The CT90 was another example of Honda paying attention to what American buyers wanted. Honda focused their attention on versatility, ease of use, and reliable engineering. The CT90/Trail 90 came years before the first 3-wheeler or ATC (All Terrain Cycle). These odd looking machines had a 4 speed transmission with super-low gearing and a simple, yet effective automatic clutch. Not only was the transmission fitted with a centrifugal clutch hub that would engage the crankshaft gear with the input shaft at a predetermined RPM, each movement of the shifter opened clutch plates like those used in a manual clutch. Brilliant – the bike would engage like an automatic in a car from stopped, but then gear changes were accomplished smoothly and without damage through the use of a manual clutch throw-out system activated by the very movement of the gear selector. The design is worth taking a look at, I was and still am impressed with the simple yet effective system.
The versatility and popularity of these Trail 90’s were likely the beginnings for many aftermarket product companies. Notice the heavy-duty rack for example – early hunting magazines showed deer and other game being hauled from the deepest woods on Trail 90’s. The 1969 as shown in these photos is the first year of the ‘dual-range’ transmission. Earlier models had 2 rear sprockets and supplied an extra section of chain and master link so that it’s user could lengthen and move the chain to the larger sprocket for the super-low gearing needed for deep woods riding and hauling game. This was the first, true Dual Sport. The canteen (gasoline canister) you see in some photos was not offered until 1973, but I loved the accessory and added one to this earlier model. These little Trail 90’s have graced the front and rear bumpers of RV’s, trucks, and station wagons for decades.
Honda ruled the 1960’s and must be credited with getting Americans to accept and embrace the ‘little motorcycles from Japan’. Thank you Mr. Honda
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