I shot this snow covered pair of 450 Hondas on my way to work. They are my daily reminder of my own introduction to the world of motorcycles.
To give you a bit of history on these, this engine and basic layout first appeared in 1978 as the Honda CB400T. As far as Universal Japanese Motorcycles go it was hardly exciting for a new Honda model, with a pressed steel backbone frame, three valve parallel twin engine and dated flat seat styling.
In 1982 some significant upgrades happened with an extra 50cc and overdrive 6th gear. They also added swoopy cruiser styling, gave it a cool name and sales took off. I don’t know how many they sold, but when I was in high school it seemed that Nighthawks were everywhere.
Back to our subject photo, the bike on the right is a CB450SC Nighthawk. The combination of a wide silver stripe on the side cover and one piece cast aluminum wheels mean this is probably a 1983 model. The one on the left is quite a rare bird, a CB450S, the final 86-88 model where that bulletproof engine was given a more rigid perimeter frame and some sportbike cachet. Bit of a pity they’ve been unattended outside for at least a year.
I had a poster on my bedroom wall of all the 1983 Honda models, but my parents’ legendary patience ended with motorcycles. They were forbidden so long as I lived under their roof and I accepted that. When I got my first professional job in 1992 I moved to a small town three hours away. I had both free time and extra cash, so I scoured the Bike Trader in search of the 450 Nighthawk I’d admired from my poster. I found an immaculate 1985 model with very low miles, and borrowed a pickup and my friend Bill to bring it home.
Bill was sufficiently intrigued by the Nighthawk to buy himself a 500 Shadow, and we rode everywhere together. We rode in the evenings just for the sheer joy of it. We did weekend motorcycle trips where the goal was to get as far from home as possible and back in time for work Monday morning. I did 25,000 km during my first year of Nighthawk ownership.
Reaction to my choice of motorcycle was mixed, some people snickered at my “beginner bike”. While touring the Blue Ridge Parkway we struck up a conversation with some guys riding big touring Harleys, and they were incredulous: “You rode THOSE bikes all the way HERE?” But the words from a long time Triumph Bonneville rider were; “These are great little bikes, you can do anything with these.” Indeed, the Nighthawk could pretty much do everything; light touring, Interstate speeds, twisty roads, two up. However it struggled when asked to do everything at the same time. Two up at speed on twisty roads was not happening, so when the future Mrs DougD began accompanying me on trips I built a wish list for my next bike. Liquid cooling, shaft drive, hard bags and more power, which is how I wound up with a GL500 SilverWing. I put an ad in the paper and sold the Nighthawk for a couple of hundred less than I paid for it, not bad for three years and almost 50,000 km. It still looked and ran like new as it disappeared around the corner.
Although my own experience with 450 Hondas was temporarily over, whenever anyone asked me about how to get into motorcycling my stock answer was “get a 450 Nighthawk for $1500, ride for a year, then sell it for $1400 and buy what you really want”. About 50% of the people who proceeded to buy a bike after this conversation actually took my advice. I even wound up buying another 450 when my wife started riding, and doing maintenance and repairs on friends and relatives’ 450s. Even Bill and his heated garage got roped into the action, when we prepped a 450 for James and Margot.
The 450 Honda was a great bike to start riding, and more importantly to keep riding. Those who started out on 450 Honda Twins learned to ride, figured out what to get next, and ride to this day. Notable examples include:
Super Dave the Harley Guy (Seen here on his Epic Lap of North America)
Margot and James (Blue Ridge Parkway)
Mrs DougD (Paris Ontario)
And of course, Me (PA on the way home from Deal’s Gap)
The other 50% followed their dream more directly, and bought a new Harley or big sportbike right off the bat. Interestingly this group generally did not stick with motorcycling; they either had some sort of incident or lost interest within a couple of years, usually selling their dream bike at a significant loss.
By the mid 2000’s I had to retire my stock answer, because although $1500 Honda 450 Nighthawks were still available (as they remain so today) they were now 20+ years old and getting a bit long in the tooth, too needy for newbie motorcyclists. There are better options available now, although they usually cost more than $1500.
So what’s the lesson? That it’s better to sneak up on your dream in stages rather than tackle it head on?
