Honda CB125. I liked these little things. I'm not sure why; perhaps it was because they looked like a scaled-down version of the CB250 Hawk. In fact I even considered buying one once, just as a fun run-around-town thing. I only went off the idea after taking one for a ride. A bit too small, especially for a lanky bloke like me. Understandably, performance wasn't too great, but then (on this particular example at least) neither were other things like brakes etc. So I passed up on buying one. But, as a 125cc tiddler they were a pretty good thing; in a cute sort of way.
Honda CB250. 1970s. I remember having a brief ride on one of these. At the time, it felt big and heavy; but at a claimed 170kg, it wasn't really, (I was more used to trail-bikes at the time!). It was quite comfortable, with a big cushy seat, and good riding position. Motor was a twin-cylinder, and at the time it seemed quite powerful (it probably wasn't) although restrained a little by it's bulk and weight.
Honda CB250 Hawk. 1980s. By 1980 the CB250 had come in for a re-style, making it look less bulky than the original. (Although specs I found on it suggested the weight was actually about the same). Power was stated to be 19kw. I thought it performed okay, but I was less impressed by the handling. Like other Hondas I've ridden, it seemed to "tip-in" around slow-speed corners, such as turning into side-streets around town etc. They were a very popular bike in their day, but I personally didn't like them to ride too much.
Honda CB550. Late 1970s. A mate of mine had one of these. It seemed quite big and bulky (remember I was still in my trail-bike days!), but was comfortable to ride. Motor was a 4-cylinder, putting out a claimed 36kw. Performance was quite adequate, but I wasn't overly impressed. A good sensible bike, but not a particularly exciting one!
Honda CB750. 1970s. Ah yes, the bike that revolutionised the motorcycling world when it was first released in the late 1960s! The model I rode was a mid 1970s (sorry don't know the exact year or "K" model number). This seemed to be about the same weight as the 550 (specs I found suggest it was slightly heavier), but had over 30% more power. And it showed! At the time, this was the fastest bike I'd ridden! I loved the way you could be cruising along the expressway at 100kph, and just twist the throttle (no need to change down) and leap away past the car you were following. Instant acceleration, and no time at all to whip out and overtake! From memory, I think it even handled okay too! Easy to see why it was such a revolutionary machine when it hit our roads in the 1960s!
A few years later I remember looking at one and thinking that it felt very "flat" to sit on. The seat was flat and straight, and the tank seemed to just continue on at the same level. Fancier styling was to come later.
Honda CB750. Early 1990s. In the early 1990s, after many and varied models of the venerable 750 had been produced, Honda went retro and released a basic CB750 with strong styling links to the original. I thought it looked good; in that old-style-made-new way! Interestingly, power and weight weren't a lot different to the 1970s model. Power was quoted at 55kw (up by 5 or 6) and weight was 214kg (down by 15 or so). A mate bought one of these new, and I had a ride when it was still very new. I was impressed! It was very smooth to ride. Although much bigger than my own machine (I was riding a 250 at the time), I managed it okay, and the handling was good.
What impressed me most was the stability. It sat firm on the road regardless of the occasional bump and, on the day I rode it, quite strong wind. Performance didn't seem quite as spectacular as it had when I rode the earlier one, (the standards by which it was judged had raised!), but it still went very well! I liked it!
Honda CBX 650. Mid 1980s. These were a bit uncommon really. I suppose you'd call them a sports-tourer. Motor was 4-cylinder, and it had shaft-drive. A mate I used to go trail-riding with bought one of these when we all began drifting out of trailies and getting more into road-bikes. So I rode it a few times. I found it quite an impressive bike! Around town it displayed the kind of top-heavy "tip-in" that I have found typical of many Hondas. But once out on some open country roads it really came into it's own. I was cruising around some minor country back-roads at 100kph and it just begged to go faster. Power is quoted at 54kw, so the performance would have been pretty similar to the CB750 (the weight was about the same too). And as I began exploring this performance, I certainly found that the faster it went the better it felt! At slow speeds and around town it felt a bit awkward, but out on the open road the handling improved, the motor displayed an increasing eagerness, and as I said, the faster it went the better it felt. I remember thinking that this was kind of a scary concept. (I should mention at this point that my own bike was a Yamaha 250!). I thought if I owned a bike like this I would end up riding it fast; and maybe I'd end up riding it too fast! Anyway, reservations about "higher-performance" bikes aside, I thought it was an impressive bike - outside town!
