With an off-road market established by British manufacturers – and supplemented by enterprising Spanish makes such as Bultaco, Ossa and Montesa – the American two-wheel appetite for all things dirty moved up a gear as the Japanese entered the fray. Chief among them, as ever, was Honda who did a great job of “repurposing” sometimes quite mundane but worthy street bikes into highly appealing “street scramblers”. A genius piece of creative marketing, the craze quickly gained momentum with all Japanese competing for a slice of a growing market.

The Honda CL90 was a gorgeous repackaging of the humble Cub 90 base with its seemingly un-burstable OHC 4-stroke engine, pressed steel type frame upstyled with high level exhaust and braced handlebars evoking competition type bikes. Marketed across a broad spectrum from families to learners and even short city commuters, the CL90 was an initial success but due to its 8hp power output, fell outside and advantageous US tax bracket favouring lower power machines. Pretty soon the 5hp CL70 appeared – along with other CL machines including twin cylinder bikes all the way up to the mighty CL450 – but the CL90 has a special place for collectors.

Made for just two years it is among the rarer CL bikes and, when restored, even now makes a great daily rider. Many common engine and ancillary parts are available via CMS and even some of the more “hard to get” items. If you are after a show winner start by making sure the engine and frame numbers correspond as many tired engines were swapped out and that the sometimes corrosion prone frame is in good shape (they can rot from the inside out). As a first ever resto there are few easier and nicer bikes… So what are you waiting for scramble into the small ads and look for a CL90!

issued: Thursday, September 08, 2022
updated: Thursday, September 08, 2022

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