Hondas I’ve Seen, Places I’ve Been

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It’s been a busy two weeks. I drove about 4,050 miles, flew another six thousand or so, covering eight states on the ground and finding myself in places as diverse as a truck stop in West Virginia, a luxury hotel in Beverly Hills, and the production facility for RainSong guitars north of Seattle, WA.

While I was gone, my brother turned in his first review for Jalopnik. I think it’s a solid, honest read.

The CBX above is just one of the great vintage Hondas I’ve seen during my cross-country travels of the past few weeks. Spotted at the Corvette Motorsports Park near Bowling Green, it’s the fully-restored property of a fellow who is lucky enough to own another one in similar condition.


As a child, I built a model of the CBX and dreamed of the day when I would own a motorcycle with the big Honda’s effortless speed, power, and dignity. LJK Setright said it best:

You will remember the subaltern who, asked the place of cavalry in war, described its function as “lending tone to what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl”. The CBX does the same for motorcycling, with that effortless superiority which is the mark of the true aristocrat. Alas, a man is often ill at ease with a silver spoon if he was not born with one in his mouth, and it is not difficult to identify among motorcyclists that same resentful rejection of the best because of lack of familiarity with the best. It is a kind of craven lack of confidence, as though a mortal man were offered Aphrodite but, daunted by the prospect, ran back home to the girl next door. Only thus can I account for the failure of the motorcycling world to snap up every CBX made, while they hunt down the CB900F remorselessly.

I blush to think of how Setright would sneer at my workaday 1975 CB550, parked outside my office this morning. Perhaps he’d approve of my VFR.

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Along the California coast, somewhere between Huntington Beach and San Jose, I saw this well-used 1974 or 1975 CB750 serving as a commuter. Both of the times I’ve owned a CB550, I’ve regretted not getting a CB750 instead. But the truth is that a good 550 can be had for under two grand while a good CB750 costs a multiple of that. You can buy a Kawasaki ZX-7 in reasonable shape for what you’d pay to get a running CB750. Operating costs for the larger bike are larger as well, because the CB750 is more highly stressed and more fragile than the fifty-horse CB550. I suppose what I really want is a CB1000, one of which was for sale cheap right here in Powell a while ago.

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At the Black Lightning Cafe in Humboldt, CA, I came across this CB400 Four. The reason we say “CB400 Four” is because later CB400s were two-cylinder bikes. It wasn’t until the CB-1 that Americans got another 400cc four-cylinder Honda. Thirty-seven horsepower made this a motorcycle for the patient and/or diminutive.

Heading from Humboldt up to my friend Sean’s job at See See Motor Coffee, I pulled up next to a ’75 Gold Wing, in like-new condition, with a sidecar attached. I didn’t get a photo but it looked like this:

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It was ridden by a stocky, grey-haired woman. The sidecar was empty.

I didn’t see any vintage Hondas on the road from Portland to my final destination in Woodinville, WA; I did see plenty of people on “adventure bikes” with steel boxes on both sides. I appreciate these people; they, and the wanna-be Harley RUBs, keep me, my hi-viz yellow jacket, and my forty-year-old middleweight UJM from being the lamest of the lame out there on the American road. Riding a BMW GS-whatever with no dirt in the treads is the precise equivalent of driving a “Call Of Duty” Edition Wrangler. One of the fellows in my office has a picture of his “adventure bike” at the top of a hill in Colorado. The picture is framed, along with a map of his route. The route is entirely paved. And I shit you not, there’s a ten-year-old girl on a bicycle in the background of the picture. I wonder if she has her adventure framed as well. “Remember the time that MacKenzie rode her bicycle up to the top of Mount Fluffykitty?”

Although I am tempted to frame a picture from the time I took a McLaren 650S to the top of Mount Evans. Mostly because there was ice on the road and for a while I thought I wasn’t going to make it to the top, or back down to the bottom.

