By on May 11, 2012

I’m not the type of person to, you know, name things. Well, I did name my 1980 Marquis Brougham “The Love Train”, thus expressing a sort of pre-hipster irony, and I also call my emerald quilt-top Godin LGX-SA the “Green Destiny” in definitely non-ironic homage to the sword in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”. Those are the proverbial exceptions which prove the rule.

After a few weeks of riding my ’75 CB550, however, I’ve decided that she needs a name. Oh yes, this bike is a “she”. She is cranky when it’s cold in the mornings. She is temperamentally carbureted, responding to a quick roll of the throttle with a sullen shudder. She spits raw fuel all over my business-casual Zanellas when we lean hard in the turns. And when she is hot, she is too hot to touch. So she needs a name.

My senses of sentiment and propriety combine to determine that she can’t be named after any woman whom I’ve known, or even spoken to, recently. Instead, she should have a name that makes me wistful, sad, and nostalgic. You know, the whole recherches du temps perdu thang.

So. I named her after the one burning regret of my entire romantic life. A willowy, utterly perfect blonde who wrote like Saul Bellow and smiled like the sunrise. A woman whom I loved with a consuming fire and who may have even loved me in return.

It was twenty-two years ago. We started off sitting across the circle from each other in Creative Writing. I wrote a not-quite-fiction story called “Days Of Wine And Roses” about minitrucking, slumming for skanks, and irresponsible recreational use of firearms; she wrote one called “Mintaka” about a little girl and her stuffed bear. Then I wrote a story which placed her stuffed bear in an alternate universe where stuffed bears run the drug trade. You know. The way self-important people flirt when they are young.

The end of the semester interrupted that extended flirtation and she decided to take a summer job working in Florida. I wrote to her that I loved her, after a fashion. She wrote to me that she loved me, after a fashion. I read that letter and decided to drive my trusty Fox down to see her. Then I decided it wasn’t responsible to skip work to do so. A week or so later, she wrote to me to inform that she had met someone. She didn’t come back to school in the fall. I never saw her again.

Her parents had named her Kellee in what I felt to be a not-our-kind-dear excess of Midwestern nomenclatural enthusiasm. Kellee it is, then, for my little CB. In the past fourteen days, we’ve done all sort of commuting, minor errands, and what I, during my marriage, thought of as “excuse rides”:

“Oh, man, we’re almost out of shredded cheese, I’ll hop on the bike and grab some.”

“Need to check the post-office box. I’ll take the bike.”

“I wonder if Crown still has that cherry 560SL for sale? I’m gonna fire up the bike and swing by real quick.”

I’ve started eating Little Caesars “Crazy Bread” in lieu of actual dinner because it’s easy to stuff in my jacket while riding. My friends and clients are experiencing a phenomenon which was previously unknown to them: the unanswered call to my business phone. For over a decade, I have always picked up my phone. Even when I was sleeping, or working on something else, or participating in what I was once told were the “Four S’s” during which one is not required to wear one’s pledge pin. Hell, I’ve answered the phone on the racetrack a couple of times. No longer. Leave me a message; I’m out riding.

Riding slowly, I would add. The little Honda, which once churned out an optimistically-rated fifty horsepower at the crank but surely no longer does, is eager to reach forty-five miles per hour or so but slows noticeably afterwards. The electric-motor infinite push one finds on a Hayabusa or even a strong 750 superbike simply doesn’t apply here. Around town, Kellee is about as fast as a four-cylinder Accord or Camry. Maybe not quite, actually, and certainly not on the freeway, which I avoid.

I’ve yet to scrape a footrest or ground the mufflers during cornering. As a motorcyclist, I know my limits and respect them. It’s thrilling to lean a bit on the way into a corner and throttle properly out at the apex, but these thrills take place at an almost comically low velocity. I even use the clutch to shift up and down out of some consideration for Kellee being une femme d’un certain age, born just three years after her namesake.

