1966 Honda 305 Scrambler

One's first motorcycle is not something that is ever forgotten and that is certainly the case with my 1966 Honda 305 Scrambler. But let's back up a bit and look at my earliest days on motorized two wheels.

My parents were reluctant for me to get my drivers license and it wasn't until about Decemeber of 1970 before they relented. This was my senior year of high school and I was tired of double-dating and wanted to drive on my own. My dad was overseas and the a mail response from him on the topic took a 6-week turn-around but they eventually agreed and get a liecnse I did. However, their reticence might have had something to do with an earlier experience I had on two-wheels and a run-in with the law...

It was probably in 1969 that I was helping a friend get her mini-bike running. It was one of those classic ones with a tubular frame, a Briggs-and-Stratton engine, and a centrifigal clutch. I was pretty good at fiddling with these lawn mower engines and before long I had it running like a top. Of course, it needed a test drive and so off I went. She lived on East Keynote Street in Long Beach between Clark and Charlemagne Avenues and, since Wardlow Park was nearby, I thought I'd take a lap around there and bring it back to her house. When I turned onto East Monlaco Rd., I gave the gas and it really took off. It felt great. Monlaco Rd. is a divided street, that is, it has a parkway with grass and trees running down the middle, which is why I probably didn't notice the police car going in the opposte direction until he was just past me. Noticing him hanging a U-turn, I quick turned into the park and ran across the grass to Wardlow Road, a route the patrol car was not likely to take. I got over to Charlemagne and shot down that street heading to Pageantry St. where I turned left onto a pedestrian walkway that crossed the flood control channel, something a car car couldn't do. I continued on east until I could got out of the neighborhood streets and crossed Spring Street, turned onto Los Coyotes Diagonal, and then a quick right on Oakbrook, and left on Foreman Ave., only another block to the safety of my driveway. I think it was when I made the turn onto Foreman when I first heard the siren and when I pulled over in front of my parent's house the motorcyle cop pulled up behind me. He was pretty nice but still wrote me a ticket for no drivers license, a non-registered vehicle, and speeding. At least he didn't add evading the police to my list of crimes.

Needless to say, my parents were not happy about this, especially since it required a mandatory court appearence. That trip downtown resulted in a rear-end chewing by the judge who threatened to make it so I couln't get my license until I was 18, but he let me off with his lecture and I had to be humble over the whole affair.

They got me for speeding. Exceeding 25 miles per hour. Yep, I had that mini-bike running petty well.

This escapade did little to quell by desire to have a true motorcycle and a couple years later I found one. I think this was in early 1971 and I was driving down Wardlow Rd. when I saw this bike parked in a front yard with a For Sale sign on it. I stopped to check it out and and saw that it was a 1966 Honda 305 Scrambler. The popular bike of that time was the Honda CB350 which a friend of mine rode, but I simply didn't have the cash for that and this one was almost in my price range. I talk to the owner and, I think, we agreed on $500 sale price. Since I was $50 short, I had to go to where my sister worked and convince her to loan me the $50, which she did, and I went back and got the bike. My parents were not happy when I pulled into the driveway on that machine but aftter some spirited discussion they said I could keep it if I took a motorcycle safety course. An acquaintence of the family, a city motorcycle officer, taught the class and I got into the next session.

The class, held at the Long Beach City College Business and Teccnology Campus, was fantastic. We didn't use our own bikes but learned on Honda 90s provided by the local dealer. Half of each day of the course was in a classroom where defensive driving techniques as well as hazards particular to motorcycle riding were covered in detail. The practical portion of the class was held in the parking lot of the campus on those Hondas where we learned the nuances of handling including how to lay one down in an emergency. To this day, that class has benefited me and made me a safer driver.

I rode that 305 everywhere. When I got it, I was still driving the hand-me-down 1962 Oldsmobile which was fine, but lacked any amount of cool factor. The 305 made up for that. A friend, Greg, picked up a Honda 160, about the same vintage as my bike, not too long after I got mine and we went on many rides together. We didn't stray too far away from home but we covered lots of miles in the city, cruising downtown, along the coast, over to Seal Beach, and anywhere else as an excuse to just ride. Frequently, bunch of us rode together on bikes that included a Honda 450, a Bultaco, and a Yamaha 175 Enduro. Yep, a real bunch of hellions, but not exactly the "Wild Ones."

I lived in Long Beach, as far south as one could go in Los Angeles Country before entering Orange County, which, back then, was not nearly as developed as the way it is today. Once I bought my 1956 Ford Pickup, we would haul our bikes down the coast to a place that had wide open fields where we would ride the trails, climb the hills, and even catch some air on the jumps. My bike was pretty heavy to use as dirt bike but that didn't stop me from having lots of fun off road. I even bought a larger rear sprocket and a chain extension to use on those days to give me a bit more torque. The place we rode was Laguna Niguel and one would be hard-pressed to find enough open, underdeveloped land there to ride on these days.

As I stated on the front page of this section, I did attempt a long trip on the 305 with a friend, Ed, the one with the Honda 450. Our plan was to ride up the California coast to San Francisco, sleeping on the beach, and checking out the hippie situation in that northern city. My bike was running great as we headed out of Southern California and up the Pacific Coast. We made it through Santa Barbara and followed Highway 101 along the coast until it turned east at Gaviota State Park, went through the Gaviota Tunnel, and into the Santa Ynez Valley. Once we turned north again we were buffeted by a strong headwind. I was having trouble keeping up with Ed even though it felt like the bike was giving me all it had. If only I could get a little more out of it....

While I did my own work on this bike, I really didn't understand the full operational theory behind its side-draft carburetors. As the throttle is opened, a cylindrical slide lifts to allow more air into the engine and, as it does so, it lifts a tapered needle out of the main jet to let in more fuel. This works great but at a certain point, as I tried to understand it later, the needle is fully out of the main jet so the maximum amount of fuel is flowing but the slide can still be raised a bit which leans out the air-fuel mixture. This cause the engine run hotter and the result, for me, was that one of the pistons overheated and a 1/4-inch hole was burned through the top of it.

I lost power on one side of the engine and had to pull over to the shoulder. I checked things out and couldn't see anything wrong but regardless of how many times I worked the kickstarter it really didn't want to restart. That was that. We looked up ahead and could see an off-ramp so I started pushing. Just back from the ramp was a Highway Patrol station which we figured would have pay phone so I pushed the bike there. This was just south of Santa Maria.

I called my sister and she said she'd come to the rescue. Her friend, our boss's daughter, had a pickup and they would head up our way, bringing a couple boards we could use to load the bikes. It's a 180 mile trip and took them about 3 hours to get there which was well after dark. We got the bikes loaded up and, since the cab of the truck only seated three, I unrolled my sleeping bag, climbed in back, and slept alongside the bikes. I do remember that my sister was preturbed when we got back since she had to do all the driving on the return trip since her friend and Ed were otherwise engaged.

Within the next week or so, I'd picked up a replacement piston, pulled the engine apart, got it installed, butttoned everything back up, and was back to riding again. The lesson to me was that a larger bike was in my future if I wanted to take these long rides.

In the summer of 1972 I received my draft notice and I headed off to army in October and had my dad sell the bike for me after I was gone.

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Updated February 2021.