Top of the; POPS.
With a longer run than any other bike you care to mention, Honda's Super Cub has conquered the world, with 26 million sold since 1958.
The innovative step-through design has stood the test of time and the humble runabout's cheeky looks have hardly changed since the first one rolled off Honda's fledgling production line back in those hazy days when a Japanese "motorbike" didn't even merit a sniff from the British biking fraternity.
Nowadays, this unburstable, super-reliable urchin has become a bit of an icon.
To some, it spells hot pizza on the doorstep PDQ. To others, it conjures up images of Vietnamese families on the move - ma, pa and the kids - all at the same time.
But behind the ubiquitous bike lies a story of vision and tenacity. Looking back, the Super Cub's simplicity can easily be taken for granted.
The seeds of its legendary status were planted by Soichiro Honda, a blacksmith's son with an eye on the future.
The apprentice mechanic was set up in his own business by an enlightened boss when he was just 22.
HIS tiny company used even tinier army-surplus generators as an auxiliary power source for bicycles.
In post-war Japan, cheap, reliable transport was urgently needed and he was the right man in the right place at the right time. Most importantly, he was the man with the right ideas.
Demand went through the roof, the company started producing basic engines and rudimentary Hondas were soon putt-putting through Japan's streets.
Success built on success and the rest, as they say, is history.
The eventual design hinted at a scooter but, with the engine slung forward between the legs and with big wheels, this hybrid scored by sharing the con- venience of a scooter with the rideability of a bike.
Bingo, or whatever the Japanese might be for that. The first Super Cubs were tooting off the production line in 1958 ... with 50cc engines pushing out 4.5hp.
Not exactly enough power to stir your porridge, but plenty to get you efficiently and comfortably from A to B.
So what's the appeal? The lightweight commuter gives great protection behind its large, plastic leg shields, is like a camel (mega miles between filling stations), is simplicity itself and easy for DIY maintenance and repairs, has an automatic three-speed box and is as tried and tested as you're likely to get.
Want me to go on? It's cheap, doesn't cost a fortune in repair bills if you drop it, doesn't wear out rear tyres with the enthusiasm of an error-prone primary kid and a rubber AND can still beat most cars away from the lights.
Over the years changes have been few. The 50cc and 70cc models have been consigned to history and now the C90 is your only option at just pounds 1769 on the road.
Proof of the model's staying power surely comes with the fact that they're still churning them out in Suzaka when the "scooter" market is at its most competitive for years.
Talking competitive, I tinkered with racing a few years back and started out with the Charles Mortimer Racing School at Donington.
I turned up at the track in a tatty old Ford Fiesta, jealously looking at the Guzzis, Ducatis, Harleys, Triumphs and a sprinkling of big Japanese beasties parked at the back of the pit lane.
HEAVENS, what have I got myself into? These guys must know what they're doing.
Lessons were practical - haring round the gorgeous track on 400cc race- prepped Yamaha two-stroke twins.
At the end of an adrenaline- sapping day, it was time for the debriefing and yours truly, with a W surname, came at the end.
Up until my turn some of the lads were saying: "Well, it was a bit weird with the gearbox on the other side of my Triumph." Or "I couldn't get used to keeping the revs in a tight power band 'cos my Ducati's got so much torque."
Then it was Wallsie's turn and, for once in my life, I really DID believe that there was a God up there. What's more, one with perfect timing.
The instructor mumbled on about how my lap times were pretty much up at the top end, braking was a bit dodgy and some of the racing lines left a lot to be desired.
"Any problems with the race school bike?" he asked.
To open jaws all round I couldn't help saying: "Well, you see, my bike's only got three gears and no clutch. After Donington, it'll be strange going back to the Honda 70."
Rotten, I know. But you don't get many opportunities like that!
Small is beautiful
WHILE we're heaping praise on the not so high and mighty, Suzuki also come in for a mention.
Road Record will shortly be testing one of their twist-and-go utility scooters
Bike fans of a certain name will be pleased to see the name gracing Suzuki's two-wheelers again, though the newcomer doesn't quite have the power of its big beastie predecessors.
However, the styling is as sharp on the wee AY50.
Suzuki obviously believe that small is beautiful - with their Wagon R people carrier making a perfect match for those who like to skip city snarl-ups.
When it's chucking it down and freezing, take the wee motor and if you want to wheech about in style hop on board the Katana.
The beauty of this restricted scooter is obviously not its surging power, but the fact that it can be ridden by car licence holders.
But there's something more tempting - incentives such as Suzuki's pounds 50 flat rate insurance premium for this perky get-about ... which is on offer for '98.
That's how to beat congestion and the empty wallet syndrome all in one go, with the nippy little number costing only pounds 1799 on the road.
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|Publication:||Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)|
|Date:||Jan 2, 1998|
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