Honda CD185T Benly – Ringing Endorsement

It is a long time since this willing little Honda passed through my sadly abusive hands. The CD185T seems to be virtually extinct now. But for anybody out there who must have one or is about to look at one here are my experiences:
The exact detail of how I came to own her are shrouded in the dustier corridors of what is laughably called my mind. As I remember a  colleague had been using it as a winter hack. When spring came he wanted shot of it. He was only asking £90 so I thought “why not” and promptly bought the bike from him. I think there was even some MOT and tax left!

A Rich Heritage

The Honda CD185T Benly, to give the twin cylinder bike it’s full and not especially glorious title could trace it’s blood line back to the famous giant killing racing 125 of the 1960’s. However by the time YVF 823S came into the world all sporting pretension had been firmly snubbed out. She still looked pretty racy next to a C90, but that was about your lot!

Honda CD185T (not mine…it was somewhat tattier than this example!)

No, the CD was the commuter tool for those who ranked high mpg numbers as a priority. Riders who liberated their waterproofs from the local council road repair crew! So, saving the tarmac rippling capability of my GS550 purely for fun(!), the 185 was pressed into service on my 5 mile cross country hack to work.

The engine throbbed away willingly enough and gave a passable impression of an old Singer sewing machine. Acceleration was definitely present, but you had to be pretty sensitive to detect it: All the local milk float drivers used to give me very smug looks. However on one glorious rip down the A11 towards the teeming metropolis that is Attleborough a heady velocity of 85mph was reached on the lonely speedo (no rev counter). To be honest what the speed actually was is anybody’s guess as the needle used wave up down the scale just like those on old British cars such as the Morris Minor.

What, no rev counter?

Well the Brakes Were There, Technically

On balance speed was best kept to a minimum anyway as the brakes were not exactly brilliant. The appropriate lever was there, connected by cable (no flashy hydraulics here!) to a drum like device in the middle of the front wheel. Only problem was that no matter hard I pulled on the lever very little in the way of actual retardation seemed to take place. Luckily I am a fat bastard and sitting up always seemed to produce a surprisingly effective air brake!! The only other way to stop was to hit the rear brakes as hard as the kick start lever! Double discs? For pansies on R1s! Seriously, I dread to think what a rider of even a vaguely modern bike would make of the Honda’s pathetic stoppers, you have been warned!

Sparks Fly!

Handling? On a 185 Benly, are you kidding?! Having said that I did get a huge amount of fun from scrapping out the foot pegs at really shallow angles of lean! It threw up huge arcs of sparks behind me! Be careful when indulging in this rather silly practice as the foot pegs don’t fold back.

In summary you don’t need to spend thousands on a Harley for crap ground clearance, glacial acceleration and useless brakes. As a bonus the fuel consumption is better too. Nor do you don’t have to dress up like up an American cop/ Peter Fonda in Easy Rider/ the bloke in Village People (delete as appropriate), to ride it. Seriously, performance was OK for work and back in Norfolk where everybody thinks traffic is the name of a weird German rock band.

Cheap Trick

Running costs were low: It seemed to go for ages on a tank of fuel. I didn’t actually ever work out what the fuel consumption was. Assume about the 70 mpg mark. By the way watch out for leaking fuel filler caps. This affects the 125 and 200 versions too and is a real pain. My tip is to make a new cap gasket out of an old inner tube.

Tyres seemed to withstand the modest power and braking stresses put upon with ease and no detectable wear took place on my Honda. The bike came fitted with Avon Speedmasters and these things last forever anyway. Chain and sprockets can wear pretty quickly if not lubricated and adjusted regularly. This is the case even when enclosed as on the Benly. Replacements are cheap anyway so don’t worry too much.

Get what you pay for

The Honda was built build down to a price so finish wasn’t great. If you buy one that still has the original steel mudguards it would be worth painting the inside with under-seal as they rust pretty quickly. I should think that most are already too far gone by now anyway. The exhausts rotted out between the down pipes and the silencers, but I just had a mate weld in a section of steel tubing to rejoin them. This was economy biking you know! One thing you must do is keep the oil nice and fresh: Don’t let the interval between changes go anymore than 2,000 miles. Small Honda’s do not like grubby oil.

Happy Ending?

My time with the Honda only lasted a few months; you see I had met a woman and she had her wicked way with me. Marriage was the only option (my Mom had stopped doing my washing), and I needed an engagement ring. One problem, no money. So the 185 was sold for £100 to pay for this trinket. I kept the Suzuki GS550: I wasn’t going to fall victim like so many to the pressures of married and family life stopping them biking. Today I still have the wife (and a bike), she still wears the ring that the Honda was sacrificed for. So in way the 185 is with me even now. Anybody know a good solicitor?

Words and Pictures: Tony Donnelly unless stated