This article was originally published in the February 1997 issue of Sport Rider.
1979 Honda CB750F
Photo Courtesy of Honda
Ten years is a long time for a motorcycle to be on the market without a major redesign, yet Honda’s first-generation CB750-series bike traversed its inaugural decade largely unchanged from original spec. Few people could resist the lure of the SOHC 750’s sweet song, including the sport-riding community, such as it was. For these performance-oriented enthusiasts, the early CBs offered a starting point on which to build their own café racers. Horsepower went up, weight went down, and handling improved as the aftermarket built the parts that CB owners installed in search of sport-riding nirvana. Save for the Kawasaki Z-1 900, the CB was in a league of its own.
The introduction of Suzuki’s GS750 in late 1976 changed all that. The GS set new standards in 750 power and handling, simply shredding the once-mighty CB in all performance areas. Honda knew that the other manufacturers would soon respond with their own performance 750s. The single-stick CB had served its maker well, but change was inevitable. The new CB750F that emerged from Soichiro’s fun factory in ’79 was in every way a giant leap ahead of the old CB and a half-step ahead of everyone else’s 750s. Welcome the twin-cam, four-valve CB750F.
Although developed concurrently with the six-cylinder CBX, the CB-F was not a downsized copy. The F’s four-valve head mimicked the CBX’s geometry, but the four breathed more efficiently than the six due to straighter intake tracts, bigger carburetors and better porting.
The bottom end of the air-cooled four was totally conventional, including the then-current practice of hanging the ignition and alternator off the end of the crank instead of placing them behind the cylinders on a jackshaft; still, the engine was narrow enough to ensure adequate cornering clearance. The engine made roughly 65 horsepower and 40 foot-pounds of torque, enough to push the 540-pound CB-F to very competitive 12.5-second quarter-mile times.
The engine bolted solidly to a chassis that owed much to its predecessor, yet repaired handling quirks associated with the old frame. Thicker-walled steel tubing (than the CB750K) and revised steering-head gusseting formed the basis for the CB-F frame. In most other respects, the new bike’s geometry was identical to the old F’s. The 35mm fork and Showa FVQ shocks were not ground-breaking pieces, nor were the triple disc brakes and ComStar wheels; however, these items combined with the stout frame to markedly improve the CB-F’s handling over its predecessor. The bike was on a par with the superlative GS750 in terms of steering feedback and responsiveness. Seat/peg/bar relationship was just about spot-on, perhaps a bit too upright for sporting duty, but easily changed with new handlebars. Braking performance improved over the old CB-F, as did suspension action, although the latter still seemed a bit stiction-related stiff. In 1979 terms, the CB-F was a cutting-edge sport bike, rivaled by very few machines when the pavement turned twisty.
As with the CBX with which it shared braking components, the CB-F had thin brake rotors that were prone to warping with hard use. Stock carburetion was overly lean to the point of mild surging at cruising speeds. After a few thousand miles racked up on the odometer, the Showa shocks revealed their ancient heritage. Combine the shock problem with rapidly wearing nylon swingarm bushings, and suddenly the once taut-handling CB-F turned into a springy, wallowy mess. Luckily, all but the brake problems were easily fixed with cash and a few hours of the owner’s time.
The CB750F stuck it out for three years. As with the older CB, the nucleus of the bike stayed the same but underwent refinement. That refinement, and the F production lines, stopped with the 1983 introduction of Honda’s new-think VF750 Interceptor, which again leapfrogged Honda into class supremacy. Where did that leave the twin-cam F? The farther away the CB-F got from the edge, the more mundane its tasks became. Truly not an end befitting such a fabulous piece of machinery. Unlike today’s sport bikes, the CB-F is an unpretentious, versatile sporting motorcycle. Cheap they are; battle-weary examples can go for as little as $500; a showroom-fresh, one-owner bike for up to $2500. Don’t let your ego talk you into passing up on a bike this good for a newer, flashier bike you can’t live with; for many, the CB-F is as much motorcycle as they will ever need. The second-generation Honda CB750F was a fitting successor to one of the most significant motorcycles of our time.
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