Honda S90: Lost in the 90s

A look back at where we all started

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by Dain Gingerelli
Dain Gingerelli’s look back at the Honda 90s of his youth hit home with several readers who owned similar bikes.

I wish I had a snappy lead sentence for this article, but I don’t.

The story itself centers around Honda’s 1960s vintage Super 90, often referred to as the S90. And that begs the question: how much excitement can you generate from a bike powered by a single-cylinder OHC engine producing an advertised and undersized 8 horsepower?

There’s more. My first motorcycle was a brand new 1965 Honda S90, and apparently, S90s were popular among many of my editorial colleagues, a fact I discovered while researching an S90 article penned by Ron Lawson for the April 1987 issue of Cycle World magazine. Turns out that Ron had learned, as he wrote, “the dark and mysterious ways of a manual clutch” from his S90. Sticking with CW’s staff, Western Advertising Manager Greg Blackwell (brother to AMA 500cc MX champ Mark Blackwell) owned an S90 during his youth, as did Associate Editor Cameron Bussard. Even Uber Columnist Peter Egan had owned one, although nobody can confirm if he ever tried to buy back his long-gone S90 from whoever ended up with it at whatever point in PE’s storied and adventurous life as a motojournalist. There are probably other “magazine guys” out there who previously owned S90s, and we all know who we are.

But I digress, and back to this article. In truth, the story’s lead seed had been planted months before when I was photographing the red 1975 Honda CB400F. Joining me on that assignment was a former motorcycle industry insider, Jon Seidel, who, at 67 years young, currently lists his occupation on IRS tax forms as “Retired American Honda Employee.” His credentials are well deserved, too, and he continues seeking ways to promote the brand. He also keeps busy during his retirement cataloging relevant facts, data and related material about Honda motorcycles for the U.S.-based distributor’s archives. Plus he serves as the Vintage Japanese Motorcyle Club’s Western Regional Rep.

Jon spent most of his early years riding motorcycles in Texas, so he wasn’t especially familiar with the roads he and I were riding that day here in Southern California, me on the CB400F and Jon aboard his Honda scooter that served as our chase vehicle. We initially ventured to nearby Santiago Canyon that contained Orange County’s remaining vestiges of raw land. During our numerous photo stops, I’d fill him in on the region’s background and history, plus I peppered him with personal trivia about how, as an eager and curious teenage lad, I explored these same roads with my new Honda S90. Finally, at one stop Jon shook his head and said, as only a seasoned PR man can, “Dain, this would be a grrreat story for the magazine!” Two more facts about Jon before we roll onward: As a former member of American Honda’s Media Relations team, he understands the significance of sharing information with the motorcycling public, so he never lets a meaningful story go by. Plus — and this is important — he owns a trio of restored and running Honda S90s, of which he volunteered the pick of the litter for me to ride for “our” future story about the past.

  • Updated on Nov 28, 2023
  • Originally Published on Nov 17, 2023
Tagged with: classic honda motorcycles, classic japanese motorcycles
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