I’ll stick with this: The Honda 450 Nighthawk wasn’t the first bike. It wasn’t the best bike. But it surely was the best first bike.
I find it very surprising that you got a 50% acceptance rate on your answer for first bike. In the 38 years I’ve been riding, I’ve lost count of how many people have asked me for advice on starting out . . . . . . . . and while they always listen to me closely, invariably I lose them when I mention, “for your first bike, you do NOT want a Harley or a Japanese 600cc or bigger sportbike.”
Because, invariably, that exactly what they want. Instant street cred and the ability to show off. Never mind that the skills are nowhere near there, and won’t be for at least a year and a couple of thousand miles.
In fact, I can remember exactly once when my advice was followed to the letter, by my favorite bartender at The Dog House, at that time Richmond’s only biker bar. I found her a nice 1990 NT650 Hawk . . . . . and until the Dog House closed down three years later, I drank for free.
Happily, the market, at least the younger generation, seems to be getting over their aversion for big bikes, and the 500’s and under are starting to make a comeback. At least I don’t have to listen to some know-it-all looking for his first bike hit me with, ”
I guess I’ll go for an R1, R6’s are girls bikes.” They look at your like your crazy when you tell them you owned a ZX-6R Ninja and got rid of it because it was too powerful, and too wired for daily use.
What Syke said in spades .
Those few who actually listen to the experienced Rider’s sage advice , will enjoy Motocycling more and not get hurt or scared and drop it soon .
During those conversations, I’ll point out that my first motorcycle was a new (leftover) ’75 Kawasaki G3-SS. 100cc two stroke street. Yeah, I outgrew it in less than four months, but I knew how to ride because I wasn’t overwhelmed by the bike. It was replaced by a ’72 CB350 twin. Which became my first cafe racer.
The looks on their faces that I actually rode a 100cc motorcycle on the street is priceless. The comment I’ll always remember, “Did you have to have a license and plates for it?”
I concur. My first bike was a 250 and I think I might have been better served with a 125-250 dirt bike. That’s is the other thing I add. Take your spills in the dirt. Normally softer than pavement. Then go to the 650and up bikes.
My first was a home built scooter, then a swoopy 50cc Honda, then a trail90, a 175 Yamaha Enduro, a 350 SL, 650 Yamaha and then 750 Norton Commando. You’re exactly right – my Road King is languishing in parts in the garage while most commute-type rides I do on an old 750 Virago. At my age, being able to whip around any grief is paramount. Plus, it is plenty fast to get away from road cagers, and I can rebuild it in a day. My days of week long field trips on a bike are long past. Too bad, as I really miss the camaraderie of camping on the road.
My first streetbike was a 2000 Honda Nighthawk 750, and I wouldn’t hesitate recommending it to anyone that has just graduated an MSF course. It’s sufficiently docile that it won’t bite, but it can do all the things you listed: two-up and quick in the twisties.
But when I see beginners out there on full-size Harleys, I cringe. And as a group ride leader, I’ve seen it all too often. I’m amazed at how many people that started out on Harleys who never get the chance to discover the pure joy of riding a light, quick and nimble bike…
What I’ll always remember is being in Daytona for Bike Week and watching the beginners wobbling down International Speedway Boulevard on their V-Star 650’s. Just got it last week, and have to be in Daytona because I’m a bad ass biker!
Another great first bike is a Yamaha Virago 535. I started out with that bike and then gave it to my wife as her first bike.
I started out on a Suzuki GS450, great bike, and worked my way up from there!
(https://www.curbsideclassic.com/cars-of-a-lifetime/coal-1980-suzuki-gs450-technically-a-moal-or-who-needs-four-wheels/) Yours is a good story and excellent advice, you are correct about those who start small vs those who jump into the deep end…
Got my feet wet with a 1966 305 Scrambler that was on it’s last legs. When it finally got so hard to shift my left shoe was tearing apart and the top of my toe was wearing thin, I found a great deal on a 1970 CB450 that only had about 15k on it the early 80’s. I road that thing everywhere and I was reliable as can be. Next bike was 1985 Yamaha 700 Maxim. High mile bike (65k) but ran perfectly. New paint and seat recover and it still runs great and looks almost new. Close to 85k now, no oil leaks,starts every time (unless it’s new battery time). Still feels odd the way it torque lifts around corners (shaft drive), but worth it not to have to mess with oily chain and sprockets. Can’t wait for the rain to stop, Mt Saint Helens here I come! Agree totally about starting small and stepping up, the best way to live to be an older rider.
