(first posted 9/9/2012) In 1968, a year before coming out with the CB750, Honda introduced the bike that would become America’s all-time best-seller. The CB350 sold over 300,000 bikes during its five-year run, and as far as I can determine, no bike since has touched those sales numbers. An important contributing factor to that record was that it was offered in street bike, scrambler, and on/off road versions: Whatever you wanted to do, one of these bikes was ready and willing to take it on. This picture is of the CB350, which was the most popular variant, but, at least in my opinion, not the best one.
I don’t know of any races that this bike won, but winning races wasn’t its reason for being. Its mission was to provide reliable transportation while entertaining its rider. Well, it surely entertained this one. Let me explain…
I became acquainted with the Honda 350 in 1971. I was in Vietnamese-language school at Fort Bliss, in El Paso. Before I left Maryland for Texas, I sold my bike and bought a truck, which I intended to fill up with a dirt bike once I got there. I dropped by Yamaha and Kawasaki dealers, but the bikes that caught my attention lived at Honda. Honda had just introduced this little jewel (SL175) of a four-stroke twin.
I knew this bike wasn’t quite as good off-road as the two-stroke singles. However, I was certain that any bike I owned was going to get a lot of use both on- and off-road. I took the seat of the 350 and… bummer. For this bike I needed longer legs. Next I tried the 175 and found it a perfect fit. A couple of times around the block was enough to convince me it had all the motor I needed. I had learned the beauty of compromise: It was a twin of the bike above. I put about 6,000 (mostly off-road) miles on my bike during the 35 weeks I spent learning Vietnamese.
So what’s a 175 anecdote doing in an article about the 350, you ask. Read on. Anyway, I had a good buddy who was also in my Vietnamese class. I am certain that each of us was the one that the other’s parents had warned him about. We will call him Tom. Actually, his name was Walter but his Japanese wife couldn’t pronounce it without great difficulty. Tom wanted a bike and he had longer legs than I (then again, so does your kid sister).
Anyway, Tom loved the 350. This bike is identical to his. We made our choices for different reasons, but both of us were happy with our bikes and besides, there really wasn’t much his could do that mine couldn’t. Sure, his bike accelerated faster on the highway, but there were things only mine could do thanks to its lighter weight. We covered a lot of miles on those bikes, most of them in the desert. Both bikes were five-speed twins with dual carbs. His pulled 36 horsepower, versus 20 for mine.
This bike is the street scrambler. Frankly, I never could see any reason to have one. It’s a street bike with upswept pipes riding on tires with more aggressive tread. If you’re taking one off-road, you had better not challenge it much. The pipes keep it from being hung on smaller stuff, and a skidplate (fit your own) would make it a little more versatile. It was better on the street than the SL models, but much worse in the dirt. Pretty worthless, in my opinion, but it sold well.
Just to show that they could do it again, Honda came out with the CL175. I can’t remember anyone who owned one, but someone, somewhere must have.
Pure street, though. If you were headed off-road, you’d best take along a friend with a rope. A classmate of mine proved so in the desert.
Some of the men in my class were Navy Seals. One of them owned a CB175 like this. If I recall correctly, he rode it home to Virginia from Texas after school ended, and then from Virginia to California. His only problem during the trip occurred in Mississippi. He’d parked outside a local bar and the ground wouldn’t hold the kickstand. The bike fell over, cracking the case on a rock while he was inside. He made the repair with J-B Weld and continued the trip.
Actually, that repair is the only part of this story I know to be true. There had been no J-B Weld on the bike in Texas, but in California, there it was. You probably had to know him. Sometimes a brain is not a sailor’s highest-functioning body part, although this one was pretty cool.