We are not in a hurry, Kellee and I. We ride in the slow lane, we look around. I open the visor of my hilariously tasteless Bell helmet, which was purchased on a whim a few years ago because it features a graphic of a giant octopus forcibly disrobing a curvaceous scuba diver, and I experience the outdoors. Two days ago a harried, phone-focused woman in a Mitsubishi Outlander simply took my lane away from me and I yielded without rancor, tapping her driver’s side window lightly with a relaxed hand as I rode along the shoulder until she got the hint and moved back over. As a twenty-something motorcyclist, I was endlessly looking for someone to violate my space so I could righteously rage in return. No longer. At stoplights I watch the rear-view mirror, tap my brake to catch the attention of the Escalade which is threatening to paste me into the car ahead, and make sure I have room to lane-split for a quick exit.

Kellee smells like hot oil and gasoline evaporating through a dozen tiny pinholes somewhere. Her throaty voice tells me whether or not her engine is warm. I can’t twist the grip without hesitation until she is really hot. Otherwise it’s a slow roll. I remember how cars used to be like this as well, in the era before fuel injection. You couldn’t jam the throttle open and trust the computer to work things out. I’d also forgotten how to operate a vehicle that didn’t have a little bit of “driver logic” worked into the throttle. Modern cars know your approximate traffic situation and interpret your right foot with a diplomat’s care. Kellee expects that I will adjust to her whim, so I do.

I love her for not being a cruiser, for not being part of a club, or a society, or a lifestyle, for belonging to me alone and not someone else’s perception. I love the way I can walk out of a restaurant and kick-start her into life while the Harleys whir their Nippondenso starters like bitchy cheerleaders. I love the adjustments necessary to make her work; choke, stop/run/stop, the fussy ignition switch. As we come close to our destination, I close the fuel valve in the same preparatory fashion as a husband catching his wife’s eye when it’s almost time to leave a party. Not yet, but soon.

When I started riding back in 1993, every motorcyclist waved at every other one, out on the road. By 2002, when I sold my YZF, the Harley guys had stopped participating. Now, nobody waves. I make at least a gesture at everyone, and have gotten one back out of dozens given. From an older black guy on a Virago. He remembers the code, I guess. Motorcycling, like everything else in America, has become riddled with cliques and rotten with stratification.

Kellee needs a new gas tank. We’re looking on eBay. Once that’s done, we might restore a few more of her rusty parts. Or we might not. We might just continue as we are.

The other day, I found myself near a freeway entrance and I wondered about the idea of taking that freeway and just riding until I found myself at the door of the woman who inspired Kellee’s name. It’s about four hundred miles, I reckon. It would be romantic, to ride that far just to say hello, but it wouldn’t accomplish anything. The time to see her, to make that hopeful trip, is long gone. Best to forget. Kellee and I will stay close to home, as free as we want to be, but tied to the present, like we all are.

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64 Comments on “Trackday Diaries: Kellee and me....”

  • avatar

    My first motorcycle was a 77 Honda CB750K. It was brown and I loved it. I bought it for $500 from my friend and then hid it at my uncle’s house. Though I had just turned 18, I didn’t have the heart or courage to break to my parents what I had done.

    They eventually found out. And lost their minds. But that didn’t stop me from loving every single second I spent on it, oil blown on my left pant leg be damned.

    I rode that bike the whole Summer of 90, and then went back to school without it, as I didn’t have a good place for it. It was the first bike I worked on. My cousin and I tried, quite unsuccessfully, to to cure the oil leak. Today I could do the job in a few hours. Back then, well, you might as well cue the Grey’s Anatomy scene, two surgeons hunched over a catastrophe, CLEAR…

    Two years later, I bought a Yamaha Seca 650 (silver with blue stripes). Though not many years newer, it was a more advanced bike. So the non-running Honda was sold to someone who was far more qualified to bring it back to life.

    I still have an eye for these Hondas, and I have enough space in my garage for a third bike. Who knows, I may just end up having to name one myself.

  • avatar

    Good story about the bike.

    Article needs pictures of the Godin LGX-SA too though. I’ve never seen an emerald green one. I have a blue flame top version.

  • avatar

    I’ve got a Kawasaki W-650 that I ride when it’s warm and it is delightful that everything happens just a little more slowly as with your CB550. The riding position is upright and he cornering clearance is limited, so it’s just for fun, although some day I’d enjoy taking it to the track. Nice piece on the CB – these are great bikes!

