Archive for July, 2017

More bikes!

I know. This is of no interest to anyone but me. I’ve given up imagining anyone but me reads this, so that’s alright, then.

It’s been a rollercoaster ride.

I was trying to be sensible and sell the two bikes to pay for that gorgeous, fully sorted one. But I kept looking at it, then looking at every other VFR750 up for sale, then back at it. None of the others were sorted. Some were tidy, some were low miles, but I would have still had to splash out on fork springs (£118), rear shock (£300), on some of them the stainless steel exhaust system (£300) etc…

I drove Wendy nuts with my obsessing. She told me to get the bike just to shut me up. Win!

I texted the guy, but it was an 18 day old advert. No reply. I was despairing thinking he’s sold it. Tried an email, some people don’t like texts. He replied, still had it! Joy unbounded!

I arranged to go and see it, arse-end of beyond. Got the cash out, bought the train ticket, (£47, nearly 5 hours trip) arranged the insurance, went to bed all full of new bike joy. Woke up to “DO NOT TRAVEL, BIKE SOLD!”

Devastated beyond words.

My perfect bike, sat there unwanted for 19 days, I was on my way to make sure it was as described then hand over the cash, and some bastard snapped it up.

I lost £20 cancelling my insurance, and the £47 for the train ticket because I’d booked it in advance. But that was just salt in the wound. So gutted.

So, as ever, I changed my plan.

I thought, “Bugger it. There is nothing wrong with my bike. It’s a bit scruffy but the engine is solid as rock, I’ll just sort that out on the cheap.”

I window shopped all the prices, it came to over £600 in bits, some of which were hard to fit, the mechanics charge £63 per hour labour, so over a grand. And I’d still have a scruffy bike. I was up for it. But Wendy who is, as I say, (justifiably) heartsick of me fucking about about with bikes, said “Why not just bite the bullet and buy the new (2014, £6,500) one? You won’t have to do anything to it. For ever.”

I was sorely tempted. I want, I want. But it’s so much money.

I spent hours googling. It turns out the reason the VFR750 is a legend of reliability and bulletproof engine over-engineering is the gear driven cams. There is no cam chain to slap, stretch or snap. But cam chains are much cheaper and easier to manufacture. So after a decade or so of utterly redeeming themselves Honda went back to cam chains in 2002. Cue cam chain issues. It’s Honda, so I expect they quickly got it right, but it was the cam chain model that nearly ruined their reputation, and after they stopped the gear driven cams they had to do a model recall for the cam chain.

The consensus is, the last generation before cam chains, the ‘98-‘01 model VFR800, is the pinnacle of human achievement. Amongst VFR owners at least.

So then it was back to the grind, googling.

I was applying the same criteria. Tidy, low mileage, sorted rear shock, exhaust, screen, etc.

I came up with this:

VFR800i

A 1999 VFR800i. Fuel injection, gear driven cams, immaculate, genuine and provable (by all MOT’s) 17,000 miles, rear shock upgrade, hugger (a sort of mudguard tight over the back wheel. Stops crap flying up and rotting your shock) upgraded ECU so more power, race can and original end can, and RED!

Red ones are faster.

Fact.

‘Cos science.

£2,295.

The only down side is it doesn’t have a full stainless steel exhaust system. But if it’s only got 17K miles after 18 years on the road, I’m guessing it’s not seen much rain. Or winter salt.

I was so chuffed. I rang the guy and we talked about it. He confirmed all of the above. I watched a video of a guy doing a 111, 000 mile review on his 2002 (cam chain! Boo-hiss!) model. He said with slightly raised handlebars and a bit wider seat he’d done loads of endurance events. 1000 mile ride, 24 hours marathon, etc. He’d had two electrical problems since new, but apart from that, he said change the oil every 5,000 miles, the chain and sprocket set every 20,000- 25,000 miles, and (over those kind of miles) flush the brakes, radiator, etc periodically. But he said that was it. Just get on and ride for ever.

Abso-fucking-lutely ace!

So I text the guy for written confirmation of miles, MOT proof, etc. It’s not like I can just nip around and view the bike, it’s in Littlehampton, which is basically as far as you can go down South without getting your feet wet.

OK, “buy now”.

Text him again, saying “OK, I’ve committed when can I come down?”

He text me back an hour later saying someone has made an offer an is coming to view it on Thursday. NO! This can’t be happening again.

I said I’d clicked “buy it now”, 50 minutes ago.

He is an eBay noob, apparently. Away from his PC and unaware of the sale. Who doesn’t have eBay on their ‘phone? Or at least email to get your eBay notifications?

Anyway, he said, somewhat reluctantly I felt, that I had won. The bike is mine and he is in for an awkward ‘phone call today. Tough.

Now I’m waiting for him to tell me when I can pick it up.