I made the mistake of buying an 80s nighthawk a few years ago. I showed up, test drove it, it ran great. It was rough but cheap.
So I buy it, I get it home and after driving around for a while I notice the battery isnt charging. The prior owner hadn’t mentioned that little tidbit.
I looked around the interwebs and lucky me, I had bought one that had an engine that was only available for a single year so parts were scarce. I think it needed a stator but I ended up moving for work and sold the bike.
It was great fun until you came to a stop though.
you could’ve rewound the stator, eh!
My first cycle, at the the tender age of 13, was a dirt cheap 74 cb400f Super Sport. It was my dad’s and in great original condition. Then, he got another motorcycle and I got the Honda. It was a great duel-sport bike. I could run it down the many trails of our 30 acres of property or pop out on the highway for an easy 70mph cruise. It was a damn good bike and I kick myself everyday for selling it.
I’d love to have that bike today. Classic look too.
A good friend of mine had one just like it when we were teens. His was stolen one or two years after he bought it. That was probably the best looking bike Honda ever made. I’m serious.
Ok, here’s my dilemma, which is alluded to in the last little bit of this article: what then is the equivalent today? I want to get my first bike; I wish it could be a 450 but logic really says buying a now 25+y/o bike is ridiculous. So, what bike should I look at? Similar size/weight/cost/resale value…
If you’re willing to look new, Honda’s come out with a magnificient line of 250’s and 500’s. Used (10 years or less) is going to be hard, as that’s the height of the “small bikes are for children” attitude. Probably your best best will be 535 and 650 Yamaha cruisers (the 535 is a physically small bike, the 650 is the 535 bored out and put on a full sized cruiser frame), the 650 single Suzuki cruiser (easy to handle, but gutless unless you mess with the carb in a non-EPA compliant manner).
For that vintage I’ll definitely point you in a cruiser direction. Sport bikes were at the height of their performance, and virtually nobody was building a ‘soft’ version.
Also look for a 250 dual sport. They’ve always stayed in all the manufacturer’s product lines.
What’s working against you is the concept that a 600cc, 100+ hp sport bike is a “beginner” bike. Well, it was good for the parts department. We sell lots of bodywork.
Great article DougD. Good points all and so true. Start small and move up. Back in 1976, my first bike was a Kawasaki KS125, dual purpose, 2 stroke. Lots of fun. Moved up thru the ranks of bigger dual purpose with the Honda XL500 4 stroke and then CB550, CB750 and finally the Harley Electra Glide.
Funny though, thru all the years I have ridden bikes, no one, not one person has asked me for bike buying advice. Go figure.
Well, I started on a Bridgestone 90 before moving up to my “big” Yamaha 305 🙂
I took the MSF basic rider course and got my endorsement last fall. Now I’m about ready to buy a bike. People who have Suzuki TU250s seem to love them. It looks like a perfect first bike and is on my list. But I keep checking Craigslist for mint Honda CB400s.
@ Ross and Jeremiah: Today’s equivalent to this bike is probably not a 450. I echo what Syke says but add a recommendation. Buy new and ride it for a year. Get proficient before you upsize. There are late model equivalents of this bike in the 450 size range. The suzuki 500 of just a few years ago started as a 450. Think the Kaw 500 also but may be a different design.
What makes sense though is a dual purpose 250 neighborhood new bike. I learned a lot more skills in the dirt and was playing a lower stakes game. A mistake on the street can frequently be deadly. Better chances in the dirt.
Set on a bunch of new ones. I suspect that one will stand out in comfort and the ergonomics of the controls. Some clutches may feel better than others. So long as it is street legal and moderately off road worthy it’s pretty hard to make a mistake. By the time you are ready to shop for your long term bike you will be ready. Since riders come in all sizes and shapes so do bikes. One persons junk is another’s treasure.
