I write this letter not as Editor-in-Chief of the world’s largest-circulation monthly motorcycle magazine. Rather, please take it as a note from a concerned long-time Honda owner.
First, a decades-overdue thank you for introducing me to what is well on the way to a lifetime of streetbike riding. When I was 15, having graduated from a series of small dirtbikes, I purchased a pampered, one-year-old 1970 CB175; to my eyes then and now a beautiful, crisply styled machine made even more so by its deep candy-orange paint and sweeping chrome exhaust pipes.
Tangerine dream: Thirty-six years ago, a CB175 much like this one turned the Editor on to street riding.I was an interminable six months short of having my driver’s permit, but the previous owner, a Navy man departing for a tour of duty in the waters off Vietnam, did me a huge favor by leaving his paid-up license tag in place. The bike was street-legal, even if I wasn’t.
My weekend routine was to push the CB to the woods at the end of our street, telling my folks I was going “trail riding,” then link up with asphalt on the other side of the trees. From there, I had access to hundreds of miles of rural Maryland backroads. Lightly trafficked and patrolled, thankfully.
Armed with a teenager’s sense of immortality, I learned how to drag the centerstand in corners, then the footpegs, then the mufflers. I learned that a 20-horsepower ohc Twin would do an indicated 90 mph, but only if you used the passenger pegs and crouched low like the leather-clads in the magazines. Downhill straights were bliss, God’s own nitrous-injection.
To this day, 36 years later, I can still feel the shapes and creases and angles of that gas tank. An old soft T-shirt, washed 1000 times, put the final buff on the tank, which seemed to glow orange from within in the setting sunlight.
Looking back, I’ve almost never been without a Honda. As Cycle World’s
feature editor, I purchased an old 1970 CB750 K0 and rode it from Illinois to California along the remains of Route 66 for a magazine story. Afterward I had it restored, and was immensely honored in 1998 when you asked if you could borrow it for your official 50th-anniversary festivities in New York City.
As a fan of the brand, then, I was a little dismayed to see your 2008-model lineup. All due respect, but other than the potent new CBR1000RR nicely bookending your class-leading CBR600RR, where’s the excitement? New saddlebags for the 1300 don’t exactly ignite a fireworks display of July Fourth proportions over your VTX cruisers. No adventure-bikes, even though Europe gets a tasty new revamp on the V-Twin Transalp. And with the demise of the 919, no standard-style bike?! From the company that ushered in the era of the across-the-frame inline-Four?
But just as that was digesting poorly, you let photos of three Tokyo Motor Show
concept bikes loose on the Internet, the EVO6, a modern roadster powered by the Gold Wing’s pancake-Six, the CB1100R, an homage to the factory RCB endurance racers, and the CB1100F, a retro café-racer.
What would Fast Freddie ride? Wouldn’t take much to make the CB1100R endurance-racer homage showroom ready.Faith restored.
It’s the latter, the 1100F, that speaks to me loudest, if only because it looks so close to production. The tranverse-Four is your
heritage—no need to reinvent someone else’s—and here it is in air-cooled glory, no radiator or water hoses mucking up the view. And look what’s on display! A wavy-gravy array of four header pipes, a la
the old CB400F, terminating in a proper megaphone-style muffler. To many of us, that is what an exhaust system should look like. Extrapolating, this is what a motorcycle should look like, too.
Build that bike, Honda. Make mine candy-orange if you please…