I hurt myself only once, and the bike was stolen only once. Yes, those two events are connected. I was in the desert, doing my best Evel Knievel impersonation. (In the interest of full disclosure, this is not actually me.) I approached a dune, looked it over, and then went back to build up enough speed to jump it. When I reached the top I saw a large pit that on the other side, one I couldn’t clear. At that point I learned some things I could only have imagined before: When you bottom out, chances are you will bend handlebars before wheels; You can get a bike out of a pit, even with a stiff leg, if it will run; Good liquor makes bad pain tolerable; and finally, you can ride a considerable distance while standing on an unbending leg–if you must.
Under the heading of things to be grateful for, the hole hadn’t been a latrine. I couldn’t ride for a spell and the bike was parked outside the barracks. One night someone took it. The MP’s recovered it and the insurance fixed it. Honda didn’t have a stock wheel so I was given one off a CL.
At the time I had a larger rear sprocket put on the bike. That reduced my top speed but made the bike much more desert-ready. There were a group of us who fooled around in the desert and the gearing made my bike as bad there as some twice its size. Let’s not talk about the highway.
There’s one more story I have to relate. My friend Tom decided his bike would make a good cruiser. After graduation from language school, I was on leave in Kansas and Tom in Arizona. He decided to come visit me before we went to California. Wanted to see the museum in Dodge City, if I remember correctly. The SL350 was geared too low to make a good highway bike. It vibrated quite a bit and his header pipe broke. It was pretty loud by the time he got to Kansas.
No problem, you say–throw it in the back of the truck and go. Good idea, but by this time I’d decided that going to Vietnam made it a good idea to have a disposable vehicle. I had sold my truck and bought a ’61 VW. I did have a trailer hitch (which, looking back, was a costly mistake). We went to a welding shop that welded a pipe the size of his axle to the top of a trailer ball. It looked a little bit like this. The pipe was long enough that we pulled the wheel, bolted the forks to the pipe, and then attached tie-downs to the bumper. The bike went back to Arizona and on to California behind my little bug. I kept its front wheel in my back seat during the entire trip.
Well, enough sea stories. Honda sleeved the 350 down to a 250 for sale in England, ostensibly to keep the cost of rider permits and insurance in a lower bracket. You must read the badges to tell them apart.
In 1974, the 350 was replaced by the totally different 360, which stuck around until 1976.
However, the real replacement for the CB350 was the CB350-4, which was coordinated with the four- cylinder 500’s and 750’s. The SL175 was replaced by the XL175, a single-cylinder bike that was better suited for the dirt. It became the basis for a whole family of XL thumpers.
President Nixon thought better of sending me to Vietnam (for a third time). After 35 weeks of language school, and about another six in amphibious school, he gave my job to a Vietnamese. I wound up in Panama, where I was able to ride a number of bikes and continue living. This picture is of one of the locks in the Panama Canal. For four years I drove past the Pacific locks; all it taught me is that quite often, it is indeed unwise to volunteer for most things.
Ah, my first and only bike! I bought one third hand in 1972 from a good friend. He had replaced the timing chain, but forgot to set the tensioner quite right. About 100 miles in, the chain broke, taking a valve and a piston with it. We rebuilt the engine in the kitchen of the rooming house I lived in (didn’t please the other tenants, nor the landlord…). One minor glitch was a piston assembly for the CV carbs. One had a split diaphram, so in getting the bits, I bought a new one. Much later, when I was investigating the poor mileage and fouling plugs, I got a look at both carbs side by side and saw that I had a mismatch. Thus, seriously rich mixture. When fixed, the bike ran reasonably well.
Turns out we had overdone the gasket cement (Gaskecinch, a rubber cement) and underdone the cleanup. 18 months later, the cam shaft seized (fixable with new journals), but this was a chronic problem. After the second major seizure (gasket cement clogging the oil pump intake), I scrapped the bike, but I learned a bit about wrenching from it. Still, a fun bike.
These were beautiful bikes. I think that the 300-500 cc size has a lot of appeal. Am I correct in remembering that the CB version had a 360 degree crank while the CL version had 180? I have always been in favor of the 180 for a parallel twin as the thought of those two pistons traveling up and down together lacks a certain mechanical aesthetic quality.
