My whole riding career I've been a Yamaha man. Since the moment I threw a leg over my first bike—my long-suffering, currently disassembled XS850—I knew that Yamaha was the company for me. For years I stood up for the tuning forks in person and in print, sometimes just to be contrary. I pooh-poohed Hondas and never gave a thought to Suzukis. I grudgingly respected Kawasakis because my wife rolled a really nice '79 KZ440LTD. My dedication to Yamaha never wavered, never faltered. Never, that is, until last year. Now I've become the Honda Whisperer with a garage full of Soichiro's finest 70s-era bikes and I don't even know who I am anymore.
It all started innocently enough with that ratty CB200 I brought home last August. You remember that one, right? The one with the terrifying PO bodge job on the camshaft? Of course you do. I figured a quick fix and flip would be a fun learning experience that'd net me a little pocket money and a good story. Then came the barn find CB450, and then the matched set of CB500s. It's not just personal bikes, either. I have a friend who brings me her rad CB550 for tune-ups and maintenance now, and a buddy of mine just traded me an '85 BMW K100 cafe racer for a bunch of work on his '76 GL1000 LTD. I'm working on other people's Hondas now!
Oh, wait, did I not tell you about the CB500s? Yeah, I got a pair of CB500s—a '71 and a '72—out of an old motorcycle hoarder's garage after he passed away. I also got a huge lot of tanks, side covers, and other 70s Honda twin parts out of that deal, but that's another story. As for the bikes, one's a runner—a gorgeous, all-original bike in fantastic shape painted flake sunrise orange (a kind of bass boat orange metal flake color that owns bones). The other is a parts bike that was in a nasty front-end collision sometime in its past. That one's in candy jade green (my favorite 70s Honda color) and it breaks my heart that it got wrecked with just 4,000 miles on the clock.
The runner—now and forevermore known as the Orange Crush because I'm super original like that—was parked for maybe ten, twelve years before I got it. I rebuilt the carbs, slapped on a Dyna S electronic ignition with some big-boy 5-ohm Magna coils and a new, modern regulator/rectifier, and it runs like a champ. I even took it out for a 25-mile shakedown with the new ignition and carb work and it only broke down on me once. Pretty great right?
Wait, I'm doing it again! SEE!? Ever since I started bringing these damn Hondas home I can't stop talking about them. I can't stop searching Facebook and Craigslist for them. It doesn't help that they're everywhere. Apparently Honda built something like 9,000,000,000 CB-series bikes between 1968 and 1980 and every single one of them seems to be wasting away in a basement or garage or barn within driving distance of me. I fall asleep at night to visions of rebuilding Honda brake calipers and syncing racks of tiny carburetors. Hell, I even agreed to rebuild a set of GL1000 carburetors (which were apparently designed by Howard Philips Lovecraft if internet chatter is to be believed) because, hey, Honda!
So, yeah. This is my life now. I have six Hondas in my garage, all from the early-to-mid-70s. Four run, one needs work, and one is, sadly, that lost-hope wreck. What kind of Yamaha man am I? What have I become? I only have one Yamaha in my garage, the XS850, and it's been in pieces since October of 2017! I want more Yamahas, but these Hondas just keep falling in my lap and I can't say no to them. I just don't know anymore, guys. I guess I'll have to learn to love Hondas if I can. Until I can sell them all and fill up my garage with XS-series bikes and SECAs, that is.