  • avatar

    Enjoyed the last line. Had to read it a few times.

    • 0 avatar

      Reminded me of the chorus from the Zac Brown Band song “Free”. Just as Free, Free as we’ll ever be. Song captures a similar feeling as the piece. Nice work Jack.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    “Oh yes, this bike is a “she”. She is cranky when it’s cold in the mornings. She is temperamentally carbureted, responding to a quick roll of the throttle with a sullen shudder. She spits raw fuel all over my business-casual Zanellas when we lean hard in the turns. And when she is hot, she is too hot to touch. So she needs a name.”

    She’s sun and rain, she’s fire and ice
    A little crazy but it’s nice
    And when she gets mad, you best leave her alone
    ‘Cause she’ll rage just like a river
    Then she’ll beg you to forgive her
    She’s every woman that I’ve ever known

    Your helmet with its colorful graphics reminds me of the “do rag” I wear under my plain silver helmet (although my helmet has a sticker on it of the devil smoking a cigar) the do rag has some scantily dressed female demons on it and the phrase “HELL ON WHEELS”. This makes me smile because I ride a 150cc scooter. Given that I have ridden it to commute several times and I work in Central Office I’m amazed that I haven’t offended anyone the 5 min that I wear the rag after I take off my helmet and before I comb my hair.

    “When I started riding back in 1993, every motorcyclist waved at every other one, out on the road. By 2002, when I sold my YZF, the Harley guys had stopped participating.”

    Here in the desert Southwest the Harley and Honda Goldwing guys are the only ones who give the old two finger salute (pointed downward), the punk kids on crotch rockets could care less. I always return the “biker wave” because it is respectful and I grin that the biggest, baddest looking guys are the friendliest. The one accident I had the first guy on the scene and most helpful was a fellow rider on an Indian. Really nice guy, should have got his name and sent him a thank you.

    • 0 avatar

      Around here Harley riders don’t acknowledge anybody not on a Harley. I gave up greeting them because it’s just a given that they’re snobs. They don’t realize that as fellow riders we have too many issues in common, and all more important, to get hung up over the name on the tank.
      My Road King-riding co-worker doesn’t get it when I don’t bring my Concours to events he talks about; but if they’re being organized / promoted by predominantly H-D riders I know when I’m not wanted and stay away.

      • 0 avatar

        I’d heard that the Harley riders don’t wave because they figure you’re trying to point out parts falling off their bikes, and they’re sick of hearing about it.

      • 0 avatar

        Come to Virginia. Harley riders wave to other riders, period. Even when I was on my purple and white, homebuilt, ZX-6R streetfighter.

        About the only time I’ve run across the behavior you talk about is back in my old home town (Johnstown, PA) . . . . where you either rode a Harley, a Triumph, or you kept it in the garage.

      • 0 avatar

        My co-worker rides a Beemer (correct for the bike, not the car) and has noted that the H-D guys are receptive to him and his bike. He’s not so sure the same can be said if he rode a Honda….

    • 0 avatar

      Uhhh…..what you MEAN is that the punk kids on crotch rockets COULDN’T care less……

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    Great read and great bike. I owned one years ago and loved it. It’s only one of eight bikes I’ve had the pleasure to have…but its size and weight were a good match for me.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    You ridin’ in Ohio and say you get one wave returned out of a dozen? Damn! I thought Buckeyes was friendly!

    Head on over to Indiana, yo. Here, we bikers be wavin’ at each other all day long. Up high. Down low. Whatever. Trailer up your CB and head to South Bend for a day, mate. Glad to have ya. I’ll take you over to this little place called Yesterday’s where they know the proper way to serve a Guinness.

    • 0 avatar

      Everyone waves in Wisconsin as well. Maybe everyone in Ohio just got cranky.

      • 0 avatar

        Same in Tennessee. Just about every time I’ve done the salute, it has been returned. Unless, you know, the oncoming biker’s running up on a stoplight or clutching for some other reason.

