Honda’s 1969 CB750 is quite rightly regarded as the first modern superbike. This one machine turned the world of motorcycling on its head, but, Honda was guilty of sitting on its laurels and letting the opposition catch up. By the mid 1970s the bike was beginning to show its age, and by the end of the decade something was needed urgently. The subsequent CB750F DOHC upheld family for several years until Honda sorted out the V fours, and the company also launched the CBX750 (aka RC17). This bike was the corporate fallback, just in case the VFR750 went to hell in a hand-basket. Running from 83-85 the all new 750 sold relatively well but was soon pensioned off… well, almost.
The CBX’s motor had proved (alternator drive train excepted), to be a damn-fine power unit, and Honda saw an opportunity to produce a cash cow with little investment; enter the Honda CB750 F2N (aka RC42). Sold in the UK from 1992 through to 2001, the bike is the final iteration of the air cooled 750 Honda. Overshadowed by faster bikes, initially mocked by the press, and when launched the Plain Jane to Kawasaki’s various Z1-aping Zephyrs, the RC42 is now being recognised for the true gem it is. 73 bhp in a 215kgs bike might not initially float your boat, but take a spin on one and digest exactly what it does: All day comfort; genuinely enough space for two; 175 miles on a tank; an accessible torque curve and a top speed just shy of 130mph. Lots of more modern machinery might better some of the above, but chances are you’ll end up cramped, tired or both.
Sometimes accused of being worthy rather than exciting, the Honda CB750 F2N is simply a practical machine with shy and retiring understated good looks. Perhaps easily overlooked is the Honda build quality: Even high mileage examples seem to scrub up nicely as there’s a good layer of paint on all the critical stuff despite being sold as a budget machine when new. Even the brakes are top-draw items having been borrowed from the contemporary CBR600. For your money you also get hydraulic tappets and a decent centre stand which makes chain adjustment a doddle, and is a blessing for those with back problems. The physics of the unit are such that no lifting is required: Stand on the easily accessed foot pedal and simply transfer your weight as the bike hops up onto its perch.
If you like your bikes to be easy to get along with then this machine could be what you’re looking for. Simple switch gear, a decent grab rail, some bungee points and a true peach of an engine. The mechanically quiet power unit spins up fast enough for most non-sports bike riders and will rev its heart out if required. 70-80mph cruising is supremely stress free and the mid-range torque means fewer gear changes. The bike will run around town in top and pull away without cogging down from as low as 2500rpm.
If sensible is your thing then this is the classic bargain of the year for less than £2000. Know that police forces worldwide have used RC17/RC42-derived mounts and you just have to be onto a good thing.
Get to know the VJMC
As it’s October it has to the Classic Motorcycle Mechanics Show at Stafford. If you wanted to know why the VJMC get all frothy about old lumps of metal this is the place to be. The event is now the largest of its type in Europe, and there’ll be older Japanese motorcycles there from every decade since the 1960s, and occasionally 1950s iron. The one constant that runs through the event and the VJMC stand is the heritage that’s on hand. Your latest Fireblade might very well never have been built if wasn’t from the profits derived from the 1962 Honda CB77 or the 1979 Honda CX500. Likewise the latest Yamaha R1 would probably never have been designed if countless fifty something’s hadn’t bought Fizzy mopeds and YPVS 350s. There a Chinese proverb that suggests you can only know where you are now if you also know what happened before. It wasn’t that long ago that The Big Four had little apparent empathy for their own histories. The VJMC would like to think that, perhaps, they’ve played a small part in changing that.
The VJMC; run by motorcyclists for motorcyclists www.vjmc.com
Membership enquiries only 01634 361825/07948 563280 Mon-Fri 9am – 5.30pm
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