Exactly 50 years after learning to ride on a red 1967 Honda CL90, I’ve come to realize that almost everything I really needed to know about motorcycles came through this humble 8-hp street scrambler. Flash back to June 1970 and America’s motorcycle boom was on. Honda’s CB750 Four had debuted, European and Japanese dirt bikes flooded ashore, and bike magazines hit the newsstands rapid-fire.
Months of appealing and pleading, backed by decent scholastics and a demonstrable work ethic sealed the deal. Dad steered me not toward a Hodaka or Yamaha, but Honda’s Scrambler 90—bought used for $200. In hindsight, no machine better matched this skinny 16-year-old. That bike took me 18,000 in 18 months, conferring a lifetime skillset.
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I wish I had started riding as a young man as you did. The knowledge of our invincibility as a teen will often allow for more of the "learning lessons" you described. Once we gain age and supposedly the wisdom to not attempt the things you describe, the opportunity can be gone. I have wheelied and jumped bicycles, but have never intentionally done so on a motorcycle. At age 63, I have missed a lot, but am glad to still be riding!
Nice article. I too learned a ton from my early motorcycle experiences. When I was 12 I begged my Dad to let me buy the neighbor's Kawasaki 90. I remember pushing it home, not knowing anything about motorcycles, memorizing the owners manual, waiting semi-patiently for my Dad to buy oil, gas and a spark plug, getting it running for the first time, then figuring out how to make it go. I had some help from the neighbor kid I bought it from, but I didn't give up and learned to ride it, and take care of it. It was a ton of fun.
My first real motorcycle was also a 1969 Honda CL-90 (had previously owned a lawn mower engine mini bike) I bought the Honda for $75 in 1972 the rear hub was trashed the rubber inserts for the cush drive had worn out causing the dividers in the hub to break I learned a lot about motorcycle repair and riding from that little Honda (little to me now) . 48 years later the love of and passion for motorcycles is still there!
I started with a bonanza minibike with a three horse Tecumseh , later upgraded to a five horse Briggs & Stratton. My pop refused to let me buy a street bike so when I turned 18 I bought a CB 750 , a Red 1971 with only 1300 miles on it! I had the good fortune to ride with an “old guy” mid To late 30s who pounded into me :ride as if you are invisible, don’t race against cars, and save the tricks for the track. I have putover 500,000 miles on various motorcycles over the years this is what’s kept me alive.
I also started at a young age, 12 years old riding my dad's trail 55 Honda. My first bike was a Suzuki 120 I paid $200 for in 1970. I also did a LOT of "dumb" things, but survived so far. Now at 65 I'm riding my 1979 Yamaha XS11 SF, and have over 1 million miles on two wheels.
I started out with a Yamaha 60 and quickly graduated to a Honda 160 twin. About 1968 I crashed into an Olds and nearly died. Since I have had close to 50 Motorcycles, all of them I have enjoyed for over Half a Million Miles. I loved hearing your story. Even in Old Age I still have a Modified 1200 Sportster.
Thanks for the article, and great pictures. I also own a red , CL90 (1968) which I enjoyed restoring from a banged up wreck to a similar condition to yours.I actually owned a black 1965 Super 90 in 1967 which was my first bike. My other friends had small bike too, which we rode in the hills above our high school, as well as around town. We had a lot of fun on those bikes and I remember mine fondly.
I started on bikes when in 1965 my parents "insisted" I get a Sears Compact motor scooter which my mother. while I was gone took to do some shopping and wrecked it. They got my money back and I went to the Honda shop and bought a CL-50 C110 new for $195. It took me here and there for almost a year. After that I got my first Sport 90 for $436.80 and I promptly wrecked it 3 days later when I went off the road avoiding a huge dog. The Honda dealer needed parts and mine became a parts bike as he gave me another for an extra $100. I had two more S-90's before I got a car. Then the military came and while in it I had a Yamaha 125 and sold it later on when I got another car. Bikes stopped for a while until I got on a CL350 and on the way home a spark plug came been helixed in and came out. I traded that back and got another one. After that another LD360 until I had kids. While living in Key West I purchased a super bike at the time, a CL400F and rode it in Key West and when I moved to Puerto Rico. While there it was a death defying act to ride it in their traffic and more than once I had to perform some pretty snazzy driving to keep from getting killed. Then the day came when I went end over end, busted my collar bone and the bike ended up on top of me with little hurt on it, but I was hurt. After a few weeks and with 3 daughters and a wife depending on me, I grew up and sold the bike. The desire is still there but the big head says no now days.
Fun article. I started on a Yamaha DT2 at age 20. Oh the lessons...
"There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves." - Will Rogers
Great article. Growing up I rode a 1968 Honda CT 70. 13-16 years of age. It represented freedom for me at that time. Then my car came. A new love.
The CT-70 sat for 20 years, then It came into my hands again....mice all through it. All I did was clean up the carb, and taped up the electrical lines and after about 5 kicks it started. My face, I’m sure lite up again with pure pressure. I’m now teaching my 3 kids how to Ride and the Honda. It just keeps going and going. Amazing. Thanks.
Awesome article and pictures from your past! As a young boy (11 or 12) 50 years ago I loved riding a little Honda motorcycle (don't recall model, only 2 speed I think?) around my uncles lawn. It was fast enough to learn on, and especially on wet grass it taught us how to and how not to turn quickly or speed in corners. As an adult I have owned several motorcycles mostly dirt bikes used just as pleasure rides. Still own my 1970 Kawasaki Big Horn.