In the case of a classic Honda CB900F, or any bike from “the good ol’ days”, rosy red glasses can make used things look good. But take off the glasses if you intend to buy.
“1982 Honda CB900F for sale: memory’s optional.” That’s how it started in Kijiji, damn it all to hell. Scanning the ads as I often do, there it was, original paint and all. It brought back fond memories from way back when I owned one. It was smooth, comfortable and easy to handle at a time (1988) when I was suffering a very bad back injury. I figured the CB900F was the only bike I could ride that also had the kind of performance that made riding fun. Pretty much correct. As the back improved I returned to a CBX, which was a bit heavier but more my thing. The other memory was from two years ago. Honda had a 750F at their display area at the Calgary Motorcycle Show, and that may have been a mistake because it stole the show. Those bikes were lookers and still are, especially the silver editions.
So anyway I had to go look, and with cash in my pocket I was ready to buy. When I arrived at John’s house I was greeted by a big black dog that really wanted someone to play throw the ball. I was enjoying this already.
Then it was time to get into buyer mode and focus first on the bike, then the deal. John seemed like a good guy and the bike looked fine at first glance. Then came the close look.
There were good things, including lots of period correct modifications, a very nice aftermarket aluminum swingarm, steering damper, mint Corbin seat, and steel braided front brake lines.
The engine fired up and ran well albeit obviously a bit lean, but no worries there—it’s a Honda. The forks felt like they had performance (heavy) springs, and Euro sport kit bars are always a bonus.
The paint on the CB900F looked better in the photos. It was pretty good but enough “usage marks” had accumulated to make it one of those “does it need paint or not” issues. That’s a real personal thing I would probably keep it as is. “They are only original once” as they say.
That brought me to the not-so-good things. The Wolf header sounded wonderful but it was a bit loud; it was something that I would have been happy to run back in the day. Not having the original pipes however hurts value, maybe as much as a grand with these bikes. The rear Marzocchi shocks were hard as rocks, good for handling maybe, but there’s no comfort in them. It was done right, set up to ride hard but ride harder than I intended to. It needed a back tire, chain, sprockets, mirrors the usual small stuff. Worst offender for me, the very radical home built rear set foot pegs. Well-made but produced an instant cramp in my left leg.
It hurt to walk away from this one, but at this point I realized it was not the rolling perfection I had envisioned. Siting on it with the engine revving the vibration seemed much worse than I remembered. For someone wanting a primo period café racer it was a steal at $2,900. (In 1990 I sold mine for $2,200.) But why did I want this CB900F? It would look real good sitting beside my ‘79 CBX but I probably wouldn’t ride it much, I knew that now.
After chatting with John I thanked him for his time and apologized for using so much of it. He said, “no worries,” he had enjoyed the conversation bike guy to bike guy. Turns out he is not into the texting thing either.
He did however have lots of other prospective buyers. I assured him there are people looking for these bikes. He kicked the ball away for Sampson the dog one more time.
The bike likely sold that day. Sometimes you just can’t go home, but it’s still nice to remember home—at least the good days.
By Rich Burgess Canadian Biker #304