none but ride it and shift it up/down to get all of the pieces bedded in and working. Then if there are still issues address those one at a time.
I did that yesterday afternoon. Here in the South, it didn't take long to get it pretty hot. I was actually worried that it was running hotter than it should be, but I don't have a frame of reference for that.

I don't think it was "slipping" at high rpms. It happened shortly after I shifted into 4th and 5th - and only in those gears. I would describe it like a momentary loss of power and shudder/stumble. But I would expect the revs to race up a bit on a slip and I don't think that's what happened. I don't think it was miss firing. If it were to slip, wouldn't it be more likely in the lower gears?
You're more likely to encounter beginning slippage in the higher gears where there's more load since most people shift early.
Sounds like you're getting close to correct. Try loosening the adjuster nut and move the screw just a bit in one direction or the other, tighten the nut and roadtest again. Keep fiddling with it by making very small changes.
I'm assuming that you are holding the screw in place when you tighten the nut, right?
OK - that's good to know about the slipping.

Yes, ratcheting wrench with a screwdriver in the middle, holding the screw firm while tightening the nut. I'm going to turn into the pressure just a bit more to address the drag. And maybe consider changing back to the Barnett springs to see if I can fix the slip. One thing at a time. Now that I've fixed the glitchy front brake switch, this is all that's standing in the way of riding it farther away than I'm comfortable walking back from. :D
I swapped out the stock springs for the Barnetts and went back through the adjustment procedure again. Took it for a 15 mile ride and it's still dragging and slipping, but only in 4th now. It's chugging, anyway. Still doesn't feel like a normal slip. Could this be something with the transmission? Or could the aftermarket clutch lever at the perch just not have enough draw?
If what you're feeling in 4th is more like "jumping" or "lurching" instead of the engine smoothly revving up but the bike's speed not increasing equivalently, it could be 4th gear trying to jump out of engagement
Yeah, that's what it feels like. Maybe it's time to pull the engine back out and have a closer look at what's going on.
You’ve likely checked, but, are the steel clutch plates absolutely flat? If there’s any warpage, both radially and / or axial, the clutch will never disengage and would fit the conditions you describe.
LDR - I tried using the original lever at the grip - it made no difference. So I pulled the engine on Saturday. It only took about 3 hours and about an hour of that was me wrestling to get it out of the frame on my own. Lil K moved out temporarily and took his gorilla arms with him.


I broke it down to the cases, looking for any other issues along the way:


I'm doing this mostly because the original motor had a broken shift fork and I can't remember if I used the trans from that motor or from the parts bike. So I want to check to make sure that everything in there is sorted. And I already had a rebuild kit. The top end was just full of oil - every case or cap or jug that I pulled would result in a small pool of oil pouring out of somewhere. So that's good, I guess. I'm not sure what to make of that one valve and plug. And I was a bit surprised by how easily the pistons move in the jug. It seemed very loose.
One of the piston pictures looks like the top ring, silver edged one, is in the 2nd ring position. Might just be reflection.
I would be getting the pistons and cylinder to a machine shop to be measured, there's too much oil IMO passing the rings. Possibly from not being fully broken in or too large end gaps or etc.
Looking in the head intake and exhaust ports what do you see? Wet oily valve stems, black carboned stems?
On to the transmission. You need to slowly take each piece apart and check, measure, inspect for wear and damage. The shift forks should be checked for wear at the tips, twist and perpendicular to the gears. If in doubt about any piece post the question with the relevant information and we can help you thru this.
I haven't had a chance to look at the head/pistons, etc yet.

Here's what I found with the transmission:


The set rings for the big bearings were missing. I'm not sure that could have affected the shifting or the clutch issues, but it seems plausible to me.

I disassembled both the main and counter shaft. Everything looks solid in there - nothing missing. The shift forks are straight, in good condition, except for a tiny bit of gear rash on the base of the arm on both outers. The parts bike forks had the same thing. Heading back out to check the backlash on the gears.
The picture doesn't really reveal the missing set rings, but trust me when I tell you that missing set rings would absolutely have an affect on shifting as the bearings are pressed on the shafts and the set rings are the only things keeping the shafts from moving end to end, and when the shafts move the gears move with them and the shift forks do not - hence issues with dog engagement on the gears. If the shift forks have any marks on them from the gears rubbing them, you have to assume they could be bent a bit and should be replaced. Missing set rings can cause the same issues as the small end bearing caps not being properly located on the pins in the case when the lower case is bolted back on and the pins get punched through the upper case. It also allows some shaft and gear movement that shouldn't happen.
AD - just to make sure, I'm talking about the rings that go in the slots on the bearing, which aren't there. Just trying to confirm.

