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Honda CB250N Superdream, Part 1
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Back in the 1980s, Simon Lock discovered Zen and the Art of Superdreaming...

One of the greatest moments of any motorcyclist's life is passing their test and looking forward to the first 'real' bike. For me this happy moment coincided with being a rather hippyish student in the Midlands in 1986. Now hippies weren't all the rage in the 1980s, nor were student grants a thing of great magnitude, and choices for the impecunious long-haired rider about Coventry were limited to what a GP100 could be swapped for: in my case a Honda CB250N minus indicators.

But, what a marvellous Bolide it seemed to be compared to the whizzing two-stroke Suzuki: a fine bike in itself but one that, when asked to ferry its 6'4" rider the regular 90 mile trip to my parents, combined a low seat height but high pegs with such good vibrations that I required regular stops to allow my manly bits to stop buzzing! Ouch!

The Superdream was something altogether of another class: larger, it looked like a proper bike; a twin cylinder engine with the deepest sump in the known universe; quiet (well, for a while...) and smooth - and it really leaned on corners. This, I recall, even now, with great fondness, was REALLY motorcycling. And, it quickly occurred to my small, student brain, a motorcycle that looked large would be a wonderful attraction to all the fair maidens on my English course: after all they obviously would have no idea what it really was and trips out into the countryside, chats about poems, combined with manly leather jackets (well, a wax-cotton, fake Barbour from Millets) would surely lead to even more than two-wheeled delights.

1980's Honda ownership: The Image. Honda CB250 and CB400 Super Dreams

Being a diligent student of 'Litterahchoor' I had just discovered Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a book that seemed to combine, to my romantically inclined, cheap-student-union-beer and classical poetry sozzled mind, the joys of motorcycles and intellectual philosophy in one fine tome.

I read it avidly and realised that I must learn at once how to maintain my own machine, thus improving still further my attractions to the opposite sex. I envisaged myself striding purposefully across the student car park, past the old Cavaliers and posh Datsuns that less charmed Lotharios had been bought by their parents, armed with my, as yet untarnished, Haynes manual of destruction and my Halfords socket set.

First up would be the valve clearances, of course. Mainly because this involved fiddling with the engine, thus impressing any gurlies that might be looking out of their dorm windows. Quickly accomplishing this task I moved on to checking tyres, chain tension and so on and then came the 'Camchain Tension Incident'.

eBay Dreams...

Older and sometimes wiser, as I am today, I have realised that not all the advice in Haynes is best practice. And I was about to discover my first lesson in this olde law of motorcycling. Haynes echoed the standard Honda advice to start the engine, warm it up and then loosen the tensioner bolt whereupon the spring in the tensioner would magically adjust the chain tension. So, I revved the engine for ten minutes or so, raised a knowing eyebrow, nodded sagely and stroked my stubbly chin for the benefit of any swooning watchers and did as instructed. Instantly my sewing machine of a motorcycle turned into a rattling old nag. Mmm, not quite the effect I had expected and when it had all been going so well too. I slunk off back to my room, with a rather more forlorn face than I had worn earlier, to consult the good book Zen.

1980's Honda ownership: The Reality. Simon and his stunt double prepare to ride the Honda.

Imagine the scene if you will... hitherto knowing and apparently knowledgeable rider re-appears at the dodgy dealer with the motorcycle that they had hoped never to see again. 'Thought you said you knew how to maintain it,' was the kindest thing they said, followed by, 'the camchain was fine to start with. Why did you fiddle with it?' These and other questions were of such penetrating candour that I blush, even now, to think of an answer and at the time had none except to mumble about not having any money to offer them to fix it. So they didn't.

Back at the campus I managed to phone a local dealer. This being before the days of mobiles it was on the hall of residence payphone and I kept my voice down to avoid any passing young things from realising that I had destroyed a perfectly good engine through youthful ignorance and was advised to remove the rocker box, start the engine and press a big screwdriver down onto the tensioner blade whilst tightening the tensioner nut. After spending more of my beer tokens than I could spare on said screwdriver I managed this feat of skill and the engine subsided to a minor degree. Now it just sounded like Soichiro Honda's spirit was trying to hacksaw its way out of the engine to revenge itself upon my foolishness. The engine made these noises for the rest of its life...

To be continued...


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