The Honda CB350 Four: The Forgotten Mini Superbike
The 60s and 70s saw some incredible feats of motorcycle engineering, and Honda’s bikes were no exception. Although this was the era of the café racer, the Super Cub dominated the entry-level segment. And Honda’s Grand Prix-winning RC166 showed just how far the Japanese company could push small engines’ performance. But despite these achievements, the brand’s next small-capacity marvel, the Honda CB350 Four, remains relatively ignored. This despite a connection to one of the company’s most influential bikes.
1972-1974 Honda CB350 Four history and specs
Although Ducati and Brough-Superior had produced high-performance bikes, the 1969 Honda CB750 was the first motorcycle officially called a ‘superbike.’ It wasn’t the first 4-cylinder motorcycle or the first with a front disc brake or electric starter. But the CB750 was the first bike that combined all these features at an affordable price. Which Honda then decided to offer in its smaller-capacity motorcycles.
That’s why, in 1972, Honda released the CB350 Four, aka ‘CB350F,’ after 1971’s CB550 Four, Motorcycle Classics reports. Its 347cc four-cylinder engine was actually the smallest production 4-cylinder engine in the world at that time. The pistons are roughly the size of pharmacy pill bottles, and it had 4 carburetors. Plus, it redlined at 10,000 RPM. And, just like its bigger brothers, the Honda CB350 Four had a front disc brake and electric starter.
Unfortunately, while the CB350F’s features were its biggest strengths, they were also its biggest problem.
How the Honda CB350F rides, and why it’s been forgotten
The Honda CB350 Four’s engine was incredibly smooth, Hagerty reports. A contemporary review compared riding it to driving a Porsche, due to its overall balance and refinement. RM Rider Exchange claims the refinement and high redline was what, according to legend, made the CB350F Soichiro Honda’s favorite bike at the time. But despite all this, it was never a strong seller.
The problem was that the Honda CB350 Four only made 34 hp. It couldn’t even go 100 mph, despite a 394-lb curb weight. In contrast, the 326cc two-cylinder Honda CB350, aka ‘CB350K,’ made about the same power, Cycle World reports. But the latter was 136 pounds lighter, which made it quicker. Plus, with only 2 cylinders, the CB350K was cheaper to run and service, at about 75% the sticker price. Admittedly, though, it didn’t have a disc brake—at least, not at first.
As a result, Honda sold 319,712 two-cylinder CB350s in the US from 1968-1973 before replacing it with the CB360, Hagerty reports. In comparison, only about 70,000 CB350Fs were made before the bike was replaced with the CB400F.
Pricing and availability
However, it appears the used and classic motorcycle market has started to appreciate the Honda CB350 Four’s charms. Although the CB350K is an excellent, inexpensive way to get into classic bikes, the CB350F is better-suited to both backroad and highway riding. It may not be fast, but it can sit at freeway speeds all day.
Prices have been on the rise in recent years, Hagerty reports. A pristine Honda CB350 Four can go for $6000 or more. One sold on Bring a Trailer in March 2020 for $4900, which is more than a CB550 Four went for earlier that same month. However, as of this writing, there is a 1974 model listed on BaT for $1400. And these prices are still noticeably less than the CB750 commands.
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