On patrol with Honda's CBX 750 Police Special
Police bikes need to be comfortable - the boys in blue are aboard them for hours at a stretch and they need to stay alert, to concentrate on what’s going on around them, rather than on the numbness of their nether regions.
Honda’s CBX 750 P certainly fits the bill - it’s a superbly laid-out middleweight tourer in the style of the late 1970s with a deeply padded solo saddle, compact seating position and supple, well-damped suspension.
It’s fitted with the neatest fairing I’ve yet seen mounted on a chromed tubular bracket, insulated with rubber grommets at each mounting point
The bike’s got all the bells and whistles Honda could think of.
. The entire “Windjammer”-style unit, screen and all, is blow-moulded from a single piece of clear polycarbonate with the lower area simply spray-painted the same pale cream as the rest of the bike.
It’s light, strong and stable, the interior finish as good as the outside, and it’s intrinsically rattle-free. The one drawback is that it’s very difficult to repair; you crack it, you replace it - and I fear it will cost a small fortune.
The bike’s also got all the bells and whistles Honda could think of: two sirens, a siren that doubles as a public address system complete with clip-on mike, two different sets of flashing blue lights, a writing surface with a clip (so your ticket book doesn’t blow away in the wind!) and its own light so you can write tickets at night.
It’s got 19-litre waterproof panniers to put your lunch in, factory-fitted crash bars, an accessory searchlight powered off the bike’s battery and, best of all, a built-in speed trap, operated right off the handle-bar switchgear
There’s a separate blue light on a telescopic pole above the rear mudguard.
I must admit I didn’t have the nerve to use it.
On TV’s “CHiPS” we would see Jon and Ponch take one hand off the bars to grab for the radio mike every time the radio squawked. In real life that’s way too dangerous so Honda has provided a mike that clips to your helmet and plugs in to a special jack on the fascia.
The mike switch is operated by the rider’s thumb, on the righthand switchgear unique to this model, without lifting a hand from the bars or compromising control.
Also embodied in this special unit is the three-position “pursuit” switch: the first position lights up the revolving blue lights on the front crash bars, the second freezes the calibrated speedometer on the reading displayed at the moment of truth, the third unleashes a truly awesome siren.
I’m very glad I didn’t succumb to the temptation to try it out on the road; I was persuaded to set it off at Killarney and it was audible all over the pits above all the racket of a race day.
There’s a separate blue light on a two-metre telescopic pole above the rear mudguard that can be left revolving with the bike switched off and the ignition key in a special “accessory” position.
In one of the factory’s few oversights, the key can’t be removed in this position.
The 750 P is based on the CBX 750 of the early 1980s, a compact transverse four aimed mainly at the American market. It has self-adjusting hydraulic tappets, a hydraulic clutch and no-hassle shaft final drive. The service version also has a large oil-cooler for all-day slow running and a surprisingly authoritative exhaust note from the dual “shortie” pipes.
The 39mm conventional forks have Honda’s “TRAC” torque-reactive anti-dive system and a pair of up-to-date twin-pot floating callipers on the disc brakes - just as well, as Honda quotes a kerb weight of 255kg for their Plodmobile and it takes some stopping.
The 747cc twin-cam motor has been tuned for midrange and its power delivery is soft and easily controlled, engendering a gentle and undramatic riding style. It’s completely rubber-mounted and runs almost turbine smooth.
The steering on the CBX frame is slow and lazy, with a 30-degree rake angle and a long wheelbase (by today’s standards) of 1 515mm. The seating position is upright, with a short reach to the wide pullback handlebars. The bike encourages a neat and contained manner of riding and remained comfortable during the course of a long day’s ride through the Stellenbosch area north-east of cape town and over Helshoogte pass.
The drive train is as refined as the motor. The light hydraulic clutch has a wide, soft take-up and proved immune to abuse when I was caught in some really heavy traffic. Very ego-boosting to see how box pilots give way for a big cream bike festooned with blue lights, though!
The six-speed gearbox has a bright orange tell-tale “OD” that lights up on the fascia when the highest ratio is engaged - I don’t know whether it’s a true overdrive but it gives a relaxed, cruising gait.
Changes are always light and positive and, unusual for a shaftie, at reasonably high revs slick clutchless changes are possible in both directions. The shaft final drive is also remarkable for its almost complete freedom from lash and snatch; in that respect it’s one of the best I’ve tried.
All suspension is a compromise; the softly sprung, well-damped units on the 750P lead to a tendency to wallow a little on bumpy corners, even at moderate velocities. Even so, the bike never loses its composure, or its line for that matter, and always comes out exactly where you wanted to be on the road.
Certainly the bike’s cornering could be improved with a firmer undercarriage but at the cost of the armchair comfort that is its best feature.
Headache on patrol
The Honda has only one real flaw: I'm just too tall for that magnificent screen. At highway speeds I found the airstream forms a vortex immediately behind the rider’s head, lightly buffeting the helmet from behind, in a constant thrumming that ruins your concentration and eventually causes a slight headache.
