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Last Call: Four Times Fifty Edition

Peter Tanshanomi October 26, 2018 Last Call 21 Comments

We normally restrict motorcycle content to Redusernab’s designated “Two-Wheel Tuesdays.” But today I’m making an exception, because fifty years ago today — October 26th, 1968 — is widely recognized as the very day the modern age of motorcycling began. The opening of the 15th Tokyo Motor Show marked the debut of the Honda CB750 four, the significance of which can barely be overstated. So let’s take a moment and reflect on the day the motorcycling world officially became Japan’s bitch.

Last Call indicates the end of Redusernab’s broadcast day. It’s meant to be an open forum for anyone and anything. Thread jacking is not only accepted, it’s encouraged.

  • 1968 was a big year for Honda motorcycles for another reason. Two Americans, Larry Berquist and Gary Preston, riding a specially prepared Honda 350 twin won the Baja 1000 overall beating the fastest 4 wheeler by an hour. It’s hardly mentioned in Honda’s racing history because it wasn’t a factory backed attempt.

  • Batshitbox

    Progress! I’m at the 180-grit emory cloth stage.

    For reference

    • That’s really a good job. Are those allen head case bolts stock?

      • Batshitbox

        Yep, that’s the way it came from the factory.

  • Sjalabais

    Going to the literal end of the road…then fiddling with cell phone camera post processing. Can’t drive far enough to escape the ting-in-the-pocket’s allure.

  • To celebrate, I have today entered the two-wheeler ownership circles by uttering my acceptance of the free non-starting, disassembled, 50cc scooter I have reported about last week.
    I have neither space, time, nor experience, but unlike most scooter owners around her I have finished school, own a car, and might even pay for a Haynes or similar.

    • I’m so grown up – I’ve ordered this, “the first thing to invest in”:

      • Sjalabais

        That’s a pretty long production run.

        • Now that you say it..

          looks like Piaggio is the Volkswagen AG of two-wheelers, owning Vespa, Aprilia, Derbi, Gilera, Laverda and Moto Guzzi. I wonder if they have a cross-brand platform concept, or even a VW-style “casellario delle construzione” (“type case” construction kit – I don’t speak Italian, apologies). Looks more like evolutionary adaption, though.

  • outback_ute

    I thought it was going to be a 200cc four!

  • Batshitbox

    The men’s basketball team is known as the ‘Runnin’ Utes’

  • Lokki

    I had a Honda CB 750 back in the day (circa 1979?). It was most remarkable for how smooth, quiet, and boring it was. That, I realize now, was the point. The motorcycle officially graduated from being a rough, noisy, kick-started, high-maintenance assembly of parts, to a machine as easy to live with as a Honda Accord.

    At the time though, I didn’t care for it, and I didn’t keep it long; boring wasn’t what I was looking for. I replaced it with a Kawasaki KZ750, which handled horribly because of frame flex at the steering head, but which had an engine that pulled like the introduction to Star Wars. “Down two, and GONE” was the motto of the day. I pulled my first wheelie on that bike. That’s the one I miss.

    • Batshitbox

      I just saw a pale blue KZ750 about 5 hours ago. My first bike (after my Yamaha Towny scooter) was a green ’79 KZ650. Boy, did I crash the bejeezus out of that thing. I was in the motorcycle salvage shop buying parts for it when I found the Laverda. I abandoned the Kawi shortly after that.

    • dead_elvis, inc.

      From that description, I assume you had the inline-4 KZ750, not the vertical twin KZ750. I loved my ‘81 KZ750, and it handled nearly as well as its 650 cc stablemate. I’ve been on the lookout for one of those for quite some time.

      • Lokki

        Right – I had the in-line-4. I loved that engine. The redline was 10K, but when I needed “Emergency War Power” I would wind it to 12K and it didn’t give a damn: in fact I think it liked it. I sure did.

        To be fair about the handling comment, I was living in Japan at the time and I was getting into the cafe racing scene up in the mountains. The bike was just too big for that kind of work, and so my next bike was an old Yamaha 650 vertical twin. By “old” I mean that it wasn’t the extended fork, cast-wheel cruiser version, but pretty much a Japanese Triumph Bonneville with wire wheels.

        I don’t think they were still selling these in the states at that point. I went all-in Cafe with it. Air forks, fork brace, swing arm brace, rear sets (I had to have them made), and exhausts you could roll a golf ball straight through. It was great for mountain work where the turns were tight and torque was King.

        All the Japanese kids were on 250s or 400s with six gears and a power band only as wide as your thumb. They all also had small front wheels which was the fashion at the time, for quick steering, The kids had to work really hard when hitting a corner – handful of brakes, lean in with the ultra quick steering, down two or three gears to stay in the power band and accelerate out. My friend called my 650 “ Old 99” after Casey Jones’ locomotive because the bike was comparatively heavy and the steering was slow. So, when you arrived at the corner, you had to pick your line and live (or die) with it as your only control was more throttle! to try and tighten things up a little. So you entered the turn braking hard, and clunked down one gear and held on tight letting the torque do the work.

        That was FUN.

        Alas I am old now, and forbidden motorcycles by the Mrs, no matter how much I push the “Insurance payouts are better than the lottery because they’re tax-free” angle to her.

        • dead_elvis, inc.

          In the US, we even got the precursors to the XS650 (XS1/XS2/TX650), and AFAIK, the Specials (“cruiser” version with the more relaxed steering geometry) didn’t appear until 1978 or so.
          I spent enough time on a friend’s XS2 to really appreciate how much smoother the later iterations became.

      • I had the same bike. It was the most soulless, appliance-like bike I’ve ever owned. It didn’t really do anything all that poorly; I just never connected with it.

        • dead_elvis, inc.

          I mean, it’s no MB5, but I had a hell of a lot of fun with mine. It was a muscular step up from my first bike, a ’78 Suzuki GS550.

          The KZ seemed to respond especially well to being ridden with a heavy hand everywhere – ride it like you hate it, as a buddy of mine always put it.

          • That and an ’86 Yamaha FZX700S Fazer kind of turned me off from four-cylinder bikes until I got the 350F and all was right again.

    • SlowJoeCrow

      That reminds me, I did demo a 750 Nighthawk once and it was a little more user friendly than my 78 BMW and I bike I recommended at the time for general getting around. Personally I always found the jewel like CB400 more interesting.

      • I miss my CB350F immensely.