A TALE of TWO HONDAS

From issue 130 of Used Motorcycle Magazine (“UMG” – UK monthly) February 2003, pp16 – 19

Dave Wayte has a bad experience with what he really wanted, then a good one with something he didn’t.

I really, really didn’t want another old, four cylinder, chain driven Jap bike so I bought a 1985 Honda CBX750F! To back track. What had put me off old Jap bikes was owning a 1984 Honda 700SC Nighthawk American import; a big four cylinder ‘muscle bike’, but with shaft drive. What a heap that turned out to be! When I’d bought the Nighthawk I’d been without a bike for about six months after selling my SRX-600, which was getting a bit long in the tooth. I was after a shaft drive bike as I ride all year round, in all weathers, and I thought that a shaftie would require less maintenance than a chain, especially during the winter.

I saw the Nighthawk advertised near where I work, it was within my price range (cheap), so I arranged to go and see it. When I drove up, the bike was parked in the driveway. It looked quite smart; red and black with a handlebar fairing, it had a few scuffs and scrapes but, generally, was in fairly good condition. It had a four-into-one exhaust with a Kirker silencer that didn’t, if you know what I mean! When the owner started it up dogs started barking four miles away. Well maybe not quite, but it was loud. I took the bike up the road for a test ride, it seemed ok. I was trying to be objective about buying it but my heart was beginning to rule my head. Before committing myself I said that I would let him know the next day whether I would buy it or not. I wanted to find out the spares situation for a start.
I ‘phoned David Silver Spares and was told that parts were no problem. I also made same calls about insurance. Several companies had no idea of the model, so couldn’t give me a quote. In the end I got a couple of prices which were ok. I called the owner back and told him that I would have the bike and arranged to pick it up a couple of days later.

I then ordered a workshop manual -£45, ouch! Perhaps, with the wonderful benefit of hindsight, I should have realised and pulled out of the deal then. I rode the bike the 10 miles or so home a couple of days later. Bloody hell it was loud, but it ran ok, I must have got it on a good day!

I leave for work at about 5.45am each morning. The bike was kept in my garage, one in a block surrounded by houses; I was not popular with my neighbours to say the least. The exhaust had to go. I phoned round about a standard exhaust system and was quoted silly prices. In the end I got a mint condition four-into-two system from AP Motorcycles, Matlock for £120. I then spent most of a day fighting the bike to the death trying to fit the exhaust to it. Some moron had bent the exhaust studs so that the non-standard system would fit. So I bent them back, it’s a miracle I didn’t snap them off. I then had to join the two parts of the exhaust collector box together and bolt them to the underside of the engine. Who designs these things? In the end I didn’t bother with the bolts as I couldn’t get them to line up. I just bolted it to the rear footrest hangers with the brackets provided. It didn’t falloff so it must have been ok. No more complaints from neighbours.

After a day or two I started having problems -with the ignition switch. I had to turn it on and off several times before contact was made. It got worse as time went on until it packed up altogether. On the phone again to find a replacement, prices varied from £80 to £145! In the end I got supplied one off a CBX550 for £15. Another fight to the death to fit it. It was a bugger to get at, it seemed like I had to dismantle half of the front of the bike to remove the old switch, plus most of the nuts were either seized on or rounded off. In the end I succeeded and it worked ok.

Then one morning it was raining when I set off for work. Everything was ok for about a mile then the bike started missing and spluttering, I only just made it to work. This happened every time I went out in the wet, despite fitting new plugs, caps, plug leads and spraying all the electrical system regularly with GT85. It got so that I dreaded seeing the weather forecast. I dare not even let the bike see my neighbour washing his car.

Part of the problem was that all the water and crap from the road was thrown up by the front wheel and’ channelled straight onto the coil, Who designs these things? I covered the coil and connections in plastic tape to try to waterproof them as I was sure that this was where the problem lay. This did improve the problem slightly but I never did cure it enough to be confident of setting off to work without wondering if I was going to make it or not.

Then things went from bad to worse. It either wouldn’t start or just struggled into life with the help of much swearing from me. Choke cables started breaking, front brakes stuck on, In the end I gave up and booked it in to a local bike shop to get it sorted. On the day that I was supposed to ride it over to the repairers the choke cable broke and it would not start. I was not amused. It was carted off to the shop in the back of a pick-up. Three weeks later it was ready for collection, When I rode it home it seemed ok. The next morning the choke cable broke! That was the last straw. ..I put it up for sale, got half what I had paid originally for it and breathed a big sigh of relief when it disappeared round the corner with its new owner. And yes, I did tell him about the choke cable problem.

I was then bikeless throughout the next summer, couldn’t find anything in my price range (still cheap). I still fancied a shaft drive bike, had a look at an NTV650 advertised locally as being ‘in good condition’. Suffice to say, the owner should have been done under the trade descriptions act.

Then in early September 2001, there was an ad in our local paper for a 1985 CBX750F. Remember, I didn’t want another four cylinder Jap bike, but I phoned up anyway. The bike was only in the next village, a couple of miles up the road, The seller had someone going to see it the following day. I was still in two minds whether to bother but asked him to give me a ring if it didn’t sell. In the meantime I read up about the bike in UMG and various other mags. All gave a good write up so at least I had an idea of what I was looking at.

