Take a stroll around the RevZilla Anchor Store in Philly and, aside from the incredible variety of riding gear, something you will immediately notice is the motorcycles. Right now there is one very special bike on display that deserves a bit of an explanation. That bike is a showroom condition 1977 Hodaka Wombat with 53 (no misprint – fifty three!) miles on the odometer. You say you never heard of Hodaka? Then read on.
Back in the 50s and early 60s there were no sportbikes. No cruisers. No dual sports or adventure tourers. There were just motorcycles. Sure there were large, heavy jobs like Harleys and Indians. Likewise there were smaller, more nimble numbers including many of the European classics – Triumph, BSA, and Ducati. But it was nothing like today's diverse market. Then in the mid sixties an amazing transition began. The motorcycle market started it’s fragmentation into the multiple segments we know today. One niche that literally exploded at the time was “trail bikes.” The trail bike craze was led by Asian manufacturers but not the just the usual suspects.
A small group of on and off road riding enthusiasts working inside the Pacific Basin Trading Company (PABATCO) in tiny Athena, Oregon worked up a design for one of the earliest true dual sport bikes. After sorting out the contractual details with the Hodaka Engine Company of Japan they came to the US market in 1964 with the first Hodaka Motorcycles. Hodakas came with all the lights and horns and gear necessary for road riding but, with all that stuff stripped off they were ready to go out and win at trials, motocross, and scrambles. In a world where the first “trail bike” offerings from the Japanese “big four” had pressed steel frames the Hodakas featured rugged tubular steel frames with plenty of suspension travel. At the time this was truly breakthrough stuff and Hodakas were arguably the predecessors of the dual sport bikes we know and love today. From 1964 until the late 70s Hodaka produced a selection two stroke motorcycles in displacements from 90cc to 250cc. They were distributed in the US only and all remained narrowly focused on the on/off road marketplace. During their approximately 15 years of glory Hodakas were they ridden daily by enthusiasts but they were successfully raced in trials, motocross, and major international events such as the International Six Day Trials. Sadly, in the late 70s the financial might of the Japanese big four as well as changing international economics drove the tiny manufacturer from the marketplace, never to return. But for motorcyclists “of a certain age” there will always be the fond remembrance of the spunky little manufacturer and its bikes with the quirky names.
Want to learn more about Hodakas? Check out www.strictlyhodaka.com or better yet, for RevZillians in the Pacific Northwest, ride out to the Annual Hodaka Days celebration in Athena Oregon on June 24-27, 2010. RevZillians based East of the Mississippi might want to think about visiting AMA’s Vintage Motorcycle Days at the Mid Ohio Race Course in Lexington, Ohio on July 9-11, 2010. Both events are great riding destinations! Why are we telling you all this? At RevZilla we love all segments but are seriously into the dual sport and adventure touring thing. And we have a deep regard for the history of motorcycling. Better yet, we currently have this very cool old bike in our showroom. Come on by and take a look!