Nope: the CL was 180 degrees. The 305 Hawk had a 360 degree crank, from what I heard.
My understanding is that Honda had a 180 degree crank and everyone else had a 360 degree crank.
At a time when my bikes at that stage had all been british traditional parallel twins (ie: with both the pistons moving in tandem in the bores) the SL350 was quite novel . .
the ‘feel’ of it was quite different and it was very pleasant to ride. . the Nortons, Triumphs, and BSA twins all gave you a tingling numb bum if you rode them for too long (say a couple of hours straight), whereas the SL350 didn’t have that effect..
The Honda SL350 was a really nice machine in the day. And for a 350 it was pretty ‘stokey’ too ..when compared to an AJS or Matchless 350 it was the difference between night and day ..those old bangers sounded good, but BOY were they . . S L O W ! (even a stodgy Toyota Corona could leave you at the lights if it wanted to..lol)
The thing was with a decent machine like the SL350 (that went well) you just wanted more and more …and more . . POWER!!!
The Kawasaki 500 triple provided that .. in spade-fulls!!!!!!!!!!!
Now THAT was the machine
cos the early ones were killers
@ Craig: You are quite correct but not just the 500.
🙂 Thanks Lee ..that’s a great article!!
I did have an H1 back about ’72. It was a couple of years old and was an unusual hybrid model in that it had contact points for ignition, a drum front brake and orangey-red paintwork, so it was neither the white nor blue models which had the capacitor discharge ignition and the drum front brakes.. since it had points i discovered more power was available by manually advancing the static ignition on the bike. Also by removing about 90% of the end baffles, and just leaving remaining wired-in there about an inch of baffle (so that traffic police would be happy with a visual glance), that there was a further dramatic power increase, and a LOT more rattle and din!! ..even more power was available by fitting the much bigger inlet manifold off the 750 ..so i did that too …then it was hard to stay on the bike, even in a straight line …it took all your hand strength to cling onto it when it hit 6000 rpm, and no matter what speed you were doing, the front wheel would lift!!
So, Norton ‘flats’ went on, and by actually sitting further up on the back of the tank it just possible to keep the front tire skimming along only about 3 inches off the road… trouble was, when you backed-off the throttle..you were in trouble
The bike bucked and twisted under you like a bronco.. it darted this way and that wildly from side to side… it was only by good luck you could get the front wheel back down on the road and under some sort of directional control
It was a very exciting and very scary bike
I dropped once quite dramatically in the middle of Auckland at an intersection when an idiot turned in front of me and cut me off ..damp road ..so i laid it down and skidded sideways onto his car hitting it with both tires of my bike simultaneously …no real damage done .. and off we all went again !
To this day i have managed to obtain a cafe racer S2 ..and it sits in my bedroom right now under a heap of protective clothes, shirts and pants etc ..the engineering guy who had it for 20 years before me did much work to it to make it a better bike ..he braced the upper frame ..stiffened the steering head ..fitted a damper ..fitted a later Kawasaki twin disc front set-up and alloy wheels ..and bored it out to 360cc ..and fitted 25mm carbs ..and made up a set of tuned cans for it ..then painted it Kawasaki purple with gold, black and red highlights! He hand polished every piece of alloy to a dazzling bright surface and sealed it all
..basically it is just a thing to look at and dream 🙂 at my age riding it would be a questionably unwise thing to do now ..perhaps at a track ..not on the road though
I really enjoy the motorcycle discussions. I know little about bikes, but I’m very interested.
Yet another CC feature that has me all weepy and nostalgic. I’ve never owned a bike myself, but if I did, a Honda CB350 would be my first choice. Why? My younger brother had one in black many years ago, and I rode it a few times. Obviously a bit light for long cruises, but a very pleasant hander (IIRC), and sufficient power for tootling around town or little windey roads.