Thanks Lee. I like the idea of a dual purpose, but the fact is I’ll be on the street 99% of the time commuting and making day trips around Puget Sound. I’m going to try out the Honda CBR500F, Suzuki TU250, and Yamaha SR400.
I rode a Honda Nighthawk for the MSF course. The gearshift was balky and it felt buzzy but it was a training bike so it was probably beat.
I’d say the closest equivalent these days are the Suzuki GS500 & Kawi EX500 Ninja. Cheap, plentiful and scoffed at, but will get the job done.
Honda ignored the beginner market for decades and has got back in late, but a used CBR250 is a good choice too.
Syke, my 50% advice uptake may have been because I was probably the only motorcycle rider these people knew, so they didn’t get any other advice. There’s probably some cultural difference being in Canada too, the patriotic factor in buying a Harley isn’t present.
Thanks for a cool BOAL Doug.
This bike is also on my list, Cleveland Cyclewerks Misfit 250.
Great story Doug. You will be glad to know that while I love my Harley, I also still recommend new riders start on an old Honda 450, or as you suggest the more modern equivalent GS500. But I don’t get nearly the uptake you did. Everybody wants to be a badass.
It’s a shame though. New riders don’t really know what they want in a new machine and miss the opportunity to just learn to ride, have fun and do it easily.
Keep up the good stories!
I just got a 1982 hawk 450 this spring and am loving it even though it has some carb problems.
Great write up. I have such great affection for Honda twins of the 60s and 70s. I started riding on an old Honda 50 scrambler (C110 Super Cub) that my Dad brought home one night. Traded up to a Honda CB160 CB77 305 Superhawk CB450 and SL350. These little twins (actually I hate to call them “little”. except for the 160 they saw lots of pre-55 mph freeway travel and touring). They were great performers and required little maintenance and drama. And you really learn how to wring out all the performance possible out of these smaller motors. After years of riding big bikes and Harleys I bought a beater 750 Virago as a project. I found it delightful to ride a smaller and lighter machine. I think a smaller bike would be a good way for a former rider to re enter the hobby.
My first bike, at the age of 10, was a 1964 Honda sport 50. Red with a chrome gas tank and a two tone, black and white, seat. My feet barely reached the ground and I fell over a lot and got strong picking it up. From there I had a string of Hondas each a little bigger than the previous, until I switched to Harleys about 15 years ago.
Interesting discussion. A friend of mine is off tomorrow to pickup a nice 82 450sc. It is interesting to see the progression of bikes owened by responders. I started with a 100cc yamaha twin 2 stroke ringadingdingding. Even rode it once on a highway trip (1969). Quickly moved to a yamaha 350 and then Honda 350’s. My favorite bike ever was the SL 350 Honda and I would like another one, but a good one is $4000 plus now. I guess a few other riders must like them too. Other bikes I have passed through; Honda cb and cl (but the SL is much bettrr), CB-160, sl-125 fun, virago 750 (red/cream beautiful), bmw f650gs (great balance, stiff xmission). I now own 2 GZ-250 Suzuki ‘s and a 2001 – W650 Kawasaki. I do believe that a new rider is best served with a 250cc machine and I will always keep a GZ 250 for general around town riding as well as a campsite and exploring bike on vacation road trips. I find the Suzuki GZ 250 to be very reliable, simple and easy to ride. For a new rider I recommend 2000 miles and a season on the 250 before trying something else (but keep the GZ 250, you will find you often pick it over the larger machine for a quick trip in town). After a year and 2000 miles of learning, you will have a much better idea of what you would like next. – Dan-
I ended up here because I was looking for a review for the Honda Nighthawk 450. I started with a CBR 125R and currently have a CBR 250R. While a lot of my peers are looking for a faster sport bike, I’m looking for a different type of bike for beginners. I don’t think that you have to retire your stock advice when there are new riders like myself who are in the market for these classic bikes. Good article. 🙂
The Nighthawk 450 was my first bike at 16, purchased back in 1990 for $500 with 10k miles. That bike took me everywhere through high school and college, summers and winters and never gave me any issues, then sat at my parents house for a number of years as I upgraded to bigger and cooler bikes as it was just a “beginner”. Have had probably 10 bikes since then including a Kawaskai zl900, 2 ninja 600’s, ninja 1000, Yamaha R1, and lastly a honda shadow 750 as my wife wanted me to slow down with the kids. All that time the Nighthawk had taken a back seat and was only driven about 500 miles per year, but waited patiently. After all this time this is the only bike I have held on to and also the ONLY one that has NEVER been to the shop. Regular maintenance and it just starts year after year (never even a carb clean).
I almost sold it back in the early 90’s for a 500 bucks and the purchaser was concerned with the typical 450 engine tick. Said the engine wouldn’t last another year. Well 25 years and 20k later it is still going strong. So glad it didn’t sell.
Not the coolest or fastest bike around, but will never leave you stranded.
“It’s more fun to drive a slow bike fast than a fast bike slow”
My first street bike was a new 82 450 nighthawk, I loved that bike,but had to trade it in on a jeep when my daughter was born. I’ve had many bikes since then, but now I’m back to my favorite, the versatile 450
purchased a 1982 cb450 nighthawk, 160 greenbacks… 6 milk crates of parts, been running it for a few years now.. most impressed, I used to laugh a t these back in the day but I was surely wrong. My first bike 1973 Yamaha rd 60 rode that to kingdom come and back, ending up with a 2nd one at the same time period , 2nd 1973 Honda 350 4. 3rd 1979 Kawasaki sr 650, 4th 81 Kawasaki csr 1000, 5th1982 Kawasaki kz 1300… the list goes on
Well it seems I’m not the first to have a 82 450 nighthawk as a first bike. Actually just picked it up a few weeks ago for $800. Runs perfectly, not all banged up brake lines are solid and suspension is nice. Only problem is its the ugliest shade of blue I’ve ever seen. And the clutch cable broke the day I got it. I only just bought a new one 3 days ago so I could start learning to ride. Coincidently my chevy took a shit the same day. So I had to learn real fast. My trek to work is 30 miles each way all highway with multiple steep bridges. What I can gather though from the last 3 days of riding though is that I don’t want a bigger bike. This one handles beautifully is fast enough for me. Actually I’m too scared to open up the throttle so far. But it’s got as much power as my beetle and only a quarter of the weight. I just can’t understand why people want 100 hp on 2 wheels it’s insane. Anyways when I get much much more experienced I’m intending to ditch the nighthawk look and make it a cafe racer. I have a thing for small cc vintage bikes more than I have a thing for speed so I doubt I’ll ever buy a brand new bike. Plus when will I ever need to go over 100mph? I think it’s being a great first bike for me and probably forever one of my bikes. Then again I’m only 21 maybe my tastes will change… but I doubt it.
My first bike was (and still is) a 1982 CB450SC Nighthawk. I am 55 and decided to cross an item off of my bucket list – learn to ride a motorcycle. I did, and my 2 lovely daughters rewarded me with the Nighthawk. It only cost $550. It was a rattlecan blue and had just over 21,000 miles. I remember asking the owner, “I am 6’3″ and 240 pounds. Is this bike too small for me?” He answered, “I am 6’4″ and 230 pounds. You’ll be fine.” I drove up, rode it around the parking lot and bought it.
I only rode less than 500 miles the first season because I bought it in September and by November riding season is pretty much over. I took it to a Honda mechanic that I found to have the clutch cable and chain and sprokets replaced. Also there was a rattling sound when it ran (turned out to be cam chain not adjusted). The big news came when he told me that both carbs needed to be rebuilt. Apparently the bike was running off of 1 cylinder. The jet in 1 carb was completely plugged. The mechanic said he really didn’t know how the bike was even running. Oh…I also changed the oil when the shifting gears started acting funny. Learned that lesson. These bikes have a “wet clutch” and if you ignore the oil change, you will suffer. Changed the oil (the old oil was like black water) and in no time at all, started to shift just fine again.
So I got my bike back: total cost about $535 for rebuilt carbs, new clutch cable, new plugs and caps, cam chain adjustment, inline fuel filter and new air cleaner. Boy what a difference!!!! I drove her home in 36 degree weather and didn’t even notice. The mechanic said, “She’s got some snap to her now.” Yes she did!
