Naming conventions for many motorcycle companies amount to a mish-mash of letters and numbers more befitting of a Star Trek ship than a bike. Few marques break free from these cumbersome alphanumeric conventions. Hodaka—a small bike brand from the mid-1960s—did it very best.
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In the early 70's I had a Chapparal dirt bike that I rode on one wheel as much as two. Had actually not thought of it for many years until I was watching an episode of "The Pickers" when they came across an old barn find Chapparal. Great fun for a 15 year old!
I had a 1973 Combat Wombat. I recall three glorious summers ('73 - '75) when a couple of friends and I would spend a day each weekend riding the Ganaraska Forest trails here in Central Ontario. One of them had a Can-Am 175 and the other a gonzo (and to me, unrideable) Honda CR250, but when the going got tight, the Hodaka was king! Fond memories!
Never knew much about the brand but they must have sold a lot of bikes because Hodaka's, especially Super Rat's, were everywhere in the 70's for little money. Almost got one used but after a test ride my father chickened out! He tried to steer me towards a much less cool Honda Trail 90 but, disappointed, I ended up with nothing!
Hard to beat Hodaka when it came to naming a bike. Back in the day when a buddy was trying to get me off road I went to a local garage thaat happened to be a Hodaka dealer. I was going to get a Combat Wombat but he told me about the Thunder Dog. We were starting to get into enduro riding and that bike looked great to me. I was riding a 238 Kawasaki at the time, which was awful, and told him to get me one. Long story short, he couldn't get one for whatever reason and I ended up riding a Puch 175 for the following year, then went to Husky's. Got to ride some buddies Hodaka's though while trail riding. But never saw a Thunder Dog. Wonder what I missed.
The only reason a shovel 'loves to ride in a truck' is because its owner (or previous owner) didn't treat it right.
I've owned my shovel for over forty years, do all the work on it, and can count on one hand the times it has ever needed roadside repair, let alone a ride home in a truck! They may not have all the bells and whistles of later model bikes but shovelheads are strong and durable, and that tractor engineering means even shade-tree johnnies like me can keep 'em running.
My Dad's love for motorcycles combined with his excellent mechanical skills resulted in what was more or less a side job for him repairing and maintaining the motorcycles of most of his friends and their friends in the small town where I grew up in rural Illinois. I would guess that the bartering system was often used in place of currency because despite our modest lifestyle there were a plethora of dirt bikes for my brother and I that made their way through our household when I was a kid from the likes of Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Honda in particular (thanks to the XR75 and my Dad being a fan of the brand) and of course a Hodaka. I believe that particular Hodaka was a Dirt Squirt with a gleaming chrome tank and it passed in and out of the garage fairly quickly. My only vivid memory of it was when my Dad put my brother on board for a ride. What was notable about this incident was that my brother couldn't touch the ground and had never ridden a bike with a real clutch before. (One of the bikes that took up semi-permanent residence in our garage was a Honda Z50 K1 "Mini-Trail" that featured an centrifugal clutch and was what my brother was still riding at the time.)
As soon as he let the clutch lever out without killing the engine and the bike began rolling my brother instantly forgot everything my Dad had told him. The site of my brother aboard the Hodaka riding along with my dad in tow on foot while the both of them were screaming was permanently etched into my brain that day. Luckily my brother couldn't shift into 2nd gear (or beyond) and eventually my Dad was able to talk, or shout as was the case, my brother through backing off of the throttle all while running after him. Fortunately my brother eventually slowed down and my Dad got him settled and stopped. Both decided that the one failed experiment was enough as far as my brother and the Dirt Squirt were concerned. Any memories of riding Dirt Squirt myself have long faded into nothing. But for me that lone memory of my brother aboard the Hodaka has been the gift that just keeps on giving over all the subsequent years.
Learned to ride on a Combat Wombat. I was thumbing my way across the US and some bikers picked me up in Missouri. They had a farm they all lived at and they decided I should learn to ride. After a basic tutorial on shifting and clutch use...off I went. Guys kept hollering for me to go faster and shift higher. They had a rudimentary trail carved out in a field. Faster and faster I went until I missed a turn and I disappeared into a ditch. They came running and found my under the upside down Wombat laughing my ass off. Best time in my life.
We lived in the 'burbs outside Boston, on a 1 mile dead end road that let to a decomissioned AF Nike missle base. Many trails behind that let to the Concord River. Somehow, I learned of an importer in Boston that was selling Raliegh Mopeds (50cc) for the pricely sum of $50.00. Soon there were many in the neighborhood, and we used to skip school and bus into Boston for parts from Luigi, the parts manager at Raliegh....GREAT times, and started my life long love affair with 2 wheels......
It’s been around 47 years since I heard the name Combat Wombat. First and only motorcycle I ever rode. And when I say rode, I mean flew off of. A friend, and one of the quintessential ‘cool kids’ (I mean, who was chucking the paper route and entering bike races back then? Man, we all wanted to wear those boots!) got into motocross and the Wombat was his ride. On his driveway one day, he told me to jump on and take it for a ride. Having ridden one of those ubiquitous mini-bikes before (green steel tubing, lawnmower engine), certainly I could handle this. Wasn’t really THAT much bigger. A quick twist of the throttle and the bike stood straight up and threw me off the back like a Brahma bull. In front of his equally cool girlfriend no less. Thanks for the memories. No, really. Thanks a lot.
My first motocrosser was a Super Rat. Great bike and quite a bargain as I recall. My AMA district did not have a class for 100cc machines, so I raced in the 125 class with only moderate success. After a year, I sold the SR and bought a Yamaha AT1-MX 125, which was more competitive, but not as fast as the then king of the MX hill, the Penton 125.
Another bike memory. I had a Montessa Cota 250 that was a mutt. It had an Aermacchi fork of a Harley 250, Kawasaki gas shocks, Bultaco seat, Yamaha plastic motocross tank and Yamaha front fender with a spark arrester that you could add or delete the baffles to tune the exhaust. A Wiseco piston and rod that was meant for a Kawasaki. It all somehow fit and was dirt reliable. I rode with a group of friends who had a 250 Honda, Suzuki RM250, Suzuki RM90 (I think), a CZ, a Husky 400, and a Maico 250. What a motely crew of bikes! We camped and most of those machines would be hard to start on those damp days in the mountains behind Santa Barbara but the Montessa would start without fail and wound up pull starting the Honda and the Suzukis.