Saying goodbye to the “Guggenheim CB750”

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It was time. The motorcycle had been part of my life for 17 good years; now, thanks to the reach of eBay, it rested rather forlornly in a wooden box awaiting a UPS truck and the 2000-mile trip to its new owner. For a moment, I wanted to call the whole deal off, to renege on the sale…but, no, it was time. The last few woodscrews cinched the crate shut, paperwork was signed, the forklift was fired up, and my 1970 Honda CB750 K0 was no longer mine.

Oddly, it was going back to Illinois, the same state where in 1992 I purchased the bike and set out on an epic Old Route 66 crossing in the company of my friend Mitch Boehm aboard another first-generation CB750 Four. At the time, we were both on the Cycle World magazine payroll. The resulting story, “West by CB750,” was among the most fondly remembered from my 25 years at the magazine.

Highlights of that trip have not dimmed in the almost two decades since we strapped soft luggage to the two bikes, pointed their noses toward California and went off in search of Steinbeck’s “Mother Road,” officially decommissioned in 1985 but still there if you know where to look. The trip’s successful completion was threatened several times–notably when Mitch’s candy-red CB required a top-end rebuild in Tulsa, Oklahoma, accomplished at a Suzuki shop no less! My turquoise 750 was less troublesome, right up until the point it threw its masterlink approaching Oatman, Arizona. The runaway chain then wadded itself tightly against the engine, knocking out a chunk of the cases big enough to allow an unobstructed view of the gearbox internals, never a good thing, especially when you’re 350 miles from home.

Edwards and Boehm’s road-rigged K0 CB750s take in a break in 1992 beneath a Coke sign painted on the side of an Oklahoma cafe.

It was 11 miles back to a motel on Interstate 40, my dead-engine arrival there made possible by the torque of Mr. Honda’s fabulous four-cylinder and Mitch’s outstretched leg, which pushed me the entire distance. Happily, Monday Night Football was on the boob-tube, and a six-pack of Coors was quickly procured (along with a tube of Bengay for Mitch’s aching thigh muscle) while a large pizza was ordered. With the bike leaned way over to the right to keep the remaining 10w-40 away from the wound, we fashioned an aluminum patch from our first empty, smeared it with J-B Weld, set it in place and hoped the morning would bring some measure of oil-tightness, not to mention clear-headedness…

Thankfully it did, and we limped across the Mojave, adding a fresh quart every hundred miles or so. Safely back in Southern California, my bike was treated to a full restoration by CB guru Kurt Winter of Valley Cycles. In 1997 American Honda was so impressed with my 750′s presentation they asked to borrow the bike for the company’s big 50th anniversary celebrations in New York City. It was ridden onto the stage at Radio City Music Hall as part of the festivities. A year later, the bike was back in the Big Apple, this time as one of the machines featured in the Guggenheim Museum’s landmark “The Art of the Motorcycle” exhibit, at the time the most well-attended show ever at the museum. From there, the CB750 roamed the world for the next four years, going to the Field Museum in Chicago, the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain and the Guggenheim Las Vegas. As I joked at the time, I hate it when my motorcycles are better-traveled than me.

That unique provenance gave me my final fond memory of the CB750, as it was bid up to $16,945 online, far as I know a record price for a non-sandcast K0. That was gratifying.

Do I miss the old bike? Of course, but I’m reminded of something Peter Egan once told me. Peter had just painstakingly restored a cute little Ducati 250 Single. When I asked how it was doing, he told me he had sold the bike.

“But, Peter,” I bleated, “that was such a beautiful bike!”

“Oh, it still is,” he replied, “I just don’t own it anymore.”

Same goes for my CB750, currently making new memories for someone else. But mine are to keep forever.

  • http://www.tripleclamp.net Sasha Pave

    Something my dad always said, “You never love a bike more than the day you buy it, and the day you sell it.”

    • http://www.urbanrider.co.uk UrbanRider

      Well said.

    • gregorbean

      Hear hear.

  • Steve

    I’m not very good at selling my old bikes, mostly because I don’t want to and nobody else is good enough to take over care of something I have put so much sweat into.

    This didn’t help, but thank you for writing it.

  • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D

    What a beautiful color, I’ve never seen that shade before.

