’78 Honda CB400A Cafe Racer
OK, who here wants a motorcycle with an automatic transmission? How about a ‘semi’ automatic transmission? Well, back in the late 1970’s Honda a lot of people would. Well, they were little wrong. Honda first put the ‘Hondamatic’ into a CB750. It was a big bike and those that would be buyers of auto-bikes were more than likely going to be beginners or very casual riders. The 750A was a bit intimidating and so sales were not what Honda had hoped for. But, Honda being Honda, thought well, the idea is good let’s just put into a smaller bike. Geniuses those boys.
With the lack of success using the CB750, Honda adapted the two speed semi auto into the then new CB400 Twin. There were two versions of that particular model; the CB400T (the sporty version) and then the CB500A (a little less sporty, same styling just less sporty riding?). The ‘A’ model had a motor tuned to be more suitable for the novice rider, a modest 30 hp maybe. The ‘A’ model brought about 10hp less than the standard model and weighed a few KG more. Honda wanted the motorcycle to fun for just about everyone. Even Prince rode one in Purple Rain.
The CB400A was and is very easy to ride, but there are a few tips you have to know. First, the bike has to be in neutral and the side stand up in order to start. If you stall the bike (how can you, it’s an automatic??) you can’t just pull in the clutch lever, hit the starter button and get going before the car behind you decides your bike would make a nice hood ornament. And…when you park the bike and you forget to put into neutral before you put the kickstand down, the bike will shut itself off. How nice. Almost idiot proof?
The CB400A has a two speed ‘semi’ automatic, 2 ranges;low and high. Low range is good for up to about 50 mph, perfect around town and some of the fun little canyon road you ride now and then, and a high range that will then take you up to Freeway speeds with ease (well, easy as a 400 can be on the Freeway here in So Cal…). For most though, just put it into 2nd and just go from there. It does pull away somewhat smartly from a stop light in 2nd and you don’t have to think about shifting. Oh, and what you think is the clutch lever on the left handlebar…that’s actually the parking brake. Honestly, I can think of a couple of times I wish I had had a motorcycle with a parking brake…not a pretty story, it involved a late night at the local pub and……..
This Honda CB400 A Hondamatic, with only 11K miles on the clock, that I found on ebay this morning is certainly not your average ‘Senior Citizen Mobile Home Park’ cruiser. Well, it used to be but now, it lives a much more exotic life. It has been given a ‘unique’ cafe racer treatment. The owner added the requisite clubman handlebars for good position, slipped on new tires, put a clean looking cafe racer tail section and then…things changed a bit. The pictures below will tell the story, there is no need for me to elaborate. However, I do think it is the absolutely perfect bike for someone out there and I think the owner did a great job. Click on the pics below for more info.