Gone fishing: the character deficient Honda CD250u

Whether it’s fishing, riding around the world or hanging out in Helmsley, the unassuming CD250 is one of those go anywhere, do anything kind of bikes, isn’t it …?

“It’s the sort of bike people go fishing on," said my influential brother, recommending the Honda CD250u as my first motorcycle.

I wasn’t in a position to argue, not knowing anyone who went fishing, nor what sort of bike should be my first. At that time I’d ridden a Suzuki GP100 (not very far), a Puch moped, (difficult to ride very far at all, because the throttle was operated by pulling on a pair of pliers), a Suzuki RGV250, (around a school car park – what a hooligan I was!) and one or two Honda CG125s (with kick start – ouch!) while training for my L-test. But my main weapon so far had been the very learner-friendly Yamaha SR125, a sweet little machine on which I had miraculously passed my L-test a few months earlier.

My brother identified and sourced the CD, which was duly purchased from a dealer in York. I still remember sitting at traffic lights waiting to turn right from Foss Islands Rd to Layerthorpe, York, feeling both excited and nervous on my very shiny new (to me) bike.

The CD is not generally a machine to set the heart racing, though.

Mine, an immaculate 1991 example, was decked out in staid navy blue livery with a huge comfy black seat, reminiscent of a 1970s salesman in a polyester suit carrying a shiny vinyl briefcase. It had dependable-looking mirrors that you could see things in, not like some other bikes I have ridden since. It had a purposeful, sensible look about it. The previous owner was no doubt a purposeful, sensible type too, judging by the amount of grease he’d slapped on the thing. I spent quite a lot of time removing it. I know grease stops your bike from going rusty, but it stops it looking good too. So the amazing grease soon went – I needed to make the most of what style this bike had, which wasn’t very much.

I wondered if the guy who’d owned it previously used it for commuting. When I grew up in York, a lot of people would commute on two wheels to the chocolate factories or railway works, either on bicycles or Honda C90s, and I reckoned this was the sort of bike you could commute on – and also use to go fishing at the weekend. York has two rivers, after all.

Or, you could use your CD to travel the world, like David Stokes did. Mr Stokes has made a name for himself riding very small bikes over very long distances – and he managed 50,000 miles on his CD. “I rode it to The Dordogne to visit friends and found it easy to ride and cheap to run. The next year, 2009, I set off with the idea to ride to Damascus – can’t do that now! As Jordan was nearby I rode all the way to a mile short of the Saudi border and then rode all the way back. The next year saw me in Bulgaria.

“It’s easy to ride, perfect for a new rider,” he said. “The bike has no real character, it’s no classic, but what the poor thing has been put through it can hold its head up.”

Mr Stokes has now retired the bike and it’s currently on show at Dover Transport Museum.

But back to my example. After purchase, the bike was duly ridden from York to my home in Darlington, where I worked as a journalist at the Northern Echo. One of the advantages of working as a journalist is that you get one or two freebies, and I’d managed to blag a motorcycle L-plate training course on the promise of an article or two. So, one of my first trips on the bike was to show it off to my friends at the bike school. And another was a visit to Helmsley marketplace. As every North Yorkshire biker knows, a Helmsley hangout is a must – not quite on a par with negotiating the Nurburgring or climbing the Stelvio Pass, but an important biking box to tick nonetheless. And I’d ticked it with my bullet-proof, but, it has to be said, boring little bike.

People in the know told me to ride it every day, so I did. Every morning through the summer of ’98 I went out on it somewhere around North Yorkshire, County Durham or into Teesside, having the advantage of a shift job at the Echo, which left my mornings free. I rode to work on it too, and back home in the dark. And I rode it through winter (which new biker stops when it’s winter?) and I also continued to go to the bike school at Conyers School, Yarm, on a Saturday morning.

Some people have pet names for their bikes, depending on the nature of the beast. But this bike was so completely lacking in character (apart from its 100% reliability and predictability) that I never gave it a name, nor even came up with an alternative interpretation of the acronym CD. Completely Dull could have been one, or Character Deficient. But maybe I am being unappreciative of this machine’s raison d’etre – to reliably transport a person from a to b without any fuss, excitement or unnecessary fuel consumption. It was a Honda Completely Dependable 250 (Unremarkable).

One day, in the spring of the following year, I wanted to find out how fast the CD would go, so I rode it flat out on a long straight road near Piercebridge, North Yorkshire (the road needed to be long so that the CD could reach its top speed!)

When it gets to that stage, you know it’s time for a change. The CD had served me very well, but I was ready for some fun. And that’s exactly what I got, in tank-loads, with my next bike – which, apart from being another 250cc Honda, could not have been much more different to this one. (To be continued … !)

  • Jill Boulton is the managing director of Visorcat, the award-winning and patented wash/wipe visor device for motorcyclists that increases vision, confidence and safety.