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The parking lot is full of big smiles, excited chatter, and gorgeous bikes. Despite the threat of rain, members of the Honda Owner’s Club (HOC) were quick to come together to celebrate a historic anniversary in a suitable setting, as the Sammy Miller Motorcycle Museum hosts the Honda Owner’s Club’s Classic. Show. And this year is made doubly special by coinciding with the club’s Diamond Jubilee.
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We enjoy the hustle and bustle of the event as old friends say hello and the best plans get lost in the pleasant chaos of it all. I make my way through the festivities to enter the museum, where I am joined by some of the club’s oldest members: Mike Evans, founder of the HOC; Michael Bonner, member of the group since 1963; Vice President Graham Gull who joined in 1967; and David Andrews, secretary of the Oxford branch and himself a member for 49 years.
Gathered around a table among the myriad bikes in the museum overlooking the courtyard, I wanted to learn more from these men about the making of the club, even though we had to contend with the brutal noise of Sammy Miller and Allen Millyard, heartbreaking over a pair of RC racing bikes.
However, a face is missing. Pete Goodger was one of the club’s founding fathers and served as president until his passing in 2019, but his influence continues. Mike Evans remembers the band’s beginnings and the circumstances that earned him membership card # 001.
“I saw this Benly Sport CB92 sitting in the Miller store in Wigan where I lived, and I walked past it every day and eventually I couldn’t resist it anymore,” Mike begins, “but I quickly realized that 15 years after the war, people really hated Honda.
“I remember them standing around the corner and clenching my fists. Almost everyone over the age of 30 had participated in the conflict and many had participated in the war in Japan. It is quite understandable that ‘they didn’t like Japanese products.
“So I started writing letters to The Motor Cycle magazine and I finally decided to start a band, and we turned it into a national organization with the help of Pete Goodger and the others in 1961. “
Mike originally founded the club in Lancashire, a year before the formation of the official importer Honda UK and before the start of his career in public relations and journalism. But almost at the same instant, Pete began to advertise members as he slowly formed another branch in London. Before they knew it, they started the club together and became the first Japanese owners club in the UK.
“That first Lancashire meeting took place in this filthy room above a pub in Wigan,” Mike recalls. “Getting 20 people together was a huge success, they came from all over Lancashire! Then we found out there were other groups across the country so we quickly hit the hundreds.”
Michael Bonner fondly recalls the years when the British industry was still at the top of the table and the almost insignificant impact Honda had on the cycling landscape, long before people knew how big the brand would become. .
“Back then it was pretty common to be attached to your brand, so people who rode Nortons looked down upon people who rode Honda,” says Michael. “I used to wear this leather jacket with a sticker on the back saying ‘Honda’, and found that people with British bikes always dared me to say ‘oh, come have a burner’ .
“At first, people were interested in Hondas but they didn’t dare to change because all their friends were riding British motorcycles … but little by little they became on our side as the brand was growing. “
Graham adds with a laugh, “I started out on a little 50cc Stepper Cub, but when I was looking for a bike in 1964, it was that or a Bantam. The BSA was essentially a pre-war model, and the Honda was charming and modern.
“It didn’t have an electric starter, but it was so easy to drive, had an automatic clutch and was so much better than the UK-built offer. I think it took around £ 80 to buy it!”
The future of the Honda superbike
As Honda released what is widely accepted as the first superbike, the CB750 in 1969, British manufacturers like BSA and Triumph faltered, not helped by the bad publicity surrounding the bike at the time. When elements of the press called for a ban on bicycles and cyclists found themselves excluded from many pubs, the club came together to produce positive stories.
“Hondas took off and other manufacturers came in during the decline of British industry,” Graham recalls. As National Secretary, he also recalls that the success of the club has worked hand in hand with the success of Honda.
“We drifted with 400 members in the early ’70s and then it took off. I still think Honda had some downtime in the early’ 80s when they didn’t have a lot of decent bikes.
“Also, Honda UK came up with the Honda Rider’s Club and they signed up everyone who bought a new bike. It only lasted about a year, but reduced our membership to around 500.
“Then Honda brought out the VFR750 in 1986, and it all started again. Pan European came out in 1990 and we had an influx of members throughout the 90s. We grew to almost 5,000 by the end of it. from the 2000s to date we have had around 1500 to 2000 members at any given time. “
But the average age of members is higher than when the club was created, and Graham believes this is due to new motorcycle license requirements. “Today the hoops you have to go through to get a fat bike are huge, I don’t think I could cope with them. Which is a big issue with membership recruiting, not just for our club, but for get into the bike. “
Events and outings
Just like in its early days, the HOC has always focused on being a social club. While membership meant you had access to brand experts, an excuse to go rolling every week and Golden Wing magazine, the events were – and still are – the driving force behind and bring the group together and many friendships. a long time ago.
Michael says: “The club used to attend Isle of Man TT races quite often and stay at the same bed and breakfast and I used to drive across when Mike Hailwood was driving Hondas. was really a highlight for me. “
As David remembers the rallies of the early 1970s. “If we had a rally somewhere, it was camping. Now they also think about people who don’t want to camp, if there is a B&B nearby and you can bring your families too. You know it’s more family oriented today, when it used to be just individuals and their bikes. “
Always so strong …
So, after 60 years, is the love of the bike still at the heart of everything HOC does? In short, yes.
“I was introduced to the club only through word of mouth from a guy who worked with my dad,” says David. “He took me to the club and that was it. Otherwise I would have been sitting at home doing nothing. Instead, we could go out in a group and take a ride and it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it, it still is now.
“An ex-girlfriend once told me that she could always tell when I got out on my bike because I had that schoolboy smile.”
Michael adds, “If I go out for a walk on Sunday, I almost have withdrawal symptoms on Monday morning. The Essex branch just started shopping on Tuesdays so it helps overcome the symptoms!
But aside from the bikes, although they are the basis of the creation of the group, the fundamental appeal of the Honda Owners Club is the social side, and this was highlighted by everything the guys have said around. the table, and by the general atmosphere here today.
Michael says, “The problem for band members is that they are expanding their circle of friends. Friends who are enthusiastic and help each other. This is why we now have almost a few thousand members. It gets harder to remember who everyone else is, but you’re still friendly with everyone because you’re all excited about the same thing, whether it’s Honda or motorcycles in general.
“Everyone is happy because they all do what they really love. So that’s what we’ll continue to do as long as we love it.”