"You meet the nicest people on a Honda" the advertisement went, and I believed it. So my first bike had to be a Japanese one; in the mid 70’s it was all there was? Well no, there were Italian designer bikes and copies of the Japanese bikes also scooters. A Honda SS50 was my choice.
It had a high exhaust pipe and was basically a Honda C50 Cub, the best selling bike of all time. Powered by a 49cc 5hp @ 9,000 rpm, 1 cylinder 4 stroke engine, when most sports bike were 2 stroke, that attracted me to it.
Performance was gutless - 50mph was seen once downhill with the wind behind me. It would struggle to 40mph most of the time.
There was a lot of talk at the time of bikes being too powerful, so later versions were detuned so as not to corrupt the youth.
On my first drive around a few bends, I came off after mounting the pavement and hitting a fence! No damage done, I continued to cover 12,000 miles over the next year with no problems. Once driving into a river, pulling the bike out, it started after a few kicks. Not really suited to British roads, it was a real motorised bicycle belonging in India or China.
After a year I traded it in for a Honda CB200. This was chosen over the CJ250 as it had an electric starter and the CJ250 was very ugly. I revelled in the power of the CB200, a two cylinder with 17hp @ 9,000 rpm. It would always hit 65mph on a flat road, and once I saw 80 downhill with the wind behind me!
One icy morning however, one year and 12,000 miles later, I jumped off it as it seemed to be sliding about on black ice out of control. Limping to a garage, I would never see it again, it was a wreck. Another bike for India or China, not the UK, it was so gutless. The CB200 was to performance in the bike world what Hindustan Ambassador is to the car world.
That’s the end of my Honda odyssey for my next bike was a Suzuki X7. It was some years later when I rented a Honda H100, that the world of gutless wonders was relived. Pulling on to the motorway at 70 mph, it preceded to slow down to 50, no 40, no 30mph, as a slight incline and the wind took effect. My 40 mile trip home had become an endurance test. A week passed and I upgraded to a CB250. These two Hondas were my introduction to motorcycling. I took the nice route, never again however would this happen. It is the road the ridicule and boredom. Why?
You see when I had my SS50, 2 friends had Italian GT mopeds, which went like the wind. Another had a Suzuki, another a Yamaha. All would leave a Honda SS50 behind. I had the slowest, most boring ‘sport's’ bike there was. As for the Honda CB200, my friends upgraded to Yamaha RD250 and Yamaha XS250. My CB200 was 20 mph slower, a slug in comparison. I was allowed to try the RD250 out by my friend. The power and the smoothness was in another league to the Honda, I was astonished.