High-Mileage Classics: 81,000-mile 1981 Honda CB900F

Reader Contribution by Karl Baumann
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Karl Baumann’s 1981 Honda CB900F has logged almost 81,000 miles.

In the summer of 2004, I decided I wanted to get back into motorcycling after 18 years out of the saddle. I had owned a few dirt bikes as a teen, and in 1982 I bought a 1981 Honda CB900F with money earned from my after-school job. It was a black beauty that I loved to ride to school, to my part-time job and on weekends into the countryside around my home. I loved that bike, and would have kept it longer but needed cash to fund a six-month volunteer work trip to Brazil in 1985.

When I returned, I finished university, met my wife, got a job, had kids … you know the story. I didn’t ride again until the summer of 2004, when a friend bought a 1985 Yamaha FJ1100. One ride and I was hooked again.

I set out to find a good, cheap, older bike, and by pure coincidence bought a 1981 Honda CB900F. It wasn’t a black beauty (the previous owner had painted it orange), but it ran as smooth as I remembered and it made me feel 18 again. It had about 46,000 miles on it, and I thought I’d ride it for a year or two and then move on to something newer.

It ran flawlessly, and I didn’t do much to it other than replace what it needed to make it road worthy; tires, sprockets, chain and steering head bearings. It had a Hondaline fairing like on a Prolink CBX, which made it a pleasure to explore the roads on two wheels again.

I probably would have left it that way, but I happened upon a 900F with a burned out engine and only 10,000 miles on it that had been sitting since 1983 in a garage in Toronto. The bodywork was faded but completely straight, and the exhaust was almost mint, so this became the donor bike for my bike.

By the next spring I had all the best bits of the donor bike on mine, and the bodywork repainted and decaled back to original; since I had a black one once, I decided on the other color they offered in 1981, silver with blue. I have since added braided steel front brake lines and an aftermarket seat (I have the mint, original seat from the donor bike).

My silver beauty and I have been to lots of places together. We have been throughout the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, and the states of Michigan, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire, Virginia and Tennessee. We have gone places to see particular sights and have cruised the roads with no particular destination in mind. And every time I get on it, I feel 18 again.

The bike now has almost 81,000 miles on the clock. But I have had to do some work. At 70,000 miles it was still running great, but was using so much oil I had to carry some with me everywhere. It wasn’t smoking much, but the seals on the valve guides were so deteriorated it was needing a quart with almost every fill of the gas tank! The bottom end seemed fine to me, but I had it inspected anyway and it checked out fine, so I had the top end professionally refreshed. It wasn’t cheap, but I have no regrets: I plan to ride it at least another 70,000 miles.

Read more about the motorcycles mentioned in this article:
1981 Honda CB900F
1985 Yamaha FJ1100

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