My First Ride: A 1975 Honda CB750

| 10/4/2011 9:59:10 AM

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Royce Thiessen's 1975 Honda CB750 
Royce Thiessen's first bike, a 1975 Honda CB750 found on Craigslist. 

I have been reading Motorcycle Classics since 2008 and finally decided to get off the sidelines and jump into the classic motorcycle arena.  So I began browsing Craig’s list, found the classic I’d always wanted and went to look it over.  The front brake was sticking preventing an actual test ride but I figured that could be fixed.  Otherwise it was all there (wrong seat) and seemed to run properly so I bought it.  A few days later I was ready to follow your motto “Ride ‘Em, Don’t Hide ‘Em “ and take my ‘new’ 1975 Honda CB750 for its first ride.   

This was not as simple as it sounds as I first had to siphon out the old gas and replace it, air up the tires, and disable the front brake due to the sticking problem.  After donning helmet, jacket and gloves, I was ready to go and fired it up.  Then, with the feeling of anticipation that comes at the beginning of any first ride, I eased the clutch and headed down the hill in front of my house.  Because of the absence of a front brake and the age of the motorcycle, the plan was to ride cautiously up and down the street a few times, just to ‘get a feel for the bike’.

From the beginning the engine wouldn’t idle very well and I attributed this to its need to warm up but things only got worse from there.  By the time I was half way down the street it was cutting in and out and then the engine died completely.  Since I was headed down hill, the momentum carried me to the bottom where I stopped and tried in vain to start the engine.  Although it turned over smartly, it wouldn’t fire.  After a few futile minutes of trying - choke on, choke off, throttle on, throttle off - I gave up and unhappily accepted that I was dead in the water and wasn’t going to get it started anytime soon.  I just stood there and looked at what had, until a few moments ago, been my beautiful ‘new’ pride and joy.   

Then the recriminations began.  How could I be so stupid!  What did I think was going to happen when I bought a 36 year old motorcycle?  Obviously the engine was messed up and to ever get it running again it would probably require complete carburetor rebuilds or worse by an expensive professional mechanic.  The guy who sold it to me said it ran great, and it did at his place, and I was just dumb enough to fall for it. I hadn’t even taken it for a test ride. How stupid was that.  And so on and so on.

But in the end, there I was, stuck at the bottom of the hill.  I couldn’t leave the motorcycle in the road so the only thing to do was to push it back up the hill to my house.  Then I would have to get some sucker, probably a friend, to help me push it up my steep driveway and into the garage.  So off I went, slowly pushing my former pride and joy now turned object lesson to the foolishness of middle age, up the two hundred yards to my house.   

10/30/2011 4:33:04 PM

there are many 1st time rider's and owners on this forum there mostly new to the biking world and older 1s not to open minded when coming to other brands of bikes,but have great story's like yours,A classic is a classic just keep them on the roads.

bryan veinotte
10/28/2011 5:11:58 AM

i feel your pain! i just purchased a 76 cb750 and have had a few episodes that i can laugh about now but were not amusing at the time.(must of had an extra bowl of stupid for breakfast those days lol).am havin a blast ridin now though-woohoo.bryan veinotte

scott haralson
10/27/2011 9:36:17 PM

I remember when I got my first bike with " vacuum shut off" petcock. I think it was my '78 Yam xs-11, first thought I had was :"good, can't ever forget to turn it on again".

carl uehlinger
10/27/2011 8:58:18 PM

I'm the guy charlie Gilbert mentioned who had the problem with the weep hole in the master cylinder. Bleed the brakes and see if that fixes it. If not you should take the cover off the master and apply the brake and see if the fluid squirts back into the master. (Protect the tank as brake fluid is a great paint remover!!) If no squirt then you have to take the master apart and unplug that weep hole with a bent straight pin. You'll have to peek down the bore to find it...Good luck!!

charlie gilbert
10/27/2011 5:09:17 PM

a friend had the same brake problem. check the master cylinder, look for a very small weep hole which may be plugged. If it's plugged the pressure cannot bleed off after applying the brake.

