I started riding bikes when I was 16 years old. Back then, I had to have the latest two-wheeled tackle. My first moped even wore an A reg number plate in 1986 because the prefix plates that ended in the year letter looked, well, old.
Passing my test a year later moved me closer to cutting edge motorcycling, along with the help of my bank manager. Within a year of so I got through several used bikes. I kept buying something I thought I wanted, only to discover it never quite lived up to the desire stirred up by the bike magazines I’d read like bibles.
YPVS’s, 350s and a scruffy but ever so quick 500 left me feeling short-changed when paying back my monthly loan installments. Four strokes then appeared for the first time on my radar. The lure of many a road test had convinced me that the Kawasaki GPZ600R was the bike for me. Turns out they were wrong, and within a few months it was chopped for a Suzuki GSX-R750H. What a mistake that was, although maybe it was just the example I bought, rather than the model itself.
I got all excited again in 1989 after a go on my brother’s almost-new Kawasaki ZXR750H1. So that’s what I got next, but it turned into another long-term let-down after my initial cravings. The Green Meanie headlines seemed more related to the colour of any exposed metal on the bike.
Within a few short years the road tests started re-writing themselves. All the usual clichés were wheeled out for each new model, along with championing the latest must-have gimmick etc. It was around 1990 that I realised new bikes no longer actually appealed to me and my wallet.
So in 1990 I first went retro by purchasing a 1974 Z1A. I didn’t know that was what it was – I just saw a big lump of Kawasaki for not much money when it was plucked from the small ads for less than a grand.It wasn’t a shiny one, but it was fun and sounded gorgeous on its’ rusty Harris 4-1. At last, 100mph felt like 200mph.
The Kawasaki wobbled like an alcoholic before opening time and didn’t have any silly acronyms on its side panels. Actually, I don’t think it had any side panels? It also didn’t stop very quickly and drunk as much oil as it did petrol. I loved it. I then began buying other older bikes, Honda CB900F’s, CB550F’s and even a GL1000 Goldwing, then air-cooled RD’s and Suzuki GS1000’s, even a Moto Martin with a CB750F engine in it.
I wasn’t even 21 and I was already ahead of the PR men. I’ve never bought a brand new bike and never will. Modern showrooms are too corporate and sterile. I know dealers who have to spend a lot of money making sure their franchised dealership showrooms are top-notch, but they’re too clinical for me to mooch for a nosey.
The last time I did venture into a new showroom was to get some pictures for a CMM feature. Overhearing a salesman doing a deal had me crease up. As a new bike is apparently a loss leader, he obviously needed to shift the bolt-on bits and extended warranties. Of course you’ll need a Scottoiler fitted, crash bungs drilled through your new fairing panels, and of course the security devices, alarms and trackers. If I’d stayed any longer, I swear he’d have thrown in some free Scotchgard for any upholstery. I wasn’t sure if he was selling a motorbike or a washing machine.
Back to now:
So what’s caused my anti-hype radar to pick up? It’s down to Honda, and the ‘new’ CB1100. It’s been featured all over the show. I’ve avoided reading much, but the images captions keep comparing it to old s.o.h.c 750s. Why? It’s like comparing Bruno Mars to Michael Jackson, but then again, I’ve heard people do that too.
If feels like the magazine and weekly journos are struggling to fill print space without adding some arty shots of some of Honda’s older bikes, despite the blue sky thinking sessions fueled by over-priced coffee.
How they must marvel at such cute things as chrome mudguards and a DFS-sized saddle before quickly phoning to blag a tweed jacket from the accessories range. The new Honda, like the way it has been covered in some places, is a fake. Now if it had six cylinders, then I could understand raiding the corporate photo archives a bit more, but it hasn’t. And for more than forty years, Honda have been churning out four-cylinder machines. Maybe I should pop along to my local Honda dealer, sip a free coffee and take a look, but it probably won’t happen. I learned 20 years ago to step away from the hype.