Birth of the superbike

2y ago


When Honda first entered the US motorcycle market in 1959, it was already the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world. Renowned for mobilizing the masses via small and lightweight motorbikes, Honda faced a major hurdle with the American market.

I'm gonna wake you up early cause I'm gonna take a ride with you. We're goin' down to the Honda shop, I'll tell you what we're gonna do. Put on a ragged sweatshirt, I'll take you anywhere you want me to.

The Beach Boys, 1964

American motorists of the period, as today, tend to waft towards powerful, unsophisticated machines. Motorcyclists were no different. In a market awash with domestic boulevard bruisers and the occasional sprightly English runabout, Honda was struggling to win over anyone outside of The Beach Boys. It would take more than a "Little Honda" to take on the likes of Harley-Davidson and Triumph.

Designed to take on the US full-size motorcycle market in 1969, the SOHC CB750 Four remained in production for 9 soul-stirring years.

Hedging its bets by permanent mold casting the first run of 1969 engines (erroneously referred to as "sandcast"), the 1969 CB750 exploded onto the market on a wave of smooth and effortless torque. The transverse overhead cam inline 4-cylinder engine, a first for a mass-produced production motorcycle, provided more than adequate acceleration. The hydraulic front disk brake, a rarity for the time, promised a safe and stable stop.

The surprising features didn't end there. Dry sump oil system, four carburetors, five-speed gearbox, electric start, 12 V electrics, flashing indicators, full instrumentation: Honda's engineers were determined to impress the way they knew best. Through barefaced innovation.

The CB750's beating heart. The 736 cc SOHC inline-4 was a revolution in motorcyle engine design. Transverse inline-4's may be commonplace today, but they owe it all to the success of the CB750.

The CB750 Four garnered a reputation as a jack of all trades, master of none. Capable of effortless highway cruising or canyon carving, the CB750 was sporty, dependable, and stylish. In a flash, a new era of motorcycle design had begun.

It was the birth of the superbike.

The 1975 CB750F0 launched with a host of upgrades: rear hydraulic disk brake, domed pistons, 4-into-1 exhaust, shorter gearing, and a fiberglass tail.

The CB750 Four grew and changed over its 9 year production run. Minor year-to-year styling tweaks and the introduction of an all new Super Sport model in 1975, The CB750F, kept the CB750 competitive in the increasingly crowded class it had single-handedly created.

All told, the CB750 has left an indelible mark on the motorcycling community. To this day surviving CB750's are revered as legends. Whether as a babied survivor, a revamped café racer, an old-school chopper, or anywhere in-between, the Honda CB750 Four is a monument to engineering excellence.

I'm quite proud of mine.

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