Rick Campbell's 1989 Honda Hawk GT


Rick Campbells Honda Hawk

Your excellent September/October 2017 issue underscores a most important point about the success of Honda Japanese motorcycles in the early years: they were not just “styled” but were integrated designs. The beloved Honda S90 (I had two) proves the point: sprightly, reliable, and simply elegant in their design. Hondas of that era always looked right to me. In contrast, the Ariel Leader and Arrow demonstrate the failure of later English design. The Arrow’s red-and-white paint scheme was the ultimate example of putting “lipstick on a pig.” Sadly, the Commando Hi-rider is an even worse example of the same thing. To underscore the point, after World War II, England produced the Corgi, America produced the Cushman Eagle, and Japan produced the Honda 50. Engineering and design were far superior on the Honda.

I say this after spending a couple of wonderful morning hours on my 1989 Honda Hawk NT650 GT, and wondering why today no one will make a compact bike even close to it in terms of finish (polished cases, aluminum frame and swingarm, sandcast aluminum brackets), low weight (390 pounds) and good handling. No offense to the good folks at Royal Enfield, but this is much more bike than their historic singles, which I considered before buying and restoring the Hawk. Engineering, when combined with good esthetics, results in successful motorcycle sales. I think you have to look very hard to find ugly motorcycles that sold well.

Rick Campbell/Tigard, Oregon

2/14/2018 12:52:27 PM

Those were painful days to watch when the British bike industry went to hell. Who would have believed that the British owning class along with unions would scuttle such a tradition. Well, I believe it now that America has done the same thing. Pig-greedy lack of reinvestment, failure to uphold environmental and worker protection standards for cheap imports, along with a Congress that lined it's pockets while our workers suffered.

2/8/2018 3:40:51 PM

The Hawk GT was a great bike. But it didn’t sell. Why? Mostly because it was over priced. Other fine Hondas that suffered the same fate due to sticker shock were the CBR400 and GB500 single. (What’s that you say? The GB is now a “classic collector’s bike?” Sure is. Too few to go around sometimes does that). There ARE great bikes like the Hawk GT today. One is the Suzuki SV650. As a matter of fact, it’s better. Affordable, reliable, good looking and a better track bike than the GT (go ahead, ask around). I applaud Honda for building bikes like the GT. But they need to stop trying to be “The BMW of Japanese Motorcycles,” because nobody wants to pay for that — not BMW owners, and certainly not fans of Japanese motorcycles.

2/8/2018 8:12:20 AM

Mine was a 1988 silver Hawk GT. Wonderful bike, and as you say, low weight, good handling, little to no plastic bodywork to deal with, and was very easy to work on. Have seen a few in recent years, but they are getting harder to find. I used mine as a 50 mile a day commuter, which meant that I needed to stop for gas every two days (3.2 gallon tank). One of my favorite current rides is a 2013 Suzuki DL605 V-Strom. Light weight, good handling, and gets about 58-60 mpg. One thing you cannot deny, at least in most cases, the ugly pig motorcycles that nobody wanted, are worth more than a few bucks today. If anyone has a free to good home Norton Commando Hi-rider they need to get rid of, please let me know...

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