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Honda CB: What's in a name?

Honda CB: What's in a name?
ER Classics Desktop 2022

There are legions of Hondas with the CB designation for the cylinder index. But what exactly is that CB thing?

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In this case, the approach was to make Bart's CB500 twin more beautiful by way of parts make-up and optical tuning. It had turned into a cafe racer in a few moments with the tank of an early four-speed CB450, the Black Bomber.


And such a Black Bomber in its early days was an extremely sporty, very fast motorcycle that was also driven hard on circuits. In an unlimited Netherlands, the gas was also very much on the public road and Guus van Beek (Weekblad Motor, on newsprint) happily concluded that the Test CB with his Lief + luggage was faster than with him on it alone. He bet on a better streamline.

A toy and an original one

Then we are in the CB bizniz and Bart from Apeldoorn appeared there on a plate nicely trimmed and considerably later CB450. And so we came upon the Black Bomber and the Candy gold later, much more civilized and upscale CB that turned up the garage aisle here. So the civilized Honda was a CB from the time when it was commonly believed that the CB term stood for Commuter Bike or even City Bike. And a designation that is very far away from the raw, early Black Bombers.

CB would also stand for 'chokusetsu baiku', 'General motorcycle'

And that's what Honda would have said. But that has not been proven. In all reasonableness, CB just happens to be a letter combination for a 'C' row engine series. And those letter designations were used internally for nothing but accounting. That is the least exciting, but most likely explanation for the CB designation.

That does not detract from the beauty of Bart's pet child. The machine is technically and optically done all by itself, including spokes and spraying. Now it helps that Bart is a fine mechanic. But still… There are a few little things where Bart has deviated slightly from The Original. Once out of necessity. And once because he liked it better.

Meanwhile, real Black Bombers are uncomfortably high priced

You will no longer get the later CB450 for small change. The much prematurely born retro bike, the CB500, has also been discovered in the meantime.

The parts for these machines can often be found used in the States. But if it has to be beautiful, good and original, then you are firmly the Sjaak in terms of price. And if you already have 1 or 2? Then you are a lucky ass!

Read more stories about classic engines.

20 Comments

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  1. I regret that I ever got rid of my CB450 (see photo), but in retrospect that is the case with many things. With a bit of luck you can buy such an old-timer Honda for a reasonable price, but it doesn't get any easier. I bought a CB 2 Four (photo) 350 years ago as a base for a conservation project, it helped me well as occupational therapy during the corona lockdown in the Netherlands

  2. First Honda of mine was the cb350four,. In comparison with the Yamaha two-strokes I had before, it was still "smooth" so I exchanged this new engine after three months on a new Yamaha rd350. And yes later because of my work 2 x purchased a new cb550, and drove about 40.000 km per year. Without even 1 flaw. The last CB 550 with suspension and a cockpit. Also a closed grease chain case. Never had to tension the chain! But my love finally went out to the Yamaha two-strokes after many wanderings, and on my 70th still very happy with this fast rd350 rascal from 1974

  3. I race a Honda Drixton. At that time, it was specially built for the road race around 1967, based on a Black bomber block. My cylinder head is my own design, fully desmodromic valve actuation like a Ducati.

  4. Had a lot of fun on Honda's CB 500 four / CB 550 K3 / newer CB 600 and CBR 600. Now also happy with Kawa Z 650 B2 (78) but Honda is still in my heart.

  5. Had a CB sevefifty F1 I had 28 years bought when another one hanging on the wrists and elbows no longer went because the belly spoiler is also in the way, so already another Yamaha XJ 700 S (Maxim 10 years what for me now drive better and have fun with this youngtimer, now sits straighter.

  6. My first bike was a CB750F2 from I believe '76 with the Comstar wheels. Think bought in '80 or '81 and went to the North Cape in '86. Then drove 2 km in just 10.000 weeks, nice bike. A few times on the way the carburettors off because of a stuck float, otherwise just drive. Only completely lost my confidence in Luxembourg due to a large tank bib. After that everything was replaced in terms of bearings, steered on them, etc., but commuting continued to lurk around the corner. Finally sold again and bought an older Suzuki GSXR1100, what a sturdier frame! That was unfortunately stolen, then hit the 2pitters with a TL1000S that also drove fine through Scandinavia. Later exchanged it for a 1000 Aprillia RSV2006R which I still enjoy. He also did well to the Noordkasp.
    Well, nice hobby of which the CB was the start for me 😉 Although: when I didn't have a driver's license yet, my brother's Honda Freak borrowed and up and down the highway. Then I was sold haha…

    • ps. That dictionary on phones, you sometimes do not notice something strange…
      A Honda Freak: nice but was a Honda Dream with something like a 300cc. That's so far back that I can't remember exactly, but that my brother I thought had gotten it for free or almost nothing.

  7. Honda came out with the C50 Supercub in the 100s, and that line got many variants (including C110, C310 and C50).
    A branch of this line was the CA line, such as the CA71 and its variants.
    So it was logical to then continue with the CB line without the letters standing for an abbreviation.
    The later SS did, because the side caps clearly stated Super Sport .. to immediately remove any connection with '40-'45.

  8. Had a real black bomber, black narrow tank, a four-speed, full cockpit around it
    the biggest problem was from the first gear to the second that was a long stroke, if you didn't have the brains then you could take the block out oil and put it upside down above the block and remove the horizontal crankcase and you could remove the axle where gear gears were located on the first and second gears polish off the scratch because they were jammed on the main shaft, otherwise quite sensitive to moisture and the starter motor required quite a lot of power from the too weak battery, I only had it, That's a frequently heard statement I still have the workshop manual , in Dutch , the Honda cb 450 actually bought 444 cc at De graaf amsterdam , even though gone there

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