The Honda CB 750 Hornet road trip…

…. and first time ride 

Story by: Donovan Fourie and Glenn Foley

Pics: Deon van der Linde, Séan Hendley

You really do need a motorcycle in your life!

As contemporary vernacular would put it: “Naked bikes are the beez neez!”

They are the epitome of true motorcycling. Think about it – the open panoramic view, the nimble, rider-focused stance and the body exposed to all the elements. It’s biking like the gladiatorial bikers of old had done before the introduction of fairings and screens and heated seats.

The Honda Hornet 750 ticks all these boxes. It might not thrust upon its rider the unbridled fury of a Super Duke 1390 but, at R169,999, it fares easier on the wallet. The motor in the Hornet is a 755cc parallel-twin pushing 90 hp and 75 Nm of torque. That’s enough to make it nippy and fun while not turning the rider’s internal organs into mush. 

The Hornet has a steel frame, a departure from the traditional aluminium units used by the Japanese for decades. It is said that the steel frame keeps the bike stable while still allowing it to be nimble. This is aided further by a wet weight of just 190kg squeezed into a chassis the size of a peanut. We have had it around Red Star Raceway previously and it is indeed good.

Electronics offer the usual traction control, ABS and rider modes with an optional quick-shifter, but no connectivity with your phone, something that comes as a relief for people using their bike to get away from such attention.

So far, all is well, and yet South Africans would be happy to completely overlook the Hornet to flock to its adventure brother, the Transalp 750. That would make sense – the Transalp offers much of the same as the Hornet because, largely, it is the same bike, adorned with the same motor and same frame, but graced with raised suspension, more comfort and wind protection. Although, in every tar aspect apart from covering distance in comfort, the Hornet outdoes the Transalp. 

So that begs a pertinent question – how bad at covering distance is the Hornet?

And so, leaving Hartbeespoort one winter’s morning (temperature already cresting 20º C) it took the long road to the Free State Province, a place famous for being flat, open and almost devoid of all corners. According to accepted logic, the antithesis of any naked bike. So let’s go.

Without telling a lie, the first 50km were easy. The bike is as small as advertised with legroom in high demand, although, unlike other sports bikes, the raised bars of the Hornet give the wrists some delightful respite.

The motor thrives at lower speeds, grunted effortlessly towards higher speeds and bigger grins, although eventually finding the going tougher as it climbs beyond 160km/h. It will soldier on though, finding the edge of its capabilities a little north of 220 km/h. 

And so we stuck to 160, finding it to be a compromise between getting to where we were going before dying of old age and not going fast enough to allow the unhindered wind to screw our heads off.

The 100km mark of our journey became difficult. It’s at this point that the strain of the wind on the body coupled with the cooped-up legs takes its toll. Not to mention that the road to Ventersdorp is in need of attention. The rear Showa shock is graced with a sporty 150mm of travel that does wonders for cornering stability but is somewhat lacking when hitting bumps on the N14. 

Ventersdorp was gracious enough to offer a chance to stretch the legs while the Hornet refilled with exploding juice. Riding at 160km/h, it guzzles its 15L tank at 240km. Later it saw 270km when ridden less idiotically. The very wise will see it travel north of 300km before needing a drink.

After Ventersdorp, life improved dramatically. The road smoothed as did the body. The trick to riding motorcycles, whether breaking lap records around the track or tackling dirt passes or even transversing long, open stretches is to relax, something that is often tricky on new motorcycles. Indeed, we picked up the Hornet just a day before this ride and thus there was no time to adjust to its stance. 

Klerksdorp sped by in but a moment, and minutes later we were gazing upon the flat fields of the Free State. The end venue was the Nampo Show 2024. If you wish to know more about it, find the story on this very site.

What we had learned from our 300km blast was that every motorcycle needs time for us to adjust. Look at bicyclists – they spend an entire day in a saddle the size and shape of items bought from those specialist shops for adults of an acquired taste. It must be agony at first but they eventually adjust. The adjustment is far easier for people who sit on the relatively normal seat of a Honda Hornet 750. 

It is a motorcycle that is all naked bike. It offers the full true motorcycling experience without emptying the bank account like so many bikes these days do. The first half of the ride to the Free State had its aches and pains. The second half became nothing but the joy of riding a motorcycle.

As was the 300 km ride home later that day. As Mr Foley loves saying: You need a motorcycle in your life.

And speaking of “The Foley”, he was chomping at the bit to get his posterior in the saddle of the Hornet, which was launched during his year long sabbatical from motorcycling. He had to listen to the rest of the office squabble over the Hornet when it was at our offices, then endure the excitedly yabbered elation of said individuals when they got in after the ride…. PURE HELL for a dyed in the wool naked bike fan sitting out a ‘Red Card’ from riding. So, when he was finally allowed back into play he was like a proverbial bull in a china shop when Honda dropped off the Hornet at our offices. Was he disappointed? We asked him:

Glenn Says:

Take a year off from riding. I dare you. It sucks! 

However, there is an upside. What? You may ask….

Well getting to ride all of these bikes is like riding a brand new model for the very first time. Just like that. And there is more variety than there has been in the last ten years or so with lots more still to sample…

I managed to use the Hornet on the Frosty Buns blanket run that Sean put together, and then I took it out for a “Quick” 200 KM flip through all of our back roads on a chilly highveld morning. I don’t want to wax lyrical, but…. Okay, okay, I do, endless rolling countryside, gorgeous roads and blue skies that head to infinity. And a Honda Hornet…. That’s the way that every day should start!

This story is about the Hornet and there is a lot to tell, Don has probably covered most of it, but here’s my take:

  • It’s gorgeous. I mean, just look at the styling and the exposed frame, candy apple, flowing lines and… Absolutely one of the prettiest nakeds out there right now. 
  • It’s small really, compact with an easy leg height for the more vertically challenged. 
  • It’s comfortable. With sensible flat bars and well placed pegs and a firm seat that glides you into the bike.
  • It’s simple, and I do like simple. Rider modes and all that are just the push of a button away, very intuitive and uncluttered. The TFT screen is clear and you can see exactly what’s going on at a glance.
  • It’s FUN! And that’s what is most important about any bike. I Read what Don says about the TransAlp and yes, perhaps that’s a more practical bike, and you can read my take on that in Dirt And Trail Magazine, but who actually cares about practical when you can have so much fun?

This one’s about simple hop on, hop off convenience. It’s about wide grins as you open her up, that little engine is a gem. It’s about blasting from traffic light to traffic light and getting as low as you can in the corners. The tiny chassis is just so nimble and fun, you can’t help yourself.

As for the naked part. Well we all grew up on nakeds, enough said – Get over popular opinion and go and ride one! We promise that you’ll have a good time.

At your Honda dealer.

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top