That’s me sorted.

Ultra reliable, tiny mileage, smart as a carrot bike, runs forever.

So chuffed.

The CB750 has already been bid up from £100 to £310 with 2 days to go. When we get back from our hols I’ll list the VFR750, and that’s that.

A bike that runs for ever, eats miles, has a good tank range, relatively comfortable, (can easily be made very comfy) will plod about, stable and predictable, but will shoot off like a scalded cat if asked. Perfect.

I’m happy. Wendy will be ecstatic. Life is good.

Buck.

PS I went and got the bike yesterday. Right on the goddamn channel coast. £108 train ticket. Transfer by tube in London. All in all, less than ideal. I had seen one for £800 less, that was in Oldham. I showed it to Wendy, to be fair. It was tidy, same age, none of the desirable upgrades mine has. And it was bright yellow. I had to show Wendy as I was wanting to spend £800 more just for what it looks like. Wendy hated it thankfully. I’ve spent a bit more, travelled the length of the country, paid £108 for a train ticket, but it’s a bike I want. If I’d have bought the yellow one, every morning I would be getting on it knowing I’d settled, and I would have resented it.

So I kept a chipper disposition through the hardship and expense yesterday knowing this was exactly the bike I wanted.

It has every MOT since new, the miles are a genuine 17,000. The original owner was a minted perfectionist. He imported the endcan from Australia,and it is actually useable. Nice sound, not deafening. Then spent £700 getting the rear shock upgraded and the forks fettled.  I wish I’d have got the bike off him. The guy I bought it off, the second owner, Huw, clearly had no idea. The rear brake is wooden. You can stand on it and it won’t lock up. The front tyre had plenty of tread left on it, but the MOT advisory said it was perished. A tyre that had rotted from old age before it had got worn out! Unbelievable. The tyre still looked OK to me, but you don’t want to be doing 140 (not that I ever would, m’lud) and be proved wrong. For the sake of peace of mind I got a new tyre today.

As Huw had let the tyre rot and the back brake go to shit I’ve put it in for a full-on service, (and change the front brake pads, –worn, on the advisory-  and bleed the brakes) so I know I’m starting from a totally sorted platform.

I asked them to check and adjust the valve clearances. It’s 17,000 miles, supposed to be checked at 16,000. He said it was a 2 day, big job, and these bike don’t need one before 25,000 anyway. He’ll have a listen when servicing it to make sure there’s nothing amiss.

Then that’s it. I just have to ride and enjoy it.

The CB750 that I was going sort the back brake, MOT and sell for £850, I put up spares/ repair for £100. It’s already had 31 bids and is currently standing at £510 with a day to go!

Then sell the VFR750 when we get back from holidays and all is well.

Just look!

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Just look at the engine for an 18 year old bike.

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And the view from the cockpit

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Happy Bucky!

Bikes.

My biking obsession is driving Wendy to despair. But I’m sure she’s sharing my joy, really. Deep down inside. Well hidden. Behind a smokescreen of rage.

Anyway.

I got that TL1000S after the Motorcycle News (MCN) review that basically said it will scare the shit out of you and try to throw you into the scenery.  Guess what? It scared the shit out of me and tried to throw me into the scenery. Oddly it’s not as much fun as it sounds.

It was just an awesome, full-on, loony machine. There was no ‘potter around’ setting. You were either committed or parked. It still sounds fun. In real life that’s great for dry, straight roads, terrifying in the wet at roundabouts.  It’s probably just me, never having had a race bike before, but it was just too much. Being a V twin 1000cc the power didn’t build with the revs it just kicked you in the arse as soon as you touched the throttle. I couldn’t feed it in. I was in two minds about it. I’ll never own a bike that awesome again, but if it’s that bad in summer, imagine riding it to work through winter? I was on riding on eggshells as it was. The tickover problem decided me. The (£60 p/h!) Suzuki specialist mechanics said it would need an engine strip to find the problem, possibly thousands of pounds.

I sold it.

I was going to sell my CB750 as well. Put it through the MOT before the insurance runs out on the 21st, and it failed. Of course it did. Back brake disc worn, pads buggered. Also advisory on chain. I remain in a state of flux over bikes, so I pulled the ebay listing, ordered the disc, (already had some pads) and chain and sprocket set and was going to keep it. I’m finishing off fitting it today when the rain stops.

Then I came across an MCN review of the Honda VFR750 from the 90’s.  “For many, bike journalists included, the best road bike ever built.”

Whoa!

MCN don’t mince their words. (My favourite being a review of a supersports bike “Goes like buggery. Just as uncomfortable.”) That is a breathtakingly audacious statement.

