I intended to be first with a prose on the Honda CB 350, the latest reincarnation of the unfairly despised Superdream. However, someone got there first and painted a generally favourable picture. Nevertheless, I still feel my laboriously word processed spiel is worth reading so if you're sitting comfortably...

This bike is certainly not the stuff of which tall motorcycling stories are made but that's natural really - I mean, the bike is reasonably quick and very reliable, so it's not particularly exciting But hang on, I'm a London rider trained in the art of despatching and urban rat race survival. Motorcycles are my only form of transport. It is usually wet and cold. The roads are falling to bits. This isn't Route 66 but Hanger Lane. The Honda begins to make some sensa I've done 14000 miles from new so far on the Honda. Originally, it was destined for despatching.

I bought it because it's a relatively simple machine and thus a candidate for self servicing (after the warranty expires). Also, with such a successful pedigree, the old 400 Superdream was very reliable, I reckoned on it not suffering terminal internal des­truction too rapidly - a useful quality in a despatch bike. However, my despatching job came to an end and I decided not to sign up for any more torture. I got a very much less frantic occupation instead and the new bike breathed a huge sigh of relief.

The Honda has proved itself to be, as they say, an excellent tool for urban use. For me, at any rate, a bike needs good acceleration and really good brakes to ensure survival in London traffic. Okay, it's pretty slow on the motorway, if you regard 70-80mph cruising as slow, but it has a fair bit of grunt for getting out of tight spots on city roads.

I find that if you use the gears then the Honda will really bowl along. The power comes on smoothly and immediately, so you can out accelerate all the cars and quite a few bikes from a standing start. More importantly, the bike is well suited to the type of point-and-squirt riding used when cutting through serious jams. And when that taxi in front does a sudden U-turn, the powerful front brakes are useful. The rear isn't actually much cop, at least it won't lock the back wheel, but the front discs are really effective; they've

saved my bacon a few times On more open roads you soon come up against the limitations of this bike. On the motorway, a cruising speed about 10mph over the limit has to suffice unless you want to cane the engine mercilessly. Compared to an LC350 the power to weight ratio is rather poor; as well as developing only 34hp it has to lug around 380lbs. However, it's certainly no slug, it's just that there's little extra power left once you are in motorway cruising mode. In general, though, I think that the spread of available power up to about 85mph is perfect for the sort of use my machine gets, especially in view of the frame and suspension set up.

The bike feels very solid and stable, no doubt due to the sturdy (albeit garishly painted) wrap-around tubular frame. The ride is usually very comfortable until the road surface declines to Westminster standards. Of course, the suspension is not exactly in the TZR class. On wide bends it's okay but on tighter corners the rear end can chop about a bit if you take them too rapidly. Still, this Is a sensible, boring bike and not an outrageous state of the art two stroke (I wonder what those things are really like to ride). In general, the Honda behaves predictably and has a nice feel. The riding position is just about right and the seat remains comfortable over quite a dis­tance.

You can do about 150 miles between petrol stops and not suffer any pain in the butt The petrol consumption is not marvellous. I'll be the first to admit that such a basic, low powered engine as this should return better than 50-55mpg. The CB350 is sold on the cheap, reliable, workhorse ticket so why doesn't it do 60-70mpg at least? In fact, running this machine may be less expensive than many other bikes but it certainly ain't cheap. Spares and servicing are anything but! The tyres I fitted - Metzelers and then Michelins - are certainly not in the bargain basement class but then I always like to spoil my bikes. A dealer service costs about fifty notes excluding extra items like pads, chains, etc. Every new Jap bike over lOOcc now seems to cost the earth to buy and run, so I guess that's why many unfortun­ate souls are forced to make do with 450 year old CD175s and MZs. I'm just thankful I was able to afford a new bike in the first place.

Talking of gigantic expenses, I replaced the sprockets and chain at 13500 miles which I suppose isn't too bad considering I'm no slouch off the grid at the lights. I used original sprockets and an RK open 0-ring chain. At the same time I took the wheel up to the local tyre fitters where they put on a Michelin M48, the third rear tyre, the last being a Metzeler which didn't last very long at all. Last but not least, I took off the swinging arm and greased the bearings and bushes. Phewl €120 worse off as well! I'd like some aftermarket shocks as well to replace the knackered FVQs but I'll have to write to Santa for those.

The engine is basically similar to the 250 and 400 Superdreams and will probably fail in the same way. The Superdreams tended to be reliable until everything was worn out at 40 to 50,000 miles, when they were just beyond salvage Just about every other modern bike in the known universe, when they have one, drive their balance shafts by gear, note the poor old CB's chain, although it is a little easier to get at the tensioner and seems to need less attention than earlier bikes.

The 350, having its pistons going up and down together as per old Brit twins, sounds nice and the balance shaft combined with the lack of capacity and low state of tune means it's as smooth as you could want without totally removing all feel of an engine whirring away. Obviously.

I can only compare the CB350 with my previous mounts. And there stands the most uninspiring list of motorcycles this side of the MZ works. For someone like me who has clocked up thousands of miles on the two wheeled equivalents of the Ford Cortina and Transit, and who has had his fan share of anguish, the CB350 is quite a good bike.

To give it its due, reliability has been first rate with nothing failing to work in 14000 miles. Thi front brake calipers seized up thanks to all the road crud. As a result I couldn't change the pads and had to get the dealer to apply a flamethrower. As I'm sure you're aware, the Japs don't put nearly enough lubricant on the pins with dire consequences when they are exposed to the ravages of a winter on English roads. The calipers now have a tasteful anodised look, but what an expense More expense was incurred after the thing was blown over by the wind and a few months later an idiot knocked it over while parked.

New bars and mudguard please, an astronomical sum plus the dreaded VAT. Still, at least my bike does its crashing whilst I'm not on it.

In fact, parking is the one aspect of London riding I hate the most. People say it's par for the course round here but it's a frightening experience when you look out of the window and find the bike eating tarmac. It's also occasions like that when you find that you can lift almost 400lbs of metal. When it happened the second time, it encouraged me to dig out my Honda H100 and use that for commuting to work. I soon found that this device got me around London just as well as the CB, so I'm going to sell the latter whilst it's still in good condition and save up for something interesting to ride at the weekends. The CBs, VTs and GTs of this world are the only things for despatching but those days have gone and so I can't see the point in running that type of bike.

Ironically, I took my test on a Honda H100 eight years ago. After a succession of basic but pretty big bikes, culminating in a wonderful working relationship with a huge company CX500 barge. I'm back on a farty little two stroke

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