Moral of the story? LOVE MY NIGHTHAWK!! I feel a little cramped in the legs at times, but nothing I can’t live with. Plenty of power for me and handles like a dream. Good for taller guys with a 31″ seat height. It is a standard bike, so not really forward controls like a cruiser, but not uncomfortable. Yea – I will never get rid of my night hawk. I am painting it this winter to the original cranberry/wine color and putting the original decals back on (aftermarket). I can’t wait to show her off come spring! I also learned that Honda’s are bulletproof. Maintain them and they just keep going and going. Hmmmm…I wonder of the energizer bunny is Japanese?
Nighthawks are excellent bikes. My last bike was a BMW K1200LT – big tourer. And I rode a friends’ Gold Wing to keep it running while he recuperated from some back surgery. Those are nice, but they are BIG. In slow speeds, they are unforgiving and unwieldy. So I had to sell the BMW in a divorce. I was tired of the big barges anyway. No desire for sport bikes or touring really anymore. I have done all that I want to do. Around 50K miles Fair weather rider, etc. Wife & I like to tour in a car, where we can have the temperature perfect and can converse freely. A small bike to commute and bomb back roads was in order. So….
My uncle had bought some 250 nighthawks at an auction for state surplus. He bought 4 and sold 3 of them. Gave me the last one which was missing some parts. Having taught MSF classes for 15 years, I am thoroughly familiar with these, so I have replaced the parts and have a licensed, insured, running bike with 5800 miles for less than $100. And it is an absolute hoot on the country roads and decent as a commuter with a tankbag. Not anywhere near fast or necessarily pretty. No one is going to covet my bike, but it will serve a puprose til I decide what of if I want to move to something else.
I got an 83 CB450SC as my first bike. Learned to ride then got a VF500F2. Learned to track ride on that then sold it to get an RC36 VFR. Rode it, tracked it, rode it some more, modded it, tracked it and still have it. Now I’m working on my first RC30 project. A ZXR-750RR, Duc 916, R6 have all seen me come and go and now I’m rebuilding the old CB450SC with my nephew so he can learn on it.
Best first bike ever, so I kept it. It and the VFR are permanent fixtures.
Just want to thank DougD for the original magazine worthy post. I am 51 and haven’t been on two wheels since 1987, so essentially looking for a first bike again. The current top 3 list is as follows: 1. ’88 and up Honda VLX 600; the styling has captured my heart and low seat height and manageable weight and tame engine seem to be a fit for me. 2. ’90s and up Yamaha V-Star 650 Custom, has 5 speeds over the VLX’s oddball 4 speed, 32lbs heavier and a few CCs. 3. Just added to the list the 450 Nighthawk – the love on the board for this bike is contagious and seems well reasoned. Hope to see you all on the road soon.
Great article! When I was 18 I bought a CM 450 Honda. Probably ….no… DEFINITELY one of the best first bikes ever.
She could out run most cars, run forever with little maintenence (and what little maintenence there was i could do myself), and could do mile after mile eagerly. Great gas mileage and comfortable.
But you know what these little 450s had that really was wonderful? Freedom. The combination of reliability, comfort, gas mileage, and “fun to ride” made it the perfect motorcycle to just get on and go.
I have a cbr1100xx right now thatll do 155mph with a gear left and the 30 year riding journey couldnvt have had a better first date. Thanks for bringing back sweet memories!
I have the opportunity to buy a 1982 Nighthawk 450 with 3000 miles. Not running but engine is not locked up. Cost is $220. Is this a no-brainer as I told my wife? I’ve had all bikes, Ninjas, Harley Street Glides, etc. Thought this would be a fun project to restore for a weekend rider in the neighborhood.
