There isn’t a motorcycle brand out there that delivers as much fun and giggle factor (in so many ways) as Hodaka. The Dirt Squirt, Road Toad, Thunder Dog, Wombat, Combat Wombat and of course the Super Rat. These are names that live on both in good memories and in infamy. Little bikes that brought so many people into the world trail riding and even racing.
Hodaka’s were reasonably priced, well built and above all, fun to ride. Having cool names didn’t hurt either. A long time friend of mine has probably around 12-15 Hodaka’s in his barn in Northern California and wouldn’t part with a one and he still rides a few of them..when he’s not surfing.
The Super Rat got its name when it came to America as a bored out Ace 90 (now 100cc) with the letters SR on the air box cover. The ‘SR’ moniker was actually for “Special Racer”, the guys at Pabatco (the importer) asked if the ‘SR” stood for Super Rat? The name stuck. These bikes sold for around $500, what a deal! So much of a good deal that they sold almost 20,000 of these little bikes!!! They were inexpensive, fun to ride and low maintenance (especially compared to my Bultaco!). Because they were so popular lots of companies made hop-up parts for the Hodaka’s.
This one I found on ebay this morning is a great bike for a good price, might just a tiny bit of TLC and then you’re off riding a really fun bike.
Now a short side story here about my first experience with a Hodaka, I don’t think it was a Super Rat but at the moment, from my vantage point, all I recognized with the chrome tank. It was during a ‘family enduro’ sponsored by the Sportsman Racing Association in Southern California, I had taken a bit of a tumble and was laying in a small cactus patch. As I was pulling cactus needles out of my body an older lady, could have been my grandmother, rode up looked down the edge of the trail and asked if I needed help. After I said I was OK, she rode off finishing the enduro with a better score than me.
Click on the pics below for more info on this really cool little Motocrosser
Nobody doesn’t love Hodaka. With names like Ace, Dirt Squirt, Wombat, Rat and Super Rat, Road Toad and Thunderhog, what’s not to love? In the late 60’s through the mid 1970’s every young ‘wanna be racer’. wanted a Hodaka. Why? Well, they were cheap, they were easy to ride, and almost maintenance free. Operative word here was ‘almost’…remember these were little two-strokes.
Hodaka has been given credit for kick-starting the ‘trail-bike’ craze here in the US of A, and it’s easy to understand why. Like I said in the first paragraph… Hodaka’s were easy to buy, easy to ride, easy to maintain and they had fun names.
Many beginning racers that became stars got their start on Hodaka’s, mom’s got to go riding with the family on a Hodaka, and they had the cool factor of the crazy names. A good number of aftermarket companies jumped on the Hodaka bandwagon with all kinds of hop-up parts that made your little Ace 100 out run bikes twice it’s size!! No Kidding. Hodaka’s were light and quick and just a pure joy to ride. Hodaka’s were known as ‘The Little Bike That Could‘. And at only $495 ‘new’…you could could buy a fun trailbike and a winning racer.
I found a really nice little Hodaka on ebay the other day and is actually selling for a reasonable price. It was restored four years then stored. It is in really nice shape with the original chrome tank and stainless steel front fender (most Hodaka’s you find have a plastic tank and fender because the originals were just too heavy or they have been beaten into submission). The original carb was rebuilt as well. This little bike is ready to ride…not store somewhere.
Here is another very cool thing about having a Hodaka motorcycle…Paul and his wife Patti at www.strictlyhodaka.com. When you have a Hodaka and you need a part, there is no other place on this planet that can help you more. Paul and Patti live breath and live for Hodaka and it shows. When you first contact them you become part of the family.
And one last thing about the Super Rat, how it got its name. When the 100cc MX racer showed up at Pabatco in Oregon (the importer), it said ‘SR’ on the side of the engine, one of the Pabatco honcho’s looked at it and said what that stand for, ‘Super Rat’? Well, it may have been a bit of a sarcastic remark but the name stuck.
Ok, and one more last thing…remember I said “everyone loves Hodaka”… if ‘The Duke’ will trade his horse for a Hodaka, well, it has to be a great motorcycle!
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures. This will be a very fun bike to own.
