Every motorcycle and every motorcyclist has a story to tell. Some stories are far more interesting than others but I find most all very interesting if you dig just a bit.
What makes a motorcycle great? What makes it legendary? How does a rider become great and what makes him or her a legend? Simple questions with sometimes just as simple answers. For a rider it can be as simple as being born with good genes, being in the right place at the right time and having the right person to give the guidance and help to move you to greatness. In truth it is all the above and a smidgen of good luck. For a motorcycle to become legend it takes a bit more.
Some motorcycles are considered great just because they win races, lots of races, but in that scenario credit also goes to the rider. Motorcycles that change motorcycling become legends. The list is long of legendary motorcycles and the debates that go along with those choices is even longer.
Take the 1969 Honda CB750 SOHC, this was a motorcycle that set the world on its ear. Was it the fastest?…no. Was it the best handling?…no. But as an all around package was it the best?…ABSOLUTELY. The CB750 was declared the first ‘Superbike’. Triumph could have claimed that title if they had brought out the Trident sooner and with a disc brake in front instead of the drum (which actually worked really well), better electronics and more modern styling. Hindsight is always 20/20.
The Honda 750 became the perfect platform for modification to truly become a Superbike. Honda themselves put a lot of time, money and effort into the racing development of the 750. In 1970 Honda built Dick Mann the most exotic, expensive race bike ever built to race…and win…the Daytona 200. They actually built four of them but Mr. Mann was piloting the only one to finish, and win. That win was hugely important to Honda because were the days that the saying “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” was so so true. That motorcycle and that win propelled Honda to world leadership.
What I find fascinating though is what engineers, fabricators and designers do with motorcycles, legendary or not, to make them more. When the CB750 came out everyone from backyard builders to college degreed engineers started building a better CB750. The engine was, and still is, fantastic but the chassis was typically Japanese of the era which was described in the media as a ‘Flexy Flyer’. Rickman, Seeley, Harris and others built frames that transformed the mighty CB into the Superbike Honda envisioned. The most innovative of those was Tony Foale.
Tony Foale is an engineer’s engineer. Tony not only created the most unique chassis for the CB750 but also the suspension system that gave the Honda such superb handling characteristics. Tony wrote the book on chassis design both literally and figuratively. When I first decided to make a bike handle better I did all the basics a backyard guy could do in the garage my next project however I was given Tonys Foales’ book and my eyes became wide open to the possibilities. Most of what Tony did was way beyond my skill set…and budget, but the lessons learned were easily put to more simple applications as well.
I found on ebay this morning THE Honda CB750 to buy. Like I said at the beginning of this post, every motorcycle has a story and boy does this one have a story. Instead of me rewriting it just click on the pictures below for the story, many more pictures and few minutes of great motorcycle history and a couple of interesting characters. If you are looking for a bike to fit into a collection or better yet, to go vintage racing with this Honda is a dream come true. A creative sort could probably make it street legal and WOW would that be a sight to behold at your local Sunday morning hangout!
Oh, while looking at the pictures and reading the story, try not to drool on your keyboard.
In the early Eighties we sportbike riders certainly had the mindset of “bigger is better, faster is better still” and our friends across the Pacific were more than happy to oblige. We get to blame Honda for this thirst for power starting back in 1969 with the CB750, that motorcycle lit the wick on the dynamite. Through the 70’s some incredible motorcycles (and some less incredible) were built to test the limits of power…handling on the other hand seemed to always take a back seat, it wasn’t until the very late 70’s and into the eighties that the Japanese manufacturers started paying attention to what the aftermarket was doing to get these two wheeled rockets to go around a corner without causing you to change your underwear after three corners…or even the first one!?
In 1984 I was working at a motorcycle dealership and through friends at other dealerships, I got to ride a lot of different bikes. We were all riding sportbikes at the time and would take the Monday day off (motorcycle shops were all closed Sunday and Monday back then) and go for a ride. Why Monday? Because Sunday is when all the squids were out and the CHP had a field day. Monday was a much better day to explore your favorite roads at a little faster than legal speeds.
I was riding a Suzuki GS1150ES at the time and loved it. That motorcycle was just pure brute power and it got my heart pumping every time I had a chance to really push it (it was a big bike, you had to PUSH it). One Monday, I had the opportunity to ride the VF1000. I liked the look of the GS1150 but I fell in love with the styling of the big Honda. Somehow Honda, in typical Honda fashion, put all the pieces together just right. The power was smooth, loads of torque (the Suzuki was beefier in that area though) and the handling was significantly better. I wished I was working for a Honda dealer. If you really want to see the VF1000 in full flight, find the move V4 Victory. Shot at the Isle Of Man TT, it is spectacular.
The V-4 Honda’s have quite a history that you can find yourself, but I’ll throw in a few pieces here. The V-4’s came out of racing which is no surprise, but the first street going V-4’s were the Magna cruiser and the Sabre standard. Shaft drive, moderate horsepower, good styling…standard Honda. To build the sportbike the engine had to be built a bit different. The V angle was changed to accommodate the 16″ front wheel which was popular in racing at the time and in the case of the VF1000, another radiator up in the fairing. The early V-4’s had a cam problem that turned out to be an oiling issue that Honda addressed. Later models switched from chain driven cams to gear driven cams and problem permanently solved.
The VF1000 wasn’t the fastest or best handling of its time but it was a really great motorcycle that would suit 95% of us 99% of the time. I have even seen the big VF turned into a pretty decent sport tourer…really. I found one on e-bay today that looks to be a very good value for a completely stock ’84 VF1000. It has only 16,000 miles on the clock, has been well maintained and though it does show its age and life a bit, it looks good. I would ask the buyer if he knows if the mods were made to the cam chain towers to eliminate the problems of time.
The VF1000 is a unique bike and if you are looking for a big bike that has loads of power and carries its weight well, give this big VF a good look. Click on the pics below for more info. Oh, and the guy says the reserve is really low…like below market value. This could be a steal for somebody.