These things are the first image that comes into my heasd when I think “motorcycle”, even more so than Harleys.
I remember when the 360 came out people said how much better the 350 was. I have never actually ever figured out why.
Another classic Honda example of something being a complete improvement on paper, but when you rode it it wasn’t as good. The biggest negative against the CB360 was that it had no sporting feel to it at all. It was totally a commuter bike. Then again, you wanted sport, you went for one of Honda’s little four cylinders, or a Yamaha RD.
I wonder if some of the hate for the 360, which I recall as well,was due to the fact that the 350 was seen in the context of 1968, but by the time the 360 was introduced in ’74, there were RD Yamahas with 6 speeds and reed valves, 3 cylinder Suzuki 380’s and Kawaski 350 and soon 400 triples, etc. I started riding in ’74 and never considered a CB350 or 360, and graduated from a couple of smaller two stroke singles to a 350-4 and then the iconic, but in hindsight over-rated, CB400-4. I did lust for the SL350 when I was in high school … and still find them appealing.
My car-mentor Howard had a thing for motorcycles. He started small with a Honda 50, then a 90. He quickly graduated to a 350, and kept the small ones for us kids to ride at some isolated property in Michigan where the family would go on trips. Years later, I stopped by to show him some new car I had bought, and he was cleaning out the garage. He told me that the 350 needed some exercise, and asked if I would run it up and down the street a few times.
I had logged quite a bit of time on the little Hondas, but never on this one. So, mark this one down as the only “real” motorcycle I have ever driven.
Thanks for the background and context on these.
I bought a 1970 CL350 from a fraternity brother in about 1979, sight unseen for $100. I can attest that it was a good bike for around town but a buzzing vibrator on the highway and too heavy for serious off road. Good deal for $100 though.
I graduated and got married in 1981, and with other interests and the 350 badly needing a valve train adjustment it was parked leaning against our rental duplex. In 1982 I planted a garden and sometime when the veggies were already coming in I realized that spot was where I parked the bike the fall before. Somebody made off with it and I did not notice for weeks or months. Easy come, easy go.
Your dune story had me laughing – hope you didn’t get too banged up.
Are you related to Wile E. Coyote by any chance?
I think he was smarter than me. I was in the running for the Darwin award.
Wile E. Coyote was the first thought in my head when I saw the photo of the motorcycle with its front wheel embedded in the sand!
My second motorcycle, my first real motorcycle (I outgrew that 100cc Kawasaki in about four weeks, but am still convinced that’s the real way to learn to ride a motorcycle), and after about a year my first cafe racer (a tradition that continues). Mine was a ’72, originally identical to the one in picture #1 except that it was gold and black. Bought it from an English professor at my college in 1976.
Cafe racer he says. Cafe parts weren’t available for that bike – ever (it wasn’t considered sporting enough in the industry) so I made do with modified drag bars and rod off the passenger seat and footpegs. Learned very quickly that you didn’t expect to chase after RD400’s and CB400/4’s unless you like spending lots of time catching up when they waited.
It was truly an excellent bike. Sold mine in 1980 with 25,000 on the clock having just bought my first Triumph Bonneville. Yeah, it was a bit on the heavy side (those exhaust systems weight something like 15 pounds apiece, but it handled well, and took me over half the east coast in a four year period. With drag bars and riding off the passenger pegs.
Unfortunately, I sold the bike to a complete asshole. He blew it up in three weeks then tried to pressure me into refunding his money because “the bike was no good”. Thus starting a history of selling bikes that treated me very well to people who treated them like crap. To the point that I cringe on selling a bike to anyone nowadays.
These bikes were an interesting time for Honda. They started out with a really excellent middleweight twin (CB350 family), replaced it with a good but too pedestrian middleweight twin (CB360 – although it’s justified by the CB350/4 and especially the
CB400/4 picking up the sporting side), and then replaced that by the complete piece of crap CB400T – which was supposed to replace both the mundane commuter bike AND the full bore sporter. It didn’t replace either of them very well.
