Five motorcycles carefully chosen to represent the best of Japan during the 1970's.
What they say!
1970 Kawasaki H1 500

I must admit to being a bit worried about using this bike. Those of you with long memories may remember its reputation as a wild animal, and after owning it for nearly 20 years I can say that it's almost deserved. Most of the time it's docile and well behaved but occasionally, when you've relaxed and think you know it, it'll do something unexpected. You'll also need to keep an eye on fuel - 30mpg is fairly normal. For experienced riders only!

Against a stopwatch, an H1 500 at full screech may not be anything like as fast as a current race-replica, but I guarantee it feels more exciting. As I said at the beginning, there's nothing else like it - and that includes the H2 750, which was deliberately made relatively civilised. Perhaps Kawasaki just couldn't afford to kill off any more customers?
By Rod Ker, January. 2004
So, how do I feel about the CBX today? Well, new showroom arrivals and classics are judged by different criteria. In 1978 the GS1000 was the better buy as a practical everyday superbike. It deserved the Machine of the Year accolade. However, the attributes which made it number one have long since been surpassed and what you are left with is a good but fairly ordinary looking across-the-frame four whose time has been and gone.

The Six, on the other hand, is a flawed masterpiece with genuine charisma.

FauIts that made it second best to the Suzuki are far easier to forgive today than they were back then. In my book it stands head and shoulders above all the opposition as THE Japanese classic of the Seventies
1979 Honda CBX1000Z

Almost too much for alpine roads, it's big and heavy (particularly when you're pushing it!) but just listen to the exhaust note as you run up and down the rev range! Designed by the same person responsible for the classic '60's GP racers, its a landmark Honda and a fantastic bike to ride.

1975 Suzuki GT750

Proving that twostrokes didn't have to be tyre shredding monsters or unreliable plodders. Suzuki's largest stroker is smooth, torquey and a delight to ride. It's my suggested bike of choice if you're taking a pillion.

1972 Yamaha XS2 650

Said to be a Japanese Bonneville, I've always found them more reliable than that! This is the second one I've owned and like the Suzuki, its torquey engine makes bend swinging a delight. Remember that it's a pre balance shaft twin though - the rubber mounted bars and footrests help but it's noticeably the least smooth of the bunch.

1978 Honda CB400/4 F2

A classic in its own lifetime, again its the second one I've had. Smooth and easy to ride, this is the one to look at if you're of smaller build, haven't riden for a while or just want an easy relaxing time.

It would have been nice to include some smaller bikes such as RD250s, CB250s etc but they really do struggle in the mountains. I recently tried a Yamaha CS5 200 for a day and whilst it coped ok it was at its limit for long periods on some of the longer climbs.