Ultimate touring luxury, UJM-style.
These days, most motorcycles come with a six-speed gearbox. A few older models or lower-priced machines still run a five-speed, but six cogs is de rigeur now. A 10-speed, though? That sounds crazy, but that’s what this 1982 Honda CB900C Custom has—a dual-range, five-gear transmission that effectively offers 10 speeds.
Who needs a 10-speed motorcycle? Probably nobody, but in the 1980s, the lines between luxury cruiser and sport touring were a little more blurred. Along with lots of chrome trim and a comfort-oriented chassis, Big Red also decided to include some technical flash to its shiny new big-bore touring cruiser. Hence the 10-speed, which used a sub-transmission to double the range of the CB900’s gearbox (in other models, this air-cooled, DOHC, 901cc inline four had a five-speed transmission).
The idea was, you’d use the lower five gears for around-town riding, and use the top five gears as a sort of overdrive, to lower rpm while highway touring. Honda had a laudable end goal, but unfortunately, the sub-transmission sapped power and added both weight and needless complexity. These days, manufacturers use a six-speed gearbox to accomplish the same goal, which is a much simpler arrangement. Still, this setup was revolutionary when it debuted in 1980. Remember, Harley-Davidson was running four-speed gearboxes on some of its cruisers well into the 1980s.
The rest of the CB900C Custom was a parts bin special—no point in being all spendy if you don’t have to. Honda put on a shaft drive (pinched from a CBX model) to reduce maintenance (this was also part of the dual-range transmission arrangement). The air suspension originally came from a Gold Wing. Overall, it was a luxurious, weird, and powerful motorcycle that combined technology and muscle in a package you don’t see on modern touring cruisers.
This ‘82 model, for sale on Bring a Trailer, is in excellent overall shape, and only has 3,000 miles on the odometer. The ad notes some minor imperfections, but nothing too concerning. It even comes with a backrest/luggage rack, engine crash bars, and highway pegs, probably the most common factory add-ons of the early 1980s for the practical-minded rider. These days, they look corny, but they do contribute to the machine’s period-correct look.