Honda Nighthawk 450

A very popular, versatile, competent and stylish motorcycle for novice motorcyclists, I wish we had more cycles like the 450 around today. Nighthawk 450 motorcycles populated my high school’s parking lot in SoCal, and they made my little 15 year old heart green with envy.

An Ideal Beginning Motorcycle

Yep, I gush over lots of motorcycles - even those I've not had the pleasure of owning. Sue me. The Nighthawk 450 was such a popular bike when I was in high school in the mid-80's. Reviewers gushed over the then littlest Nighthawk, and that's probably more important than my praisings of the bike. It looked and performed more expensive than its $1,698 to $1,998 price, depending on model year. It was truly an ideal starter motorcycle.

Well balanced, solid feel, peppy acceleration, and good brakes were standard on this motorcycle. Experienced riders heaped praise on the 450, claiming its value as a limited range touring cycle was an overlooked benefit at its low price point. In a September ‘85 magazine, a veteran tester was impressed with the ‘hawk’s touring abilities. Winding back roads is where the 450 shone. On the open road, he dubbed it "a smooth operator" (Road Rider, pg. 45.) It simply filled many roles well.

The power wasn’t overwhelming, but I absolutely dug – and continue to dig – the Nighthawk’s styling. Fantastic macho lines, just enough chrome, a seat that stitched in a pattern that indicated Honda actually cared about this motorcycle … In comparison, Honda’s only surviving Nighthawk, the 250, looks unfinished yet costs nearly twice as much.I would love to own a 1985 or 1986 version today. She looks like the girl next door type, the type to whom you don't give enough credit but regret it years later. There are probably a few good samples of the ol’ 450 'hawk around here and there.

"It’s a timeless machine we’ve never needed more than now" (Cycle, December 1986.) Prophetic. Even more true today in my opinion. Current makes and models force you to choose either total cruiser or full-on back-killing sport bike. An affordable, competent, truly “standard” motorcycle is hard to come by today. In the 80’s it seemed easier. At least Honda tried to please all of the people with the Nighthawk 450 with this excellent all-around ride.

What’s out there now that comes close to this classic? Yamaha’s FZ6 ($6,600 new in 2004 but I’ve seen some models around the $5,600 mark recently.) Suzuki's two decent middle-weight do-it-all bikes, the SV650 and Bandit 600. Honda Nighthawk 750 from a few years ago, or the Honda Hornet 599 (which was kinda pricey at $7,100 in 2004, its last year, at least here in the U.S.)