        Beautiful story about your relationship with your bike, Jack. I’ve named two. My Suzuki LS650P was Zook, and my BMW K75 was Lady K. Both female. I never named the CB500T that was supposed to be my first bike because I never got to form much of a relationship with it. Unless I get to spend some serious saddle time with a bike, I just can’t name it. Gotta give ’em a chance to reveal their names to you, you know.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        Call my scooter “Ol’ Red”, just hit me one day.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    By the way….closeup photography of your helmet is requested. Thanks.

  • avatar

    OK, now I’m gonna spend all day thinking about how to get my poor Candy Panther Gold CL350 running again while I should be trying to catch up with my workload. Way to completely capture the unique joys (and frustrations) of vintage bikes… jerk.

  • avatar

    As a fellow UJM rider, this article really speaks to me. My bike is a 1976 Yamaha XS500 that my brother and I bought for $50. It had sat for 10+ years and didn’t have a title. In one summer we had it on the road and running. I rode it to class in highschool, across the country from NY to the west coast and back (with a group of friends on similar old UJMS), and hav ridden it all through college. Along the way I’ve restored it cosmetically as well as mechanically. Just hit 55k miles on it a few weeks ago, running strong as ever. The battery in it is pretty weak so I just kick start it.

    I took it up to Vermont for a Triumph themed motorcycle rally. Much to my dismay my brother and I were the only ones astride oil-leaking 40 year old air cooled parallel twins (everyone else had new bonnevilles and speed/street triples). One group of guys there on ‘cafe’d’ bonnevilles were kind of smirking at my brother’s CB360 having trouble starting, I popped out the kickstarter and my Yamaha barked to life through its 2-1 exhaust and settled down to a mellow idle. The looks on those poseurs’ faces was priceless.

  • avatar

    From your description, and having owned carburetted Hondas, I suspect you have at least two problems that are relatively easy to fix:

    1. Clogged idle air jets. Your carburetors have main jets, which meter the fuel when the throttle is on. They are big, and don’t clog. It also has idle air jets which meter the fuel at, and just off idle. They have pinhole size openings, and if the bike is allowed to sit for any length of time with fuel in the carbs, they get 100% gummed up. Sta-Bil will not prevent this. The result is a bike with starting/idling problems that runs fine when you are on the throttle. The solution is to disassemble the carbs, and leave the parts in a can of parts cleaner overnight. Blow out the jets with compressed air. Put them back together and you are done.

    2. Rust restricting fuel flow. Those Honda tanks were not sealed – they are bare steel inside. If the tank is not 100% full, at night, when it cools down, water condenses on the bare steel (they have a direct vent to the air – no charcoal canister, etc.) and rust forms. This rust flakes off and settles to the bottom of the tank where it forms a sludge that could be an inch or more thick in your bike. It almost certainly has a sock-type filter in it, but you are not getting 100% possible fuel flow. You can buy a tank sealing kit. This is a two step process – the first removes the rust, the second coats the inside of the tank with plastic so the rust will not form again. As far as I know, and I could be wrong, only Harleys and BMWs come from the factory with sealed tanks.

    That Godin was made in Montreal – my old home town – formidable!
    The name is pronounced “go-DAN” in case you didn’t know. The “N’ should be barely audible.

    You may already know all this, but if not, I hope it helps!

    • 0 avatar

      I think that getting a new non-leaking and unrusted tank on e-bay is a crap shoot. I would try to fix the one you have.

      Two tank sealing products with good reputations are Kreem and POR-15. Kreem is a hard epoxy, i believe. POR-15 is more flexible. I think that they both have treatments to de-rust. Before you use the treatments, fill the tank about a third full with water, and toss in some gravel. Shake repeatedly to dislodge anything you can.

      Ditto on cleaning the carbs. Before you dunk your carburetors in the nasty cleaning solvent, be sure to disassemble and take all the rubbery bits out. Ask me how I know this.

      • 0 avatar

        I had my 83 Honda CB550’s rusted tank sealed with the Kreem product, and it has worked well.

        Nice story. I think I’ll go to the garage and fire it up for the first time this season and take a ride…….

      • 0 avatar

        I have to add my recommendation for Kreem. It worked like a charm on the tank of my ’86 FJ1200. I sold the bike a few years later and the tank was still solid.

