5 Aug 16

Revisiting the classic 1969 Honda CL350

Honda might not have kick started the high pipe two cylinder scrambler, however it was the most successful of manufacturers, including Triumph and BSA. The most successful of them all is the 1969 Honda CL350 model.

Critics agree. The Honda bike has a distinctive “Japanese” style. It had adequate class and constructed to be ridden. They were also reliable and built for riders to have fun. Granted, there were other bikes before Honda, many of them American made and heavy V-twins motorcycles. British products were also there-but they were crudely engineered.

For reasons unknown, Honda was not appreciative of the British appetite of off road riding. It is thus no surprise that the first bike catering (a little) to this segment- the CL77- with a de-tuned version of 305cc twin cylinder and overhead cam engine was introduced only in 1965. There were more ground clearance and also an internal baffle.

New Scrambler

First things first: the CL350 was actually 324cc. The premium end bikes had a delightfully finned cylinder block made of alloy. An endless chain runs in a loop around the cam sprockets and the camshaft. The spring loaded roller can be adjusted and tensions cam chain. The camshaft runs in the aluminum end caps located in a distinct cylinder head cam. The only weak point here is camshaft design. Excessive galling is observed on these cam surfaces which have not received the proper oil changes.

The primary drive is achieved through the straight cut double gears placed in staggered tooth arrangement which mesh directly with clutch basket. Four principal bearings at lower end keep 180 degree crankshaft and does not give the latter much flex. These cranks are extremely strong and have reached legendary status among bike enthusiasts.

Engine power

The engine’s peak power output is much lower with 33 horsepower and at 9,500rpm. This low power rating is the result of its exhaust system. The high rise headers of the bike could look thick. In reality theyt are double walled pipes and have narrow interior tube.

The frame is constructed using a blend of round tube and mixed steel for the CL model. The steel stampings form backbone along with rear shock mounting points in the upper part and a round tube forming the bike cradle. The engine weighs 125 pound from a total bike weight of 346 pounds.  The rest of the weight is due to heavy duty parts including a rear 18 inch hoop and a front rim of 19 inches. These are laced on to a 7.8 inch dimension double leading and 7 inch single loading drums respectively.

The CL350 is clearly built for the street and not for off-roading. At its optimistic best, the bike is a compromise between two different frame references. The bike is unsuitable for riding over pines and rocks.

Honda continued building the CL350 up to end 1973. The company sold an astonishingly large number of bikes, numbering about 626,000. Indeed, at one time these bikes were seen everywhere. Many young people got their first taste of biking from the CL350 Honda.

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