A Needle in a Haystack
While on a camping trip in the sparsely populated forests of Northern Wisconsin, roughly 20,000 people within 1,000 square miles, I stumbled upon two jewels of motorama. The first was a lovely museum dedicated to all things petroleum.
It was obviously named the “Northwoods Petroleum Museum” located in Three Lakes, Wisconsin. There is no entry fee to view this interesting collection, although they do accept donations. The second was a large gathering of obscure machinations the likes few had seen before. From steam powered watercraft to a period limo stretched International Scout, many sorts of motorabilia were represented. Quietly nestled amongst the crowd, strapped in the back of a very well kept El Camino, was a very small and intriguing racing motorcycle that I came to know as the Honda CB50R. This piqued my interest and was to me, the star of the show. How I managed to stumble across this cornucopia of mechanical oddities in the middle of the woods is beyond me. All I could tell was that these forest folk had good taste.
This racing machine was introduced in 2004 as an homage to Honda’s 50cc racer from 1962, the RC110. That was Honda’s first effort in the new 50cc class in the Federation of International Motorcycling. The RC110 was capable of over 90mph! Quite an achievement from 50cc’s. My 1977 Motobecane Mobylette 50v struggles to wheeze past 30mph, 35mph downhill... with a tailwind… while being piloted by the ghost of the former owner. Honda’s 50cc’s is not meant for any leaf blower. Jumping back to 2004, The CB50R boasts much of the same and was made available to anyone who wanted to go fast while keeping the economy that comes with small displacement.
The CB50R boasts 7hp from a single cylinder, 4-stroke, 50cc engine. The engine is built with gear driven, dual overhead cams, four valves, 11:1 compression ration, and twin exhaust ports, allowing it to spin past 13,500rpm. By mating the engine with a six speed transmission, the CB50R can be pushed past 70mph. And pushing this bike is a must, as it is required to get it started. No electric or kick start is included with this bike. Which is not so bad considering that this bike weighs less than a prepubescent boy, first chest hair and all . At 156 lbs dry, the CB50R can be thrown just about anywhere you want it. While the 2004 CB50R had similar performance to the Kawasaki Ninja 250r of the same year, at $5,500USD, the Honda cost twice as much. However, I would argue that it is three times as fun. Good value for money in my book.
Back in the Woods
This particular Honda, neatly strapped in the back of the mullet of automobiles, lives its life in suspended animation. It was presented at the Northwoods Petroleum Museum by the owner’s husband. It was sent from Japan to a Honda showroom outside of Detroit, Michigan. It was purchased with zero miles on it. Today, the odometer shows… zero. Despite the cool, despite the meticulous engineering, despite the curiosity, this bike has never tasted that sweet, high octane gasoline. The husband gleefully boasts that not a drop of fuel has entered the tank. Which leaves me a bit conflicted. The Honda CB50R is definitely something to behold. It does well as decoration or art. But, will that be spoiled if it turns a wheel in anger? The owner may never know as they only intend to look at the bike and nothing more.
One For The Road
Honda only made 440 of these machines, so few tend to pop up for sale. The most recent sale was seen in April of 2016. Another zero mile example listed to an online auction site with a “Buy It Now” price of $4,699USD. Many other CB50R’s found for sale a few years back, seem to be advertised for around the same price. That price range will net many solid motorcycles in the used market. However, few may be as interesting or as highly engineered. If readers are able to grab one for themselves, be sure to get it out on the road. These bikes will surely draw a crowd, especially after passing someone on the highway while screaming “ It’s only 50cc’s!”