        Kreem, however is nasty stuff. There’s a multi-step process that involves swishing MEK (methyl-ethyl-ketone) around. My neighbors in Reynoldsburg must have thought I was some kind of crazy person shaking that thang…

        And damn you, Jack, for reminding me that I can’t ride my bike this weekend due to the foot surgery I had earlier this week. I’m looking forward to healing up and enjoying some of this nice weather.

      • 0 avatar

        If you choose to strip and re-line the tank, be prepared to lose some braincells. I donated my garage to a buddy with an old Katana and helped him rehab the tank on it. That stuff is murder.

        Plus, then you get the joy of explaining to the household hazardous waste disposal folks at the landfill that 20 gallons of contaminated water (from the rinsing) is not “commercial use” – that’s just what it takes to do one motorcycle gas tank.

        Never again. At least… not in my garage.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree with all of the above. I use POR-15, which does not use as harsh chemicals as Kreem. Still, do it outside, and keep the tank downwind when you are using the cleaning solvent. Actually, it’s a good idea to do ANY fuel system maintenance – carbs, fuel tank, lines, fuel injection – outdoors on a driveway. Car or bike. I had a very small engine fire working on a 5.0 Mustang I used to own – my stupid fault – thank goodness I had the sense to be working on it out in the driveway AND had a fire extinguisher. Fifteen seconds of pure terror and everything was fine except for a day of cleaning out the fire extinguisher compound (I bit the bullet and bought a Halon extinguisher after that).

      • 0 avatar

        Another Kreem recommendation here. Did my ’69 Bonnie tank back in 1994. It’s still holding up just fine.

      • 0 avatar

        I’ll give my stamp of approval for POR-15. I dropped the tank on my Fury to get her running properly again. Step one after catching all the gas** was to remove the filler and the sending unit which gave me good access on both sides. I used a pressure washer with a curved end and stuck it in the tank, and spent a hour trying to get every nook and cranny. Rinsed out the tank and then sealed one end and poured in muriatic acid. Rinsed that our and dried the tank out for several days. 100% dryness is critical. Poured in the POR-15 and sloshed it around for perfect coverage. Tank was better than new! The coating has held up for several years now….

        **what to to with 7 or so gallons of gas? Being an ignorant a-hole and dumping it on the ground was not going to happen; ditto for the storm drain. So, I put some in a coffee can and lit it on fire. Bad idea; the neighbor thought a 747 just crashed. A fan in front of the can made a big difference, but it took forever and the heat of three cans burning at once set the asphalt on fire. So, I filtered the stinky fuel through two coffee filters to remove the suspended crap and burned it in my work car, a quart per 10 gallons or so. Before long it was gone.

    • 0 avatar

      “2. Rust restricting fuel flow. Those Honda tanks were not sealed – they are bare steel inside. If the tank is not 100% full, at night, when it cools down, water condenses on the bare steel (they have a direct vent to the air – no charcoal canister, etc.) and rust forms.”

      This must be a very nice combination with the usual E10 gasoline that we buy today.

  • avatar

    Jack, that was poetry. Thanks for sharing the story(s) of your Kellee(s).

  • avatar

    My first bike was the mighty Honda CB50.


    I bought a helmet from the Sears outlet store that was a few blocks away from my college apartment in South Daytona. Now that I think of it I don’t even know if it was a motorcycle helmet. It might have been an old hitter’s helmet.

    That bike was limited to speeds below 55mph and I remember being passed by the larger scooters but I didn’t care. I was riding a motorcycle and that meant a lot to me.

  • avatar

    About 10 years ago, I was riding back from Myrtle Beach for the Fall Rally. I liked going right at the end and then spending a couple of days in the deserted town since it was the end of the season and all the bikers would pull out as soon as Sunday rolled around. I would ride my Kawasaki ZRX1000 amidst all these hogs which was kinda fun.

    I was in the middle of nowhere on a back road in South Carolina since I refused to take the highway and my throttle cable broke. I pulled over with big logging trucks blowing by on the shoulder and checked my cell phone and of course no signal. A guy on a Busa or a ZX12 blew by me but other than that all I saw was logging trucks. I was just about to rig something up when a guy in a Ford Ranger pulled up. It was the guy on the sport bike, he went back home and got his truck and came back to help me.

