The Hannover Express

An Owner's Story

What I did Wrong (i.e. where I screwed up!)

1. I completely underestimated the financial and time input required. I rather naively thought at the beginning that, since I had the frame, wheels, radiator, wiring harness, swinging arm and other bits from the Hannover set, plus existing spares, that I had enough to build an entire bike.

WRONG! I was the most amazing number of items short. LESSON 1 : no matter how deep the supply of your existing spares, don't assume that you have all the parts you need, because you'll be nuts, bolts, brackets, and 1,001 other things missing. Also, you'll find that stashed-away parts you thought were ok are actually junk, or in need of serious renovation.

LESSON 2 : however much money you think you'll need, double it. Then double it again. If you undertake a project like mine, it will cost you between £1,500 and £1,750.

I'd add that if it costs you as little as £1,250 then you either missed something important, or cut too many corners. You can certainly spread these costs over a long period, in my case almost a year, but don't underestimate them. Also, do you (or the wife / partner / mother) really want a rebuild cluttering the house / garden / conservatory for that long?

Remember that if you take on a full showroom condition rebuild, any even slightly worn part will look silly next to a new or fully renovated part. A smart tank is spoiled by ratty tank badges or pitted handlebars. Nice handlebars look daft with faded and worn switchgear. A freshly sprayed tailcone tooks sad next to a faded or accident-damaged rack / grab rail. These problems will almost certainly mean sourcing new, new-old-stock or fully refurbished parts; more expense, more delays.

2. I had to make four trips to the shot blaster and three to the powder coating works - luckily both are close to where I live. This was really just bad planning. I went at the early work without gathering all the parts I needed, and after the frame and major parts were done, I had missed out footrests, rack, cylinder head covers, water pipes. If I'd planned this properly it would have saved time as well as about £50 in costs.

LESSON 3 : don't jump the gun, especially if you have to travel a fair distance to the blaster's workshop or the powder coating place. It's best to lay the entre bike out as an exploded-diagram type exercise, make sure all the bolt-on bots are available to you, and then pack everything together for processing.

3. Make a Battle Plan and try to stick to it. I was lucky in that I had another CX to ride in the meanwhile, and I was not dependent on any timescales. But my point is that if you make yourself a time schedule, it keeps you motivated as well has helping you plan a budget. You see so many 'unfinished projects' on Ebay, simply because people underestimated time, money and resources.

LESSON 4 : Do one job, however small, on the bike, every day. That way you keep motivated.

4. Drilling and tapping the fork legs for drain screws.

Big mistake. It was extremely difficult to get the round fork legs flattened enough to make the copper washers seal, and any fork oil leaks blow straight back onto the brake calipers ... not a Good Idea! I wish I'd never done this. In the end I did get them to seal, but it was no joke.

LESSON 5 : Don't try and improve on what Honda didn't design in. How often do you change your fork oil anyway?

5. Assuming that Ebay part descriptions are accurate. I bought a pair of new-in-the-bag rear indicator stalks which were very nice but they didn't fit the CX500 Z/A/B. The seller had actually given the part numbers and if I'd checked these, I'd have saved £20. Also, another Ebay vendor sold me a very nice new chrome rack actually stamped 'CX500'. No, that didn't fit either, another £30 wasted. Both sales were in perfectly good faith by the vendors; no misconduct is suggested.

LESSON 6 : Check, don't assume.

6. If it needs doing, do it. When adding the ZABC rear case to the EC engine, I found that the 2 of the 5 screwholes securing the timing cover plate to the rearmost part of the casing were stripped, and that I didn't have the correct length small bolts. I should have drilled, retapped and rethreaded all 5 holes but thinking that there was no great oil pressure in that area, I just used extra gasket sealant either side of the new gasket.

The short bolts didn't hold the plate tightly enough, and with two of the holes stripped, there was a tiny trickle of oil down onto the h-box and floor. I tried to seal this with loads of silicone sealant, but was eventually compelled to drop the engine - when I had thought everything was completed! - and helicoil the holes. Big pain in the bum, and many thanks to Trev who gave up the best part of a Sunday to come and help me. After 'doing it properly' the cover didn't leak, luckily in the meanwhile I had been given some capscrews which fitted perfectly (thanks Tony the Bolt).

LESSON 7: Do it right, do it once.

What I did Right

1. Having the metals shot blasted and powder coated, and since I can't handle resprays, having that done professionally. Skimping on the highly-visible tank and plastics, or simply just cleaning and touching up the black frame, would have been massively detrimental to the end result. Look at the pictures and I hope you'll agree.

2. Photographing the entire project from day 1. This was a nuisance sometimes, because there were days when I wanted to get a spanner in my hand and get on with the project. But now I am enormously thankful that I took shedfuls of photographs. It's a good feeling to review the work over the last 12 months and think "Wow, did I really do that ?"

3. Asking for help when I needed it, and listening to advice from those who had gone before. You can't do this kind of project entirely on your own, and believe me your chums will be pleased that they've played a part. Who knows, your project may well spark them off on a project of their own, and then you'll have the pleasure of helping them. Also, if you lose motivation, your pals will sooner or later be asking you how's it going? and off you go again on the work.

4. Testing every part before fitting, especially the wiring harness. Anything showing the least wear was replaced or completely refurbished. Fit a new stator and mechanical seal. Decoke the heads and grind the valves. Scrub the engine casings (Mother's Mag aluminium cleaner is absolutely fantastic on alloy parts.)

5. Fitting new tapered roller steering bearings.

6. Not compromising on the quality of the spares, or the work I did personally. Not 'bodging' or 'kludging' or thinking "Well it'll do." (Except for point 7 above, anyway!) Settling for second best will irk you later on (it did, point 7 again), and may spoil an otherwise great looking bike.

7. Having a 1½" extra section welded into the propstand, between the spring lower lug and the footplate. Both my CXs have this modification and both of them stand up properly on the sidestand.

8. Not working on the bike when I was in a bad mood, or rushed for time.

9. Testing the engine - a completely unknown quantity - very gradually, to ensure it was sound.

10. Haunting UK, US and even German Ebay for spares. Luckiest break - buying a new-in-the-bag chrome headlight ring from the US for $1.76. Most CXs are Customs in the US and the chrome ring for the ZAB doesn't fit. Here, they go for £20. Second best break : a new-in-the-bag h-box, this cost me £100 but they are almost completely extinct.