I learned to ride on a Suzuki DS-80, starting at about age twelve. By the time I was sixteen and got my motorcycle licence, I had spent thousands of hours screaming around on logging roads. Indeed the best way to learn!
By the way, the bit with the English CB250 was due to English motorcycle law insisting that a new rider was limited to 250cc and a big red “L” on the front and back of the bike. I believe that went on for a year.
The English are smart. Under no condition were you allowed to go into a motorcycle shop, buy a new first bike, and immediately start faking it that you’re cool and experienced. No, for the first year you absolutely must look like a dork in public. And once you’ve gained the experience and know what you’re doing, then you’re allowed to look cool.
I always figured that had a lot to do with the ability of the average Brit to ride the average Yank’s ass off when it came to motorcycles. They had to learn, not just pose.
Interestingly, Skye, the rules are the same here in British Columbia now. For the learning period, a rider is limited to 125cc. Once they pass their provisional test, they are limited to 250 cc. After two years, any novice rider can take the test for a full licence. Since these rules came in five years ago, there has been a real reduction in kids splattering themselves all over solid objects. I am all for it since it keeps the fools off bikes, the idiots that tar all of us with their brushes.
What this means is we now have a wide variety of small bikes available, like the CBR125 and CB250 to fill that void. The 125 is a great little bike and retails at like $2399 including freight and PDI, although they tried $$3495+$499 freight and $150 doc fees. No surprise they didn’t sell many bikes at that price!
We had similar laws easiest way was to fix on 250 badges to whatever you had and hope it wasnt noticed.
I commuted to college on a CB175 and a buddy had a CL350. The “Scrambler” pipes were worse than worthless. Imagine a female passenger with the then popular white plastic boots and those hot pipes. Good times.
I had a CB350. Good bike. It is not the world’s best selling bike. Maybe the best selling bike In the USA, but the USA is a miniscule fraction of the world wide motorcycle market. If I remember correctly, Italy and Thailand are each much bigger markets than the USA is for motorcycles despite having smaller populations.
The best selling title goes to an older smaller Honda. The C50/C70/C90/C100 is the world’s best selling motorcycle of all time. Also known as the Honda Cub, Honda Super Cub, Honda Passport and probably 50 other names used throughout the world.
I believe the current best selling motorcycle on the planet is the Hero Splendor, which is an Indian copy(more or less) of a Honda WIN100. The WIN100 is a motorcycle never sold in North America. It was/is popular in South East Asia. It is basically a modernized version of a Honda SS50 upgraded to a 100cc displacement. But it is the same basic engine design of the original Honda C50. I would say the original version of the Hero Splendor would be the 1961 Honda 50 Sport. My first motorcycle was a 1964 Honda 50 Sport. 49cc, 4speed manual transmission and the gas tank in the right place. I believe the only way you can get a new motorcycle in the USA with one of the Honda WIN100-like drive trains is to buy a Sachs MadAss which offers two sizes, a 49cc version and a 100+cc version.
The next best selling motorcycles of all time are probably the Honda CD175 and variations, and the Honda CG125 and variations. Probably not in that order.
By the way, Cleveland Cycle Werks sells motorcycles with enlarged versions of the Honda CG125 engine which displace 200+ cubic centimeters.
I may even have overstated it when I called it America’s best selling bike. Central and South America have a lot of diversity. This is the one, however, for the US and (I think) Canada. I have been under the impression that the little Hondas were worldwide best sellers. They sure did own Vietnam.
One thing I have learned is that there isn’t any point of being too sure of what you write because it is a big world and ethnocentricity owns us all no matter how hard you try to shake it.
