Memories of Honda 90s

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by Dain Gingerelli
Dain Gingerelli’s look back at the Honda 90s of his youth hit home with several readers who owned similar bikes.

“Results would have been … quite ugly.”

Reading the article Lost in the 90s by Dain Gingerelli regarding his experiences with the Honda Super 90 motorcycle brought back many memories of my early two-wheel experiences. My buddy, Karl, received a new Super 90 for Christmas, I believe, in 1965. Of course, he was the envy of all of us still puttering around on homemade mini bikes with worn-out Clinton lawn mower engines. Naturally, after all of us had a crack at it, it was collectively decided that as great as it was, we could make it better. Having predominately agrarian backgrounds, and parents largely ignorant of our intents, we budding shade tree mechanics and would-be engineers undertook modifications, both internal and external to the machine. There were a limited number of aftermarket performance parts, such as a straight exhaust pipe with no muffler, dual (racing) valve springs, different sprockets, and that was about it. We recognized that anything we could do to lighten the internal components of the engine just had to improve the performance, so utilizing one of our partner’s father’s farm shop metal lathe, we cut most of the piston skirt off the piston, leaving just enough to secure the wrist pin. No effort was made to lighten the crankshaft, probably because we didn’t think of it. To the degree that we could advance the timing by fiddling with points gap and mounting plate modification, the timing was advanced somewhat. By how much was anybody’s guess, but we could still start it without too much trouble.

According to the specifications that were in the owner’s manual, the little engine had a factory redline of 9,500rpm, as I recall, and in first gear that equaled 20mph. Now, and here’s the fun part — after all of our modifications, my friend’s Super 90 would run 45mph in first gear. Running the numbers, that about equals 20,000rpm! At the top end, downhill, the little bike would break 70mph, and we ran the crud out of it.

Now, looking back on all of this, being 74 years old and somewhat more experienced and wiser, I recognize that if ANYTHING had come loose, we would have been riding a real live fragmentation bomb. Results would have, no doubt, been quite ugly. But, you know, that little engine held together in spite of our abuses, and it is a testament to the quality of the engineering and materials that went into it. Thanks so much for this article, Dain, and bringing back memories of simpler and happier times.

  • Updated on Feb 8, 2024
  • Originally Published on Feb 1, 2024
Tagged with: classic honda motorcycles, Honda, reader letters, Readers and Riders
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