The Throttle Stop – October 2022 [Rotary Phone, Honda CB750]

The Throttle Stop - October 2022

For most of my childhood, there was a rotary-dial telephone sitting on the counter at my grandmother’s house, replete with a vaguely art-deco design and uncharismatic beige hue. Despite its frumpy looks, the mechanical nature of it appealed to me, with its quintessential coiled cord plugged into its iconic handset and clickity-clack of its dial when returning to its original position.

It was a fixture in that house, as was the magnificently shrill ringer that could be heard from the front yard. Progressive is inevitable, and in the 1990s, we marveled at the cordless telephone, which unchained the world’s population from a four-foot-diameter area around where your phone jack was installed.

The possibilities were endless! We could sit in different rooms of the house and talk, depending on the range. Then the mobile phone came along, and we can instantaneously send cat pictures to each other. The world is a much better place now.

While staring down at the analog clocks of a friend’s homebrewed and, if we’re painfully blunt, haphazard basket case café racer of a Honda CB750, I couldn’t help but think about that old rotary phone. I even remember the day when it was retired. The local phone network couldn’t support them anymore, and if your grandparents were anything like mine, the old unit would live out its days in the garage. Because what if we needed it?

Not the CB750 mentioned in the story—this one is very cool. Photo by Larry Goodwin.

Perhaps that same reasoning kept the CB hanging around, and now that it’s in the kind hands of someone handy with a wrench, it’ll shine brightly again. Maybe they appreciated the cause-and-effect tactile response that a machine from that era delivers—turn the throttle, and you can feel the cables tugging at the carburetor to help give it life. That sensation isn’t entirely lost in the modern age of ride-by-wire throttles and what have you, though one could argue that it was front-and-center simply because there was no alternative.

Technology long-surpassed still permeates our lives. The call icon on my mobile phone features an old-school handset, and I doubt many people use anything like that these days.

Flying on the wings of advancement is the motorcycle. Every layer of technology from quickshifters, traction control, semi-active suspension, and more could take us farther away from that pleasing mechanical contraption whisking us through mountain passes. There are old timers who believe this, and some of them aren’t even old; they seem to disdain change.

Modern motorcycles have all that underlying rider-to-machine connection. After all, we’re still riding atop an engine with highly combustible fuel precariously nestled between our legs. That inherently sketchy scenario is as profound as it ever was, even if it’s wrapped up in a bushel of rider aids.

New age amenities pass the mechanical clickity-clack through a filter we’ll often denote as refinement. If anyone has ever taken the time to convert a production bike to a road racer, you’ll know what I mean—it’s incredible how much sound-damping modern fairings can achieve.

No sharper did that come into focus than when frolicking around Park City, Utah, on a completely electric Zero DSR/X. The lack of a thrumming engine and bleating exhaust does raise an eyebrow, simply because I associated speed and power with noise, and there isn’t much in the case of EVs. That experience was enlightening because it revealed what an internal combustion engine usually masks. The sound of gravel and rock under the tire was akin to riding a mountain bike, and being able to communicate with someone riding next to you at 40 mph reasonably well was a bit of a surprise.

Charm is abundant in the old stuff, and that’s most likely the tinge of nostalgia reminding us about days gone by. I’m sure that CB750 is pining for a time long before it sullied with four rattle cans of flat black paint. Yet, it is still entertaining to ride in a “this definitely isn’t safe” sort of way.

Motorcycles have changed, and I jumped in well after EFI was an established thing. Every year, brands push the ball forward. But, when you stuff your phone in your pocket and head for the hills, it’s still all about the connection between man and machine. There are days, though, that I pine for that old rotary phone, and that’s usually when I have to mute my mobile device to get any work done.