1981 Honda CB900F

Old school cool

| November/December 2010

Honda CB900F
Years produced: 1981-1982
Claimed power: 89hp @ 9,000rpm
Top speed: 129mph (period test)
Engine type: 902cc air-cooled, DOHC inline four
Weight (wet): 575lb (260kg)
Price then: $3,495
Price now: $1,500-$3,000
MPG: 40-50mpg

John Davy lives surrounded by motorcycles. During the day, he works as a motorcycle wholesaler, buying used bikes and selling them to dealerships. On evenings and weekends, he indulges his passion for collecting classics, especially classic Japanese motorcycles. One of John’s latest finds is this 1981 Honda CB900F.

“I got lucky,” John admits. “There are only a few nice CB900F’s around, and most are the silver and blue ones, not the black and orange. This one was all original, with 1,400 miles on it. It had been sitting in a garage for 10 or 15 years.”

Like Kawasaki triples and Yamaha SR500 singles, the Honda CB900F is something of a cult bike. Imported into the United States for only two years, it got pulled from the U.S. market not because it wasn’t a good bike, but thanks to political problems not of its own making. The power and good handling of this inline four, one of the first Japanese-built bikes whose handling matched its horsepower, has kept interest in the 900F high.

The Big Four

The modern Japanese motorcycle industry had its roots in the turbulent years after World War II, when dozens of small factories vied to provide the home market with cheap transportation. By the late 1970s, the four remaining Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Kawasaki, had a lock on the world’s lightweight and middleweight motorcycle market, and a healthy percentage of the heavyweight market. The four companies, jousting for market share, saw America as critical to their success. Courting American motorcyclists was serious business.

Honda, slightly ahead of the rest of the pack, looked back over its shoulder and saw Yamaha gaining. Determined to keep their number one position, Honda executives reviewed their model lineup and detected a hole. Suzuki was manufacturing the powerful and good-handling GS series of inline fours. Honda decided it needed a motorcycle to go head-to-head with the Suzuki GS models.

12/4/2010 5:08:17 PM

I'm the original owner of an '81 900F. I still own it & ride it on the street. I also raced it at the club level in the '80's. The bike is heavily modified, the engine being built by Denny Zickrick. Denny, for those not aware of it, was the HRC mechanic building engines for Mike Baldwin, Steve Wise, and Spencer when the 900F was campaigned in AMA Superbike by Honda. Spencer's comments in the article have to be taken with a large amount of salt. At the time HRC used a 16" front on the bikes to try to get them to flick in. Pull up photos of those bikes & you'll see wiiiide bars on them that (barely) allowed the rider to get the leverage to keep that 16" combo from tucking in & rolling. My bike, with the stock 19" front is a model of stability. 900F

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