Honda CJ250. Late 1970s. This was an odd one really; but "odd" in a good way. The main difference to the CB250 seemed to be styling. The CJ had a plastic mudguard and a plastic cowl behind the seat. I thought it made it look much more attractive than the CB. It also seemed to be lighter; although it may not have been. Motor was the usual Honda twin cylinder; although power was quoted at just 13kw. This was quite a bit less than figures quoted for the CB250 of the same era. And I seem to recall the owner saying it had less power than the CB250. At the time, it felt pretty good to me!
I was riding a DT125 at the time I rode this (in the late 1970s), so to me it felt like a "big bike"! But I still found it easy to ride. I recall being impressed with the way it cruised easily at 90kph.
Honda CM250. Late 1970s? Another unusual one. I suppose this was Honda's version of the slight-chopper-styled bikes produced by Yamaha and Suzuki (SR250 and GN250). The engine was a twin-cylinder 250 (of course!) and quoted at 13kw. (The same engine as the CJ250 perhaps?). At the time I rode this I owned a Yamaha SR250, and the Honda owner and I rode both bikes over the same route. And we both preferred the Yamaha! The Honda seemed a bit ponderous in the handling; and while the SR was certainly no power-house, we both thought it out-performed the Honda too.
Honda CX500. Early 1980s. The Japanese were great copiers of things automotive (cars and bikes), and this was Honda's version of the Moto Guzzi. And as such, it was probably a good thing. Honda are known for their quality, and this had a good quality, well-built feel about it. It was quite a good touring bike. Good riding position, very comfortable to sit on, and a smooth ride. In fact it is the smoothness I remember most about these. Yes, the motor was a twin, and had that typical twin-feel, but the vibes were never a problem. The whole ride was smooth, from the way it went to the operation of the clutch and gearbox. My strongest memory is probably of how smooth it was to change gear.
With 35kw pushing 200kg of motorcycle it was never going to have rocket-ship performance, but then I suppose it wasn't meant to; it was a tourer, not a sportster. Some critics panned it for it's lack of performance and general bland nature, but owners mostly loved them.
Honda XL175. This was Honda's small trailie from the late 1970s. A mate of mine had one for a while, and we did a few trail-rides together. (That's it in action in the photo on the left). I was riding a DT Yamaha at the time, and compared to especially the later-model DTs (from 1977 onwards), I think the Honda was a bit out-classed. It was a few kilos heavier, and had a few less kw than the equivalent Yamaha; and with these light-weight, low-power machines every kilo and kw counts! The Honda was 4-stroke, of course, while most other trail-bikes were 2-stroke. Rear suspension was twin-shocks rather than the mono-shock on the Yamaha. The 4-stroke motor probably made it a better thing on the road, but as an all-round package for a small road/trail machine I think it was out-classed by the opposition.
Honda XL250. Early 1970s. The quintessential 250cc 4-stroke trail-bike of the 1970s. Peter ("The Bear") Thoemig rode one around the world, so they must have been reasonably capable! (As indeed must he!).
A couple of my trail-riding mates had these. Both were the same early-70s model. They came from an era when 250cc trail-bikes were big and reasonably heavy, with big cushy seats. So they were a comfortable ride. Specifications I found quoted the weight as 148kg, so you'll see what I mean about being big and heavy! Power was quoted at just 15kw, but the 4-stroke's torque characteristics gave it good performance on the road and on hills, compared to other trailies anyway. I had a DT175 at the time, and I recall on a couple of steep hills I would have the DT down a couple of gears and revving it's little heart out, and the Honda would come cruising past me effortlessly, pulling a higher gear and a higher speed. But while certainly being capable off-road, it wasn't nearly as nimble as the 2-stroke brigade. I liked the Honda on the road, but in the bush I much preferred my DT175.