    Now I would rather be lucky than good but this was too much. We put my bike in the back of his truck and he drove me the 30-40 miles to the closest dealer. I paid for his gas and filled up his truck and got his address and promised I would send him some tshirts. He left with a wave and that was the last time I ever heard from him. I sent him the t-shirts with a thank you note.

    Now, here’s where more luck comes into being. The shop took a look at my bike and said that it had two throttle cables and it would take at least 2-3 days to get the part so I was looking at being stuck in a hotel for a couple of days. I went outside to call a hotel in the area and what did my eyes see but a used ZRX 1100 sitting in the lot. I went back in and asked if I paid for a new part and labor for both taking off the cable from the used bike and putting it on mine with no guarantee would they do it. They said yes and about 5 hours after breaking down I was back on the road and rode on the edge of a massive thunderstorm heading west from the coast that I outran back home to Atlanta. I like to think I burned up a good store of luck that day but that is one of my best days riding since it was going to be one of the worst.

  • avatar

    OH I love some Ohio Roads! Every year for the AMA we make a good ride out of it. Nice bike, gotta love a honda, they run forever.

  • avatar

    Very nice story, I enjoyed it! I’m not into naming vehicles either, but I used to think of my old Volvo 240 as Gustav, Lars, or the Swedish Checker.

  • avatar

    Baruth, you louche Hitchensian pedant, you.

  • avatar

    All that and no close-ups of the helmut?

    Ohio is still very wave friendly, regardless of bike, as long as your not near a big town or larger.

    I love the quickness and mobility of the bike compared to the car. Even 2800 lbs 400 horsepower cage doesn’t have the low speed thrill of the two wheeler.

  • avatar

    Nice piece, Jack. ‘Tis an interesting feeling when college starts to be quite a while ago – even more interesting if one spends one’s working days at a Big Pretentious University (TM).

    I think there is nothing like owning a vehicle that _has_ to be babied – certainly our 1985 is that way; and it is a very different experience from all the rest.

    My wife and I name all our cars, but we’re weird. Sometimes quickly (one time before it was even picked up), sometimes it takes a year. In order: Remington, Lindsey, Grace, Lauren, Elizabeth, Louis.

    The waving fad comes and goes. When we’re out in the sports cars, we’ll wave at others of the same type, but also other convertibles (if we’re in the ‘vert), most motorcycles, old cars, and hot rods. Not necessarily a big wave, but definitely a hand off the wheel. Doesn’t really bother me if I don’t get a wave back – I feel that I have done my part.

  • avatar

    Loving the Baruth motorcycle diaries. It does sadden me to hear that waving is out of fashion. I remember riding across Washington in the late 90s with my daughter on the back, she couldn’t figure out why all those strangers were waving at us.

  • avatar

    I don’t know much about motorcycles. Does this one sound like floppy farts? You know, like a Harley?

    • 0 avatar

      Absolutely not! Those old Honda SOHC fours are music to the ears! Especially the 400F, and early model 750 with the 4-4 exhaust. Perhaps the best sounding bike,in my opinion, is the Honda CBX inline 6.

      search “CBXsound” on youtube, first link.

      • 0 avatar

        CBX = win. I heard one with straight-out megaphone pipes at a rally once. Incredible.

        Recently saw two identical white CBXs with red-and-blue striping, per Honda racing livery of the time when these bikes were new. Very nice, and apparently stock as could be. Wished I had a camera on me at the time.

      • 0 avatar

        I’ve got some nostalgia for the sound of a 550 four, but my particular illness is more tilted towards the wail of an H2 with stingers, winding up and down through a canyon. The CBX sound is just strange to me. not a car, not a bike…

  • avatar

    Having bought my first motorcycle 2 weeks ago, these 2-wheel articles come at the perfect time! I’m 28 at the moment and decided to buy a bike to ride it with the exact same mentality! Always avoided buying one earlier because I knew I would hurt me…hope I won’t now that I’m mentally ready.

    Keep them coming Mr. Baruth. Most of my forays to TTAC are limited to your articles for the shear writing genious and now you and I seem to share another hobby!