Weird! I’ve experienced a Craigslist Curbside Classic effect, I’m shopping for a bike and saw a CL350 before I signed on to CC this morning:
My biking life started with a girl’s bike-like Honda 50. Too much fun for a 12 year old. Then a Trail 90, followed by the big jump to an SL350. I actually rode by the local burger joint standing on the seat many times – a young man saying “look at me”. What a lunatic. Next graduation was the CL450. My logic was anything with that beautiful badge couldn’t be a bad bike. It wasn’t the easy fix the 350 had been. I regressed next with an Enduro 175 that managed to go from Spokane to Lake Couer d’Alene without riding on a public road. Trail bikes were a whole different world. I took the big jump to a Norton Commando with the second paycheck from a new job. A beautiful yellow thing that thumped like a big boy motorcycle. It also cured my two wheel jones for almost ten years. It came back when I saw the Yamaha Virago 750. $2795 in 1981. Having hung out with a man who was in the hierarchy of a local motorcycle gang, I had ridden many a Harley and learned that they weren’t for a 150 pound kid, so the Virago had the look with 300 pounds less weight. I managed to survive the whipping that my mouth caused at the next meet up. The riders that cruise with “colors” on the back of their jackets are very serious about their machinery. Rode the Virago for six months, then sold it for what I paid. I now have a dismantled Road King staring me in the face in the garage, a fate it has suffered for almost 15 years. At my age, I am not the man of adventure I once fancied myself. But I would not change one thing of the journey that has me now being damn glad I have four wheels with heat and cool for the whole family. My goal is to take one last road trip for my 70th on two wheels. I might even accomplish that task.
That’s a great photo of the Panama Canal in its earlier time. The four-stack destroyers were all gone by the time you and I were born. The two in front, the USS Welles and USS Swazey, went to Great Britain under Lend-Lease in 1940; the USS Jacob Jones was sunk by a German submarine in 1942.
Actually CB350’s were raced with some success in AMA Lightweight road racing, and also in west coast club racing, with mods from the early Pops Yoshimura years. They raced against 250 Yamaha 2 strokes, so had a displacement advantage of course.
These are the bikes that made Honda famous. I had several of the small displacement bikes; CB 110 (50cc scrambler),CB 160,CB 77 (305cc Superhawk), SL 350 first gen w/electric starter,CB 450, two CB 750s. The funny thing was that nobody thought of the 350s as little bikes that couldn’t be used on long roadtrips, sometimes even two-up. On the weekends I road my Honda twins all over the place, several hundred miles at a time. I guess we didn’t know any better. Sure we would get blown around by the wind and have to downshift to pull against a headwind or long hill but they would cruise at 65-70mph. Most of the time. You would catch up to a big machine like a Triumph or Harley then drop back out of respect or embarrassment. This would cause the big iron rider to crank it on to 80 or so until you were a speck in their rear view mirror. Fifteen minutes later you would pull alongside them and the process would repeat itself. Boy did those big bike riders hate these little Hondas. All the fun without the drama or prestige!
The 350 Yamaha outsold these hugely in the UK.The Honda came in a drab dark green colour,we never got the great looking scramblers(BSA,Triumph & Norton couldn’t be bothered to sell theirs in the UK!).
The 350 Honda can be seen in classic racing winning today.
First time I rode was on a friends Honda Mini trail 90, first street ride was a friends Honda CB125. I had a old Suzuki Dual range dirt bike, I think it was a 125cc. Seized the engine on that one. First street bike I owned was a ’66 Honda 305 Scrambler. It was in poor shape and the transmission soon failed. Next up was a ’70 Honda CB450. That was a good bike for $400.00 in 1980 with new paint and only 15k miles on it. A $75.00 parts bike donated it’s exhaust and starter. Next up in ’94 was an ’85 Yamaha 700 Maxim. Still have it, in need of tires and battery at this point. Up to 78k miles now, only needed starter brushes, junkyard speedometer drive and a change to Spectro motorcycle oil which cured slipping clutch due to automotive oil being used, which along with ripped seat was the reason I got it for only $300.00 in ’94. New paint and seat recover, along with tires, batteries, rear brake shoes and front caliper seals is about all it’s needed up to now. Agree starting out on tiny bikes, off road at first is the way to learn to ride safely.
