Summer is a fantastic time for a moto adventure, especially in New England. So this past August I took off on a 600 mile round trip from Connecticut to Maine and back. I had spent a good deal of time over last winter restoring a forgotten 1972 Honda CB350 that I picked up in Massachusetts for a song. I had the bike running like a top by the time spring rolled around, but found myself spending a lot of time in the woods on my dual sport this summer rather than riding any of the classics on the road. So naturally when I got invited to a party 300 miles away in Maine I thought it would be a great time to take the 350 for a real ride. This bike is so much fun to ride. The rolling turns of New England back roads are the perfect setting to get those RPM’s way up and lean that thing as far as it will go. I always picture a dozen other bikes trailing close behind me as I tuck low and twist the throttle…that’s why I like to call it “The Time Machine,” it brings me to a different place when I open it up like that and really push it. Granted, when you snap out of it and realize you’re all alone and you were going maybe 50mph, you cant help but laugh, but that’s where the magic is for me. I dare you not to smile when you hop off from a ride on a CB350.
I packed a small tent, too many tools, a few clothes, and a collapsible fishing pole a coworker gave me and I set off on a route consisting entirely of secondary roads. I never took a road with more than two lanes or a speed limit over 50mph. I departed on a Friday after I got out of work with plans of crashing for the night at a friends house near the mass border. I thought this would be a short and uneventful leg of the trip… that turned out to be an incorrect assumption. That night I came around a turn on the pitch black back roads of northern CT to see big, ugly, stationary possum in the middle of my lane. No time to do anything but swerve, I picked a side and went around him. I looked him dead in the eye as if to say “don’t you dare f*cking move.” He did. Just as my front wheel passed his head, he darted directly in between my wheels. WHAM the rear end of the motorcycle left the ground for a brief moment, chirped back down, and continued to track smoothly down the road. For some reason all I could think of was that this nasty critter was somehow now hanging on to my bike and I kicked my feet and waved my left hand behind me… nah, he was squashed and I was still rolling. Me: 1 Possum: 0.
The next day was a much better, yet much more exhausting experience. Beautiful weather, sunshine and blue skies for 270 miles. The country side and farmlands of New England will forever have a special place in my heart. It may be because I was born and raised in this part of the country, but I think it also offers a classic, peaceful, sense of American heritage and agriculture that you don’t see in many other parts of the country. The farms are smaller in size, the houses as old as the fore fathers. The hills and fields and barns reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting or something. I don’t think I can really actually put my finger on it, but its freaking cool and I totally dig it. I must have past well over 100 farm stands and tons of awesome classic cars and trucks parked among the barns and garages. There was not a dull moment, I even met some cool motorcyclists who rode with me for a while.
The ride home was equally as beautiful and peaceful. I wont lie, 300 miles in a day on a 350cc bike and you’re definitely walking like a cowboy at the end of the day. But I had an absolute blast and I’d do it all again tomorrow. Not only that, but that Honda just keeps going and going. All I did was put gas in it and point it where I wanted to go. I didn’t need a single ounce of the 10lbs of tools, wires, and duct tape I put in my backpack, I’ll remember that next time!
Well LMYR is not just about where you ride, its what you’re riding, so lets talk a little more about The Time Machine. When I went to go see the bike at some dudes house in Massachusetts, it was parked next to a similar model, the CB360. This was an updated version of the 350 twin which was released by Honda two years later in 1974. The two bikes were in really rough shape and hadn’t seen the light of day, let alone the road, since before I was even born I think. To make things even better they were parked half full of gas and right next to a broken garage window! The guy refused to sell one bike without the other, so they both came home with me.
In no time I had the CB350 torn down to a bare frame. I cleaned, polished, or painted every last part. Carbs got a rebuild and I removed the broken gauges in favor of a cleaner look and some lower bars. I replaced all the cables with some great replicas from 4into1 which came with the retro gray color housings. The mufflers were rotted through so I bought some replacements for those as well. I entertained the idea of pod filters but after some experimenting and jetting of the carbs I decided that I would stick with the stock air cleaners instead. I have had issues with vacuum carbs and the generic pod filters, but this is something we can get into in a different post when we can talk strictly about the respiratory systems on these old twins.
The red tank is an original Honda CB350, however its not from ’72. The original paint color was called Candy Bacchus Olive (green) which was a really awesome color, however the condition of that tank was… well, less than serviceable. I happened to find this super clean red tank and I never looked a back. I still have the green tank somewhere and I’ll get around to restoring it one of these days. Right after I drag that 360 out and get that looking the part too!
I was doing this restoration on a pretty tight budget so when it came to new tires I tried something different than I’ve done before. The tire size on the CB is 3.00 18 in the front and a 3.50 18 in back, well Michelin makes a tire called the “Gazelle” which is a little less than 40 bucks a piece and can be run front or rear. Catch is, the biggest it comes is 3.00 18. So I ran a slightly smaller width rear tire to save some coin. This is technically a scooter tire I believe, but tons of people run them as a front tire on bikes like the Honda rebel and they are rated to 90mph so what the hell, right?. I did find that they grip the road well and they feel pretty decent in the turns and even stopping. Unfortunately after very short period of riding the back tire was totally smoked. Live and learn. Don’t cheap out on rubber. But hey, at the end of the day they got me everywhere I wanted to go and they even won a fight with a possum for me… that ain’t too shabby.
Thanks for reading,
Long May You Ride!