Honda CB 200
Honda CB 200
1972 - 74
Four stroke, twin cylinder, OHC,
2 valve per cylinder
196 cc / 12 cub in.
Bore x Stroke
55.5 x 41.0 mm
12.7 kW / 17 hp @ 9000 rpm
142 kg / 313 lbs
11 Litres / 2.91 US gal
124 km/h / 77 mph
The CB200 of 1972-74 was a sporting, high-revving
roadster (twin carburetors, 5 speed, front disc) with a top speed in excess
of 80 mph and an mph/rpm rate, in sixth gear, of 8V2 per 1,000, which meant
that any owner with even the mildest interest in quick travel tended to keep the
tacho needle almost permanently in the red, beyond the 9,500 border.
Usually finished in what interior furnishers might term lime green, and with a
little roll of padded fabric along the top of the narrow tank (a feature
peculiar to this model and of doubtful utility), the electric-start CB200 was
never a big seller, despite an attractive specification.
Road Test: Cycle 1974
These little twins were the first models Honda
seriously marketed in this country: the C92, CB92, and CA95. The first two-had
124cc engines and the latter displaced 154cc. The CB92's crankshaft was
supported by four main bearings and there was an optional racing kit available
which helped many amateur racers to the winner's circle. The C92 and CA95, whose
crankshaft was unsupported in the center, were more pedestrian versions of
Japanese domestic models.
The more robust CB92 type engine evolved into the
CB and CL160 series in 1965. We ran a 10,000 mile road test on a CB160 in 1968.
Most of the reader response to the test was from owners who chastised us for
ending the test so soon: one fellow had over 50,000 miles on his. And there are
still hoards of 160s humming along the Main Streets of America. A lot of them
look as if they haven't been washed since they were bought and many of the
original chassis parts have been survived by any number of custom replacements,
but they're still running.
In 1969 the basic engine grew to 174 cc and the
resulting increase in power was more efficiently transmitted through a
five-speed gear box. The cylinder and head were changed to the more efficient
breathing and better cooling types developed for the 350 series. With the
camshaft boxes separated from the head, the engines were shorter and easier to
work on. The 175 engine was a worthy successor to the 160. It was just as
durable and had a little extra punch.
Throughout this whole series of engines, the
stroke has remained constant at 41mm. Increases in displacement have come
through enlargements in the 44mm bore of the first 125s. This ancestral tie
binds the CB200 to the earlier small Honda twins. In fact, very few internal
changes differentiate the 200 engine from that of the 175. The bore has grown
from 52mm to 55.5 mm and the fifth gear ratio has been raised to .96:1 from 1:1
to allow a higher top speed of 80 mph. Apart from the high gear ratio, the only
other change in the transmission system is an omission of the familiar hollow mainshaft and pushrod type clutch engaging mechanism. The new actuator is the
kind that has three ball bearings transmitting the thrust from matching ramps
and the whole device is mounted in the primary drive cover immediately outboard
of the clutch. Along with removing a source of problems with leaking seals and
eliminating components which require external lubrication to prevent galling,
the new mechanism has the added benefit of a smoother and more positive clutch
New synthetic rubber mounting stubs provide
completely live mounts for the 200's dual 18mm Keihin conventional carburetors.
Rigidly mounted carburetors often give lean mixtures when a certain engine speed
(rpm) matches their natural frequency of vibration. With carefully constructed
elastic insulation, this tendency may be "tuned" out as it has been on the
Honda's choice of an 18mm carb on the 200
perpetuates a steady decline away from the performance orientation of the CB160.
That model had 22mm instruments; the CB175 carbs were 20mm in effective venturi
area; now the CB200 is dished up with 18mm gas/air mixers. The rather
predictable end result is that the CB200 is effectively strangled at high revs.
Compared to the CB200, the CB160 was a racing bike. And with its four speed
gearbox, it had to be. We haven't seen any camshaft timing figures on the 200 as
yet, but from the feel of the engine, it's a safe bet that the valve timing is
more sedate than on the CB160 and the CB175 as well. Top speed and quarter-mile
numbers for our CB200 are almost exactly identical to those of the CB175 tested
back in the April '71 issue. It would be very interesting to outfit a CB200 with
the carbs from a CB160 and the camshaft and exhaust system from a CB175.
As it is, the CB200 is outfitted to be whisper
quiet (81 dB(A), Calif. std.) and docile as it provides absolutely reliable
transportation on city streets with occasional hum-jaunts down the freeway. The
bike will easily sustain 65 mph in high gear if the road doesn't go up any hills
and there isn't much headwind. But a hill of more than three degrees or a
headwind of 10 mph will require the rider to downshift to fourth gear and run
the bike at wide open throttle to hold 60 mph. On the slightest downhill run, it
is easy to attain 80 mph at part throttle.
