ZEN AGAIN by Sam Longo
Honda’s sporty CB77 Superhawk was produced from 1961 until 1968. Up until the introduction of the CB450 Black Bomber in 1965, it was Honda’s flagship performance leader. With 305cc’s, a 180 degree crankshaft and 28 hp at 9000 RPM, the little, overhead valve, twin could run with the best British 500’s of its day, topping out at a respectable 104.6 miles per hour. (Cycle World, 1962)
Now fairly collectable, it has become an icon of the sixties. Not to down play the CB72 250 Hawk, or the CB160 affectionately named the “Chicken Hawk”(both excellent motorcycles), the 305 Superhawk simply was the quintessential chrome tanked Honda to own during the early era of “Meeting the nicest people”.
Perhaps part of the bikes desirability among collectors is its direct link to a very successful book that was extremely popular in the 1970’s. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance may well be the most famous literary work that has ever focused on motorcycling. It certainly is, without a doubt, the best selling book in that category. Robert Pirsig’s epic journey across America, with his young son Chris, chronicles his troubled search for truth and the essence of quality. It is not surprising then, that his motorcycle of choice was the venerable Honda 305 Superhawk.
Interest in Pirsig’s book, and therefore by association the Superhawk, has recently been rekindled by Mark Richardson’s excellent sequel “Zen and Now”, where he retraces the authors journey while discovering his own inner truths. It is a great read, even if Richardson did ride the wrong motorcycle!
My own zen-like journey with this particular bike started last fall when I began this project. The two CB77 wrecks beckoned me from the front showroom of Ontario Cycle Salvage. I realize now that it was futile to resist the temptation, but at the time, I really secretly hoped someone else would buy them. The final result pictured here was not so much a restoration, but more a resurrection, as it arose from the ashes, becoming one decent bike from the decrepit remains of two others. Not entirely stock, I treated it to flat bars and had to live with aftermarket mufflers and a cut down front fender. Forty-four years after its initial manufacture, I was truly impressed with the ride quality and performance of this little twin cylinder, giant killer.
Acceleration is best described as comfortably adequate, controls are light and the twin leading shoe front and rear brakes haul the bike to a stop with authority (for a drum braked antique). Even the vibration is minimal unless you spin the engine right up to its lofty redline. The fact that it runs so well is more a testament to the build quality of early Honda’s than any of my skills as a mechanic. The bottom line here is that Mr. Honda really got it right, and Mr. Pirsig did indeed choose a very well made, durable motorcycle. I doubt that I would ever consider this bike for a cross-country journey, two up, loaded with camping gear as Pirsig did. Nor would I attempt to match Cycle Worlds 1962 top speed, but for a quick run to the bank, with my smiling neighbors giving me the thumbs up as I pass by, it can only be described as simply zen-sational.