Posted at March 5, 2015

Learner Legal Retro Bikes

Honda CB450 (1965-1974)

Honda’s mid 1960’s 450 was the first ‘Big’ Honda motorcycle with a 444cc 180 degree straight twin, dual overhead cam engine  and produced about 43-45 horses and claimed a top speed of 180km/h. The CB450 appeared first in 1965  as a four speed K0 model otherwise known as the ‘Black Bomber’ and progressed through a series of ‘K’ models with various improvements and styling changes, notably  a redesigned fuel tank and 5 speed transmission in the 1968 K1 model.

Motorcycle and car magazines lauded and hyped the CB450 as one of the most remarkable machines ever, it was in fact  a slow seller, never really setting the market on fire as Honda might have hoped. These early CB450’s are almost approaching 50 years! but rest assured, Honda reliability was just as important then as it is now. The CB450 was known for excellent reliability provided you remembered to warm up the engine and changed the oil regularly. The horizontally split cases didn’t leak, and the electric starter always worked, hot or cold.

Price then: $1,000 approx

Price now: K0 (Black Bomber) $10,000+ for an original, unmolested example, or $8,000+ for a later 70’s model

Yamaha RD350 (1973-1975)

These 2-stroke bad boys were hugely popular for doubling up as daily commuter and a weekend racer. Prior to the RD series, almost all 2 strokes were lubricated by manually mixing oil with the fuel, which required riders to carry  a bottle of 2-stroke oil at hand. Until Yamaha’s innovation called – ‘Autolube’ which carried engine oil in a separate tank, injecting it into the engine at the carburetor by way of a small oil pump. The fuel / oil ratio was determined by engine speed and throttle opening. In 1973, when the RD’s arrived these 2-stroke twins took a huge leap forward making the RD350 engine more civilized with more thrust and a wider powerband. This motorcycles set the world on fire and they became universally known for THE bike to take on your favorite stretch of hilly, winding road where the 6-speed transmission and powerful front disc could be used to the fullest.

Price then: $1075

Price now: $6000+

Kawasaki KZ400 (1974 – 1979)

The KZ400 was Kawasaki’s answer to Honda’s CB350. Introduced in 1974, the mid-size KZ400 twin was designed as an economical, easy-to-ride, unintimidating commuter bike. The KZ400 outsold Honda in the 400 cc twins market through the 1970s. Early models were prone to oil leaks and unstable idling. Both the carburetors and the design of the oil passages were redesigned beginning in 1977.

Price then: $1,170

Price now: $5,500 +

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