Old Motorcycle Parts and Passion

| 2/11/2020 9:00:00 AM

Honda CB400T Hawk
A great bike with classic flair, a Honda CB400T Hawk should be easy to keep on the road — if you can find the parts.

Working on a friend’s recent “vintage” Japanese purchase got me wondering if “true” classics like the Norton Commando and Triumph Bonneville are easier to own than we acknowledge. No question they can have their share of mechanical gremlins and dodgy electrics, but compared to the array of more “advanced” machines that followed in their wake, mostly from Japan, they might just be the easiest classic bikes to keep on the road. Or at least to buy parts for.

The problem is, because of their value we tend to relegate them to weekend warrior status, prized jewels we haul out for group rides or a Sunday run to the local pub. If you’re new to the classic scene you might not be ready to pound down $7,500 to $10,000 — or more — to get one of these recognized classics, and then there’s that maintenance thing; they definitely ask more of the owner than the average Honda or BMW.

Regular readers might recall Jean Denney’s article back in the September/October 2019 issue recounting her experience as a new rider taking the basic rider’s course. With her license secured and following some real-world street time on my trusty ’76 Suzuki GT185, Denney, group editor of sister publications Mother Earth Living and Fermentation, made the plunge into motorcycle ownership. Immersed by association into the classic bike scene, she was looking for something with classic flair, but daily usability. If you’ve tried to navigate that same road you know that it’s easier said than done, so when Denney lucked onto a nicely preserved 1978 Honda CB400T Hawk, she jumped at it. An affordable, easy-to-ride standard, the Hawk is a great bike, and this one, garage-kept with just more than 6,300 miles on the clock and a $1,000 price tag, seemed like a bargain.

And it was. Cosmetically it’s maybe a 7 or 8, and mechanically it’s close to perfect. The engine lights up readily and spins freely, the 360-degree crank providing nice torque characteristics even if the little twin produces only something like 36 horsepower. The transmission is smooth and snatch free, the brakes are perfectly adequate, and the suspension, despite being short on travel and a bit soft — like just about every Japanese bike of the era — works well enough. It’s mostly a winning combination, and one that saw Honda produce tens of thousands of the little twins up through the early ’80s, by which time the 395cc twin was bored to 447cc for just a bit more oomph.

It’s pretty much an ideal everyday classic, except for a snag that makes finding parts for it, most recently a replacement exhaust cross-over pipe and mufflers, something of a challenge; the Hawk’s lack of enthusiast appeal.

6/11/2020 10:46:35 PM

A big part of the reason why parts for old British bikes are still available is that Britons actually ride there old tarts DAILY, making spares essential and profitable. Except for certain models, the Japanese expect you to buy new after a few years. The British also used many standard parts across many makes and models. Not only is this economy for manufacturers it also makes sense for aftermarket suppliers to invest in making these parts. For example, all the major British marques used the same turn signals. I can't even find a lens for the signals on my '92 BMW K100RS! I remember when I worked at a repair shop the difficulty of ordering a simple TS flasher relay for a Japanese bike. You had to specify make, model, year, maybe even month of manufacture to get the correct unit. Get a LIFE! There is absolutely NO reason to not use the same unit across your product range and several years!

5/23/2020 2:14:42 PM

I certainly agree that most vintage metric bikes are very hard to find parts for. Unless of course you are talking about the truly Iconic vintage metric bikes. For example look at the earlier Honda CB750Ks, ... or the equally Iconic Yamaha XS650 twins, just to mention two. Those two had such an impact on motorcycling through the seventies, ... that parts are relatively easy to find, (especially when compared to bikes like the 400 Hawk in this article). I believe there are a small handful of vintage metrics that actually deserve the Classic designation, ... while the majority are relegated to the mere label of Vintage.

5/21/2020 11:22:54 AM

I have the EXACT same CB400T2 and have a kind of a bucking when accelerating hard only in 2nd gear. Probably the shift fork, drum or gear dogs. Of course, gotta take the engine out. Tried to find, David Silver has forks, but no drum or gear dogs. Only alternative? Used off of EBay. Who knows if used is good? I don't want to keep riding accelerating softly in 2nd. Sooner or later, bad shit will happen Any suggestions? I'm in Paterson, NJ

The sound and the fury: celebrate the machines that changed the world!

Motorcycle Classics JulAug 16Motorcycle Classics is America's premier magazine for collectors and enthusiasts, dreamers and restorers, newcomers and life long motorheads who love the sound and the beauty of classic bikes. Every issue  delivers exciting and evocative articles and photographs of the most brilliant, unusual and popular motorcycles ever made!

Save Even More Money with our RALLY-RATE plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our RALLY-RATE automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5.00 and get 6 issues of Motorcycle Classics for only $29.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and I'll pay just $34.95 for a one year subscription!

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter