The vinceunlimited Honda CB200 Story
Not a dream machine
With age comes experience.
The trouble was that when I purchased my second motorcycle I had neither.
I had just turned eighteen and had already cut my teeth on motorbikes (along with other parts of my body as well) and was ready to move on.
The Yamaha trail bike I was selling just couldn't handle the way my biking days were developing and I needed a new steed.
More of my friends had graduated from their mopeds and I didn't want to be left behind with all the high-powered horses that were amassing around me.
I say, high powered, all were under 250cc as this was the usual starting point for teenagers in those days. Something to do with the fact that 251cc was deemed too powerful by men in grey suits for new riders.
Plus the Yamaha trail bike just wasn't designed for two and my loins were calling out for company.
I set about searching for my next bike and considered all the two-fifty options available.
It was 1979 and Honda had just launched the SuperDream in 250 and 400cc flavours. The SuperDream, or CB250N if you prefer, was a fantastically new variant on the old and bulbous Dream 250. The trouble was it was brand new and very expensive for a new kid on the block.
Yamaha had the RD250 but Yams were always too race orientated.
Suzuki tried the same game with their GT250 but didn't even have Kenny Roberts on their side.
But the most desirable to me was the Kawasaki KH250 triple. It oozed sex appeal with its multi-exhaust layout, screaming two-stroke noise and links to the fantastic K900. The twenty miles to the gallon was pitiful and the reliability suspect but the triple hit all the right notes.
I wanted to go with my instinct.
The problem with instinct is that old chestnut - practicality.
I wasn't affluent enough to make passionate decisions and had to rely on my family to help finance the deal. This help came with the inevitable 'advice' and that came in the form of 'strong suggestions' that I ought to buy a Honda and it shouldn't be as powerful as 250cc.
I didn't want a smaller engine than my 175cc Yamaha so there was only one choice.
Honda's Dream machines had a sibling, the CB200.
It was an ugly mutt of a bike designed primarily for commuting and generally unloved, even by its owners.
It had good reliability from its basic, tried and tested, twin 200cc power plant but that's like saying Nora Batty is good at washing up. So what?
And its power was poor.
The only plus sides were it had a four-stroke engine and was red. Despite my earlier love of the Kawasaki triple I have to admit that four-stroke power is much better unless your only desire is top speed or acceleration. And Kwacker green is putrid.
The Cee-Bee's most admirable quality was its comfort, particularly in comparison with the unforgiving seat of my previous trail bike.
In fact, I now wonder whether the ease of riding distances coupled to the (let's be generous) gentle power helped form my love of touring mindlessly around.
Mind you at 18 to 19 a man has to look cool and the nondescript Honda did nothing for that.
It needed improvement and I started exploring the black art of customisation.
Not in the sense of chromed engine bolts, lowered track or power enhancements. Just a replacement exhaust and new headlamp.
The original exhausts were low uninspiring pipes running at low level parallel to the ground with unsightly oversize mufflers. My replacement exhaust was a potent two-into-one upswept stainless steel pipe terminating in a stubby megaphone - loud and stylish. Not many CB200s had them so it made it distinctly different.
The headlamp conversion was a Cibie unit, from the famous French manufacturer who were making a name for themselves producing large concave, efficient, bright headlamps. Again this added to the style. And let me see in the dark.
But despite these lavish and expensive enhancements the Honda was still as ugly as a Yak. Only the Yak now had bigger horns.
The bike did fulfill some requirements though.
It's rear seat was shared a few times and I put a few miles on the clock but I struggle to recall those miles with any detail.
I cannot even recall crashing the thing. The only 'off' that I remembered is when I tried to charge down one of my 'friends' who had been terrorising my sister's boyfriend's party.
My colleague Chris had been idly throwing a knife into the kitchen wall due to a lack of ability to entertain himself properly at a party and I chivalrously intervened.
The result was that after a few more beers and being ejected Chris turned his attention to me.
I suppose trying to run down a threatening, drunken yob stood just outside the gateway, with a Bowie Knife recently in his possession, is a silly move but, despite warnings, he refused to move out of the way.
I gave it full throttle and dumped the clutch at which point he twisted deftly to one side and kicked out at the Honda.
His foot caught the rear of the front wheel and sent me and bike in different directions. He then proceeded to kick a man when he was down - How cheap.
I would love to tell you that I leapt to my feet and battered the drunkard black and blue but anyone who knows me would write in and get this website closed down due to fraud.
Instead I writhed around wondering why it didn't hurt.
Now, I know it was down to his soft trainers reigning hail on my thick jacket and helmet.
If I had kicked back he would have suffered worse - I had steel toecap motocross boots.
However, frustration took its course and Chris changed tack and decided to lay into the Honda instead. It suffered worse.
Two weeks later, and after the intervention of parents, Chris had been forced to pay for the damage repairs and we were all mates again. Kids eh?
So a few months later the Honda was sold to a new keen owner, 'provided I removed that awful loud exhaust and huge headlamp'.
Thankfully this pre-dated eBay by several years so I still had the original parts.
It seemed the buyer wanted an original Yak.
So, as a conclusion - I should have brought the Kwacker.
I wouldn't have needed to change a thing and would now probably be telling you a story about how I was innocently playing with my own knife when some do-gooder squealed to the host and got me kicked out of a party. Then tried to run me down.
So in retribution I bravely kicked the living daylights out of him.
And then did the same to his naff Honda.
Author: Vince Poynter
Version m5.076 28 Feb 2018
First Published: Version 2.00 in May 2005
The first image is the author's stock Honda CB200 as originally purchased at the end of 1979. The crash bars and rear rack were non-standard fitments by the original owner
The second image shows the author sat astride his fully loaded Honda CB200 and was taken around Summer 1980
The third image, dated around late 1980 shows the author's modified Honda CB200, showcasing the Cibie headlight unit and featuring the two-into-one upswept exhaust