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Saturday, 29 March 2014

Friday bike

A few years ago I posted a series called 'Old Flames' where I featured bikes that I'd owned. This week's Friday bike could be the start of an occasional sries of 'bikes I nearly bought',
Back in 1979, I was 21 and was at last earning enough money that I could afford to buy a new middle sized bike, and drew up a list of 'possibles'. Eventually I bought a Yamaha SR 500 but a close second on my list was a Honda CB400N 'Super Dream'. 

A bit of history: In 1977, Honda launched the CB 250/400T 'Dream' ('Hawk' in the US) which was a major step forward compared the previous CB 250/360 G5 models. The Dreams had a 3 valve per cylinder twin cylinder engine with electronic ignition and balance shafts, and the bikes had fabricated 'Comstar' wheels and sealed chains. They got very good reviews for their technical innovation, but were less well regarded for their rather podgy styling. Within 9 months, Honda launced a revamp as the CB250/400N 'Super Dreams', with 6 rather than 5 speed gearboxes and much improved styling which matched the larger bikes in their range.
The Super Dreams were very succesful, especially the 250 version which fitted in with the learner laws at the time, and was for many years was the biggest selling bike in the UK.
The 400 sold fewer as most riders who'd passed their test on a 250 moved onto 500/550 cc bikes, but it was still highly regarded and I remember a magazine saying that if BMW built a 400cc twin, it would be like this.


Being so popular meant that there were plenty of aftermarket accessories, with Rickman fairings and Rickman or Krauser luggage turning them into useful tourers.
Had I bought  a CB400N, it would have ended up with a Rickman fairing and Krauser luggage, and I probably wouldn't have bought the BMW I eventually went touring on.
Many years later I eventually rode a CB400N (I'd ridden plenty of 250s), and I was very impressed by the wide spread of power and how 'together' the bike felt. Not buying one back in 1979 was probably the worst motorcycling mistake I've made, but that's life!
However, there's a postscript to the story - in the early 90s I was thinking about buying another bike and I came across a Honda CB400A for sale locally. This was the very rare version of the earlier Dream fitted with a 2 speed automatic gearbox. As I was commuting across town at the time the automatic appealed, but I thought it would be too restricting for more open road use. Found a picture of one and you can see why Honda thought a restyle was quickly needed:



  1. I remember considering the 400 myself, but by that time had moved on to larger Honda and then Kawa Fours a little later. '77 was the year I left my motorcycle wrenching job, otherwise I would have ended up tuning and working on these. Occasionally I'll see one still on the road over here.

  2. I looked at one of these myself while trying to fine my cafe racer project, however I decided on a Z400 twin due to frame style and tank shape.
    Also my good friend has a great 78 SR500 sitting in my garage and I love it, have you seen the new SR400 Yam have re-released, looks exactly the same but with shorter stroke and injection so it's so easy to start, it's spot on and I hope it sells well, I love all these retro releases.

    1. I featured the SR 400 a wee while ago:
      Interesting bike but far too expensive!