The ups and downs of owning a classic motorcycle
Marty Weber on his SL175 (far left). Photo courtesy Marty Weber
In reading your Under the Radar article about the Honda XL250, I find a glaring omission when you state that the SL125 and SL350 were the only choices from Honda for the dirt market. There were also the SL100 and the SL175, which was the closest thing that Honda had for the 250ish category.
While the SL175’s engine was also derived from the street bike engine, it had an offroad-style frame. As a 2-cylinder 4-stroke motorcycle, it was heavy and underpowered compared to the single-cylinder 2-stroke competition. Additionally, in racing, it had to be run in the 250 class, where it was at even more of a disadvantage.
For those of us who just wanted to race motocross and had to make do with what we had, the SL175 was a decent performer. It was stone reliable, didn’t waste power spinning the rear wheel and it never fouled a plug. Learning to deal with the bike’s shortcomings made me a better rider as I learned to think ahead and choose lines carefully. There were usually about 30 or so riders in the class and I would usually finish around 20th. Not impressive to a lot of people, but remember that I was racing against 250s. One of my fondest memories was that of passing a 250 Husky rider during a mud race.
I still own and ride the SL. It has about 10,000 miles on it, not counting racing time when the gauges were removed. It is waiting to be refurbished. For a trip down memory lane, I’ve attached a photo [see above] taken of me coming off the starting line at Baldwin, Kansas, in 1972. The photo’s faded, but so is my hair. — Marty Weber/via email
Marty, Thanks for your letter. The reason we didn’t mention either the SL100 (1970-1973) or SL175 (1970-1972) was that they were at the end of their run as the new group of more dirt-focused bikes came on the market. Kudos to you for keeping your SL, and we hope you get it redone and back out riding soon. — Ed.