I could make it go away by hunkering down a few centimetres but for full-size Westerners the screen needs to be a little higher.
Honda’s Police Special shows the tell-tale signs of a limited production special; both mudguards have been lengthened by adding riveted-on extensions, the centre stand is a little too tall for the 16" rear wheel and the ultra-complex wiring loom is exquisitely hand-made.
Still, it’s a painstakingly thought-out attempt to fulfil the needs of a job where mileage is high and maintenance is necessarily low, where the motorcycle is a tool, not a toy.
Finally, a number of people asked why the bike looks so old-fashioned. The answer is simple marketing: the officers who buy departmental vehicles, anywhere in the world, are not the youngsters who will be riding them.
Honda has styled the bike to look comfortably familiar to the senior cops who sign the cheques, officers who were on the road two decades ago - and to the departmental mechanics who will care for them.
HONDA CBX750PE, CBX750P2H (1991) SPECIFICATIONS
Taken From Original Maintenance and Repair Manual, by Yavuz Darendelioglu, Turkey
Overall Length 2,290 mm
Overall Width 880 mm
Overall Height 1,190 mm
Wheelbase 1,515 mm
Seat Height 800 mm
Footpet Height 340 mm
Ground Clearence 140 mm
Dry Weight 229 kg Without Optional
Curb Weight 248 kg Without Optional
Type Double Cradle
Front Suspension, Travel Telescopic Fork, 150 mm
Rear Suspension, Travel Swingarm/Shock Absorber, 120 mm
Front Suspension Air Pressure 0-40 kPa, 0-0.4 kg/cm2, 0-6 psi
Front Tire Size 110/90-18 61H Tubeless
Rear Tire Size 130/90-16 67H Tubeless
Cold Line Pressure Front 250 kPa, 2.50 kg/cm2, 36 psi
Cold Line Pressure Rear 250 kPa, 2.50 kg/cm2, 36 psi
Front Brake, Lining Swept Area Double Disc, 904 cm2
Rear Brake, Lining Swept Area Internal Expanding Shoe, 245 cm2
Fuel Capacity 20.5 Liters
Fuel Reserve Capacity 2.5 Liters
Caster Angle 60o00'
Trail 111 mm
Front Fork Oil Capacity Right: 470 cc, Left: 490 cc
Type Air Cooled 4-Stroke, DOHC
Cylinder Arrangement Vertical In Line Four
Bore and Stroke 67.0 mm X 53.0 mm
Displacement 747 cm3
Compression Ratio 9.3:1
Valve Train Chain Driven DOHC, 4 Valves per Cylinder
Maximum Horsepower (DIN) 65.4 kW (89 ps) / 9,500 rpm
Maximum Torque 69.8 N-m (7.12 kg-m) /8.000 rpm
Intake Valve Opens 10o BTDC at 1 mm Lift
Intake Valve Closes 40o ABDC at 1 mm Lift
Exhaust Valve Opens 45o BBDC at 1 mm Lift
Exhaust Valve Closes 5o ATDC at 1 mm Lift
Dry Engine Weight 82 kg
Idle Speed 1,000 +/- 100 rpm
Carburetor Type / Throttle Bore KEIHIN VE / 34 mm
Identification Number VE65B
Pilot Screw Initial Setting 2-1/8 Turns Out
Float Level (Gauge Level) 18.5 mm
Clutch Wet, Multi Plate
Transmission 5-Speed + O.D.
Primary Reduction 1.780
Final Reduction 3.670
Gear Ratio I 2.235
Gear Ratio II 1.545
Gear Ratio III 1.240
Gear Ratio IV 1.037
Gear Ratio V 0.866
Gear Ratio VI 0.750
Gear Shift Pattern Left Foot Operated Return System, 1-N-2-3-4-5-O.D.
Ignition Full Transistor Ignition
Ignition Timing "F" Mark 10o BTDC at Idle
Full Advance 32o BTDC at 3,150 rpm
Starting System Starting Motor
Alternator 280 W / 6,000 rpm (Engine rpm)
Battery Capacity 12 V - 14 AH
Standard Spark Plug NGK-DPR8EA-9 / ND-X24EPR-U9
Spark Plug For Cold Climate (Below 5oC) NGK-DPR7EA-9 / ND-X22EPR-U9
Spark Plug For Extended High Speed Riding NGK-DPR9EA-9 / ND-X27EPR-U9
Spark Plug Gap 0.8 - 0.9 mm
Firing Order 1-2-4-3
Fuse/Main Fuse 10A X 3, 15A X 3 / 30A
Headlight (High/Low Beam) 60/55W Halogen
Tail/Stop Light 8/23W
Front Turn Signal 23W
Rear Turn Signal 23W
Instrument Lights 3.4W
Neutral Indicator 3.4W
Turn Signal Indicator 3.4W
High Beam Indicator 3.4W
Position Light 8W