Honda C90 Cub: Our bikes

Date 20.6.2013

Presented by
  • Motorcycle Trader


Honda C90 Cub


Toss a kid some spanners and a project and see what happens. Leechy did just that…

We are a motorcycle family. I’ve been into them for as long as I can remember, and the sickness has been passed to my two sons. They both ride recreationally, and enjoy the whole bike lifestyle thing.

They have hit the dreaded teenage years, and noticing that the couch and a broody attitude were becoming more prevalent, I decided that a project was a good idea. One that they could handle and control, one that would take focus and persistence – things that most teenagers consider ‘gay’, to use the commonly morphing term for anything that they don’t want to do.

Within a couple of days of searching, I found a 1979 Honda C90 (it was even the Deluxe version) on eBay. The grand total of $737 changed hands. It was a runner, in honest nick and with no known issues, that had been out of rego for a few years.

Why a C90? Well, there was that price for starters. Parts are easily obtained too – after all, this is an example of the highest-selling motorcycle on the planet. In fact, it is possible to order parts at your local Honda shop, and the internet throws up all sorts of bits and pieces as well. Be a little careful with online stuff, however. A lot of the stuff is very ordinary, and ‘new old stock’ is by far the better way to go. Another big plus is the fact that the C90’s 88cc pushrod singlecylinder engine is about as simple as a four-stroke unit can get. And, I reckon step-throughs have a groove to them.

Spencer is my eldest, about to turn 16, and he rides a Honda CRF150R. Gus is 13 and he’s aboard a Honda CRF80F. Gus is happier to take the ‘factory rider’ route. He loves a day belting around an MX track or in the bush on a camping weekend away, but he’s not necessarily that rapt about maintaining his bike. That may well come as he gets older (it’s a bit of a big call to expect any more from a 13-yearold), and the bikes will always be there when he does.

Spencer has always been happy working in a shed. He soaks up all things motorcycling and the C90 was, as I suspected would be the case, met with a mile-wide grin when it was presented. He engaged immediately, was joining forums on the internet within minutes and had the bike in bits within a day. The couch seemed a thousand miles away and that’s been the case for the month since. His screen saver is now a hotted-up race C90. Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?

Out in the shed, old clothes on and a hot Milo steaming on the work bench, he immediately set about dismantling the old scoot. The first thing that became obvious was that he was going to need his own tools. This is most important for the Dad or Mum who may have an interest in doing what we are talking about here. You see, when it comes to tools, kids are nightmarishly devoid of care. And, after seeing my complete Honiton kit rapidly being reduced in sockets and the like, it was quickly off to Repco. On sale at $78 was a 104-piece kit of reasonable quality with toolbox included. Interestingly, Spencer puts everything back in its place now, each and every time he uses the kit. Best $78 I ever spent.

Manuals were the next port of call. They’re not cheap (I paid $59.95 for the Haynes jobbie) but they are essential for the uninitiated. The C90 engine is pretty elementary, and as long as Spencer consults the manual and thinks about the job before he starts, he really can’t go far wrong. In fact, I have been impressed at how willingly and without fear he attacks a job. Ah, the confidence of the young…

I have adopted the approach of allowing him to learn as he goes. While it has almost killed me watching him struggle with a task when I know an easier or more efficient way of doing a particular job, I keep my big, fat, mouth shut. Well, most of the time, anyway.

A big trap with this sort of thing is the temptation to take over, or assist to the point that the kid loses ownership of the whole shebang. You simply have to remember, it’s not about you. It’s about your kid, the couch and keeping them separate. Anyway, if anything goes wrong, that’s a lesson in itself, and there’ll be a mechanic not far away that can set things right. Stay in the back seat and zip it.

So, we have a bike, Spencer is finding ways to source parts. He’s taken a pragmatic approach, not looking to create a concourse bike. It needs leg shields, which up until recently were virtually unobtainable. Fortunately there are Asianbuilt knock-offs that will (hopefully) do the job. He is chasing a new primary pipe and muffler and a new front fender, he plans to put a carb kit through the 16mm Keihin, and he’s madly polishing everything. Of course, those inevitable C90 hot-up websites are popping up on the computer screen more and more frequently. Once again, I’ll keep my mouth shut. After all, it’s about the kids. Stay tuned…


The market demanded and Honda delivered…

The Honda Cub debuted in 1958, 10 years after the establishment of Honda Motor Co Ltd. The name ‘Cub’ was said to be the acronym of Cheap Urban Bike because the impetus for this model was the provision of cheap, urban transportation in busy cities.

Staggeringly, cumulative worldwide production of the Honda Cub series reached 60,000,000 units at the end of April, 2008.

Honda had discovered how to increase the power and efficiency of four-stroke engines and the company set about breaking into a market sector totally dominated by the two-stroke models of other manufacturers. So successful were they that the Honda Cub became the most successful motorcycle model in history, and made huge contributions to Honda’s sales and profit.

Honda used the slogan, “You meet the nicest people on a Honda” as it broke into the English-speaking world, until then dominated by British motorcycles.

Since the introduction of the first generation model, the basic design and concept have remained virtually unchanged, even to current models.


1979 Honda C90

Air-cooled, two-valve, fourstroke, single-cylinder
Bore and stroke: 50mm x 45.6mm
Displacement: 89cc
Compression ratio: 8.2:1
Fuel system: Single Keihin carb

Three-speed, semiautomatic
Final drive: Chain

Frame type:
Pressed steel monocoque
Front suspension: Hydraulically dampened leadinglink fork
Rear suspension: Hydraulically dampened twin shock
Front brakes: Twin-shoe drum
Rear brake: Twin-shoe drum

Dry weight:
Seat height: 790mm
Fuel capacity: 5.5lt

Max power:
5.5kW (7.5hp) at 9500rpm
Max torque: 0.67Nm (0.5ft-lb) at 6000rpm
Top speed: 80km/h

Test bike supplied by: