The Power of Dreams: the Honda CB series

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More than any other production series, the Honda CB bikes are considered the quintessential UJM. Vertical cylinder configurations came in single, parallel twin, inline four and the rarer inline six in nearly every engine capacity conceivable. Every motorcyclist we’ve ever met has either ridden, owned or lusted after one at some point in their lives.
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The advertising in this series by Honda Japan pulls away from the urban utilitarian bubbliness of the earlier campaign for the Super Cub, instead forcing the bike and rider in brightly saturated open spaces and harsh light. The effect is a clever nod to the lone Man With No Name imagery of the Western, but without going so far as disingenuine aping for marketing’s sake. This stylistic device for marketing the sporty CB line also speaks to the now legendary reliability of the CB under harsh conditions with tens of thousands of miles on the odometer.

What we really love, more than anything, is the utter lack of copy cluttering up the photographs. The images are allowed to exist on their own. Without words, we can interpret the moment and experience of “Honda” for ourselves, which is what makes these ads so powerful. Seeing an advertisement like any of these today would be shocking.

Just as images we think the shots would resonate deeply with anyone, biker or not.

Honda

  • Dr.Danger

    I love the 70′s CB series. The clean design and great color combos have made it a nice classic bike. If I were to buy another bike, it would be either a CB750/4 or the CB550.

    These images are fantastic.

  • http://www.tanshanomi.com Tanshanomi

    Naked Honda CBs will forever define for me what a motorcycle should look like. A 1973 CB350F provided me with some of my most cherished motorcycling memories, even though by the time I acquired it in the early ’90s, it was long considered “obsolete” in the eyes of most riders.

  • Silky

    I came into ownership of an 83 550 Nighthawk last summer looking for what I thought was going to be a “beater” cruiser to commute with and beat the gas prices. Boy did I learn something. Best bike I have EVER owned, hands down. I may never get rid of this one. Comfortable ride, mechanically reliable… can’t beat it.

  • black13

    i had a 1986 cb450 for a while. it was a real turd of a bike, but it only cost me 700 bucks. the clutch slipped, the speedo didn’t work and the brakes were dangerously numb. but, i got used to it, and it was my daily ride to work for over a year. never had to worry about anyone stealing it, and didn’t really care if it got tipped over. good city bike.

  • Robert

    I ride a ’72 CL/CB350 in Los Angeles to work every single day. I rebuilt her last year and wouldn’t part with her for 20 grand. A 2:1 pipe and a pair of drag bars and bar mirrors are the only thing I’ve done to it – and she is solid.

    I’m also rebuilding a ’76 CB750 – and the bike designs are just so classic and aggressive that they are always turning heads. I love CBs!

    • Dr.Danger

      I always wanted a flat-black CB750 with drag bars and mirrors. I have seen a couple here in Boston for really cheap, just haven’t made the commitment.

  • http://artistruth.livejournal.com will

    That CB400 Four Supersport one is amazing.

  • http://www.pirex.blog.br/ Piréx

    Here in Brazil we have a long history with CBs (there’re a lot of seventies CBs riding here). I ride now an ’07 Honda CB 1300 Super Four. Long live, CB!

  • Michael

    I rock my CB-1 everyday :)

  • Robbo B

    I’ve only owned two bikes so far, an ’81 CB250 and now a ’92 CB Seven Fifty. A recent clash with a poorly driven Hyundai left me with the decision to give it a second chance at life or buy something else. I couldn’t bear to part with it.

    So a new coat of paint, new bars, indicators, recover of the seat and the odometer clicking over to all zeros a few months ago and it’s like a brand new bike. And I still ride it almost every day.

    http://www.bikepics.com/pictures/1526003/

  • JB

    I’ve always hated the old CB’s and how they refined motorcycling. We all know Honda was the china copy company of the era.

    • eric the red

      I think they were more like the Japanese version of the Automobile today. Who would drive a chevy or citrogen over a Honda, toyota if given the choice. Would you rather wrench on your harley or triumph daily or just ride?

  • Pablo

    Love my CB750, Gives me a smile evry time I ride it (which is every day) JB you are just plain wrong When the CB came out it was so different from what the brits were doing you could hardly call it a copy, unless you mean the fact that it had 2 wheels and a motor.

  • http://bzrong.com bzr

    Lovely. Though I’m feeling a slight bit of envy at leaving out the 550…the motorcycle I’m currently working on right now, after spending the last two summers stripping it to pieces and refinishing everything. I’ve already sunk way too much time, effort, and especially money into it than what it’s worth, but I still can’t wait to see it finished.

  • NTBH

    Ohh, do I ever miss my 73 CB 350. It was my second bike, luckily I sold it to my college roommate who moved it into our basement(quite a feat given the narrowness and low head clearance of our stairs) in order to replace the cam chain. Now, 14 years later it is sitting in his garage waiting for a rebuild, so I may get to ride it again. My vote (which he probably agrees with) is for drag bars, rearsets, bar end mirrors and a cafe style seat. Time to get to work, Jess.