Times really do change. Today, you'd have a hard time finding a street-legal motorcycle with an engine smaller than 250cc. But through much of the '60s, the lightweight class represented a significant part of the market for the Japanese manufacturers. And this bike, Honda's CB160, was one of the machines many young riders lusted after.
Introduced in 1965, the CB160 incorporated trickle-down technology from the rest of the company's line. Honda's original offerings in this country used stamped-steel "monocoque" frames, but starting with the 250cc Hawk and 305cc Super Hawk in '61, the sport models got more modern tubular frames. With the CB160, that updated look arrived in the lightweight class.
For a list price of $530, a young rider who may have started on a step-through Honda 50 or 90 got something that looked like a true motorcycle. And the 161cc single-overhead cam, four-stroke twin delivered on that promise, spinning up to 10,000 rpm and generating 16.5 horsepower—enough, the company claimed, for a top end of 75 mph. In a road test, Cycle World even dubbed the new bike a "baby Super Hawk."
Of course, the little Honda's performance wasn't going to intimidate the owners of Harley Sportsters and British twins that dominated the big-bike market. But it managed to get through the quarter-mile in a respectable 18.6 seconds, and its four-speed powerplant, featuring a four-main-bearing crank, proved remarkably tough.
Thousands of aspiring American motorcyclists marked their passage into the fraternity of "real" motorcyclists with the purchase of a CB160. And that list includes AMA member Stephen MacMinn, the owner of this 1965 CB160, previously on display in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum at AMA headquarters in Pickerington, Ohio.
"The first bike I ever had was a CB160 like this one," notes MacMinn. "I got it shortly after getting out of high school in 1969. I had it six months before my parents realized I'd bought it. They weren't too pleased with the idea of motorcycles at first, but they finally relented and let me ride it.
"I bought this one in 1991 in nearly original condition, and it's a rider," he adds, "I put at least a few hundred miles on it every year."