Apparently Mr Honda had the idea that a V4 engine was the future, rolled out the first generation of bikes, but they were flawed, “chocolate cams”, cams kept buggering up. So it was either scrap the whole V4 concept and accept brand humiliation or redesign it as the most wonderfully over-engineered, bullet-proof, benchmark legend ever to be built. Honda. Obviously they redeemed themselves.

MCN: “A Honda PR man once (fairly) famously joked that “I don’t care how much a VFR costs, it’s worth three times as much.” He’s not far wrong.”  “For a Japanese superbike, the VFR is about as good as it gets. Build quality is sublime, reliability… is total. Don’t let high mileages put you off: VFR head over 75,000 with impunity…”

So then I *had* to have VFR750, the ‘94-97 model with the sexy (MCN) “Ferrari-esque louvres on its side panels.”

I was looking to try it out and if it’s as wonderful as they say maybe get the new version (VFR800) some way down the road. Wendy, who is sick to the back teeth of me fucking about with motorbikes, said I should just buy the new one. I priced a 2014 (latest model) bike for £6,500.

http://www.motoplanete.com/honda/galerie/VFR-800-2014/13.jpg

I went so far as to arrange a loan. Then I bottled it. It’s one thing to run old bikes, buy and sell, possibly crash, but £6½ K for a bike I might not like?

I got a ‘94 instead. £1,400. The amount for which I sold the TL.

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After stepping off the TL I was a bit worried I’d bought a dud. Again. You have to wind the revs up and wait, and wait, and wait.

That was just adjusting to the V4 engine. The V twin was instant, uncontrollable power. This one will potter around at 30mph all day quite happily. Then you rev it and away she goes! I’m a convert. The thing about Honda’s is the perceived blandness. They aren’t seen as idiosyncratic, or quirky, they just do the job, quietly, efficiently, safely. After the TL I can now appreciate that. Two days into ownership and I was chucking it into roundabouts lower and faster than the TL. Because the power comes in smoothly and predictably and the brakes work without spitting you off, I can ride it properly. I had to tiptoe around the TL.

I’ve heard lots of tales of 100K plus bikes still going strong.

This one isn’t my final bike. The shocks need sorting front and back, and the previous owner had it professionally lowered. It’s a bit short for me. But this is definitely my final choice for model.

I thought I’d test out the claim that it was a 600 miles a day comfortable bike. On a whim I rode down to Camborne in Cornwall and back yesterday. 700 miles. She’ll chug along at 90-100 for hour after hour, effortlessly, then go like stink for an overtake. The tank is good for nigh on 200 miles before the warning light, (and it has a petrol gauge as well! First bike I’ve had with one. Brilliant for peace of mind.)

I wouldn’t say it was the comfiest bike I’ve ever had, the old Honda CX500 takes that prize, but it’s tolerable. After 700 miles I wasn’t in as much pain as riding the TL 100 miles. Also the TL only had a 90 miles (motorway) tank, about 80 miles commuting. Crap.

I probably did it wrong, to be fair. Here to Cornwall with one stop for fuel, wander around an hour, then one stop on the way back.

I would love the new model, but when you can get a 20,000 miles, fully sorted (shocks upgraded, brakes fettled, pristine condition) 1995 VFR750 for a fifty quid short of  £2k, good for another 80,000 miles, why would you?

So now the plan is to sort the CB750, MOT and sell it. Fit the brake pads for the VFR750, sell that. Buy a pristine VFR750.  Look smug.

Here’s the one I want. Whether it will still be there when I’ve got the cash is another matter. Still, one will come up again.

HONDA VFR 750 FS

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  • It’s got a full service history, the upgraded shocks front and rear, braided brake lines, the bigger screen and it’s not been lowered. So basically everything I want on mine.

    Pity it’s not red. Much as I love black for everyday things, it’s a scientific fact that red ones are faster. Wendy was unaware of the fact. Basic physics, that.

    Right, this is just me ranting about bikes. I have to tell someone and Wendy reaches for her gun every time the B word comes up.

    Later,

    Buck.

    PS, Fitted the chain and sprocket set (after ordering a new bolt for the front sprocket which snapped off rather than undo) and tried to adjust the brake which was seizing on. No joy. Tried to move the whole caliper across and that bolt snapped off. *blubs*

    I’m selling it spares/ repair. I’ve totally had enough of this shit. Also put the VFR up for sale with the brake pads unfitted. I’m not buggering another bike up up trying to fit them.

    *This* is why Wendy wanted me to get a new bike; so I can never touch it. She may have a point, actually.

    I’ve got both bikes up for sale, the CB750 has already sold, 4 days to go, just got to wait and see how high the bidding goes. Hopefully someone will buy the VFR750 as well. I’ve emailed the guy over the pristine one above. It’s a 19 day old advert, so I may have missed that boat. If so, it takes the pressure off at least. I’ll wait for the next spot-on one and bank the cash.