Dear God it’s pleasant outside. A little swampy, sure, but an early summer day one week before Halloween shan’t be grumbled about. Restaurants are likely opening patios (Small Bar Logan Square just announced via Facebook they would be) and runners are trolling the sidewalks in droves—who knows, some geniuses may even be lounging and digging their bare feet into the beach right now. And I guarantee garage doors are being creaked open and raised, and motorcycles uncovered and rolled out. Riders will always take advantage of one more temperate, sunny day attached to the end of a dwindling motorcycle season. I know I will.
Today’s gorgeous but mystifying weather reminded me of a 2009 Slate article by Tim Wu titled “The Cult of the Vintage Honda.” An ode to the 1960s and 70s Honda motorcycle—or as Wu describes them: “The Japanese take on British motorbike aesthetics”—the article is thoughtful and affectionate, with an agenda to wax poetic on why the era of bikes remains so attractive and sought after.
Unlike the motorcycles of today, the vintage Honda is the right size: slim, svelte even. There is none of that pumped-up look that is the aesthetic curse of the last several decades. Myself, I don’t get it, but some scholar will one day explain why today everything from cars to cameras has begun to resemble Mark McGwire at the height of his steroid intake.
Gazing upon the machine produces a visual euphoria not often felt beyond an alpine summit or the world’s greatest art museums. But how is it to ride? In a word, great. The engine revs high and loud, the motorcycle equivalent of the roadster. If tuned right, the engine beats with a sound akin to a helicopter’s rotors—thuck, thuck, thuck, thuck.
As an owner of a 1973 Honda CB450, I’m familiar with both the bike’s burly “thuck, thuck, thuck, thuck” and its “unpredicatability,” as Wu puts it. “If your life or character calls for predictability, get yourself a Toyota Camry,” he writes. Stock parts finally crumble and quirky breakdowns happen for seemingly no reason. It’s a msal 40-year-old motorcycle
Nearly six months out of the year my Honda is either cooped up in a stark, chilly garage space or hanging out at Ace Motorcycle and Scooters getting a good once over. But it’s a small price to pay (along with Chicago insurance rates, city tags, and parking permits) to gently crack the throttle on a day like today and feel the wind flow through your helmet (or hair depending on