  • avatar

    Oh come on now, just show up on Kelle’s doorstep and tell us what happens. It would make for a good story on TTAC. 400 miles, I take it you already know where she lives. I mean you’re not married or anything right? “It was thirty-eight degrees F outside, with a light misting of rain, as I pulled my newly-purchased 1975 Honda CB550 up to the stoplight, next to my ex-wife’s 2012 Edge.”

  • avatar

    Motorcycles, at least old motorcycles seem to require names. My 1978 BMW R100S is called Chief Rain in Face due to its ability to attract downpours. While a 30+ year old liter bike is still slow by modern standards I still ride on high alert because I value my hide and 80 odd horsepower moving 600 lbs. is still pretty quick.

  • avatar
    slow kills

    These Zanellas should be protected by some decent protective gear. Aerostich makes some top notch riding gear here in the USA. Some marginal luggage (a tail pack, a tank bag, a messenger bag) would also make life on two wheels much more practical.

    • 0 avatar

      Got to love the Aerostich or the Carhart of riding wear.funny catalog too. Along with riding gear the invention of dual compound Dunlop Roadsmarts allows me 30,000 miles or every other year changes.

      With well designed drivetrain of modern bikes and the convience of fuel injection and dual sparkplugs 70 mpg is not out of the question on an 08 SV650. I usually average 68-72 mpg and it’s much faster than V6 Camcords.

  • avatar

    Great write-up and reminds me very much of my ’96 Ducati Monster. Air cooled with carburetors and an Italian attitude to match. She has to be warmed up slowly – patiently – and somewhat gently. After that, she is ready to get it on. Need to name her soon so maybe this article will speed that along!

    Thanks again..

  • avatar

    I had a CB550 that I rode all over north-central Ohio in my college days. On brisk autumn afternoons with the sun beginning to set… It was sublime.

    Thank you Jack.

  • avatar

    Jack – Great story. Those ’70s CB 4-pipers have the greatest sound. I never cared that my ’72 CB-500 Four was slower than my friends bikes: my sounded better. And I think that your tank is from a ’71 or ’72 CB-500 Four. Which is o.k., since I think they look better than the 550 tanks anyway. The Kreem stuff really works. I had some weld porosity on the bottom bracket on my ’87 KLR650 tank. Kreem’d it around 20 years ago, and it hasn’t leaked since.

  • avatar

    Jack – Great story. Those ’70s CB 4-pipers have the greatest sound. I never cared that my ’72 CB-500 Four was slower than my friends bikes: mine sounded better. And I think that your tank is from a ’71 or ’72 CB-500 Four. Which is o.k., since I think they look better than the 550 tanks anyway. The Kreem stuff really works. I had some weld porosity on the bottom bracket on my ’87 KLR650 tank. Kreem’d it around 20 years ago, and it hasn’t leaked since.

  • avatar

    Jack, I hate you. Just when I thought I had properly buried my dreams of bike ownership, you go and post this. To make matters worse, then you went and drudged up memories of my own “great romantic regret.” What’s it been now? Almost ten years…Jesus. How is that possible? Whoever said “time heals all wounds” was a jerk. I was young and naive and it never could have worked, but it still hurts.

    “I love her for not being a cruiser, for not being part of a club, or a society, or a lifestyle, for belonging to me alone and not someone else’s perception.” Jack, I love you. An old Honda is everything a Harley is not and that’s why it’s awesome. Harley’s become a joke, largely because of the unintentionally ironic image that cliquish Harley owners so desperately want to project. A ’75 CB550, or the ’03 790 Bonneville I nearly bought a couple of years ago, will get you shunned by the HOG guys. Good. I don’t want a club or a lifestyle, just the occasional escape on an empty road, alone with my thoughts and a mechanical friend nobody else entirely understands.

    It’s late, but I think I’ll have another beer and browse Craigslist for Bonnevilles and such. If I’m lucky, somebody will have a Honda four that hasn’t been hacked into a crappy cafe racer. Then, if I’m really feeling brave, I’ll go to Facebook and see whatever happened to the girl. I hate you, Jack.

  • avatar

    My ’81 Seca 550 Four and my 48-year-old self are oh so similar. You should come to Oregon, JB, everybody on a bike waves to each other, even the Harley guys.

