Honda C50 – Walking The Dog

My first honest to goodness motorcycle!

Back in bleak days of 1981 £25 represented nearly one week’s wages for me. The joys of life in ‘Maggies Britain’. However it was enough for me to buy my very first honest to goodness motorcycle, a 1972 Honda C50. That’s right; the ionic ‘Stepthru’. Widely regarded in the UK as a commuter hack for factory workers. The riders would be seen wearing yellow oilskins, a Hi Tec open face crash helmet and welly boots for riding gear. But elsewhere in the world the Cub (as it was known) is an institution responsible for mobilising millions.

16 year old me and the unfortunate Honda 
This is my C50, sadly much abused

Santa Pod? No Crossway Lane….

The nine years the little Honda had spent in the world since squirting out of Honda’s sprawling factory in Japan had not been too kind to it. Things like a valid MOT and road tax were a long distant memory. However, I did not let this stop me having the maximum amount of fun on my “chrunchie”.

The poor machine suffered terribly at my hands. This was before I let a multitude of my similarly brain dead mates have go on her too. One favourite trick for the group was to see how fast we could torture the Honda to go. My parents street was the venue, the challenge to go as high a speed as possible by the time it had reached the bottom of the road. This leafy Birmingham suburb had seen (or heard), nothing like it before: The Honda hurtled past their lace-lined windows with a variety ache ridden teenagers at the controls.

The Honda’s exhaust had more holes in it than your average Tetley teabag, and emitted a screaming wail that reflected the unrelenting abuse that was been dished out to the poor thing.

For the record 41mph was the highest speed ever claimed by one the lads before he had to go on the almost completely ineffective brakes! Thus sending the leading link front forks lurching upwards (!) as the balding front tyre squealed for mercy. I Only ever managed 40mph myself!

Walking the Dog

Another popular stunt was forcing the Honda to pull huge wheelies. All very silly I know, but great fun all the same. The C50 was fitted with a semi-automatic 3-speed gearshift with no conventional clutch, but the gears had to be selected manually: One back for 1st and then two forward for 2nd and 3rd respectively.

I soon discovered that if the gearlever was held down in first that the nuts could revved off the engine without the bike going anywhere. Then by taking my foot off the lever the gear would suddenly engage. The C50 would then leap up into an enormous wheelie. But the clever bit came when I stepped off the back of the bike and walked along behind her, just keeping hold of the bars. Huge amounts of fun, this little trick was called “Walking the Dog”. Try that on your R1! On second thoughts DON’T try that on your R1!

Like a Mad Scientist

The Honda continued to suffer terribly at my hands over the next few months, as I experimented on it like some mad Nazi scientist. For example the quivering Honda was the first machine I attacked with my very first socket set. The results were scary. Bits of Honda lay randomly strewn across the garage.

I used to hammer the Honda around the roads surrounding my parents’ house. All the time ignoring a myriad of legal ‘details’. Looking back now it seems crazy, stupid even, but then I was just a kid having fun, so what the hell!

On one hair raising expedition one of the lads agreed to be my first ever pillion passenger: I nearly killed the pair of us as I clipped a kerb while trying to take a bend as fast the Honda would go! I just about kept control. My mate was really impressed…

Meeting the Boys in Blue

My first brush with the boys in blue also came with the C50. The Honda had spent all morning doing the lap of the local houses. Then, just as I got home the engine cried “enough!” and packed up. As I pushed the bike the final few yards a Police car appeared from nowhere and out popped two of HM’s finest;

“Have you been riding this son?” One bellowed in his best ‘Old Bill’ voice.

“No” I croaked, praying that they wouldn’t notice the engine was so hot that it was virtually glowing! Boy was I bricking myself!

But just as I thought I was about to be hauled away and introduced to Norman Stanley Fletcher up popped the cavalry. This came in the shape of my rampaging Mother!

“Leave him alone and go catch some criminals!” she screamed at the somewhat startled rossers.

“He’s done nothing wrong!”

Before they could mutter “Hello, hello, hello what’s all this then?” they hopped back in their Jam Sandwich and buggered off. Clearly wise men, choosing not to take on an Irish mother protecting her blameless (!) son.

Finally I released the Honda from purgatory and sold it for the same amount I paid. However, I sold to another 16year old mate nicknamed ‘Mad Dan’. This was a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire if ever there was one! That poor, poor bike…

The Tale of the Honda C90…