COAL – Cycles Of A Lifetime: 1974 Honda CB750 — Freedom Comes In Four Cylinders

My buddy Rick had a red 750, just like this one. Photo from the web.


After the debacle of the re-assembled Honda 750 engine and pieced-together chassis and running gear, I decided to get another 750. But this time it would be a factory assembled running bike. It would be the complete opposite of my FrankenHonda.

I found a stock ’74 CB750 with a low mileage of approx. 4,000 miles. It was only one year old; purple with a black panel on the tank. Being a Honda it was well detailed, and the assembly quality was great. Every Honda that I ever had was clearly a quality machine.

The Honda CB750 had been a groundbreaker when it first debuted, but by the later ’70s, other Japanese manufacturers had released four cylinder Superbikes of their own. Honda had pursued a path of refinement with the CB750, making it smoother, quieter, and more reliable. The old chain breaking models were a thing of the past, and Honda had many fans who were very loyal and satisfied with the new 750’s personality.

These Hondas were great bikes for touring, the engine was so smooth and quiet. They were heavy enough to be stable when buffeted by crosswinds and also tracked well, reducing rider fatigue. The four cylinder motors were much smoother than Honda’s previous twin cylinder models. The bikes were reliable and long lived.

It was important to lube the chain a couple of times a day when on a long trip. Hondas still had center stands that made it easy to get the rear wheel in the air and spray the entire chain. It kept the chain healthy, but it did get messy.

The 750 was pretty hard on rear tires. These bikes were heavy, around 500 lbs. full of gas, and they were ridden at high speeds. I know that I did! Hours of cruising at 75-80 mph.

Even though I was now busy with a full time job, as well as part time school, in my free time I would ride anywhere at the drop of a hat. Things got even better as my Buddy Rick traded up from his Yamaha 350 to a CB750 of his own.

Rick and I before he traded the 350 for a 750. Photo by author.


Having a riding partner on a similar motorcycle adds a lot of fun to the experience. It took a while, but we became familiar with each other’s riding styles and we developed the discipline needed to ride alongside each other.  We made an impressive pair as we rode down the highway.

No desire to chop this one! I just cleaned up the looks a bit. Photo by author.


I didn’t have any plans to try and chop this bike, though I did some mild customizing. First, I removed the large turn signals and replaced the two large mirrors with a single smaller type. I modified the handlebars into pullbacks like I had done on my Kawasaki, by bending them until the grips pointed back at forty five degrees. This allowed me to sit more upright but they were still comfortable enough for touring. I also removed the rubber gaiters on the forks as well as the large amber reflectors. My goal was just to clean up the styling a bit and make the bike look a little sleeker.

Pretty sleek for a stock bike. Photo by author.


I replaced the bulky tail light with a lower, smaller, aluminum Lucas unit. I kept the comfortable stock seat but added a low sissy bar that could also be used to tie down luggage. The motor sounded good, but it was just a bit too quiet. So I drilled a series of holes in the baffles, which added a bit more melody to the exhaust note.

Northern California is blessed with varied topography. Close to our East Bay homes, there was The Pacific Coast Highway, the Central Valley and the Middle Coast. The Sierras and Lake Tahoe were readily accessible. US101 made a path to the middle of the Coast. Highway 5 led to Los Angeles. I was already familiar with the local back roads from my days of riding my old Honda 160.

A lot of my riding was done solo. I’d head down to Monterey, Paso Robles, or San Luis Obispo. I’d ride up to Lake Tahoe, cruise around the lake and return home that night. I once rode out to Yosemite, then turned around and headed back home.

Almost Heaven, California!  Apologies to John Denver. Photo from the web.


Most of the trips were day long trips, there wasn’t any point in spending the night. One of my favorites was riding up the Pacific Coast Highway. I’d read about this road in motorcycling magazines for years. Cycle magazine had run a great story: “Scenes of desolate beauty, riding the Pacific Coast Highway.” Man, did I want to ride the entire length of that road!

It wasn’t too far from my home. I’d gotten a little taste of it in my sophomore year riding my chopped Honda 305 up as far as Marshall. It wasn’t until my Senior year that I rode my Kawasaki 500 all the way to Mendocino. It was like I had finally reached the Promised Land.

The road hugged the rugged Coast and would curve inland through forests and farmlands. But it always returned to the shore. Miles and miles of continuous curves, through varied landscapes. A perfect motorcycling road. Banking the bike through the curves was like flying just above the surface of the road!

Mendocino. One of my favorite destinations. Photo from the web.


The town of Mendocino had been a former lumber center but in the early ’70s it was pretty abandoned. There were only a few businesses open. I found a restaurant called the Sea Gull Inn, where I would have a good meal in preparation for the long ride home. A ride to Mendocino became an annual pilgrimage, a baptism that I would bestow on each new machine.

It could be a very cold ride up the coast, it could be cloudy, overcast, and even foggy. Though once inland it would heat up appreciably.

I still had my Marlon Brando-style fake leather jacket. Sturdy harness strap boots, heavy winter gloves, sweatshirts, thermal underwear, scarf, and of course a helmet with a face shield. In the chopper magazines that I read, Harley guys rode without a helmet. In a few years, I would also ride that way. But for now I wisely chose the helmet.

It looked something like this. Photo from the web.


One long weekend I took a spur of the moment trip to San Diego. I spent a couple of nights there and rode back in time to go to work at GM on Monday! I left on Friday evening and rode through the night maintaining a steady 80 mph. On the newly opened Interstate 5, it was pretty easy to maintain that speed and there weren’t many cops around. I vividly recall the lines of big rigs heading north coming down the Grapevine. Their headlights were a steady stream. It was very early in the morning when I reached that spot. It was a memorable sight.

I was now an accomplished rider and had a pretty good safety record and attitude. Well, at least most of the time. I did drop the bike once. One night I was coming home quite late, and I took a familiar corner in my usual peg-dragging manner. Unfortunately, that corner had a gas station on it. A vehicle must spilled some fuel in the street as it left. My rear wheel slipped from under me and the bike spun me off. I rolled across the street behind my bike which ended up against the opposite curb. It ended up with a bent set of handlebars, and a broken speedo and tach. Luckily I got away with only a scuffed boot, torn up jeans, and a scraped up hand. I was especially lucky since I was in my non helmet wearing period.

I had worn helmets since I got my first real motorcycle, my old CB160. Besides being an important addition to safety, it added to comfort. As I progressed through my motorcycling career I began to identify with the  “Biker” faction which was vehemently anti-helmet. There was not a helmet law in California at the time, so I often didn’t wear one. This was not a smart decision, as it relegates your chances of injury or even survival up to chance. Like many young people, I thought that I was indestructible. I was so lucky that I never had to test my hypothesis.

Like all the Hondas that I’d owned before, it was a trouble free motorcycle. Unlike some of my later bikes. It was always ready to go at a moment’s notice. This provided me with a lot of freedom, and I made the most of it. I can equate the feeling as being comparable to the feeling someone gets when they buy a new car. So many possibilities!

During the year and half that I owned this 750, I added another 20,000 miles to the odometer. These were amazing bikes that were so easy to live with.

Buying a new or nearly new machine, meant that it still had a lot of its original service life ahead of it. There wasn’t any need to fix this, or to rebuild that. It wasn’t worn out yet! Reflecting on those times, I can understand why many people only buy new vehicles. It was also during this time that I finally made the move up to Harley-Davidson ownership. My Honda provided me with reliable transportation during the time of my extensive rebuild of my tired, beat up, old Sportster. When the Sportster was ready I sold the 750 to one of my young co-workers.

From now on, it would only be Harley-Davidsons for the next twenty five years.