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    You’ve just written about why I ride a Triumph Bonneville. Except mine isn’t quite so finicky, something to do with modern fuel injection.

    Otherwise spot on.

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    dave peterson

    Jack , what a great story ! At 67 , i have owned 20 bikes , R100s , xs , triumphs , etc . My current ride is a 1981 Honda xl 185. What fun , I can rip thru all 5 speeds and reach , what ? 45 ! a great bike for back road rideing , i am done with rubbing elbows with eschalades , driven by cellphoned soccer moms !

  • avatar

    Ahh, those memories. In the early 1980ies i had a 1971 Honda CB 750 Four with a slightly tuned 1975 engine. She was the enemy of my neighbors sleep. She had a “Devil” 4 to 1 exhaust with no silencing.

  • avatar

    Jack after you sort out your fuel tank issues you might want to try running some Sea Foam though the fuel system to clean out the carbs a bit . Might not make any difference , but it couldn’t hurt – some swear by that stuff . Here in NJ most riders wave , except certain pirate garbed individuals riding a certain brand of bike . Another great read , keep em coming !

  • avatar
    Slingshot John

    registered just to post that this is almost a mirror of me. I have a 72 cb350 in about 100 pieces in the garage since it quit on the highway a month ago (ya, that means i was riding fast, like, 70 fast). I’m only 25 so i still have a lil of the righteous rage in me. The bike was my dads and since i got it a couple years ago its been an ongoing problem, dumping an oil change every couple gas tanks, spark plug wires coming off, wires getting cut by stiff plastic, turn signal getting stiff and breaking, ground up sprockets, leaky carbs, leaky petcock, finicky timing, free spinning starter motor, and NOISY after market mufflers because the originals rusted out. This all in about 2 years, but i’m still going to keep it and still going to fix it. I have a blast riding this bike and if i got another it might just be to fix this one. Took it on a 600 mile trip about a year ago… for business. So its a good thing it didn’t break down before i got where i needed to go. My grand scheme is to take it to Oregon on the TAT, but alas, i fear it may not happen.

  • avatar

    I’ll admit, I didn’t read most of that, only the parts actually about your bike…

    From what you are saying the carbs really need a cleaning. SOHC 4 Honda’s should need the choke to start, then no choke to run at all. Sounds like your’s is running lean, temperamental when cold, no power, running hot. Though from the look of the picture, one cylinder seems to be running rich from the amount of soot. Of course this is still possible if the carbs are out of sync. Does it have the original airbox, or pod filters? These bikes have 2 sets of points, and if they aren’t timed in sync they won’t run great either.

    If the motor doesn’t have a million miles on it and it hasn’t been “tuned” by a hipster who wanted a “cafe racer” it should be plenty fast for modern traffic.

  • avatar

    my first bike was an 89 kawasaki 500 EX, the big bro to the 250, lil son to the 650 and higher. it WAS, as cycleworld said… half an 1100. i freakin LOVED it. it would do an honest 115 top end, smoke all cars from a light, 3.5 to 60mph, cheap to insure (60 a year, full coverage)

    i miss my EX, and stand by my XT225 until i can sell that. Then its all about my TMax, forever

  • avatar


    I just found a link to this in one of your Riverside Green posts, it’s wonderful .

    I wonder of you still have or ride, this bike .

    As mentioned, it’s obviously out of tune, these weren’t insanely fast but they sure are (not were) _quick_ ~ I have V.J.L.A. buddies that still ride them .

    I hope you keep riding, new year’s eve morning 12.31.19 I took a mountain ride with the So. Cal. Vintage Norton Club, a graat bunch of fellows, we rode up the Angeles Crest Highway and in the shadier corners was snow and a few times, ice ~ this frightened the crap out of me and I used to ride the snow all the time, I’m getting older and the pain never quite goes away .

    I’m now considering selling my ’74 BMW R60/6 and sticking to a Tiddler, Honda CB125S ~ I’ve ridden those to Death Valley and back easy-peasy, on the flat they’ll go 70 MPH so I ca ride across Los Angeles to my Sweet’s house where even my Foster boys will tell me I should stop riding….

    I have loves lost I still miss too, it is what it is .


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