Ah. My first bike was a CL 350. Three miles of gravel road to the cottage every weekend. Hard corduroy in spots, deep soft gravel in others. Delivered me safe, sound, and invigorated every time. I loved that bike nearly as much as I do my dog. My best friend decided he needed to ride as well and bought a Kawasaki 350 triple. Left me brutally one upped in the acceleration department but wobbled the road to the beach. I would further clutter my toy box tomorrow if I came across a nice CL.
I would love to have one of these. Perfect for city driving.
I had a CB360 and used it solely as a commuter bike, putting over 25k miles on it. Never had one problem. Loved it for what it was, a simple uncomplicated point A to point B mode of transportation. Sold it to a good friend.
i have a CB400T. I bought it a couple years ago with 8k miles, beautiful condition, and fun. i love it.
I learned real early to never have the tires above the ground; especially if it was several feet above the ground. I saw way too many guys with permanent disabilities from getting air and crashing their brains out. You can low side or maybe highside and not get too mangled. But when you did the big one off a jump, those usually didn’t turn out too well.
You can still be crippled for life with both tires on the ground…..
I still ride though =8-) .
These were nice little Motos indeed .
Interesting how mainstream these were, when it seems that now a 500 is considered to be “little” or a “girl bike”. I guess bikes got bigger and more powerful just like everything else.
Then again what do I know, I don’t ride–too uncoordinated and too easily distracted. I’d be paralyzed or dead inside a month, most likely.
THe only motorcycle I ever rode was an orange CB-360E that my buddy had bought. He “forgot” to tell me that he put car engine oil into the brake reservoir on the handlebars, so the front brake didn’t work. I just about died on my first ride, and never really pursued riding again after that. He left the bike at my parents house when he joined the Marines, with the expectation that I’d either buy it from him, or keep it safe ’til he came back. Well, about a week later a mutual acquaintance of ours learned the bike was at my parents, told my parents that I let him borrow it, and totalled it (and was killed) running from the police later that night. So I’ve kind of always wanted a MC but never really got over dumping it my very first time out, and then the whole fallout from how the bike ended…
Sorry to hear your acquaintance (clearly not any ‘ friend as Friends don’t lie nor steal) was killed .
So many die or get crippled on their initial Moto ride due to failure to think ahead .
Bought a 1971 CL350. Being a rookie, I thought it could be ridden off road because of the high pipes. Was I ever wrong. Good street bike, but a zero in the woods.
Got rid of it in two years. Would have gotten rid of it sooner, but could not afford to do so.
My first bike was a gold/black 72 CB350 I traded an old van for. That was around 1981, I learned to ride it in my back yard until I got my license. I have had about 20 bikes since but missed the old girl so much that I found a green one in 2013 and decided to build a tribute bike to my old CB. Two years of building and finding as many NOS parts as possible, she is complete. All painted parts, including the tank were found brand new, not repainted.
You briefly mentioned the 350/4 at the end of your very interesting article. The 350/4 was never officially sold in the UK, so when I went to Silverstone to see the Superbikes a couple of years ago with my mate Steve the Posty (I know 3 posties all called Steve, must be some unwritten law), him on his immaculate 350/4, just like the one at the end of the article, and me on my tastefully blinged Dyna, it was him who got all the attention!
The blue/white 350 (actually 326 cc, IIRC) “scrambler” looked very familiar. I bought a new one just like it in the Spring of 1969. Rode all over the L.A. area on it, but for me it was a disappointing Honda.