Definitely a no brainer to buy the cb450 for $220!! Definitely a fun week end rider for the neighborhood. I have an 86 cb450 myself
A 1985 Nighthawk 450 was my third bike. I remember the purchase price was $1649 new. I rode that bike nearly 80,000 miles, living in New York City, grad school in West Virginia, to a job in Ohio. I took it through Canada to the north Maine woods, and across more than a dozen states in the northeast, Midwest and south. Great bike that never felt underpowered, delivered 65 MPG and was comfortable enough for 600 mile days (I was much younger then.) When kids came I gave up riding, but my 21 year-old son just got his motorcycle license. I bought him a 2005 Honda 250 nighthawk to get his feet wet, and a 2006 250 Kawasaki Ninja for when he wants to ride a little harder. I’ve been riding both bikes, and I’ve got to admit, though the Ninja has nearly twice the horsepower, disc brakes, cast wheels and liquid cooling to the Nighthawk’s spokes and drums, I prefer the nighthawk. The handlebar and seat are more accommodating and it will do 80 if you are willing to twist the throttle. I’ve done 200+ mile days on both of them and I wouldn’t hesitate to cross a state or two with a backpack and some soft luggage. I bought each for less than $2000. I don’t need a bigger bike, but this article took me back to when it was, “good to be a young man and to live the way you please, because a young man is the king of every kingdom that he sees.” Thanks Billy Joel.
OMG- Honda twins… I’ve had many. An SL175, and SL350, a CB400 (or two), a CB450, a CM400, and even a CM450 Hondamatic. While my first street bike was a CX500D, I can respect and appreciate the 400-450 twins as a great first bike, short commuter, thrasher or two lane explorer. I’ve taught several people to ride on old Honda twins, as they are as forgiving as the are indestructible. Did I mention easy to work on? Pretty girlfriend just picked up a well-used 450 nighthawk and I intend to restore it to its former sexiness before I teach her to ride. Next spring, we’ll be embarking on two-lane adventures all over Northern California.
My fist street bike was a 450 nighthawk. The most fun I had riding through the Ouachita mouni in Arkansas were I grew up. I think your advice is spot on. Loved that little bike.keep on riding.
Just bought a 86 450 Nighthawk in pristine condition with 10,000 miles on it. I am 64 and just learning to ride. Of course I rode a Honda back in highschool. Small bike. Can’t remember much about it. However, I really enjoy riding this bike. I plan on taking the class next week. I must confess I’m still a little nervous on this thing but not as nervous as I was the first day I got it which was about a week ago. Anyway, I thought I’d go ahead and get my feet wet and start talking to you guys about the 450 Nighthawk. I really absolutely love this bike so much I gave her a name. Amanda… Grant F.
I just bought an 82 Nighthawk 450 after reading this. Couldn’t have been more satisfied. It is my first bike and it will probably be in my care forever. Thanks for the advice everyone!!
That’s wild, my very first bike was an ‘86 CB450SC Nighthawk bought from a friend for $900. Did everything I asked of it, I would say it rode it until the wheels fell off, but still ran when I traded it to a friend for services rendered (a cross country trip to pick up a 919 Hornet, I rode it home while they followed). Parts were definitely getting a little hard to find by the mid 2010’s – I had some cobbled together bits like a different speedo, chrome fender from an earlier year, and had to rig up a ‘unique’ starting system which consisted of a flat blade screwdriver sticking out of the key cylinder (had to show my paperwork a few times with that one).
Now I’m onto an ‘88 Hawk GT, but if I ever want to relive my CB days, I would look to a CB900F/1100F
I have been riding a 76 Honda Trail 90 for the past four years. I have ridden it many many miles with a group of other small Honda enthusiasts. I just finally got a bigger bike. A 1986 450 Nighthawk with 678 miles all for $350. Someone let it sit in a shed wasting away and I have brought it back to life. It runs great!😃
Well, I started on a Bridgestone 90 before moving up to my “big” Harley 🙂
My first motorcycle experience, way back when (1987) was a couple days on my brother’s 70’s Kawasaki KZ400. In the rain. Even though I was soaked and freezing, it was enough to whet my appetite, so a few months later, I bought the one-year only 1983 CB550SC Nighthawk. I rode that bike for about 2 years and then traded up to the sportier 650 Nighthawk. Sold that to my brother in 1994… and then stopped riding. Fast forward to last week when I bought a 1983 Suzuki GS650G on BaT. It’s not here yet (shipping cross country), but I’m super excited to get back on two wheels.
I agree that the 450 Nighthawk was a great first bike at the time you started. Had I not started with that KZ400, I’m not sure if I ever would have bought my Nighthawks or the Suzuki. Of course, those are now 30 years old. Today’s best first bikes for cheap (cheap being a relative term of under $5,000) are probably dual sports.