As the saying goes, Every rule needs an exception in order to be proven... In fact I’ve always liked exceptions, maybe that is what makes me exceptional... maybe...

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Further checking found that it did have compression and I found that no way would it spark as these bikes need a good 6v battery to run. Though a previous owner obviously didnt know that and it has an on/off switch amusingly wired up with odd flex and leccy tape... The TL will run without a battery, maybe they assumed this was the same?


I should also state, the most amusing thing about it... it has Cheng Shin tyres... how many of us bought those back in the 80s?!

I also decided that to get the bodywork up to scratch I needed to keep looking for new panels and it took 2 years to finally find some that were OEM and also usable, although with some work. Side panels sell for $100+ now, as only the small (100 and 125cc) SL and XL models used them. I found a tank with a BSA logo on it as I recognised the shape. It could also be XL, but its close enough. I painted the parts using rattle cans and bought graphics online for $45! To fund these expensive parts I sold off the other cylinders which was a shame, but I doubted I would ever use them anyway.

The bike came with 3 boxes of spares, that included two top ends, one is even a 200cc! the other is newly honed cylinder with a box with a Honda original CB550 piston, a period upgrade. Now i make the 550 at 58mm bore, not 56.5 of the SL/CB engine, so this is a 137cc hop up kit... cool. I also have two heads, one is a one piece which was included in the bits if ever i wanted to go vintage trails riding as you cant use the 2 piece head here. I have a bunch of handmade and quite cool megaphone exhausts that the seller referred to as 'Loudflers' as they wont muffle anything! Also lots of other stuff thats been taken off but also some extras, so a good project indeed.

I was hanging around at a mates place chatting about bikes as he has a few, and my eye fell onto an unloved bike in the corner... obviously a Honda and obviously 70s... further inspection showed it was a Honda SL125 from 1971-1973 and I thought 'would be great for going to the local shops to post / pickup my parcels...and i could teach the mrs to ride a bike on it’ He caught me off guard slightly when he threw out a price that sounded too cheap to my ears, and I said yes a bit fast, as usual... ooops! looks like I was now it’s new owner!

The small ‘70s Hondas are all much the same, TL/XL/SL/CB/CL etc all have much the same engine just different CCs, similar frames, wiring etc etc and many even share tanks,seats, forks and other parts. They are simple bits of kit and actually very cute, which belies the fact that deep down these little bikes are seriously long lived, all those guys riding them in Asia are not wrong to do so, and Honda built its reputation for engineering excellence on these machines.

So, whilst this bike would be perfect for my shop ride of about 1km each way, of course it didn’t actually run. It turned over fine but wouldn’t start. Further investigation shows it’s got a 1976/8 CB125 motor (2 piece head and 124cc) and that it has no wiring loom, and the carb is just jammed in to the manifold. I found it had an oil leak form the the alternator side of the crankcase, so drained the oil before it did that itself, drip by drip.

Anyway, parts are about a third the price of the XL500 parts i’d been buying, but the engine is a third of the size, so that sort of makes sense. I did spy the XL500R’s engine in the garage the day the bike was dropped off and had an evil thought, but the tiny drum brakes on the SL would be very scary indeed with that fitted! The XL500 on drums is bad enough...

Over the years I gradually picked up parts for it. We seem to have had a lot of SL125s in Australia, but mostly they are now farm bikes or fully restored, but don’t really sell for big money so there seemed little point spending big money on it, and I vowed to only pick up parts when they were cheap.

One day when chatting to the friend who sold me the bike I happened to mention that there was no loom and he said he would sort that for me. A few weeks later he brought me a loom he’d picked up from a racer, cool. It needed a bit for work but it was a great start point compared to nothing at all. Even the simple SL125 has a proper loom and making one seemed hard work.

That worked for a while and I found that whilst some parts like bodywork were really silly money as they were now long NLA, other parts are still easily available from Honda dealers as they were still current.



I would urge anyone to check the US parts suppliers before paying money for things on ebay. For example an OEM petcock is $26 and a petrol cap is $10, many other grommets and seals are also only a few dollars.

After another year of being ignored I dragged the bike out one day when I tidied the garage and made a decision to get it running.


I found there was no seal on the stator side so ordered a set of gaskets. I also noticed the gear change shaft had been leaking and ordered up a seal kit as well. With those parts in I had an oil tight bike.

I then went through the loom, checked the timing (it was way out) and fitted a battery and kicked it over. Once I’d realised that I had connected the loom earth strap to the airbox which is rubber mounted, D’oh!, I had a spark. The bike fired up on about the 3rd kick... typical Honda... it’s been abandoned at the back of people’s garages for years with the exhaust and carb off and even full of dust the engine runs up and purrs like a kitten... a sort of noisy kitten, one without an exhaust fitted...

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With the paintwork starting to take shape, the seat recovered and the stickers added the bike really did look good. I started to take a bit more notice of it in the garage and noted that before I’d bought it someone had re-spoked the wheels, once more proving someone had been keen to have a go at restoring this bike in it’s past.


Getting noticed has its downsides of course and when I needed cash for another project it was no longer hidden in the back of the garage, it was now on show and having got to where I had hoped with it I decided to sell it on. Almost a shame to do it really with the work that had gone into it and the price I got, but with the new project already landed in the garage it was time... farewell sweet SL, I just hope this gave you a new lease of life!