I can’t really place a reason on that because the specs said it was better than my ’65 305 Super Hawk. However, it just didn’t “feel” that way to me. I had rolled over 16K miles on my 305 in @ 13 months from Alabama to Wisconsin out to California, but don’t think I put 5K on the 350 before selling it. Of course “eating” 2 tachs (under warranty) maybe didn’t help? DFO
Good call. I preferred my 175 over my friends 350 most of the time. He tried highway driving one road trip and it vibrated a muffler off. It was not intimidating and looked good. My Yamaha xs650 is just what it really wanted to be.
Okay, this takes me back to the days when they were called “enduros”. Nice piece of writing.
“I hurt myself only once, and the bike was stolen only once. Yes, those two events are connected”
Man this is way too funny and similar to my Mom’s story when you add in details. I’m not exact what year hers was, but from timing it would have been No newer than 1976-1978. Mom is stationed in Tucson, and being sick of her Road Runner constantly being broken into, she ditches it after maybe the third time the 8-Track was snatched for a CB.
Said CB was too heavy for a very intoxicated Mom to stand and balance at her friend’s apartment, and said friend had to help get her out from under the bike once it was clear she’s not going anywhere. Next morning the bike is gone. She files a police report. Good luck, right? Well, three or so days later they call her, we found your bike. It’s in a very sketchy part in East Tucson. Mom says great! I’ll come get it. It was at a recently raided hen house (this was not disclosed initially). So Mom, all of 125lbs and 5’5” takes a cab to pick it up. The officer at the scene immediately gets in Mom’s face if it’s really her bike (no way a pretty twig like that possibly rides “bikes” sort of thing). Mom also is furious on top of that because the wiring is all cut, and the bike obviously won’t run. “Why did nobody bother to tell me this!”. Cop isn’t listening until she whips her Military ID out and demands to call her barracks to get help hauling, not riding, the bike away.
As an aside, a great friend of mine is currently restoring a 1980 CM-400t in the same ruby shade as the lead photo. For a 41 year old bike… Honda quality shines.
I was never a bike guy, but the Energy Crisis led me to think that I could become one, to hedge the cost of commuting to my job at the factory. Found a very nice CB350-4, and thought it ideal. I enjoyed the smoothness and fuel savings, up until I had 2 friends killed one summer on bikes, neither being at fault in either accident. At this time I realized that I needed to be around for our 3 kids, and I traded it to my Dad for a late 70’s Pontiac Bonneville, with a 455 ci engine. He loved that bike. And I ended up with a new Chevette for my daily commute.
I never rode a 350, but I had a 1976 CB360 from 1993-1995(ish). It was transportation I could afford at the time. I had grown up with several Honda Expresses, Sprees and an ’85 Suzuki DS80, so I had lots of time on 2-wheelers. The 360 was just the next size up, really. Never did get another bike. Figured I had never made a mistake or had a close call, and was happy to retire to cars before my luck ran out. 😉
I had a 74 XL175 – it was a good dirt bike. Scramblers were ok because most people road in the dirt very differently back then. Lots of slow trail riding…not racing through sand mud etc. Sure, some of that too: but a trail ride was different. I also got and 84 XR350R, which was a total balls to wall screamer….but a blast to poke along a trail on too. They were all great! What a time to be young and a biker!
First (& only) new m/c: 1975 Honda XL250, great bike but eventually died of worn-out screw threads due to excessive servicing! (IOW, needed many helicoils) Last ridden? 1985 maybe Last seen? uh,1986 guessing…
Coincidentally I bought a CB350 in 1972 and a CB360 in 1974 that were the same colours as the ones shown in your article. I bought the CB350 new from Honda Centre in Salisbury, Rhodesia after leaving the army and for some reason now lost to me I traded this in for the newly introduced CB360. (Perhaps it was the disc front brake and the 6 speed gearbox!) However the CB360 was somehow not as appealing as the CB350 and after “T” boning a VW Beetle that turned in front of me I parted company with the bike. I did far more travelling on the CB350 including a 2000km round trip to Johannesburg in South Africa and that is the bike that I remember with the fondest memories.