That College Motorcycle
It was late fall 1970 when I saw an ad in the local Dayton Daily News advertising a Honda CL175 for sale. I called the owner for details. The kid just wanted to get some cash so he could buy one of those brand new Honda ATC “3 Wheelers” that he had seen out on the trail. The bike’s location was not too far away, so I drove my parents’ trusty Valiant over to take a look at it. I circled around the bike, acting non-committal, and asked him if it had ever had any work done to it. No, he said, the only thing was that he had put a smaller counter sprocket on it for low-end grunt on the trail. For the trail? — This bike looked way too good to have been thrashed on the trail: nothing bent or broken, even the metal blue fenders were straight. “Mind if I take it for a test ride,” I ventured? “No problem man,” he replied, “have at it.”
Man was this a gorgeous piece of Japanese craftsmanship! It had beautiful sparkling blue paint. The gas tank had some very unique painted striping along the top, which I had never seen before on a Honda. Also, it had a lot more power than my first bike, a Yellow 1968 Honda CL125. It also had an extra 5th gear! I was sold at first glance. I can’t remember exactly what I paid for it, but it seems as though it was $475.00 of my hard-earned summer factory-floor earnings. I was soon off to deliver it to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where I was to start my senior year in college in January of 1971.
However, I had a potential problem. Miami did not allow students to have any motorized vehicles on campus. Enforcement, however, was sporadic, so since I was living off campus in an apartment, I thought I had a better shot of avoiding the campus police. The bike was an absolute joy to buzz around the campus and to take “uptown” to the local pubs. An afternoon attendance at one of these establishments spawned the adventure “My Wild Day on a Bridgestone,” that some of you might have recently read in the August/September 2015, issue of the VJMC Magazine. The Honda also served as the basis of my first off-road riding adventures, and a vehicle to teach my buddy Dave D. to ride. This bike was the springboard for his eventual extreme interest in dirt bikes. It was, as can be seen from the picture, also a real magnet for the campus beauties.
Yes, those were the days. So I deigned to fit my final few classes into my weekly schedule of part-time work during the mornings at the local lumber company, afternoon handball sessions with my buddy Dave D., and evenings spent in the local pubs. One day while walking back to the apartment after our obligatory all-Friday-afternoon handball marathon, Dave commented: “I just can’t wait to get out of here and start working and making some money!” I turned to him and said: “Are you kidding? You will look back on this as the easiest and best days of your life!” Invariably when I get together with him, he often reminds me that I was absolutely correct.
Well, my roommate Jay, who had already graduated a few years prior and had a job as a teacher, was also quite interested in my motorcycle. So I fatefully taught him to ride it. Since I was perpetually short on cash, I let him “buy into” half the motorcycle. That shared-vehicle arrangement worked out well, until one day when I came home to find him sitting on the couch with his arms and legs decidedly skinned and badly scraped, seeping blood. He howled incessantly as he self-medicated the cuts using a can of Bactine antiseptic spray. It seems that a Mrs. Maltbie had not given him his proper right-of-way at a four-way stop, and Jay had ended up on the hood of her car. So I accompanied Jay to his parents’ house to assess the damage to our jointly owned property. Ugh! As can be seen in the picture, the front end of the bike was terribly mangled.
It was deemed that Mrs. Maltbie was, in fact, at fault, and her insurance company would eventually pay for the damage. To compensate me for my loss, Jay paid me the other half of the bike’s value, and off it went to the Honda dealer in Fairfield, Ohio, for repair. The money did not make it any easier to live without my precious mobile commodity. But in fact, I had to leave it behind as I was soon on my way to Graduate School at Ohio State in Columbus. There was no time or place for the bike on the OSU campus anyway.
Fast forward to 1972; after I finished graduate school, and was trying desperately to find full-time employment, I was more interested in dirt bikes. I had purchased a tired little Kawasaki 90cc G4TR. It was vastly underpowered and under-suspended, but I rode it like a Banshee trying to keep up with my buddy Dave D’s sweet running Suzuki TS 185. The little Kawasaki gave me my only broken bone on a motorcycle, but that is another long story. I then moved up in class to what I believe was one of the best handling Enduro bikes ever made, the Puch 175. Dave D. and I began our off-road adventures, and we rode all over southern Ohio, northern Kentucky and southern Indiana on our dirt bikes.
