3,754 Miles and 38 days on a 1973 Honda CB750

Chicago to Austin and back

| March/April 2010

I doubt you’ve asked the question, “How long does it take to kill a 1973 Honda CB750 on the open road?” But if you have, I can tell you: exactly 3,795 miles. Less than 24 hours and 41 miles after returning from a cross-country venture, a plastic latch on the ignition gave way and killed the bike. It was a fitting coda to a motorycle touring adventure that took me across 12 states and 3,754 miles. But let’s back up a bit.

When it was still summer

I’m only partly sure why I want to take my bike on a cross country motorcycle trip. I think of wide open vistas, my bike piercing through the heart of the country on perfect winding roads. I think of sitting atop an engine smaller than a gallon of milk, carrying all my belongings strapped where possible, being absolutely self-reliant. But I’m also terrified at the idea of this self reliance since I am the sum total of help available, should things break down. But just as this fear gives me pause, it also prods me. It’s also probably the best reason of all to attempt this trip.

The bike is a 1973 Honda CB750 with a 1976 engine. It’s mostly stock, though the engine likely has a big bore kit. The electric starter doesn’t, so I kickstart it. I’ve swapped the 4-into-2 exhaust for a Mac 4-into-1, which has a decent sound. It has Dyna ignition and I converted the fuse box to use blade fuses. I splurge on a halogen headlight and new K&N air pods.

I spend all summer sorting out problems both real and imagined. I rebuild the steering stem, then spend a week rebuilding the swingarm and half of July tracking down electrical glitches. For a while, I think I have to rebuild the engine, but summer’s fading fast. Mid-September arrives and procrastination has out-muscled ambition. I’m failing the logic portion of this test. I’m trying to know the unknowable. I’m guessing what will happen instead of finding out what happens.

I start getting serious and find an Army rucksack to carry clothes and my laptop, along with saddlebags patched up with duct tape to carry tools and such. An $18 clearance tank bag completes the luggage. They say you can fix Hondas with a 10mm wrench and duct tape, but I’m not taking any chances. I bring fuel hose, new wiring, connectors and a Clymer manual, along with a 10-piece socket set. The tools take up one saddlebag, my rain suit takes up the other. The tools seldom get used; I use the rain suit a lot.

I spend two more days sorting the bike out. Carbs are synched, halogen headlight installed and three sparkplugs are replaced. The fourth one’s been jammed into place since spring — it’s cross-threaded and likely won’t go back in if removed. It stays, and I’m off.

Ride 'Em, Don't Hide 'Em Getaway

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