Tuesday, February 21, 2012


HAVING BEEN HIT with a mild mid-winter cold – not one severe enough to preclude me from housework or yard cleanup, but one where the over-the-counter meds made me uncomfortable on the bike, I dabbled in a wholly unproductive pastime: E-bay. A week or so prior, a hike in the hills east of Chico revived early memories of riding a 70s era Honda Trail 90 into and out of chemise and oak covered drainages.

So, I thought I’d look up what might be on the market out there. The Trail 90 weighs a little less than I do now days, and they’re so compact, I’m sure there’d be room in the garage, particularly if we parked my wife’s Civic outside. I chose not to share this plan.

As luck would have it, the little Honda CTs seem to be quite available on the resale market. Listings abounded throughout North America. After only a few hours – okay: about three days – I had distilled the listings into categories based upon distance from home, professed condition, year, and finally color. I’d had two yellow ones, and another yellow one seemed fitting.

MID-ILLNESS, I was called to spend a weekend two-plus hours away with the “kids:” daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren. Hanging with them is fine as long as, in general, I can avoid diaper duty, and specifically this trip: I don’t breathe on anyone. Running errands with son Sam is always a delight affording me an opportunity to learn more about lovely Northern Sonoma County and to talk bikes with this young man, who up until recently, owned a very sweet Bonneville black. “I’ll replace it when the kids are older,” he said. “A wise call,” I responded. My offspring-induced hiatus had lasted 12 years.  It'd been a good call for me, too, at the time.

On the way to return some flooring samples at the home improvement center, we passed through the warehouse district of Santa Rosa. I’d been sharing memories of the little CT and we were jawing about how cheap and dependable they still are. “Think about it,’” Sam said. “Is there any mechanical thing built today that you could expect to still be running forty ears from now?”

I was about to voice the same thing when, in approaching our destination, on the left stood “The Motorcycle Shop.” At first glance it appeared to be a place where kids could buy aftermarket parts to soup up their KTM or GSX-R. But nestled between two minis on the concrete walk leading to the front door was the bike we’d just been pining about. An orange one.

“We gotta stop.”

(c) The Honda CT-90 Page
THE ’74 HAD ABOUT 1160 miles on it. There were rusted spots but the only tweak appeared to be a slightly bent brake pedal – coincidentally, bent almost exactly to the same degree as I’d bent the brake on my ’70. I sat on it. The suspension compressed. I rotated the throttle. Everything felt just like forty years ago. Even me. “You gotta sit on this, Sam!”

Sam did. I showed him how to access the under-seat tank, the button to pull if riding the thing at higher than 4000 feet in elevation, and the little lever than shifted the transmission from high range to low range. He nodded with what I assumed was appreciation.

Michele, the business owner, appeared. She explained that the little Honda was on consignment and that there’d been some interest. Me: “How much is he askin’?” Michele: “$1300.  But you could call him.  He might be flexible.”

My stomach did one of those little flips. That’s little more than a 24,000-mile service on the BMW – with a new tire or two. “I could store it over here where you used to park the Bonne…”

Sam pulled me away.

LATER, GIDDILY, I spilled the find to my wife. She did not act surprised. “No room in the garage,” she said. “I checked once I saw you looking at them on line.”

I looked at her: my eyes must have formed a pair of question marks.

“Yeah. I measured,” she said. “Oh, sure, it’d fit if you folded the handbars around like you can with that lever.” Wow, she really knew something about this model! “But we’re not leaving my car outside in the cold, and unless we do, there won’t be room for another bike and you sleeping on your army cot.”  Then she added:  "Maybe the cat could keep you warm..."


“The Motorcycle Shop” 3383 Airway Drive, Santa Rosa: www.the-motorcycle-shop.com

The Honda CT-90 Page – A wonderful website for everything Honda CT. Next time you feel too under-the-weather to ride, dabble here: www.ct90.net

© 2012
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. It is amazing how our spouses can always gets right to the heart of the situation and put it in terms that we can understand. Well said, Candi!

  2. Tony the Wrench adds: "Be careful with those $1300 bikes they are usually a "restoration" with gobs of Chinese parts. What you want to find will say Honda on the engine and Kei Hin on the carb if not simply wish them a good day, climb back in your truck, and think of all the time your not going to spend pushing a pile of Chinese pot metal up a hill! I am more than willing to assist you in finding the right bike and making sure it has been done right. Shiny does not mean done right and honestly shiny makes me a little suspicious."