10/27/2011 4:55:10 PM

Great story Royce, and congratulations on getting a CB 750. I love this bike, and have 5 of them. I enjoy working on them, and have even done duel disc front break conversions to them (something Honda should have done). Here is a link to a really neat CB 750 forum (they also talk about other bikes there) that, you might want to check out. There are a lot of friendly, and helpful people there. James

clarence de barrows
10/27/2011 11:49:48 AM

I have a 1970 CB750 which I bought new. It has been in storage for over 20 years and is presently at "Charlie's" in San Francisco being prepared for the road again. Can't wait to fire it up and get on the road once again after all these years.

paul bladyka
10/27/2011 11:32:25 AM

Thanks for sharing that, Royce ! I am the proud new owner of an '86 BMW R80.. A couple times now I've had it die on me as it's warming up, just because I forget it has a petcock. The first time I walked away, mumbling and muttering, and an hour later I got lucky and glanced at the petcock as I was approaching the bike. Second time I realized my error right before the engine died. Luckily, we can learn this new trick if we want it bad enough ! Paul.

10/27/2011 10:19:56 AM

Royce, I’m envious. My first street bike was a ’76 CB750F. My stepfather had bought it for himself though he had never ridden a motorcycle before (He had me test ride it to make sure it ran properly). He rode it a couple times with no problems, then one day he came walking back home. He was mad because the bike died on him and wouldn’t restart. We went and got the bike and put it in the garage. That was the last time he rode it. A couple months later I was in the garage and saw the 750 just sitting there and began to wonder what might have caused it to die and not restart. I remembered him mentioning that it still had gas in the tank, so I turned the petcock to reserve, hit the start button and the thing fired right up! I asked my stepdad if I could take it for a ride and he said sure but he wasn’t going to help me push it home. Needless to say there was nothing wrong with the bike and I rode it everywhere for the next several months until I left home for the Navy. My stepfather had given up on the bike because he couldn’t grasp the concept of a reserve position on the petcock.

john f
10/27/2011 9:25:10 AM

Hey Royce, I've def had a few of those moments. Maybe not the gas shutoff but certainly the kill switch. And whether it was 2 min or an hour of scratching my head it always amazes me when I miss the most obvious solution and/or cause. Anyway, enjoy the new bike. I love my 76 CB750 (95% original) and want to get another to convert it into a cafe racer but my wife has put her foot down stating that 3 bikes are more than enough for now (I also have a 97 Ducati 916 and an 06 ST1300). Regards,JF

10/27/2011 9:19:44 AM

Congrats on a fine-looking purchase! Prior to the CB750's arrival, the hot Honda was the CB450 DOHC twin, which I owned. I remember sitting on mine, and looking at a new 750 and thinking, 4 cylinders, that's a game-changer! Ditched the 450 shortly after. I had a very similar episode bringing my '69 Bonneville back to life; about 3/4 the way down the street, the fuel lines to the filter got pinched and shut off gas to one side. I got it pushed all the way back and up my steep driveway before realizing it was an easy fix. I too turned down offers from neighbors out of pride!

tim kern
10/27/2011 9:13:22 AM

Hey, Royce, we've all done it, and trust me, it doesn't get better! Please, though, note that the rear brake will stop the bike only in, like, 1000% of the distance of the front. Fixing it won't take long, it's cheap, and it will save time over explaining to the guy you just hit why you also don't have insurance.

mark johnson
10/27/2011 8:28:30 AM

Great story but you need that front disc brake!

alvin davenport
10/27/2011 8:12:57 AM

Royce, the kill switch can be just as embarrasing. I recall when I was showing off my 79 CB 750 in front of my buddies, and after tearing down the hill, power shifting each gear, it just died. I tried to restart it to no avail. Finally, I gave up and started pushing it up the hill and a few friends began helping. Once we got it home, I spotted the kill switch in the off position. I must have hit it while racing down the hill. I didn't even mention it when I got the bike restarted, just mumbled something about not knowing why it stalled. Alvin Davenport

bruce isaachsen
10/27/2011 7:47:10 AM

Royce, Great story! Been there done that. Do get the front brake repaired both the caliper and master cylinder. Don't forget to get a shop manual. Back in the '70's owners were expected to perform their own maintenance. Good news is it is a Honda so that should be minimal. Welcome to the wonderful world of classic bikes. Sounds like you are hooked. I know I am. Enjoy the ride. Bruce Isaachsen

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