Honda CB750 The Story
lesters and a 4-into-1A lot has been written about the CB750 and its importance to modern motorcycling and I guess most of it is probably true. I was only nine when the CB750 first appeared and it didn't have any noticeable impact on me till half a dozen years later when a guy I used to go to school with showed up on a light blue '72 with Lester mags and a matt black four-into-one with no baffles. It sounded great but I always had a sneaking suspicion its bark was worse than its bite. If you couldn't afford or couldn't handle a Kwaka 900 then you settled for the 750 Four.
By the time Honda's 3/4 litre flagship had appeared on my radar it was definitely an "also ran". Of course being first on the scene with a multi that anyone could afford bought Honda kudos but also meant that the bike inevitably became stale. At the time it was probably a reasonable and common perception given the constant flow of new and seemingly ever more advanced and exciting superbikes issuing from the Japanese factories.
From a distance of 40 years and a dozen or so bikes it's clear that my mates and I were missing the point. In fact, to be honest, the CB750 was just part of the biking "background noise", we didn't even give it a second thought at the time.
Back in the day, top speed, 1/4 mile times and horsepower were everything, refinement, quality and class didn't even come into it. Everything the Honda embodied was lost on us.
With the passing of the years my appreciation of this bike and the people who designed and built it has grown and it's now obvious what a real jewel it was and still is. At the time we didn't realise how fundamental it was in raising our expectations of mass produced motorcycle quality and reliability.
Over its production lifetime the bike was continually refined but in essance remained the same until 1975 when the F series was launched in an attempt to revive sales. Not even the four-into-one exhaust, which had been the stylistic hallmark of the 400-four, could save the day. The old CB just couldn't hide its age, the rounded, featureless engine might have looked like the future in 1969 but seemed characterless and old-fashioned by the middle of the next decade.
I almost bought one but the Suzuki GS750 hit the showrooms and I wasn't immune to its irresistable combination of twin cam engine, world class handling and its image as the future of superbiking. There was also the fact that the long rumoured successor to the CB was in the works, in a sport where having the latest bike is so important who would really want to buy a model that was soon be replaced? The bike wasn't a success, the competition had moved on and the Honda was looking very much what it was; a rehash. Of all the "Super Sport" range the 750 was the least competently executed and the least convincing alternative to its competition.
Still, the absolutely critical role of this bike is unquestionable, this is the machine that created the before and after of modern motorcycleing and left us with a legacy that most riders today don't even think about; faultless 100% reliability, mile after mile after mile.