The Honda CM400e was a 400cc parallel twin Motorcycle Built by Honda from the late 70’s through the early 1980’s. I currently own a 1981 CM400e and love it to death. This would make a great starter bike, but it’s also a great country backroads cruiser, which is what I use it for. It would also be a fine bike in the city. It weighs just about 400 lbs, although the center of gravity is pretty low, so it handles like a lighter bike at slower speeds.
The CM400 came in a number of trims, the CM400e (economy), which is the bike I have, came with a front drum brake while the others came with front disc. The front drum is definitely a bit weak, and braking on the bike altogether isn’t the best. I would recommend getting one of the models with a disc if possible. There was also an interesting CM400A, which was actually fit with a 2 speed “Hondamatic” automatic transmission. I’ve never ridden one of those, but there are actually still many around – I often see them on craigslist.
The CM400 has enough power for the highway, and I’ve reached speeds around 80MPH in a tuck without quite running our of power. That being said, it’s not the most comfortable bike at those speeds. Most of the reason for this is the extremely high RPMs you push when riding at those speeds. The RPMs coupled with the frame design, which uses the engine as an integral part of the structure of the bike (thus it does not have rubber mounts to dampen vibration) can lead to a pretty uncomfortable ride. Vibration on the bike at slower speeds however, is not nearly as noticeable, and I am actually quite fond of it. It gives the bike a feel of a classic grumbly Motorcycle.
Cornering is good, the seat is comfortable enough, and the riding position is also very comfortable. This bike really is a true standard in terms of foot peg position. The pegs are directly underneath the seat, maybe a tiny bit forward.
The bike isn’t old enough to have a kickstart, which is a bit of a let down. But the charging system and electricals are all very good, which can be an issue on some of the older Hondas, and older bikes in general. Maintenance on the bike is very easy, has easily reached valve lash adjustment that does not require shims like yamaha engines of this vintage, just a wrench and a screwdriver. Also easy to adjust the cam chain, which can loosen up once over time.
This bike is super reliable, and the carbs don’t tend to be problematic at all, even if left without use for some time without draining or using stabilizer. This is a huge plus, because there’s nothing I hate more than having to take apart and clean carbs because I hadn’t a chance to ride for a couple of weeks. This past winter I didn’t even winterize, it, just made sure to run it every two months or so, and there was no issue with carb buildup at all.
These bikes can be found in fair to good condition for $500-$1500, and in my opinion they’re a steal for those prices. A great handling, quick little retro bike; I don’t think I’d have the heart to part with mine.