His moped was the apple of his eye. He often marveled at its purposeful, simplistic engineering and its willingness to run on less-than-zero preventive maintenance. If Singer made a two-stroke sewing machine, this is what it would look like.
And so it was that when my dad’s beloved Motobecane moped had a near-death experience of a complexity too far-reaching to self diagnose, he sought help. I spent an hour or so on it one day. The Wampum Warrior sprint car-racing Matus family took a shot at it after that. Chuck Issac was next when he wasn’t restoring Corvettes, with no larger degree of success as of this writing.
For the great unwashed, the Motobecane was the epitome of French mopeding, at least until they went toes-up over 20 years ago. Dad has sparingly used his vintage Mobylette model over the last 15 years when he needed to get his knees in the breeze and reconnect with the inner Whizzer of his youth. You may recall he smoked me in a comparo piece in these very pages some years ago, riding the Motobecane when I was touting my trendy pocket rocket. Who’s laughing now?
To fight off the anxiety of not knowing if his French, half-bicycle, half-weed whacker would ever again tour the back roads and byways of Western Pennsylvania, Dad did what most of us would do; he lined up suitable replacements of equal or greater size in the form of a trio of Honda Trail 90s. To be fair, he’d been courting these 90s for some time, but they just happened to become available shortly after the Motobecane’s apparent demise.
The CT90 was not entirely unfamiliar to me. Our family owned one back in the ’70s. I had puttered around on several others over the years and just sold my last one a couple years ago, so I got the call when it was time to go check them out. I was “the mechanic” and as we approached the seller’s impeccable property I surmised this could turn out to be nice stuff. It was, and soon enough one of the three was running, another was deemed to have decent compression and the third was a simple rolling basket.
The seller tossed out a number and in a Pawn Stars-meets-American Pickers moment Dad countered with a number roughly half the asking price. Sold! What the hell? We loaded them up and hauled them away, sticking the basket case away for posterity and cleaning up the other two. Both were running by weekend’s end and we began to replace things like dash lights, set the valves, etc. These bikes are bulletproof with a two-speed sub transmission, four-speed trans and automatic clutch coupled to a 90cc four-stroke engine.
The original advertising for the CT90s featured a sportsman clad in Woolrich gear with rifle carriers strapped to the front fork leg. I happen to own an old Woolrich insulted jacket and pants and can scarcely resist the urge to don the outfit, strap a rifle to the forks and climb on the Trail 90 for a spin around the neighborhood just to watch the reactions. That’d be about as retro-American as it could get.
Sure, it’d be cool to get Dad interested in a nice vintage Sprint, even a Topper for cryin’ out loud, but the really important thing is that the fire to ride something still burns inside him—even though he’s in his eighth decade. And going to buy something with Dad will always be an adventure. He’s bought a lot of things over the years with me taggin’ along and when we go on these adventures, part of me feels like a kid again. The other part knows I’m not.
I don’t know how long this trio of 90s will hang around. You never really do know, do you? But the day we picked them up in the rain and hurried home to see just what we had will last me a long time.
He’s got his starting on one kick now. It doesn’t get much better than that.