Price Range: $150-$1,200
Forty years ago the state of the art in off-road travel was entirely different from what we experience today, and the easy-to-ride Honda CT90 was at the top of the field. Equipped with an automatic clutch and a super-dependable four-stroke engine, the Trail 90 taught a whole generation of riders that the fun begins where the pavement stops. Perhaps its most distinctive feature was the eight-speed, high/low-range transmission, which gave the little 89cc engine incredible pulling power. Production began in 1963 but refinements came quickly, and models made from ’69-’79 are most desirable today. Honda produced tens of millions of these street-legal fun bikes worldwide, and they’re easy to find locally from private sellers at prices often below $500. By the way, if you’re looking for transportation after the apocalypse this bike is a perfect choice. The later CT110 models (1980-1986) use a modern electronic ignition, so stick with the earlier points and condenser version for maximum resistance to an EMP strike.
One ride on the original Trail 90 will have you grinning like a crazy person. Two rides will make you appreciate how far technology has come in 40 years. But every garage still needs a Trail 90!
Carefully check the rubber cushions in the rear hub by trying to rotate the sprocket while the wheel is blocked. Loose cushions will break the hub, which cannot be replaced.
Due to age all rubber parts may need to be replaced. This includes the fork and engine seals as well as the fuel lines.
Trail 90s require a battery to start, so consider taking a new battery with you when you shop for a bike.
The tires may look good after 40 years, but make sure to replace the inner tubes since old ones are more prone to cracks and punctures.
A fold-down handlebar lock on the top clamp allows you to pivot the bars 90 degrees when transporting, but you’ll get a much tighter feel on the controls if you overtighten the castle nut and defeat this feature.
Engine mods? Don’t worry about it, but if you’re going to replace the piston, there are some 108cc kits available that cost no more than a stock top end. Otherwise, stock is always best.
Learn to adjust the points and set the timing yourself. It makes a huge difference in performance. A full tune-up with valve adjustment can be done in 20 minutes.
Install some inline fuel filters since the steel fuel tank will sneeze out some rust chips every time you ride. Main and reserve feeds each have their own fuel lines.
Trail 90 parts are still widely available, but owning a spare bike to cannibalize will save you 50 trips to the dealership.