1978 Honda CB750K
air-cooled vertical inline SOHC four
I found her standing in front of a small-town bike shop in the early fall of '85 with a price tag dangling from one handgrip. I was just riding through - on the KZ400 - and I don't even remember where I was going, but as soon as I saw her I lost all interest in going anywhere at all. Even before I gave her that first experimental straddle, I knew I had to have her.
The old single-cam Honda 750 Four was one of the all-time great classic bikes. I don't know if I can explain to younger riders all that it meant. Back in the sixties, riding bike required certain basic decisions and value judgments. You could ride a big British twin, which would be fast and nimble on the road, but incredibly temperamental and unreliable. You could ride a Harley, which would be big and clumsy - unless you got into choppers - and just as cranky, though more comfortable over a long haul. And then there were the more exotic European bikes - mostly Italian, or the old BMW - which nobody knew much about.
Or you could go Japanese, which meant either a nice genteel Honda or a two-stroke crotch bullet; but either way it would be on the dinky side, no more than half a liter displacement - a fun toy, or cheap commuter transportation, but not really serious machinery for a grown man, or that was the image.
Then in 1969 Honda brought out the 750 Four and everything else suddenly became obsolete. Here was a big powerful bike, fast as dammit, that was also smooth and civilized: comfortable, light to handle yet stable, dead reliable. It didn't leak oil, it didn't shake, the electrics worked, and it featured such marvels as hydraulic disk braking and easy thumb-button starting. And it was so damn beautiful, with those four gleaming pipes like something off a Baroque organ....
I wanted one for a long, long time. Now, by God, I was going to have one. This one. And, a few hours later, I rode it away from there. (The nice man even let me leave the Kawasaki, on promise to come get it that weekend.)
And I never regretted it. Damn, but that was a fine bike. The 1978 750K was the best of all the single-cam Fours, with accelerator-pump carbs that let you crank it on and haul ass with no hesitation or flat spots. This one was stock except for the 2-into-1 aftermarket mufflers. In beautiful condition, too, for a seven-year-old bike, as you can see from the photo above.
I made a few changes, or rather additions, over the next few months; I added a set of fiberglass saddlebags - Shoei, off a wrecked Harley - and a windshield, the KZ having accustomed me to less Spartan accommodations. Later I added a luggage rack and installed aftermarket shocks and front-end springs, a halogen headlight, and a K&N air cleaner.
As will be seen in these pages, I rolled up a lot of highway with that 750; and there were plenty of other rides, some pretty substantial, that I didn't bother to photograph or record. I put a bit over 17,000 miles on her - and would have done a lot more, might even still be riding her, if it hadn't been for a certain God-damned retard in a Silverado pickup truck who ran two stop signs on a Little Rock street, one day early in '87, and smashed her from underneath me and left her an unsalvageable wreck in less time than it takes to type this.
I wasn't hurt - my cheap discount-store helmet split down the middle from the impact against the Silverado's windshield, and the cop who showed up measured 23 feet from point of impact to where I hit the pavement, but I didn't even get any bruises; I'd had some training in how to fall - but my heart broke when I saw what had been done to my beloved 750. And I don't suppose I've ever really gotten over her; she wasn't the best bike I ever owned, by any possible standard - speed, power, comfort, whatever - but she was my all-time favorite. It still hurts a little, thinking about her now, even after all the years....
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