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honda cb77

Super twins

Honda's apparently modest CB72 and CB77 Super Hawk twins turned around the company's early 1960s image from interesting to potential giant-killer

(by Ian Falloon, Dec 2023)

honda CB72

Honda’s 250 CB72 (actually 247cc), and 305 CB77 did much to create its reputation for building fast, reliable, and user-friendly motorcycles. But today, despite many thousands produced, good ones are hard to come by.

The CB72 evolved out of Honda's first 250 twin, the 1957 C70 Dream. Although much of this motorcycle was unremarkable, the single overhead camshaft engine, with dry sump lubrication and horizontally split crankcases, was extremely advanced.

By 1959 it gained an electric start, and while many sniggered that they had no torque and didn't handle, these early twins already typified Honda's engineering approach. They didn't leak oil, were beautifully engineered and finished, and had electrical systems that were reliable.

While the dry-sump 250cc C70 and 305cc C76 twins were greeted with amiable interest when first displayed in Europe and America, the release of the next generation wet-sump twins in 1960 (as 1961 models) completely changed the public perception of Honda motorcycles.


The C72 and C77 Dream may have looked similar to the earlier version, but the CB72 Hawk and CB77 Super Hawk lost the ungainly angular styling of the Dream and were real sporting motorcycles.

At 153kg, the CB72 (159kg for the CB77) also handled surprisingly well, and to the chagrin of British motorcycle enthusiasts, a well-ridden CB77 or CB72 could humiliate many British 500cc twins, and run harder all day long than some 650s.

The CB72 engine was wet-sump and featured a 180-degree crank instead of the earlier 360 degree. As on the factory racers, the combustion chamber featured a cast-iron skull, with the valve seats cut in. The compression ratio was 10:1, and with dual PW 22mm carburettors the power was 24 horsepower at 9000rpm (28.5 for the CB77 Super Hawk).

Instead of the earlier pressed-steel frame, the CB72 included a single-loop, tubular-steel frame, incorporating the engine as a stressed member. Earlier Hondas had a leading link front fork, but for the CB72 there was a telescopic front fork, albeit an under-damped one with skinny 33mm fork legs. Very early examples had a single leading-shoe front brake, with a double leading-shoe rear, but during 1961 all brakes were 8-inch double leading-shoe.

The 18-inch wheels were shod with narrow 2.75 and 3.00 inch tyres. With its abbreviated mudguards, simplified headlight, and instrument layout that included a tachometer, the CB72 was far more purposeful than the chunky Dream.

The release of the CB72 and 77 coincided with racing success at the Isle of Man and Honda was keen to promote their production models through racing. A comprehensive racing kit included clip-on handlebars, rear-set footpegs, racing seat, alloy wheel rims, racing camshafts and Keihin CR racing carburettors.


During 1962 and 1963 Honda produced a limited number of production-racing CR72 and CR77s (above). The engines featured double overhead camshafts, driven by a central set of spur gears, four valves per cylinder, and the CR72 produced 40 horsepower at 12,000rpm. As the unremarkable chassis didn't provide particularly good handling, these machines didn't achieve any notable success.

A CL72 scrambler was offered from 1962 (see the Rider Magazine review). In the US this was much more popular than the sporting models, heralding a wave of dual-purpose motorcycles.

As the CB72/77 was so advanced, development was minimal during the 1960s. Most of Honda's R&D engineers were involved in developing racing motorcycles, and there were only minor updates to the CB72/77 through until 1967.

By that stage other Japanese companies were producing high performing 250s and 350s and the Honda was outdated. Honda retaliated with the CB250/350. These soon became the most popular motorcycles in the world but lacked the sporting finesse of the CB72/77. For many enthusiasts, the CB72/77 was the motorcycle that started it all.

CB72 data & profile at Motorcycle Specs

One for sale


Ed's note, Dec 2023: we got started on this theme when we spotted a 1965 CB72 on Bikesales. Claiming just 5600km (3500 miles), it has had a cosmetic freshen up, is said to be a decent runner and is on the market at Au$8000 (US$5400, GB£4250).

If all that is true, it seems like a decent proposition for anyone wanting a classic motorcycle without spending a fortune.


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