In 1974 I moved back to Columbus, Ohio, landed a position working for the State of Ohio, and had pretty much forgotten about the CL175. However, a trip back to Oxford changed my motorcycle inventory. My old roommate Jay was in the process of moving and didn’t have room for the Honda any longer. Fantastic! I happily re-purchased it and put it in my garage, and then proceeded to ride it around the West Side of Columbus—for a while. I found, however, that a relatively small, dual-purpose motorcycle did not have the panache or status in the big city that it did in the small college town. I had also begun my avocation of buying and selling motorcycles. So one fateful day I decided it was time to sell that bike and make room in my limited garage space for another. I carefully washed and waxed it and put it out front of our apartment on Clime Road with a “for sale” sign. I left instructions on pricing with my wife, and off to work I went. I don’t remember the duration, but it wasn’t all that long before I came home one evening, and it was gone! She happily showed me the cash. Even though I had specifically told her to sell it, I had the sinking feeling that I might have made a mistake letting my old friend slip away.
We soon moved to Grove City, a southern suburb of Columbus, and got busy raising three sons. I still kept a garage full of wheeled vehicles. In fact, for three years I was District Sales Manager for US Suzuki Motorcycles in Southern Ohio. Then for two years representing Steyr Daimler Puch’s line of mopeds and bicycles. It was my daily task to sell two wheeled fun in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, and Western Pennsylvania. Wow, I was getting paid to ride motorcycles.
Then as we moved into a new century and the internet became the tremendous communication tool it is, I built a website and started selling vintage motorcycles and parts to customers all over the world. As I daily scoured the digital marketplace for classic bikes, one thing was crystal clear. The 1969-1970 CL175K3 was one of the rarest bikes out there. I just could not find another one. Even though I monitored eBay and Craigslist and went to lots of classic bike shows, I just did not see another blue one. Oh, I was eventually able to buy the other color model, Candy Orange, but it wasn’t in good shape, and it just wasn’t quite the same. I eventually traded that bike for a gorgeous restored Japanese domestic CL90 from Ellis Homan of the VJMC Board. He had a history with the orange CL175K3, and he wanted to complete “his story” with that particular model. Then, about four years ago, I thought I was going to land a blue one from, of all places, the state of Maine. I saw it on the internet and even put a deposit on it, salivating at the thought of reconnecting. However, the deal went sour. The guy was out of work. He needed the money badly, and a local buyer showed up with cash! He apologized, but said it was gone. I got my money back, but no bike.
God really smiled on me and my search in the summer/fall of 2015. First I saw one for sale on eBay in Chicago. It appeared to be beautifully restored. The ad said, however, and it was made very clear that it had engine problems—so many that the owner was not going to invest any more money in it. Well, that was no problem for me as I happened to have a 1972 CL175 that I had been parting out. It had an identical engine that looked great and turned over with great compression. Surely I could just buy this one and swap out engines. After being burned a few times by bikes that looked great in pictures but not in reality, I became more skeptical. I was tied up that week and the prospect of driving 7 hours each way just to get a look at it before bidding became less appealing. Still I was ready to consider buying it sight unseen. However, as the bidding crept over $2000, I prudently decided that there were too many uncertainties in both the condition and the price, so I let it go.
Then in September, a guy in western Indiana, to whom I had sold a CL175 gas tank a few months back, called and said that he had finished his blue CL175K3 restoration, and would I be interested? “Would I? You bet!” He had sent me a couple of pictures, but I needed more detail before I was willing to drive that far to see it. However, as seemed to be my fate in this quest, he did not come through with the pictures as promised, and I seemed to be back to square one.
At about the same time, my good friend Bob Billa of San Diego, who served with me on the VJMC Board a few years ago, had been given a candy orange CL175K3 model by his son. He told me that he was in the process of restoring it and asked if I knew where he could find a fender. Unfortunately I did not; however, I shared with him that I was looking for the blue model. The great guy that he is, a few days later he emailed me and told me about a blue model he had seen for sale on eBay. Quickly looking it up, I could hardly believe it: there was the bike of my youth on the world-wide auction block, looking great. I had previously seen the quality of some of the bikes sold by Linefork Cycles in Mercer, Pa, and had always been impressed. I contacted the owner, Phil, and after he answered a few of my questions, I was sure that this motorcycle was going to be the target my very aggressive bidding.
So, after a chain of events that has taken over forty years to play out, I now have that very same motorcycle model in my collection. What is more interesting, if you look closely at the picture shown below, taken in November, 2015, you can see it features me and that very same beautiful gal who was pictured beside me in the previous Oxford, Ohio, picture. I married her 42 years ago. She and the CL175 have both proven to be keepers!