Ugly duckling had plenty of ticker

By Paul Charman

The demise of the postie bike marks the end of an era, writes Paul Charman

The Honda CT 110, which has been used by New Zealand and Australian posties for over 40 years, has been discontinued. Photo /  Supplied
The Honda CT 110, which has been used by New Zealand and Australian posties for over 40 years, has been discontinued. Photo / Supplied

It may have been been the ugly duckling of the motorcycle world but the CT 110 was probably the longest-serving, strongest and most respected four-stroke bike put to work in Australia and New Zealand.

It's a wonder that news of its demise, apparently a decision made by Honda Japan about three months ago, did not create uproar.

New Zealand and Australian postal services long used the CT 110, and its predecessor the Honda CT 90, to deliver mail and it's been a respected pack mule (in back blocks of both countries) for well over 40 years.

The first CTs had 90cc engines, primitive suspension and points, rather than today's electronic ignition. The bike seemed to be the last out of Japan with that odd 1960s style off-road step-through design. Even with an engine bored out from 90cc to 105cc, the design was essentially the same as when it first arrived here in 1966.

duckling had plenty of ticker

The last CT 110s imported were hardly cheap at around $5000 new, yet they were arguably the perfect recession bike.

Though unsuitable for motorway speeds they were well proven as an economical round-town mount - or for light trail riding. They had a low centre of gravity, were mostly made of steel and seemed pretty well bullet-proof mechanically.

Australian postie bikes were even tougher than ours, coming with extra-strength wheels for "crash bash" curb hopping.

On both sides of the Tasman, enthusiasts would fall over themselves to snap up ex-postie bikes auctioned off at the end of their delivery lives.

The Aussies have evened turned the postie bike into a cult vehicle, with clubs and race meetings now well-established in several states.

Those colourful Aussies stripped theirs down, hotted them up with trick engine parts and ran them on exotic fuels for more speed.

Us Kiwis never seemed to give the CT bikes quite the same status, but, no doubt thanks to the outrageous price of small trail bikes, the long-standing farm bikes were becoming just a little more common around town in the year or two before Honda pulled the plug on them. Proof of that is the fact that apparently these bikes sold well new right up to the end and apparently none are now are left on dealers floors.

The CT had a dual-ratio gear box, which meant four low and four high gears. This made it an ideal two-wheeler for following the cows at a crawl - in fact, the well-muffled engine was perfect for all stock work.

The low centre of gravity made the CT stable around hills and it was rated to carry good-sized loads both front and rear.

Father and son Taumarunui deer hunters once told me their CT 90 carried both men, their rifles and two shot deer over muddy bush trails.

Around town, the bike was good for learners, having an automatic clutch. It may have been no faster than a modern 50cc scooter, but it climbed hills better and lasted much longer. And of course, in the rough or over pot holes its larger wheels were far more stable.

New Zealand Post CTs carried mail loads of up to 25kg and refilled four to five times per postie round.

It's not yet clear what kind of bike New Zealand Post will now use, although electric motorcycles were apparently considered as an alternative for some urban areas.

Posties certainly found their CT110s easy to ride, economical and - probably because they were associated with good news - most of us New Zealand Post customers retain fond memories of them. Nobody ever seemed to mind briefly sharing the footpath with one these as its rider rolled up to letterboxes.

NZ Post CTs were considered for replacement after 25,000 km. They were generally sold off to contract posties first, while others went to Turners auctions for disposal.

Apparently, Honda Japan is still deliberating on whether to supply a new style of 110cc postie bike for 2013.

- NZ Herald

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