In the next few days, I should have a variety of stories up on R&T and TTAC from this adventure. The major story will be for print and it won’t come out for a few months. More details on that as I get permission to share. In the meantime, enjoy the second half of your week, and I’ll talk to you soon…

21 Replies to “Hondas I’ve Seen, Places I’ve Been”

  1. AvatarDisinterested-Observer

    I had a 400 four once. Between the age and the giant fairing it was substantially slower than a 4 stroke 250 single cylinder dirt bike. Which is probably just as well.

    Reply
  2. Avatar-Nate

    I still have the yellow 1976 CB400F (that’s the correct model for the four bangers BTW) my Brother bought new @ Brookline Honda fully kitted out as a commuter , fairing , saddle bags , crash bars , the works .

    All that crap is long gone .

    Honda also made a four cylinder CB350F , My Son bought one when he was 15 or so , it was cute and tiny , didn’t go very fast even with his 135 # 5′ 3″ self on it .

    Looked *very* pretty though .

    In the late 1980’s Honda still had quite a few unsold CBX’s in the crate , not my kinda Moto but when I found out they were only $2,500 , I hemmed & hawed a while then collected the $ only toi discover some smart person had bought the last bunch all at once =8-( .

    My then business partner had one and two up it would easily do wheel stands @ 70 + MPH .

    -Nate

    Reply
    • Avatar-Nate

      To increase your fun factor by 1,000 or so , consider taking a riding training course….

      There are many , all will make riding more fun , you a better rider and $ave you $ on Insurance co$t$ .

      -Nate

      Reply
      • Avatarjz78817

        you’re assuming I haven’t. I’ve already got my CY endorsement, insurance, and everything. Michigan is getting to be hardasses about having your CY, and will impound your bike if the po-po nab you riding without one.

        Reply
  3. AvatarDon Curton

    The Honda CBX looks much better when ridden by a dude in medieval armor holding a mace! Best movie poster evah!

    As for your dig at adventure bikes, I umm, ahem, own a wee-strom 650. That said, in today’s market it’s about the closest thing to a UJM out there. Middleweight bullet-proof engine, upright sitting position, easy contols and good balance, ready for 2-up riding, etc. And I freely admit to mine being a pure commuter. I even lowered it an inch and run 100% street tires. The only thing that goes in the top case on back is my lunch. : )

    Reply
    • JackJack Post author

      “That said, in today’s market it’s about the closest thing to a UJM out there. Middleweight bullet-proof engine, upright sitting position, easy contols and good balance, ready for 2-up riding, etc.”

      Good point. I have no beef with the bikes themselves really, just the advrider crowd who treat a trip to Barnes&Noble like they’re doing Paris-Dakar.

      Reply
      • AvatarDon Curton

        Paris-Dakar pshaw. Try Houston rush hour traffic. Not exactly the adventure you’re looking for, but it’s the adventure I get daily.

        Reply
      • AvatarDirty Dingus McGee

        Having grown up on dirt bikes, I got into the adventure tourers(1982 BMW GS) before it was cool. I still have the last one I bought, 1993 GSPD. If you wanna warp some minds, take one out on the fire roads or access roads in a National forest, while still having the panniers on. I have had folks on dirt bikes fall over trying to figure out who/what that is chugging up a rutted road.

        Reply
    • AvatarDisinterested-Observer

      I haven’t seen too many, but the adventure bikes I have seen either look like they really did go on adventures or I have talked to the owners and they claim they did, or I know the owner and they did. Speaking of UJMs, the guy down street has a sweet, new looking 750 Nighthawk. It looks so new I had to go check wiki to find out that they haven’t made them for 12 years.

      Reply
  4. AvatarGert Frobe's Body Double

    I was through Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota last summer.. my god are the harleys slow. I assume whatever rallies happen during sturgis bike week are run at a speed which would preclude countersteering.

    Reply
    • Avatarjz78817

      I don’t know what you consider “slow,” but I’ve been at the bars of an 883 Sporty and it was plenty zippy. Though I only had 160 lb. me on it. I suppose if it’s one of those huge 900 lb. Ultra Limiteds with BigDude and His Lady on it, then yeah even a big twin is going to have to work at getting that thing moving.