    Can I ask exactly what made you realize it was “time” to sell the bike (other than the nice piece of change you pocketed :) )?

  • gregorbean

    Nice story. I owned this very same color, make, and model year motorcycle. Of course mine was nowhere near as nice as this one, and it was attached to a sidecar when I bought it. I quickly sold the sidecar and enjoyed the KO for a few years. I’ve never felt so sad about selling a bike, but I knew the guy I sold it to was planning a full restoration so it helped to put my mind at ease knowing that it would be well taken care of. God I love these bikes.

  • http://www.pedalgents.com holdingfast

    aw man, I wish these bikes weren’t so hard to come by here in switzerland, but there are some around and every once in a blue moon up for sale. I’m still hoping that one day I will find one and coincidentally have enough money to afford it then.. definitely an awesome story and definitely a beautiful bike!

  • Kevin

    CB750s are beautiful to me. My first bike was an old one that I brought back to life.

  • James Dean Meyer

    For $2 a month, I feel like I am robbing you. Bringing Mr. Edwards onboard: Coup d’etat Hell for Leather, Coup d’etat.

    • http://www.tripleclamp.net Sasha Pave

      I agree, it’s like cheating having David here. Now let’s get Peter Egan on board!

  • gregorbean

    I love the internet. Did a little search and found this:

    http://www.whizmoandgizmo.com/Misc/WestByCB750.pdf

    Enjoy!

    • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D

      Great read! Thanks for finding that.

    • http://www.postpixel.com.au mugget

      Cheers for that – I’ll give that a read later!

      • gregorbean

        No problem guys! Thanks to David and Mitch for the story! All I did was google it.

        On an 11,500 mile trip I took two summers ago, we ended up on Route 66 a few times. We would see guys on what appeared to be rental Harleys “living the dream.” We were on DRZ’s and trying to stay off pavement as much as possible. While I appreciate the Americana involved and the historical allure of the route, I don’t know that I’d ever choose to take it. There’s just so many other great roads across the states. This is a great story though, and again, I love these bikes.

  • Cajun58

    And here I thought it would be the coup de grâce.

  • Mason

    All this definitely reminded me to appreciate the fun times I’ve had with my bikes.

    It also made me wonder if bikes really can be patched up with beer cans. I guess if there’s already a hole in the case, what harm can it do to give it a shot?

  • David Edwards

    Reasons for selling the CB750? Several, not least of which is that I had to replace the battery and de-gum the carbs yet again (damn newfangled gasoline formula). I just wasn’t riding the bike that much. Plus my tastes in bikes now runs toward customs, cafes, street-trackers and bob-jobs.

    The new owner had his interest in motorcycling rejuvenated by seeing the Guggenheim’s “Art of the Motorcycle” show and remembers seeing my Honda on display, so it’s gone to a good home where it’s appreciated and put on display. Far better than being covered in the back of my garage.

  • Darren

    Thanks David, great timing as I literally JUST listed my bike on CL. While it’s killing me, it’s nice to feel like I’m not the only wacko out there ;-)

  • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D

    They’ll be even more newfangled gas soon. The EX500 isn’t going to like this at all…

  • Your_Mom

    I too am glad to see Mr. Edwards editorial contributions. While not a fan of some of his political comments that he made while at “Cycle World,” I am a big fan of his writing and find Mr. Hoyer’s column unimpressive.

    As to the bike – the point of the article – it is a treasure and am glad to learn that it is to be suitably displayed by the new owner.

    Cheers – Rich

  • David Edwards

    Political statements?! Sure you’re not confusing me with Mitch at Motorcyclist?

    • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben W

      David, Mitch, po-tay-to po-tah-to! My mom often mixed up names just like Your_Mom.

    • Your_Mom

      Er – no. I recall a column or two where you expressed some rather politically conservative opinions that were protested in “Cycle World’s” letters. I have been a loyal “CW” subscriber for years and years. I am a fan of Mitch Boehm too but – after giving “Motorcyclist” another try recently – will let that one lapse.

      Mr. Catterson’s editorial style is simply atrocious. He is no Mitch Boehm.

      • David Edwards

        Y_M, I think you’ll find I’m an equal opportunity offender…