Hey, it’s cold outside. And…all those Christmas bills are piling up. Time to unload a motorcycle or two. Each morning after my first cup of tea and the first round of the news cycle, I sit down at my computer, check the racing news, see how my favorite riders are doing in the Dakar Rally, and then cruise through ebay. I need a few parts for my various Cafe Racer projects, the Benelli 250 that I received as a gift the other day, and to see what might be interesting to pass on to you.
This morning I found a bunch of bikes covered in snow. This got me to thinking / questioning, when is the best time to sell a motorcycle? There are a lot of answers to that question and it mostly depends on what kind of motorcycle you are trying to sell. My day job as a motorcycle salesman…one step ahead of a used car salesman and insurance agent…gives me a bit of insight here.
During the winter, the bike (street or dirt) is sitting there, you haven’t ridden it for a while, maybe a long while, and you’re thinking “I gotta pay off Christmas bills” or, “My wife says I have to clean out the garage”, or, “I need more room in my basement for that vintage BSA I want to slide in here without the wife knowing…”. Whatever the reason, this is the second most popular time to sell a motorcycle.
Lets look at this from another angle, the buyers angle. Somebody looking for a motorcycle or a winter motorcycle project sees this as the best time to get a bargain. They’re right…and the seller knows that too. Buyers do have the upper hand this time of year, but that will end in about sixty days. When that first good thaw hits, it becomes a sellers market again. There are some great values out there, now, so this is a great time to buy a snowbound motorcycle. You can pick up that winter project that will keep you from having to watch American Idol or, if you live in an area that is not snowbound you can pick up a cool scoot to ride ride now at a really good price.
So now you’re asking yourself, “if this is the second best time to sell a motorcycle, when is the first?” When the first flowers of spring pop up through the snow and riders get excited about riding again, then my friends the price of that new dream ride of yours just went up a few hundred dollars.
I’ve said over and over, I dig Hodaka’s. From the story of the company, the bikes, the names and how many of them were sold and enjoyed bt everyone from kids, to pro’s, to little old ladies on a trail ride. You could ride it to school or work and then on the weekend go to the desert or woods on the same bike with ease. Hodaka’s were pretty cheap, in a lot of ways, but anything that wasn’t quite up to the quality standards set by the big 4 Japanese companies or the Europeans was completely over-shadowed by the ‘high giggle factor’ that came stock with every Hodaka motorcycle.
Hodaka has legions of followers around the world, in the US there is a huge event each year called Hodaka days. There are swap meets, bike shows, street rides, trail rides, moto cross races…great fun for lovers of the little bike with the funny names…Ace 90, Ace 100, Rat, Super Rat, Wombat, Combat Wombat, Super Combat Wombat, Dirt Squirt, Road Toad (it was bright!!! green) and the Thunderhog. How can you resist a bike called the ‘Dirt Squirt’??
There are also lots of resources for Hodaka fans out there. The best starting place I have found is the folks at ‘Strictly Hodaka’ www.strictlyhodaka.com from there you’ll photo galleries, events, links, all kinds of parts and a lot more. It’s the perfect place to make your leap into Hodaka World.
A terrific vintage motocrosser, Hodaka upgraded the Super Combat in 1974 with reed valve induction, a bigger carb, a new cylinder arrangement and the newest ‘no flywheel’ CDI ignition. The Super Combat was fast, as a matter of fact, it was faster out of the hole (starting line ) the Honda Elsinore, really it was. A good rider could get the jump on everybody and be to the first turn leading the pack. However, if the track was a long fast one, like some 5th and 6th gear straights, the Hodaka started falling behind. And, if the course was a rough one, well…besides being beat to death by the mediocre suspension, you’d find your self pretty far back in the back wishing the race was really only the first 50 yards. Yes, Hodaka did pinch a few pennies on the suspension but there were a few good aftermarket suppliers that smooth things out for you.
I came across a pretty clean Super Combat on ebay today. The owner doesn’t provide much more information other than it runs good, but the pictures show that it is in good shape and probably well taken care of Looks to me with some of those better shocks I mentioned. It also looks to be a good value so far, not one of those motorcycles that comes with a price tag that makes you laugh. Click on the pics below for more pictures and contact info.
