The following story appeared in the January 1999 edition of Used Bike Guide (no.120)
and is reproduced here with the kind permission of those awfully smashing people at UBG Magazine - arguably the
best Bike Magazine.
Written by Steve Humphries
Ask yourself the question - what do you really want from a bike? Seems a simple
question until you really think hard about it. Performance, comfort, handling, pose value, etc. - and all at the
right price! The ideal bike for me would have the performance of a V-Max, the looks of an XJR1200, the handling
of Foggy's latest projectile, the exclusivity of a Brough Superior and the fuel economy and price tag of a C90.
The answer for those of us not fortunate enough to have six numbers up yet is a compromise. But what do you buy?
Not being a fan of Tupperware and wishing to retain my life and license a little while longer, Race Reps are out,
and to me most customs seem to have been styled by the Hamahatsu Blind Society. When Honda launched their budget
retro CB750-F2N in 1992 I remember seeing one in a dealer's window where I'd stopped for a fag after a pretty hairy
ride on my GPz750 Turbo. I commented to my mate that one of those would do me but being skint at the time I remounted
the Turbo and wobbled off up the road.
Later in 1995, which I think was the last real summer we had, I was running around
on an XJ750, which like most bikes I've owned I intended to keep for ever, but being the impulsive type a newer
bike beckoned. My Bank Manager, who had obviously forgotten my previous misdemeanors, agreed to lend me three grand,
so armed with the UBG and the MCN I set out to use this money as quickly as possible.
Not too many of these CB750s about I observed as I scanned the smalls, but MCN turned up one in Northampton at
£3000 - must be an omen I thought - so scooted over to have a look. The bike was a 1993 model with 8000 miles
up by two previous owners. A test ride revealed a smooth motor, decent brakes and dodgy handling - the front wanted
to tuck under when cornering. I put this down to the fact that the front tyre was a worn radial and the rear was
a cross-ply. A verdict which in retrospect was probably helped by the rose-tinted spectacles I always don when
viewing prospective purchases.
A new set of Bridgestone BT50s at £200 didn't help matters much so examination of the forks was in order.
Turns out some vertically challenged pratt had removed the fork oil to lower the front end! New fork oil added
and the handling was transformed.
For those who don't know the CB750 was the product of the retro revival of the early Nineties. Kawasaki's Zephyr
range were selling well so Mr. Honda needed to do something quickly. luckily somebody found a boatload of CBX750
engines under a blanket in the Honda tool shed. Having wrapped a steel frame around it pinched some CBR600 wheels
from assembly during teabreak and styled it a la 198Os: the CB750 F2N was born.
If you study the performance figures, the CBX750 is a fair bit quicker than the
retro but a guy at Honda UK told me the engines were identical. Anyway they are both an in-line air-cooled four
with 16 hydraulically operated valves and an automatic camchain tensioner. This all adds up to a very low maintenance
bike for the lazy or skint among us. Engine maintenance consists of an oil and filter change every 1 500 miles
(can't be too careful), a carb balance and an air cleaner (£28) every 8000 miles, and spark plugs every 10000
miles. My bike has completed a further 20,000 trouble-free miles following the above recipe and still sounds as
sweet as a nut although the engine does feel a little buzzier as the mileage clocks up with some secondary vibes
finding their way through to the bars.
So what's it like to ride? Well it's OK. This bike does not do anything really poorly - but neither does it excel
at anything. Performance cannot be described as sluggish, but you will never need to seek medical attention for
dislocated arms either. Its handling cannot be described as flickable, but you wouldn't call it lumbering.
The performance is enough to concentrate the attention and it can be heaved over in bends low enough to create
firework displays if you really try. The engine is willing and the roll-on acceleration, one up, negates the need
to down change when overtaking cars traveling between 50-70mph on A-roads.
In short it is competent enough to make quite quick progress on real roads although you wouldn't relish the prospect
of a track day! Tyrewise I've tried Bridgestone BT57s and have recently fitted a set of Michelin Macadams which
have improved the confidence in cornering.
Running costs are quite cheap-in 20,000 miles I'm just on my fourth set of tyres, second chain and second set of
rear brake pads (the front are still good!). It returns about 45mpg or early fifties if in cruise mode.
Comfort-wise the bike is good; you can do 200 miles on a tank full quite comfortably
and you won't need to be surgically removed from the seat after a 500 mile day! Pillions still speak to you after
a few hundred miles so I can only assume the rear seat is not too bad either.
Where this bike excels is in the allrounder department. Although now a fair weather biker, the bike has been used
for the 60 mile round trip daily commute to work, has been ridden to and around central Spain (if uncongested roads
and sunshine are appealing - do it), took a jaunt to Italy (more to do but not as good biking roads as Spain) and
also used for weekend rides as often as possible.
As an aside; if you ever ride in Italy and your route takes you to Rome - be careful! A ride around Rome is more
like a video game than real life - or death as the case may be. The rule appears to be that there are no rules.
We had been warned to leave the bikes and catch a bus into Rome, but a compromise was reached whereby my wife left
her bike and jumped on the pillion of mine. The route we took in was a two-way road which seemed to unofficially
be used as a two way dual carriageway with a space in the centre for brave or foolhardy bikes. While following
traffic at about 3Omph, a local tee-shirt and shorts clad Transalp rider blasted past in the suicide lane; so,
being foolhardy I followed. After receiving a severe bashing to the kidneys from my better half, I decided - discretion
being the better part of valour - to pull back into the traffic flow.
About a mile further we encountered the much modified Transalp upside down in the gutter surrounded by a pool of
blood. The hapless victim was bundled into a car and taken to hospital while other road users carried on about
their business as if this was an everyday occurrence. It is!
Traffic lights are another revelation. After changing to Red everybody stops - eventually. Millions of scooters
and mopeds then filter through stopped cars and fill the public crossing area at the lights. When the flag drops
... er sorry, the lights change, a cloud of 2-stroke engulfs everything as lots of little engines accelerate up
to about 3Omph. There is a short lull in proceedings as the cars are slightly slower accelerating but when they
catch up with the aforementioned throng of 2-strokes all hell breaks loose as the Peds scatter every which way.
This is particularly amusing when six lanes of traffic are held by a set of lights. The best way to deal with it
on a bike is to filter to the front and blast off, leaving the chaos in the rear view mirrors.
Anyway I digress. The finish of the Honda is still excellent despite my less than regular cleaning sessions, although
I have brightened it up a bit with some powder coated wheels, braided hoses (a must) stainless steel fasteners
and a Motad Neta 4-1 exhaust which makes no noticeable difference to the performance but lightens the whole package
and looks nicer!
So if you're looking for a bike with reasonable performance, reasonable handling that you can commute on, scratch
on and tour on, and that won't cost you an arm and a leg think about this one. I know it has the 'sensible' tag
and is associated with older bikers but if sensible means practical for modern roads and traffic - so what? I think
I'll keep it forever - mind you; have you seen Yamaha's XJR 1300 due in 1999...