A Ride into Motorcycle History

Surrounded by a world of motorcycle history, nothing else existed once my eyes found the Honda Cub. It’s how I got my start into motorcycling more than forty years ago. Little did I know at the time that motorcycling would be inextricably linked to my own personal Road; my mode of transformation.

motorcycle historyI was on a late-season motorcycle road trip and had stopped at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Birmingham, Alabama. The largest collection of its kind in the world, approximately 600 of a collection of 1,200 vintage and modern motorcycles are on display at any one time.

The energy from men, women and their motorcycles is palpable. Each one of those bikes has stories to tell about the people they’ve carried, the experiences they’ve shared and the adventures they’ve been on.

As my advent into motorcycling, I had nothing to calibrate against and that little Honda might as well have been a big street machine. My younger brothers John and Robert each paid $45 from their wages to purchase it for fun on the family farm. While they both rode it, their relationship was such that John did a lot of the riding and Robert, who would become a millwright, fixed it. Looking back, I’m not sure how I scavenged time on it, but I managed enough to spark a lifelong relationship with motorcycles. It wouldn’t have taken much.

They were small: 140 pounds and 49 cc’s producing 4.5 hp at 9,500 rpm; 3-speed transmission with an automatic clutch, electric start and a top speed of 45 mph. They were inexpensive, reliable and required little maintenance and are still being built in third-world countries. At last count, over 27 million have been produced, making them the bike that has introduced more people to riding than any other.

Between the original owner and the Jansen clan, that bike introduced at least 5 people to riding, and it’s only 1 of 27 million. Ironically, although bikes continued to be part of the farm scenery, neither John nor Robert pursued (legally) riding on the road.

My own Road has had many twists and turns, a few potholes, but mostly beautiful roads and scenery since that life-changing meeting all those years ago. From that point on, a motorcycle was always there, waiting to take me to where I needed to go, physically or spiritually.

As I basked in the memories, it did not escape me that I am but one of many millions whose life has been enriched through motorcycling. That Honda may have only had 4.5 hp, but it’s energy has changed lives around the world.

I’d love to hear which bike got you started and what it’s meant to you.  Submit your memories in the comments below.  Thank you.



Healer, author, and motorcycle aficionado Liz Jansen combines her artistic mediums to create stories that inspire readers to embark on their own journey of self-discovery. No helmet or jacket required.

10 Comments on “A Ride into Motorcycle History

  1. …. We just have got the third old bike in the house, but this is a Honda CT 90, or Trail 90. Another bike that brought a lot of young people into biking. I didn’t know that it was a Cub or Passport that brought you into the mc sport, I thought it would have been a Trail 90 on a farm. But I should know better because Hilda, my 1981 CT 70 – Cub, was saved from 25 years in a barn last January – never has been street licensed before I got her, after 30 years I am her first registered owner….! And she was full of straw and other dirt everywhere…
    Se is not my first bike but she is tons of fun to ride and really good on all the back dirt roads here as we found out this summer.
    Oh ja, I remember my first bike, in 1991, a Honda as well, a european CB 450 S model. This bike I got used from a friend of mine, Marina, she rode and sold it to me. She lived in Hamburg and I lived in Heidelberg. My first ride on my own bike was with a very fresh license, riding up ‘bitch’ with my husband on the Concours to Hamburg and then back on my own. Over 500 km on the Autobahn. If I was nervous? You bet, I was! But I was so determined that I have to get MY bike back on my own, nothing else would have been an option! And of course on a busy weekend, as every one on German Autobahns…. I was completely exhausted and proud like a peacock, you see that on the picture my hubbie took of me when we arrived home.
    That bike served me the first 2 years but I didn’t like the sitting position and she was quite high so I had to kick her off the centre stand standing on one leg only, and I tipped her over more than a couple of times; so what, that’s how you learn. I rode her to northern Norway and on numerous excursions in southern Germany and bordering countries, she was an absolutely reliable companion. I bought my ‘famous’ Harley, ‘Diva’, after her. Strangely enough, I never named that bike, all the other one had or have names, must be because I never really felt totally comfortable on her. Though I am thankful for her being there when I needed her, no trouble with that bike! I know I rode approx. 25,0000 – 30,0000 km on her in those 2 years! We were out every weekend and whenever possible, the area there was fantastic for riding, curve after curve and beautiful scenery.

    That’s what I remember about my first bike!

    Yours truly in all MC adventures….


  2. The step through Honda was rated the number 1 motorcyle of all times as they outsold everything else.I had to rebuild the engine a few times costing anywhere between $15 and $30 and taking about an hour.The front fender was really close to the wheel and when driving around the farm sometimes sticks would get caught up there and over the bars you would go. I guess I never learned my lesson as I bought an ATV and still go over the bars. Each time hurts a little more.

    • I had forgotten about the headers! I do remember you working on it. With each time hurting a ittle more, that means that each time you should be a little more careful! 🙂


  3. My 2nd bike was a 50cc Honda C110. This 50cc bike looked like a motorcycle, with tank
    and everything. Not being a step through was what captured me, also my 1st bike a ’54 ( as I recall) 200cc Triumph Tiger Cub did not always start.

    • I don’t even remember where the gas “tank” was on that cub. You’ve got many wonderful memories – and stories!!! Thank you Mary.


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