MIssing set rings.jpg
Absolutely, and you used the correct term - set rings. Despite the crankcase halves "clamping" them in place, the set rings are there to ensure they don't move under load. Remember the clutch needs pressure from the clutch rod - through the inside of the mainshaft - in the same lateral direction to disengage it, just one example of the forces involved which is why the set rings are there.

And I just realized - I read so many threads that I lost track of way back in yours - that the situation described above is likely responsible for your clutch disengagement issues. Duh.
No bearing setting rings? No wonder you have clutch issues. Every time you try disengaging the clutch the main shaft moves out with the clutch and then moves back some when the clutch is engaged.
Yeah, I don't know how I missed that on the rebuild. Well, at least there's a reasonable explanation for the clutch issues and I'm wasn't just screwing up a very simple adjustment procedure over and over. And over, which it was it felt like. Lord, that was frustrating.

So, thankfully, I found 2 set ring halves in the parts motor case. Looking at CMNSL, the image shows one half per shaft, but the order amount is 2. So just to be sure, it's just one half per shaft, right? If not, the second halves have become one with the bottom case. I can kinda see some discoloration where the set ring would be on the "bearing" surface on the lower. And that's true for both lower cases.

Second question - I did a dry fit of the cases and something is fouling. Its like it's teetering on something in the middle because I can almost get either end flush. Both trans shafts are seated properly with the pins in place. And the crank is also seated properly, torqued into place with the pins in place for the mid bearings. I vaguely remember having this problem when I originally rebuilt it several years ago. Where does it usually foul?
Yes, the order number is 2 for the set rings, one for each bearing in the upper case. Usually it's the pins in the small end trans shaft bearings that causes the lower case not to sit flush. Can't think of anything offhand other than that. A picture of it might help
Order quantity is 2 because there's only 2 used and only in the upper case, no groove in the lower case.
Rocking halves? Are the dowels and their holes clean? You should be able to slip the dowels in/out of the holes with your fingers, both halves.
Possible answer to second question.......IS your bearing holder (middle bridge) on backwards?
Doesn't the "F" in the clearance notch (red arrow) go towards the front of the engine???......

MIssing set rings.jpg

While I haven't been inside a 350 engine recently (last 20 years), I DO know it's "direction" is critical on the 450 and 500T engines, and they are also so marked with an "F" (and arrow) indication.....

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66 nailed it. I was test fitting again this morning and realized it was fouling on the mains. Switched 180 and we're all good. So with a bead of Hondabond, the cases are back together.

But one of the roller pin rubbers (on the timing chain) was mangled to death and I don't have a replacement. So had to order those. And strangely, one of the knock pins on the upper case was missing. I remember being pretty careful about those when I built it the first time, so I'm surprised it's not there. It may have fallen off on the tear down. Or, like the set rings, maybe I was just negligent. I found one in the head of the parts motor, but it's going to take some encouragement to come out. So it's on a 24 hour PBB soak.

I also mic'd the pistons and cylinders. They're in good shape. Took a look at the rings at LDR's suggestion. I bought this kit from Bore-tech several years ago - it's +1mm and comes with the piston, rings, wrist pin and the circlip. At the time, I remember being confused about the rings. Even under a magnifying glass, I can't see any difference in the profile.


I know the pics aren't great, and that's obviously just the top two rings on one piston. The other pair is exactly the same. Not sure what to do here, if anything.

And thinking a bit ahead, I had the head "decked" when I did all of the machine work in 2015. The shop said that they didn't actually deck it, but just sanded it flat - maybe 3-4 thou. When I was working on the timing (two years ago??), I noticed that I couldn't get the cam gear aligned with the top of the case.


I wonder if that's due to the "decking" and how I would fix that, if so. Custom head gasket?
When you blow up the ring photos the top ring in your fingers has a sharp outer corner profile while the lower one has a very slight bevel on the edges. The beveled one will be the top piston ring.
While your cam timing isn't exactly on you'll be fine, photo shows slightly retarded cam timing. If you have a degree wheel or print one off the internet you can find exact TDC. https://www.hotrod.com/articles/accurately-determine-piston-tdc/ which will tell you if the factory TDC is correct, usually is, and insure that you are actually setting the cam timing correct.
.003 is the thickness of a piece of notebook paper. Not gonna change things.

I would venture to say if you bought 5 different head gaskets you’d find a bigger tolerance between them all than .003
Lower ring in both pics (closer to your palm) is the top compression ring......Make sure you install rings with makers mark up......
I’m going to order new rings. I feel like I mangled them when I pulled the off the piston. They’re +1. Wiseco? Or another source/brand?
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