Cycle News - Archive Issues - 1970's

Cycle News 1973 01 30

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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.. You'll 'Hv Fun Fun, Fun'til Your Daddy Takes Your 90 Away-ay ae , N .. ... .... '" 8, - Cl ~ w Z W ..J o >o S to ry by Dave Schoonmake r and J ohn Hu er ter Photos by K.C . Brintnall , Schoonmaker and Hu erter It's hardly the overall Image of the machine but first gear whee lies are part of being we ird on a Trail 90 . The workhorse was burdened to the limit of the bungie cords in around-town shopping. Pack mu les are fe w an d far b etween th ese day s, so o ur hand h as been force d. Hen ceforth let it be kn own th a t, wh ile th e Ho nda CT ·9 0 might co mpare more favo rab ly with a p ack mule, a h orse is a re a l c h a ll e nge to the scoo ter 's abili tie s. That is n o kind of a slam if y ou know wh at those two be asts ar e ca pab le of doing. The CT -90 is the longest existing and most highly developed trailbike known to the Land of the Rising Sun. It's working life has been nearly double th e life span of an y other Honda. What has happened to it in it s ten y ears of ex iste nce? The first hints co me from th e bike itself, which is at th'e end of a life of c o n t i n u i n g re fin em ent and just beginning to feel th e pangs of frills . What does all th at devel opmen t mean ? Well , first it means that th e CT ·90 is an ex am ple of th e h igh state of the art an d secon d , that th e p e r capita l con sump ti o n of aspirin by Ho nda p arts m en is twice th at of any o the r manu facturer. "I , ah , nee d ah , a, head. You know a cylinder h ead , ah , for a Trail 90." "Alrigh t, sir, wh at year is it?" "Well, ah, it's ei the r at ah, '6 7 or a '68 ." HI 'I1 need to know sir." "L 'm pretty sure it 's a '68:' "Yes sir, now do es it have an optional trail ra tio?" "A wha t?" " Well, here sir . Y ou tak e th ese six head s and I'm sure one of th em will fit. " " Uh , y ou got a box?" In ten ye ars the Trail 90 has become very sure about what it is intended for. " I am a trailbike, A trailbike does not get ridden around motocross c ourses, or blitzed down fire roads, or subjected to wh eelies, If you do an y of those things, I'll throw you on the ground and sto mp on you. I lik e to go sedately and quietly and if you remember that, I'll take you most anywhere." That's just what the CT ·90 does. It takes y ou and y o urs wherever you migh t want to go with a minimum of fu ss. To d o th is the Honda 90 has tw o sets of gearing, four speeds for th e stree t and, by flipping a lever whi ch ch an ges coun tersh af t sprockets, four for trail. The " str ee t" ratios ar e a little too high , as th e CT- 90 will go fas ter in th ird gear than in fourth. It will give you a top spe ed of fifty on flat ground on a cal m day , as opposed to thirty-five maximum with th e trail gear, buzzing th e en gin e. Th e ch an ge from street to trail to stre et is basically a painless one, accomplished by pushin g the lever on the bottom Ie ft side of the engine cases. Simple enough. The trail gears are just what you asked f o r . First gear is ' nearly undauntable, even in making valian t attempts at the side of an apartment building. If it weren't fo r the centrifugal clutch th e engine might tend to bog upon occasion but, fo r tun ately, that heretofore " m i n i b i ke " design co nvention saves th e day . Fourth gear will carry you as fast as y ou should go in the di rt on a Honda Trail 90 ; maybe faster. . Other conveniences offered you by the CT -9 0 are an altitude co m pe nsating carburetor (for above or below 6,000 feet); a spare gas tank that locks on the back; a h uge luggage rack; co llapsible handleb ars; foot an d h an d controls to activate the rear brake ; kn obby tires (r are o n J apanese bi kes) and a sea t th a t makes you sit and stay . The en gine h as been ar oun d forever, but p arts are comm o n to few of its relatives. It is basically th e same as the old S-90, at 8 9cc, in clined to the almost h orizon tal and wi th a ch ain driven sin gle overhead cam. What it does is rev almost endlessly but produce p ower mainly at mid to low RPM s. With st ree t gears engaged th e bike will slo w down in fourth gear af ter th e sh if t from third, until it settles down to the torque range. Past experience with 90cc Hondas s h o w s t h at t hey a r e n e a rly indestructible so th ere are no fears in · th at departmen t. T h e engine alway s star ted easil y, wh en y ou co uld get it to spin w ith th e kic kstarter, The problem is that th e kickstarter throw was inadequate, no t allo wing th e en gine to be turned over at an y real speed. In true Honda t radition, th e Trail 90 is cold-bl oode d ta kin g as much as two minutes to warm . The rocker p edal sh ifti ng o f the au tomatic transmis sion will be fam iliar to Harley ride rs of th e old d ay s and m o tor cops, but takes so me getti ng used to for a new e r ge nera tio n of mo torcy clists. Of co urse, it is jus t as lik ely th at anyone buy ing a Honda 90 will not h ave h ad experie nc e with sh if t lev e rs o n m ot orcy cles of more conven tional de sign and will probably think that th e ro cker set-up is just ni fty. The left foot doesn' t sp an the distan ce from front to rear pedal, though, requiring you to take a boot off the footpeg to shi ft d own . T h is could be an inconvenience on a rocky hill side as you try to go down a gear o r two in th e trail ran ge. The rocker gap did resul t in some bl ind stabs that h ad no effect whatsoever o n th e current gear . One tester also comp lained th at hi s knees banged on th e ign ition key bu t th at seeme d like a p erson al p ro ble m an d we to ld h im to go see th e Ch ap lain. Handling of the CT-9 0, like th a t of the fo ur-legge d m an transporter, is m o re an art than a science. It is quick an d if th e b ik e is pushed too h ard, it te n ds to have a mind of its own, much like a h orse. Be m oder ate, don't urge it to go pl aces where it isn't su pposed to go and Negot iating the down staircase with brake and body English.

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