      Reply
      • AvatarDon Curton

        I had an 883 Sportster and thought it was peppy too. Then I went riding with my Dad – he had a V65 Magna. I thought I was doing pretty good cause I was always running out a little ahead of him. Turns out he was just riding like an old man. We swapped bikes on the way back home. I zipped through 3 gears and could no longer see my Dad in the side mirrors. Oh my God. World of difference.

        Harleys are Sloooooooooooww. Seriously.

        Reply
        • AvatarDirty Dingus McGee

          I think slow is relevant to what model and year you have. From the mid 90’s on, HD started to strangle their bikes in the name of emissions. The best vintage is late 80’s to about 93 Evo motor in an FXR( basically a big twin in a Sportster frame) . My 87 with a mild cam, minimal porting, Mikuni carb and Supertrapp pipe, plus a 6 speed Baker gear set, has given many a sport bike rider(up to 750cc) a hell of a shock. Low gears in the gear set mean you shift it like an old 2 stroke MX bike, but the overdrive 6th gear gives me a top end of around 125-130. It’s pretty much my “Q ship”.

          Reply
  5. AvatarRobert

    We had a used CBX fall over on the sales floor once. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say it was still more vertical than horizontal laying on its side. I had a CB900F at the time. How I wish I had either in my garage right now!

    Reply
    • AvatarDisinterested-Observer

      If you do or did work at a motorcycle shop can you please regale us with stories?

      Reply
      • AvatarRobert

        I’ve seen some stuff, maaan 🙂 I worked at a Yamaha BMW KTM dealer from 1991 to 1998. I did everything from driving a forklift in the warehouse to financing and insurance on the sales floor. The best part was riding all the new bikes to get their inspection sticker before the customer picked them up!

        Some highlights…

        The family that bought $20k worth of waverunners with Wal-Mart bags full of cash, nothing bigger than a $20

        The time I tried to hoon out of the service parking lot on a fully loaded Venture Royale (with cheese) and went into a full lock slide. I had plenty of time to contemplate all my bad decisions while it figured out what my fate would be, I sure as hell wasn’t in control. It took pity on me and straightened out all on its own.

        One time a mechanic walked out to the back parking lot, laid a helmet on the ground, pulled out his 9mm and shot it, then walked back inside without a word.

        Another mechanic who liked to use the arc welder…while wearing only sunglasses for eye protection.

        The manager would regularly hand me cash out of the register and say “come back with all the beer you can buy with that.”

        The woman who always brought her 100k mile BMW in for service with a cat carrier strapped to the luggage rack. Yes there was a cat in it.

        They were some of the best years of my life.

        Reply
  6. AvatarWiredChuck

    Hey now … I ride a GS with aluminum Jesse boxes. It’s the Swiss Army knife of motorcycles. Better than average handling on tight twisties, cross-country comfort (I rode it cross country, through three days of rain and snow), go-anywhere capabilities and the durability of an anvil. I had a 40 mph low side and the damn thing started right up with no more damage than a scuffed engine guard and a popped-out taillight (which I found and replaced before heading on down the road). And it’s a great commuter, even if lane splitting is a bit nerve-racking with a Jesse box.

    Maintenance is expensive (it’s German), but all in all, a great bike that I’d take over a liter bike or repliracer any day. And for the record, I’ve owned a Ducati 900SS/SP (that of the Sausage Creature), a Cagiva Gran Canyon and two flavor of VFR.

    Not getting defensive. Just saying don’t knock a GS until you’ve ridden one…

    Also, you were in the Bay Area and didn’t visit me?

    Reply
  7. Avatar-Nate

    Nothing wrong with riding a Cruiser or a Crotch Rocket , different strokes for different folks .

    I rode Vintage Harley’s long before they were cool and I enjoyed them a lot .

    Then in my 20’s I decided to try a Moto that out handled any Harley and moved on , no regrets either way .

    -Nate

    Reply
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