Every one of us looks for happiness each day of our lives, it’s genetically wired into us. What makes us happy is what makes us different. For some it’s a loud, low slung chopper…others, it’s a screaming superbike or, maybe an adventure tourer. And then there is my friend Barry Jones, for him Hodaka equals happiness…he has a very large barn full of them. To each his own.
Now, I have to admit, I also have an affinity for Hodaka’s. I don’t have one but I want one…actually, I need one. The company story is interesting, the racing history is even better. You won’t find Hodaka listed anywhere on the world championship rosters but, I can’t begin to tell you how many Dirt Squirt’s, Wombats, Combat Wombats, and Ace 90’s I saw in the Southern California desert’s in the early ’70’s. Easy to ride, cheap…what’s not to love.
At one point Pabatco, aka Hodaka, decided that entering into the small size street bike market would be good for them. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome in…the ‘Road Toad’. 100cc’s of all out………??? A simple bike with a great fun name. Perfect for going to and from school, and hopefully impressing that girl in your English class enough to get a date with her…you couldn’t ride it on the freeways, but around town…good fun.
I found a ’75 Road Toad on ebay today that would look good riding around any town. It’s a former Idaho Forrest Service vehicle with only 1314 miles on it. I might be being a bit optimistic here but, being a government vehicle it was probably well taken care of (?) and not overly abused (?). All in all it looks to be in generally good condition. This little motorcycle is 100cc’s of nothing but fun. I have a story I have to tell one day about a nice woman on a Hodaka helping me pull cactus spikes out of my rear end and then riding off down the trail. Click on the pics for more info about this really cool motorbike.
What do you do when you wish your motorcycle handled better? Most of us throw on some new shocks, rework the front forks, different tires, maybe try some different handlebars. Some riders go a bit further and modify the frame, make it lighter or change the geometry. All these ideas work well, but if you’re a couple of brothers in England, not well enough.
I can see it now, the Rickman brothers sitting in the pub after a day of motocross racing complaining about how their BSA’s handled. Over a couple of pints they work out some new modifications, then over a couple more pints, new ideas come out. While delivering the fourth or fifth round of pints, the barmaid politely tells the brothers that she is sick and tired of every weekend listening to them bitch about their motorcycles, ” Why don’t you just shut up and build your own?” Everybody in the pub gave the young lady a round of applause, including the Rickmans.
In 1960 the first of the Rickman frames hit the market with immediate success, both on the track and in sales. Everyone saw how beautiful they were, the design features and…they worked!!! Here’s a few interesting things about the Rickman frames. The brothers knew it had to stand out so nickel plating the frames made sure everyone knew you had a Rickman. Next, function…Rickman frames put the engine oil in the frame. Why? For a couple of reasons; lighter overall weight and oil cooling. Your motorcycle handles better and runs longer…both good things in a scrambles race. The main benefit to having a Rickman framed bike was handling, the improvement over a stock framed motorcycle was amazing. I was lucky enough to, one time and one time only, hop off a stock framed Triumph desert sled in the middle of a race, and onto a Rickman framed Triumph ‘not a sled‘. Within one mile I started having delusions of granduer, I was transformed into Steve McQueen gliding across the Mojave as if I were in a movie.
There is a lot more to the Rickman story than I can put here. Companies that wouldn’t sell them motors so they could sell complete motorcycles, the addition of road bikes and the transition to roadracing, innovations like being the first builders to put disc brakes on a street bike (a Rickman framed Triumph Bonneville) in a joint project with Lockheed, their stunningly beautiful fibreglass work…what they did is truly timeless.
There is so much to write about the Rickman’s but, this is all about a 1972 Rickman Montessa I found on ebay today that needs your love. It’s a nice bike that has one big flaw…the Montessa 250 engine doesn’t turn over. Damn. Actually, that’s not a big deal, two stokes are easy to rebuild and don’t cost all that much to get you back on the track. This particular bike looks to me like a good vintage racer and not a museum piece. I’m not a fan of garage queens or museum pieces anyway. Buy this great bike, get the motor going, ride it in vintage events and you will have spent your money well. Click on the pics for more about this very cool vintage racer. I don’t know what the reserve price is on this bike, but if it’s anywhere in the real world, this is a good buy.
And, the last thing here..extra bonus points if you know what the word ‘metisse’ means…it’s Gallic for ‘mongrel’…I think that describes the brothers and their motorcycles quite well.