After the 800-mile mark was passed in our test,
the engine began to run much smoother. Vibration was never really bad and it
became negligible. (We'll be back to reporting vibration levels in numerical
terms, as measured by our electronic equipment, just as soon as we perfect a
simpler way of expressing the results.) Vibration control in the CB200 is
obtained by mounting the engine rigidly to the frame and live-mounting the parts
which touch the rider. The handlebars, footrests, seat, and tank are all
isolated from the frame by rubber cushions. Both method and materials in these
mounts appear to be identical those from the CB175.
The frame on the CB200 is the same as the CB175.
It is comprised of a pair of pressings welded together to form a backbone which
runs along the top of the bike from the steering head to the rear of the seat. A
single down-tube connects the steering head to the front of the engine and then
joins a double-tube cradle which goes back under the engine and sweeps up to
join the backbone pressing at the top rear shock absorber mount. A simple
U-section channel is welded between the backbone, the swingarm pivot, and the
cradle tubes below the rear of the engine. The resulting frame is structurally
very stiff and quite heavy. But all that mass is the main reason why the little
bike is so smooth. The only obvious change on the whole frame was to substitute
a tubular loop for the pressing which doubled as a mount for the muffler and
passenger footrest. We think that the purpose for the substitution was wholly
cosmetic: they just wanted to make that part of the visible frame have a
cleaner, more "tubey" appearance.
Another more major styling modification gave the
fuel tank a square cornered, boxey look and placed chrome trim strips along its
midriff. The color on our bike's tank and side covers was a bright metallic lime
green. A black painted side panel on the tank matches a molded plastic pad on
the top of the tank. The effect of these shape and color departures comes off as
being harder, much more Teutonic than any previous Honda.
Both the strongest and weakest points of the
CB200 are immediately revealed during a brisk ride down a twisty and
not-too-smooth country road. Even with the rear shocks jacked up to their
highest pre-load position, the first bumpy sweeper will have the rear end of the
bike oscillating with such ferocity that the rider immediately forgoes any
further cornering experimentation. One can't begin to examine the effects of
frame rigidity and steering geometry when the bike's shocks provide so little
rebound damping. It was the same with the CB360G that we tested last month. They
both lurched around like '49 Buicks.
Then when a tight corner comes up, there comes
into play the best thing that's happened to lightweight street bikes: Honda's
new mechanical disc front brake.
The disc is a stainless steel pressing 10.25
inches in diameter and 3/16 inch thick. Eight large holes in the mounting dish
of the disc reduce weight and give the front end of the bike a very racey look.
The caliper looks like any other Honda caliper except that it has a cable
housing entering its body instead of the familiar hydraulic hose. Inside the
caliper is the most elaborate mechanical disc clamping mechanism we've ever seen
on any kind of machine. The radial force of the cable lever is translated into
lateral force against the friction pucks by the same type ball-bearing and ramp
device as in the clutch throw-out. In order to provide smooth operation, a set
of radially caged roller bearings apply relatively frictionless thrust to the
caliper body opposite the movable puck. Yet another set of components, involving
a screw in the center of the actuator and a nylon displacement sensor,
automatically adjust the amount of puck retraction as the friction material
The device is simple and marvelously effective.
Brake feel, in terms of how sensitively the rider can determine tire-to-road
traction and thus know how hard to squeeze the lever, is absolutely the best
there is in the lightweight motorcycle field. In our instrumented braking test,
the CB200 could repeatably be stopped in 139 feet from a true 58 mph.
Straight-road stability of the Honda is good.
There is little tendency for the front wheel to follow seams in the road despite
its narrow section. Stiff side winds and the turbulence from big trucks blow the
CB200 around a moderate amount, but never far enough to be alarming. This is
another instance where a curb weight of 300 pounds doesn't hurt.
Steering response at slow speeds, like 20 mph in
a residential side street, has a moderately heavy and very stable feel. The bike
does not dart and flick from side to side from light inputs at the handlebars
and footrests. One of our staff members lives at the end of a narrow and
horrendously rutted dirt lane. The garbage man won't come up to the house
anymore since he slid over against a fence and amputated one of his mirrors. The
CB200 is the first small street bike that has felt stable enough on the loose
dirt to be ridden one-handed down that drive while a full garbage pail is
balanced on the left passenger footrest.
As with most bikes, it is a relief to alternate
one's feet between the normal and passenger footrests during long cruises. For
this purpose the position of the passenger footrests was very good for our
six-foot test rider. And that wonderful front brake kept him from feeling
vulnerable with his feet back off the normal pegs. A new passenger grab-rail is
now placed around the back of the seat for the occasional doubling-up need a
CB200 owner may encounter.
