Royce Thiessen's first bike, a 1975 Honda CB750 found on Craigslist.
I have been reading Motorcycle Classics since 2008 and finally decided to get off the sidelines and jump into the classic motorcycle arena. So I began browsing Craig’s list, found the classic I’d always wanted and went to look it over. The front brake was sticking preventing an actual test ride but I figured that could be fixed. Otherwise it was all there (wrong seat) and seemed to run properly so I bought it. A few days later I was ready to follow your motto “Ride ‘Em, Don’t Hide ‘Em “ and take my ‘new’ 1975 Honda CB750 for its first ride.
This was not as simple as it sounds as I first had to siphon out the old gas and replace it, air up the tires, and disable the front brake due to the sticking problem. After donning helmet, jacket and gloves, I was ready to go and fired it up. Then, with the feeling of anticipation that comes at the beginning of any first ride, I eased the clutch and headed down the hill in front of my house. Because of the absence of a front brake and the age of the motorcycle, the plan was to ride cautiously up and down the street a few times, just to ‘get a feel for the bike’.
From the beginning the engine wouldn’t idle very well and I attributed this to its need to warm up but things only got worse from there. By the time I was half way down the street it was cutting in and out and then the engine died completely. Since I was headed down hill, the momentum carried me to the bottom where I stopped and tried in vain to start the engine. Although it turned over smartly, it wouldn’t fire. After a few futile minutes of trying - choke on, choke off, throttle on, throttle off - I gave up and unhappily accepted that I was dead in the water and wasn’t going to get it started anytime soon. I just stood there and looked at what had, until a few moments ago, been my beautiful ‘new’ pride and joy.
Then the recriminations began. How could I be so stupid! What did I think was going to happen when I bought a 36 year old motorcycle? Obviously the engine was messed up and to ever get it running again it would probably require complete carburetor rebuilds or worse by an expensive professional mechanic. The guy who sold it to me said it ran great, and it did at his place, and I was just dumb enough to fall for it. I hadn’t even taken it for a test ride. How stupid was that. And so on and so on.
But in the end, there I was, stuck at the bottom of the hill. I couldn’t leave the motorcycle in the road so the only thing to do was to push it back up the hill to my house. Then I would have to get some sucker, probably a friend, to help me push it up my steep driveway and into the garage. So off I went, slowly pushing my former pride and joy now turned object lesson to the foolishness of middle age, up the two hundred yards to my house.
About half way there I came upon a neighbor working in his yard. I hoped he would respect my manly pride and do the noble thing of ignoring me so I could quietly pass by in my shame. But that is not the American way, of course, and when he saw the sad sight of me pushing a motorcycle up the hill he immediately came over and offered to help. I turned him down mumbling something like ‘I must have flooded it’ and ‘I need the exercise’. (Maybe I can start a fad of pushing old motorcycles up and down hills as a new, fun way to get in shape.) But I took a break to talk to him anyway as I was already winded from the first hundred yards and the hill ahead was only getting steeper. It turned out he owned a Suzuki 800 so we talked about that and at one point he mentioned a motorcycle he had once owned and had modified with a smaller gas tank. As soon as he said ‘gas tank’ it hit me. I had turned the gas off earlier in the day when I siphoned the old gas out of the tank and never turned it on again. I immediately checked and sure enough, the petcock was off.
Needless to say, that was changed in a hurry. The bike fired right up and in a few seconds I was roaring up and down the street at speeds far exceeding the legal limit. It was great. The 750 ran like a scalded dog and, throwing caution to the wind, I decided who needed a front brake, insurance or a license plate anyway and rode off down the road. My confidence restored, I couldn’t help but think what a smart guy I was to buy such a great bike. I should have done this years ago. It ended up to be a great first ride.
Royce Thiessen/Morristown, Tennessee