A teenager, his Honda, & an ill-fated enduro
Editor note: Mark Zweig of Janus Motorcycles has been sharing stories from his younger riding days, and we’re grateful for the glimpses back into his moto yesteryears. As Mark recently told us, “I wish I had made more photos of those old bikes. Photo development was expensive back then for us, and we spent all of our money on our motorcycles.” So we’ll share what photos Mark has, and supplement where we need to with shots of similar bikes that he sends us, from an age before smart phones with built-in high quality cameras.
Back when I was about 14 years old, I traded my 1972 Jawa 90 back to Don Heida at Heidacycle in Fenton, Missouri, for a black 1967 Honda CB 160, even up. I liked it because it had a bigger engine than my Jawa, as well as an electric start. Part of the deal was that Don had to install a brand new set of “Scrambler XO” high straight side pipes with a pair of “Snuff-or-Nots” in the end of each pipe, and deliver the bike to my house in Kirkwood, Missouri.
Now for those of you who aren’t “old-timers” like me, Snuff-or-Nots were basically nothing more than washers with a little stem on them that fit into the end of the exhaust pipes after you drilled a hole in the side of the pipes. There was a knob on the end of the stem you could turn and that made the washer act like a butterfly valve. They were spring loaded so they would stay in position, whether you had them in the open position or closed position. When open, you had straight pipes. When closed, the bike was a whole lot quieter.
“Snuff-or-Not’s”- When open, you had straight pipes.
To say we (my buddy Marshall Clark and myself—see previous Moto Memories) had a blast with these pipes in the open position was an understatement. We were just a couple hooligans riding around the residential areas near his house with my loud, obnoxious pipes.
After I got the motorcycle home and rode it around for a couple of weeks, I did some more work on it. I threw away the street tires and installed some brand new 18” trials tires fore and aft. They were cheap—the Yamaha dealer down the street from me had them as takeoffs from new bikes because all the buyers back then wanted knobbies. I chucked the low front street fender and replaced it with a stock Yamaha Enduro fender that I mounted high, one I had laying around. Then I swapped out the bars for some motocross bars and repainted the whole bike including side covers a medium metallic blue, and voila, I now had a real “scrambler” (I thought) that I could ride in the dirt.
This photo of a 1967 CB160 is from “Bring-A-Trailer”, as I never snapped any photos of mine in the short time I owned it. But picture it with all the mods I mention in this story.
One time some of my friends decided to enter an enduro in Potosi, Missouri. It might have been the “Busted Piston” enduro, but my memory is unclear on that detail. And even though they all rode Hodakas and I didn’t have a “real” dirt bike, I thought I would tag along with my 160.
A Honda among Hodakas and Huskys
We all camped out the night before at the site where the race began. It was cold—like 39 degrees—and we slept in sleeping bags in tents on the ground. To say I felt like crap would be an understatement. To ride in an enduro, you were supposed to have a driver’s license along with a properly tagged and registered bike. I had neither. I did have a license plate on my bike, an expired tag I repainted to look like the current year’s plate. Nobody asked for any paperwork or proof of anything. I don’t recall signing any liability waivers or anything else. This was more than 50 years ago.
In any case, morning arrived and we had whatever we had for breakfast, did a check over on our bikes and and the thing began. They sent us out one at a time. My friends with Hodakas were all really good riders. I was so-so. Enduro races back then were part on the road and part through the woods. I don’t recall much about the race other than two things. One, I was riding on a two-lane highway doing about 60 or 65 mph when Malcolm Smith (we all knew who he was because of the movie, “On Any Sunday”) passed me on the highway doing about 100 mph on his big Husky! And two, I was riding that slug Honda on a super muddy trail section and seized it because mud caked around the heads and I toasted the cam bearings. I eventually got it running again but it would not run right because the ignition points gap was all over the place from the shot bearings.
That ended my participation in the race.
After I got the bike home, I fixed the top end and put it up for sale. A Catholic priest along with his pal, a St. Louis police officer came over to look at it. The cop was there to make sure his friend didn’t buy a lemon. My dad joined us all in the garage and I pointed out everything wrong with the bike. The priest bought it for my asking price of $175. Many times after that, my father told me how proud he was of me for my honest sales tactics. “Tell them everything that’s wrong with it, set a fair price, and stick to it.” I never forgot that and it became the cornerstone of my selling strategy from then-on.
*Next month- my Dunstall Norton!