Because the CB200 holds thirty percent of its 2.4
gallons of fuel in reserve, the engine began to stutter with about 90 miles
registering on the trip meter. Averaging 56 mpg gave us a range of 134 miles per
tank. This mileage was obtained while running at wide open throttle much of the
time. When we backed off to Pres. Nixon's suggested 50 mph cruising, the milage
expanded to over 75 miles per gallon. That means 180 miles per tank. If gas goes
up to more than a buck per gallon, as some suggest it may, the CB200 and its
kind may become the most popular bikes on the market.
The CB200 is infinitely more simple and
inexpensive to tune and maintain than the bigger Hondas. Since the crankshaft
arrangement has both pistons traveling up and down in unison, a single set of
points serve both cylinders via a coil with two simultaneous-firing high tension
leads. That means both spark plugs fire on the power stroke and on the exhaust
stroke but that aspect is of no consequence. When the points are adjusted and
timed to open at the correct crankshaft angle for the left cylinder, the right
cylinder is also automatically timed. That means half the parts and half the
labor in the most time consuming part of a tune-up.
The rocker arm/valve clearance is set with screws
and locknuts at the end of each of the four valves. And the adjuster screws do
not turn as you tighten the lock-nuts to spoil the adjustment. All the rider
needs, other than a 10mm box wrench and a pair of pliers, is a couple of feeler
Both the independently-mounted air cleaners are
right under their respective plastic sidecovers. Removing three bolts with a
10mm wrench and flipping off a finger clip allows the filter assemblies to be
removed. The filters are made of a treated paper fiber permanently glued to the
metal housing. The elements can be cleaned, after a fashion, by tapping the
metal housing on the pavement to loosen the dirt and then inserting a compressed
air hose nozzle inside the element and blowing the dirt away. The elements are
very susceptible to tearing and clogging from running the bike in a damp
climate. And when a new element is needed, you have to buy the whole assembly. A
more practical filter element for the owner who does his own service would be
one made from the urethane foam material found on Honda's dirt bikes. It can be
washed in solvent, dried, re-oiled, and replaced many times before an
inexpensive replacement is needed. At least the filters are easy to get on and
off. The CB360G we tested last month had a connecting pipe between the two
filters that was maddening to reconnect.
Changing the oil is as easy as on any bike we
know. The drain plug on the bottom of the engine is removed from the bottom of
the crankcase with a 19mm or 3/4-inch wrench, the oil drained, the plug
replaced, and two fresh quarts poured in through the finger-screw plug in the
front of the primary drive cover. About every fourth oil change, the primary
drive cover should be removed and the centrifugal oil filter washed out while
the oil is drained.
A larger rear chain (5/8 x 1/4 inch) is fitted to
the CB200 and it requires less frequent oiling and adjustment than • did the
CB175. We oiled the chain with Chain Life every 300 miles and only had to adjust
it twice in 800 miles. The chain is easily adjusted with the tools in the
standard tool kit.
All the other maintenance items like changing the
fork oil, topping up the distilled water in the battery and adjusting the
carburetors are simple. We did notice that the power cable from the solenoid to
the starter passed very near the battery case. The case was worn about half
through from the cable vibrating against it when we discovered it happening at
about 300 miles.
Many of the proven features of the older engines
have been bequeathed to the 200, albeit modified a bit to fulfill some new need
or economic dictate. The centrifugal oil cleaner, largely responsible for the
longevity of Honda engines, remains along with the somewhat outdated
plunger-type oil pump. Only the access cover to the filter is absent and the
primary drive cover must be removed to clean the filter. An altered form of the
spur gear (straight-cut) primary drive is fitted to the 200. In the older bikes,
the gears were in two pieces and the teeth on the halves were staggered to
remove vibration and whine. The new one-piece gears are made of sintered (fused
powder) metal and treated with a low temperature hardening process known as LCN
io-nitriding. The impetus for developing the process was tougher pollution
control laws in Japan which took a dim view of the fuming hot cyanide vats used
to treat the old gears. As it turns out the new process is cheaper, safer, and
produces better gears that are only fractionally noisier than the old ones.
The gearbox shafts are still pressure-fed from
the oil pump so that the gears will last as long as the rest of the engine. And
the alternator output capacity has been raised from 80 to 97 watts at 5000 rpm
to extend battery life.
In comparing the CB200 to the automotive field,
we would have to pick the Porsche 914. Like the 914, it is relatively expensive,
has great brakes and just dreadful rear shocks. Its styling is distinctly
"rounded-brick" and things are a bit cramped for large people. But, very unlike
the 914, the CB200 is devoid of exotic (read expensive to service) quagmires
like electronic fuel injection. The CB200 is the smallest bike that can be
safely (and legally in many locations) ridden on freeways. And as the energy and
pollution problems worsen, the CB200 may become the bike of the year.
Source Cycle 1974