This Honda Life


My name is Michael and I have always been attracted to Honda motorcycles. There, I’ve said it. Some say they’re boring, unimaginative, conservative, but for better or worse Honda was an integral part of my early biking life and I still bear the scars – mainly mental. Here are three that took me through puberty and beyond in a flurry of crashes, breakdowns and teststerone-fuelled idiocy.

1975 Honda CB125S
I’d long lusted after a 250 to ride on L-plates, but just before I turned 17 the law changed and a 125 was the limit. My dad had used a CB125 as a work hack and passed it on to me. My mates all had screaming strokers, but I loved the fruity tone from the lightly-silenced four-stroke single. I also fell for its vaguely US West Coast lines, though as I’d squeak to a halt outside Pelsall Fish Bar for a saveloy and chips I was certainly more Dennis Healey than Dennis Hopper.

On a 100-mile trip to Wales with a mate on the back, Wrexham was marked by a gorgeous girl and our slack-jawed gawping, the traffic ahead suddenly of minor importance. We caught the back of the flatbed truck a glancing blow, though more humiliating was having this amazing girl step over me as I sprawled on the pavement, the prone bike revving its nuts off in the road.

I loved that bike, with its green-faced Nippon-Seiko speedo and rev counter, but not enough to maintain it properly. Eventually, the fist-marks in the tank bore shameful testimony to my inability to prevent it breaking down. I’m sorry, little Honda.

1979 CB250N Superdream
Ah, the much-maligned Superdream, more often known as the Wet Dream. When I bought it, a handsome second-hand job in silver, as far as my mates were concerned I might as well have donned a Nazi Stormtrooper uniform and ridden an uncontrollable ostrich, such was my social status. But to me it felt like a mighty beast after the 125. Unfortunately, I remember it most for pinning me in the bottom of a ditch. One night I overcooked a country lane right-hander and, as everything went into slow motion, I rode up the verge, still leaning, and next minute it was all high revs and crunching undergrowth, rarely a good combination when riding a road bike. Thankfully, although the bike lay just above me, it had stalled itself and everything went calm and quiet except for the ticking and pinging of a hot parallel twin. Quiet, that is, until the angry bees arrived. To this day I can’t believe the speed at which I extricated myself from beneath a scalding, briar-tangled Superdream in the pitch black.

1976 CB750 Four F2
The CB750 Four is quite rightfully held up as a ground-breaking motorcycle of great significance. However, my hastily-bought ‘bargain’ can only be seen as a spirit-breaking machine notable only as a metaphor for youthful stupidity.

I was at university and broke, though a summer job had given me a lump of cash that I’d promised the bank manager would be used to reduce my overdraft. But after a couple of years without a bike, I’d got the fever. I ‘viewed’ the dirty mongrel at night with the cash practically held out in front of me on upturned palms. It had been ‘tweaked’, meaning the clutch slipped, the tappets and camchain rattled like C3P0 perched on a washing machine on spin cycle and compression was dangerously high. It had red foam grips, a hot (ie, loud) pipe and the street presence of a sickly, balding labrador dragging its failing hind legs. Of course, I worshipped it, so much so that I soon insisted on replacing the death-rattle camchain, working under a plastic sheet in the yard of my student house, fuelled by home-grown weed, beer and samosas.
The result was predictably disastrous. My post-rebuild outing filled Leamington Spa’s main street with scowling shoppers choking on billowing white oil smoke. Taking the head off revealed a holed piston and a level of butchery by the former owner/s that would warrant a war crimes tribunal.

Despite replacing the piston, it never again ran properly and languished at the kerb outside my student house in a quiet back street. However, it wasn’t completely dead and regularly, arriving home from the pub around midnight, I’d jump on the kickstarter and revel in the poorly-tuned racket from the raucous pipe. My neighbours would open their bedroom windows and shout with joy.

You see, they, too, had fallen in love with Honda.