I received a ‘phone call the next day; the bike was still for sale. The prospective buyer didn’t want it and was I still interested? To be quite honest I wasn’t too sure, but seeing as it was only a couple of miles away I arranged to go to see it.
When I arrived, the seller led me up to his garage where I saw a smart, good condition red and black machine parked, so I started scanning for a heap of junk lurking in the back of his garage. I was quite surprised when I realised that there wasn’t one and this was the machine which was for sale. It had done just over 24,000 miles and on looking closer seemed to be in excellent condition. I had a test ride on it and was very impressed. We came to an agreement on the price which included one years MOT and six months tax. I collected the bike about a week later.

I started using it for my journey to work and back every day. The more I rode the Honda the more I came to like it. It was certainly a world of difference from the Nighthawk. For a start, it actually ran in the wet! The choke cable is the same on both Hondas and up to now it has been no problem on the CBX. All the reports that I read mentioned the motor as being low maintenance which I like! I bought a workshop manual for the specifications, servicing etc. I change the oil every 1000 miles, the filter every third change. I keep all the electrics sprayed with GT85, I also use this to spray up underneath the tank and all the various linkages etc. I have had to service the front brake callipers a couple of times, no problem as all the nuts and bolts had been greased or had copperslip applied by the previous owner. It makes working on the bike so much easier when everything comes apart as it should.

One thing which did annoy me at the time, and made me wonder once again who designs these things, was when I needed to check the front drive sprocket. To get at it you have to remove a cover, unfortunately this also houses the clutch slave cylinder. I followed the instructions in the manual to the letter but when I reassembled everything the clutch didn’t work! I tried bleeding it several times with no luck. In the end I managed to ride it over to BN motorcycles, who sorted it for me. While they had the bike I also had a new chain and sprockets, braided hoses fitted and the fork seals replaced as they were leaking slightly. One problem they found which was a bit worrying was that the bolt which holds the monoshock on had sheared! If it had come all the way out while I was riding the bike I dread to think what would have happened. The bike has a decent centre stand which makes adjusting the chain a doddle, although this only needs doing very infrequently. It also makes cleaning and servicing a lot easier rather than having to rely on the side stand or pratting about with a paddock stand.

I have had the bike for about 14 months now and have only had a couple of real problems. It does not like frost! After a few miles in frosty weather, as soon as I closed the throttle the engine would stop. It would start up again almost straight away but I had to keep it rewing its nuts off to keep it running! I realised that the carbs must be icing up, as it only did it in freezing conditions. I phoned round for advice but no one that I spoke to had ever heard of this model having a problem with carb icing. Aren’t I lucky in having a unique bike, the only one of this model in the world with a this problem! In the end BN motorcycles came to the rescue and recommended a Silkolene fuel additive which cured the problem.

A couple of months ago the bike developed a misfire at low revs and became difficult to start, fitting a second hand coil cured this.

I have recently fitted a new four-into-one Motad exhaust system. The bike was fitted with one of these systems when I got it. When I was doing the last oil change I noticed that where the down pipes join the collector box was quite rusty. I thought that if I cleaned it up and sprayed it with exhaust black it would last through the winter before I needed to replace it. Out with the wire brush, start brushing, clang, lump of exhaust laying on the garage floor! Obviously exhaust black was not going to work!

I had to buy MCN for the spares section. I haven’t bought this publication for several years; I now know why I stopped buying it. Anyway, found a company advertising Motad exhausts, Barneys Bikes in Chatham, who could supply a new system for my bike. I phoned up one Friday dinnertime and the exhaust was delivered to my house just outside Norwich on the following Monday morning, excellent service. I had no problem fitting it as all the studs had been coated in Copperslip. I didn’t even have to bend them!

I run the bike on Battlax tyres, they grip ok in the wet and dry, and seem to wear well, there is plenty of tread left and I have done nearly 6000 miles. It is a very comfortable bike to ride, with a decent padded seat and a fairly upright riding position. The half fairing keeps the wind and rain off quite well, although it did vibrate to start with at low revs. I found that the rivets holding the screen to the fairing were loose. I pushed some small pieces of rubber between the screen and the fairing which solved the problem, hi-tech or what!

The bike handles well enough for me but then I am not a knee scraping merchant! The twin headlights are excellent, the best that I have had on any of my previous bikes. On full beam they are as good as the lights on our car, riding along unlit country roads is no problem. UMG quotes a top speed of 130mph; I don’t know about that, but it’s quite fast enough for me. The acceleration gives me a real buzz, plenty of power to overtake lines of traffic on my daily country roads is no problem. UMG quotes a top speed of 130mph; I don’t know about that, but it’s quite fast enough for me. The acceleration gives me a real buzz, plenty of power to overtake lines of traffic on my daily commute to and from work. The fuel consumption is not too good, I would guess somewhere around 40 to the gallon. It has a fuel gauge but I don’t rely on it too much, I usually fill up around the 130 mile mark. Anyway who cares about fuel consumption, life’s to short to worry about sensible things like that…

I am glad that I did go and look at the CBX. Buying it and riding it certainly restored my faith in the reliability of Jap bikes, but saying that I still fancy a shaft drive, a Guzzi Nevada maybe? Bike safe but most of all keep biking!