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Understanding Hondamatic models to Choose 1st Bike
My name is Hank and I am a newbie to motorcycling. A person at work recently bought a Suzuki Burgmab 650 and I was bitten by looking at another means of transportation. The Burgman is a little more scooter for cost than I wanted to pay. This started my research into motorcycles with automatic transmissions. I looked at Qlink then I came to Suzuki and Honda. Honda seems to be a little more available and from what I have read are reliable and fun to drive. The question I have is they come in different sizes, C400A, CB450A CB450T and CB750A. Ther are also CM400A AND CM450A. The 1981 CM450A is capable of 85MPH where the 1983 CM450 is capable of 100mph. The older modele oc cb400 are capable of 100mph. What bike would be suitable for a beginner and what differences are there between these bikes? I hoping for a bike as a commuter and short distance tourer safe on highways. Any advice would be helpful.
Here's my advice: decide how much you want to spend FIRST. Then go down to the dealers and start sitting on the scoots that are in your price range. Roll them around, put it on the centerstand, (don't get one without), open the hatches and maybe toss the girlfriend on the back. One will strike your fancy.
One more thing: scooters present all the danger of regular motorcycles, and perhaps more, as they don't have the power to blast you out of a tight spot. Don't hop on the thing after an afternoon of beer on the beach...treat it seriously, or it will bite you.
The entire lineup of Hondamatics were crippled by Honda deliberately and purposefully, whether they intended to ruin the motorcycle completely, or just make it more attractive to new riders I do not know, but they put smaller carbs, and a whole load of other changes. The 1978 CB400A, had 27HP more or less (no official numbers were ever givem for the 400A, because Honda never admitted to it) and the CB400 type II had around 41-42 HP. so the A had about what kawasaki has in the new ninja 250E. It was never about the transmission being fragile, it was always about the speed. (The best you can say, is if the changes were made to tune the motorcycle to be more friendly to the auto, the results were worse than expected.) So people stayed home in droves. The motorcycles clogged up dealers lots for years, until they finally conned suckers into buying them.
That said, I'll try to discourage you too. The CB400 had problems with the electrics, the ignition goes out at the drop of a helmet.(People don't drop hats all that often.) The CB400A, at idle does not charge the battery in the slightest, and when you have a fully charged battery, put the choke on FULL, you crank it and it starts RUNNING ON ONE CYLINDER (USUALLY THE Left Cylinder) and you have to coax it to get it to run on BOTH, then you will curse Honda, to the deepest blackest coldest, iciest, of the pits that make up the nine levels of Hell.
It may be that the ignition is a bit weak. I do not know, I do know for the first year the primary problem I had with mine was it would only start on one cylinder, and you had to sweet talk it, baby it, CODDLE it to get it to use two. If you put it in gear, if you cracked the throttle slightly it would DIE (It is an automatic you know). Thn you'd have to start again.
You are saying no big deal, right. Just crank it again. Well Hondamatic owners leaned early on that when Honda said DO NOT USE A FULL POWER BATTERY CHARGER on ANY CB400, unless you have a spare voltage regulator, and an alternator stator as well. Because if you apply that charger at full current, you will most certainly blow the fragile electrics into next week. No big deal you say, I'll get one from a normal non-auto CB400. NO, YOU WON'T, either. This part is unique as is the ignition module. And as it is an auto you cannot push start it, and with its desire to fool mother nature by runnng on one cylinder, You will be a long time trying to kick start it, I can tell you.
Any way I bought TWO NEW Iridium spark plugs and installed them in mine, and since then, it has only had the pet**** get clogged by flakes of rust, so that it would not run on a full tank in NORMAL, but had to be switched to reserve to run.
Now, if you DO buy that let me give you a hint, of inestimable value. "Seafoam". All one word, sold at many US auto parts stores, this stuff is like liquid gold to you. I used to tell new owners having problems clearing the varnished up gasoline from their tanks and carbs and every other place, to go and buy a can of it. (I now admit I was wrong, they should bu TWO CANS or more.) And then, in the dry empty tank, attache an inline filter to your gas hose under the tank, and pour that can straight into the tank or into the carb if you know how to do that. Turn the pet**** ON. Let it sit for a while, and attempt to start it. If it does not run, check and see if your ignition module is giving you a spark. (Pull out the plug and see, if with the plug grounded to the motor if it makes a spark. If it doesn't, look for a company in arizona, as I recall that rebuilds these modules and seals them up in epoxy. (they also rebuild the precious but FRAGILE STATOR.) If it is makeing a spark your job is to clean out the tank and get the seafoam into the carbs and leave it there for about three days. Then get a gallon of new clean gasoline fresh from the tank at the Wag-a-Bag, pour it into the tank. (By the way Seafoam will run an engine rather nicely straight, so don't worry on that account.)
After several days with seafoam in the inner crevices of the carbs it will be clean unless it is so gummed up with varnish, that you need a master carburetor rebuilder, to clean them and set them to right. Now its time.
Check the pet**** ON, set the ignition ON, set the KILL SWITCH TO RUN! every so often I will hear a guy that sent his bad ignition module to a spa vacation in Arizona, with the kill switch in the off position.
Don't thank me now, thank me in 20 or thirty years, when you actually appreciate the weeks of effort I have saved you from wasting on a CB400 or CM400 or even a CM450.
Oh by the way, anyone want a good used 1978 CB400A
with freshly cleaned carbs, freshly cleaned tank, and new fuel hose and freshly rebuilt fuel pet****, RUNS STRONG!
All that said as a scooter, its not bad, you'd have to buy a Majesty ($5000-$6000) or a 400 (HIGH? yes) burgman to get the poor level of power that honda gave the CB400A. and if you get the pronblems sorted out, some women swear by these things, as they do not suddenly do some thing stupid, like other swing arm engine mounted scooter do. The parts are mostly available, most honda dealers are familiar with them, other than the unique 400A parts.
You could do worse...like buying a Chinese scooter-shaped piece of yard art.
I agree with the above, if you're ever near an '80's model Hondamatic, cover your ears, close your eyes and run away as fast as you can. I f you must have an auto then get a Burgman, they're not a bad bike(?), you could always buy a CB750 Nighthawk and learn to shift, then you'd have an inexpensive brick reliable decent handling and braking motorcycle that will take you anywhere you wish and return 50mpg in the process.
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