Tanshanomi's Snap Judgments

Honda CB175

Wed, April 27th, 2011

1969–1973 Honda CB175
The little 175 motor could be wicked up more than you might expect, but it was down on power compared to its 2-stroke competition, and 175cc is small. It's slower than just about any streetbike today. It'd be easily dusted by Honda's downright pokey Rebel, despite weighing 30 pounds less. It's still more satisfying than a small scooter, which it compares more favorably to, but its manual transmission will feel clunky and balky.
To be frank, the suspension is barely sufficient, the tires are skinny, the drum brakes were only just okay for the time, and the frame is flexy by modern standards. Only the meager performance and light weight help hide the bike's deficiencies.
Other than the sweeping megaphone exhaust and the various graphics that graced the tank year by year, there is very little conspicuous styling at all. The CB175 simply looks like the functional components that make it up (which is rather refreshing in today's over-styled motorcycle environment). Yet, everything seems to fit together in a visually agreeable way. Perhaps this is just because I've been so familiar with Honda's way of building small streetbikes during that era for so long. If I saw one for the first time now, I might be more critical of details like the monstrous brake pedal.
Honda's smaller twins at that time were infamously engineered with an expected lifespan of just 10,000 miles. Many went much farther, to be sure, but they were never intended to survive for four decades, regardless of use or disuse. Up until they wore out or rotted away, they were not terribly fussy.
The upright, roomy ergonomics fit real adults, but as time passes it is becoming more and more a toy for collectors. The antiquated performance combined with the surprising cost and scarcity of replacement parts makes this a poor choice over a more modern bike for any real riding.
Despite being ubiquitous and forgettable in the '70s, nice ones are rare and notable today. Good luck finding one that doesn't require a complete tear-down.
It's amazing how our perception of a bike changes based on the context of our time. When the CB175 was sold, it was forgettable, practical transportation. Now, it's quite noticeable, but not practical.