Looking at offerings up to the mid-1970’s, things were pretty simple. There were just “standard” models of the Suzuki GS550, GS750, Honda CB350F, CB550, CB750, the standard XS650 twins from Yamaha, the Kawasaki KZ400 four and the Z1, a 900 which became the Kawasaki KZ1000.

Then most likely observing Harley-Davidson’s offerings, these manufacturers noted a trend toward a “mild lean back” riding position. This called for a new version of the basic machine, a higher handlebar and lowered/stepped seat and possibly moving the footpegs forward a bit. Kawasaki did it best first, most would agree, with the KZ900LTD and KZ1000 LTD. Doing a rework of the CB750F/CB900F and CB750K models, Honda followed suit in 1980 and added the CB900 Custom to their lineup, later the punched out CB1000C.

The original Honda CB750 was powered by a single overhead cam four cylinder engine. This was the beginning of the “universal Japanese motorcycle” and not a bad thing. After a 1969 to 1978 production run of the SOHC CB750, a completely new engine arrived in 1979 in the form of the DOHC CB750F and CB750K. These were more sophisticated and higher output DOHC-powered machines. Honda moved toward the CB750C /CB900C models with cleaner, easier to maintain shaft drive; now there were three versions of CB750 and CB900. While they were at it, they added a dual range transmission to the already in place 5-speed giving the C models 10 speeds. This reportedly dropped cruising RPMs by about 500 and increased fuel mileage. Luckily all this complication in the driveline was Honda durable. In 1978, after making only traditional spoke wheels for decades, Honda brought out the Comstar wheel. Each wheel is made from an aluminum hub and rim and ten steel spoke stampings all riveted together. It mimics a mag wheel with no confirmation of weight savings, though use of an all-aluminum Comstar version in factory road racing says it’s strong. The CB750K’s got traditional spoke wheels, F’s and C’s got the Comstars. Custom colors for 1982 were two-tone blue or two-tone red.

By 1982 Honda chose the all new liquid cooled DOHC Vee-Four engine design for most of their top flight 750 to 1100cc machines, the Sabre and Magna and in 1983 the then-radical VF750F Interceptor sport bike. The V-Fours replaced many of the across the frame air-cooled four cylinder-powered Hondas. More complex and no lighter, the V-4 worked well in cruiser designs as it was narrower mimicking somewhat a V-Twin. So this smooth, sweet traditional across the frame four left the Honda lineup. Not only that but the Shadow V-Twin line-up hit in 1983 as Honda moved quickly to figure out what riders wanted. How it sat, how it looked and how it sounded were all extremely important. The CB900C, and later the CB1000C were excellent bikes built up from a standard in-line four, but too conventional as motorcycle design started a path toward extreme specialization.


    • Engine: Transverse Four-Cylinder DOHC
    • Type: Air-Cooled, Wet Sump
    • Bore & Stroke: 64.5mm x 69mm
    • Displacement: 902 cc
    • Ignition: Electronic
    • Carburetor: Four 32mm Keihins
    • Compression Ratio: 8.8:1
    • Horsepower: 95HP / 9000RPM Redline
    • Starting: Electric
    • Primary: Hy-Vo Chain
    • Clutch: Wet, Multi-plate
    • Transmission: Dual Range 5-Speed
    • Final Drive: Shaft Driven
    • Frame: Tubular Steel, Duplex
    • Suspension: Hydraulic / Air Fork / Swingarm, Dual Air Shocks
    • Brakes: Dual 280mm Disk Front / 297mm Disk Rear
    • Wheelbase: 58.5 Inches
    • Wheels/Tires: 110/90 x 19 / 130/90 x 16
    • Weight: 588 Pounds
    • Top Speed: 135 MPH
6 replies
  1. Richard Miller
    Richard Miller says:

    Beautiful example, but they weren’t much of motorcycle when they were new. Are you getting low on bikes to display? Would rather see a MZ 250 or Rikudo. Old rat 350 Honda choppers would be more interesting. Keep trying. Usually I am happy to see what you have just not today. Rick

    • Mark
      Mark says:

      Thanks for writing. At this point we have posted on the Museum website about 280 Museum bikes’ stories of the 550 some machines on display. As a motorcycle museum it is our duty to cover all aspects of the history of motorcycles and to share that with our visitors; some bikes will bore some Museum supporters, others will recall family history, or dreams. We are very proud to have received this stunning example as a donation, restored and painted by the owner. And we are happy to be able to use it to tell the story of that era of motorcycle design. Stay tuned and hopefully you’ll again see something you like. (We featured the Rikuo some time back and it’s on our website, as are all past Featured Bikes, searchable by name.)
      National Motorcycle Museum

  2. Michael
    Michael says:

    No mention of the 1978 Yamaha XS750? An in-line triple with shaft drive in the laid back cruiser style. The XS 650 was mentioned but the 750, upgraded to an 800 and then a 4 cylinder 1100 was added. I guess Honda was bigger then.

  3. scot Ferguson
    scot Ferguson says:

    Thanks for the article. I had my share of Honda in line fours: CB350F, CB650 Custom, Nighthawk S, CB1100F. Also had a few of the Honda V4’s: VF750 Interceptor, V65 Sabre, and the awesome, tariff skirting VFR700 Interceptor. Wishing I still had a few of them! Keep up the great work!

  4. Mark
    Mark says:

    Regarding Yamaha’s offerings, the XS750 triple hit in 1976 and I was speaking of “…up to the mid-1970’s” in my write-up. Lots happened after 1975. Interesting that by then Suzuki, Kawasaki had pretty much abandoned their two-stroke triples and moved to in-line four-stroke fours in several sizes. Imagine the tooling costs and the shift in engineering work. Exciting times, and a lot to remember, as were the early 1980s and a whole new round of true Superbikes; liquid cooling, V4’s, single shock rear suspension, 16 inch front wheels, perimeter and alloy frames, full “road race”fairings from the factory.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *