Old Motorcycle Parts and Passion

Classic bikes are fun to ride and relatively easy to maintain, if you can find the parts. For owners of something like the Honda CB400T Hawk, this is often easier said than done.

Reader Contribution by Richard Backus
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by Richard Backus
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.

Motorcycle Classics Magazine
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