BIKES!

I know what you’re thinking: “How long is that lad going put up with that bike? He’s had it totally ages!”

Fret not. I’ve had a sudden change of heart and sold the Triumph and got a Honda CBR600F. It’s a sports/ tourer, much like the the VFR750 was, but different engine configuration (in-line 4, instead of a V4), newer styling, and fuel injection. The thing that decided me against my VFR in the end was messing around with the carbs.

Obviously the road has not been smooth, it never is. I wrote this earlier this week:

 

“I’m having a really tough time of this latest bike purchase. 

I was struggling with the Triumph, a bit overwhelmed at all the work I was going to have to do just to get an over-the-tank riding position. Then someone on Twitter mentioned they were on the hunt for a CBR600F they’d previously owned and were deeply regretting selling.

I looked it up on MotorCycle News (MCN) and they said it was a fantastic all rounder. A sports/ tourer that did everything brilliantly. Fantastic handling, sporty if you want, comfortable if you just want to cruise. And it’s a Honda. My go-to brand.

I immediately wanted one.

I had issues selling my Triumph. The guy said he’d buy it. Yay! Then said his girlfriend wouldn’t give him a lift to pick it up as he’d said he was spending the money from his previous bike sale on them, then blown it on a new bike for himself. His girlfriend was not amused.

So he rang me and said he still wanted to buy it, but I had to deliver it. I looked and it was 70 miles of country roads away. With the faffing about with the paperwork and such that would have 3 or so hours.

I was going to do it, just to get the sale, but then Wendy got all rage-y that I was being taken advantage of. "When have you ever expected anyone to deliver a bike to you?"

It was a fair point, so I was begrudging doing it. Then he sent me a snotty text "I’m going to need confirmation you’re delivery it tomorrow".

No.

I had seen a CBR600F in Scotland going cheap. I had booked train tickets to travel to Dundee then ride it 280 miles home.

And this guy was giving me grief, making it my problem, how he got the bike he’d just bought.

No and again no.

I said I was going to relist it on eBay. The next day he magically got a lift.

When he came for the bike it was just a matter of starting it up, ‘that’ll do me, here’s the cash’.

 

When I first started looking my first fancy was one in Altrincham.

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It was dearer, but only 14, 000 miles, in top condition, with all the upgrades you want. Full stainless steel exhaust system (the original ones rot), double bubble screen (better wind deflection whilst sat upright, still sporty when you lay down) and brand new tyres (£280 for a set).

But it was full price, £2,995.

Then I saw the one in Dundee going cheap at £1,800 and although it didn’t have the upgrades, and was 20,000+ miles, I thought it would do me.

As I say, I’d agreed to buy it. I bought the train tickets, got insurance, then the night before I was going to collect it I got an email saying he’d taken it for a test spin, prior to me coming up, and the electrics had died. Rectifier. Which is a known weakness. He was pulling the sale and replacing the dead rectifier. With another Honda rectifier. There’s your problem, mate. Fit the upgrade.

Anyway, because the email came via the sale site (Gumtree) it arrived 4 hours after he’d sent it. Too late too cancel my insurance. I called them as soon as they opened the next day to cancel it. Because the policy had activated at midnight they charged me 46p for usage. And £63 for alteration fees. Out of an annual insurance policy of £180.

Legally enforced robbery.

I got a full refund on my train ticket at least, and drew a lot of comfort from the thought that if he hadn’t taken it out, I could have been 250 miles from home with a dead bike. That would have been a nightmare push home.

So that one went pair shaped.

I saw another about the same price, and was willing to buy it, but someone had arranged a viewing and bought it.

I enquired about a local one but upon closer inspection it was a bit ratty. The seller never got back to me.

Another, someone bought it.

I was just after a bike I could use and enjoy. It didn’t have to be perfect, just do long as it was cheap.

I started looking at the full-on race CBR600RR, which I could get for roughly the same as the dearer CBR600Fs, but which are so much prettier.

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But MCN said they are a track based missile. For road use the F is far better.

Back to looking at Fs.

I saw an immaculate one, only 9,000 miles for £2,850 which was bog standard.

Not a mark on it. I enquired about that.

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And this is where it all gets confusing for me.

That would be an investment bike. It’s exactly the sort of bike people want to buy. Unmolested, perfect condition, low miles.

But it’s not the bike I want to ride.

If I’m thinking of spending that much, the local one has a better screen, heated handgrips, full stainless exhaust system with nicer sounding silencer, braided brake pipes (standard pipes swell and lose braking ability over nearly 20 years) better colour scheme…

The bog standard one is 2 years younger, 5,000 miles less, immaculate, £150 cheaper…

I’ve been vacillating between the two.

I’ve plumped for the local one. Got it for £2,900.

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But I’m still all over the place. I’m not enjoying this at all. I’ve put down £100 deposit on it, subject to it being sound on the road, and I’ve checked it out and heard it running, but he had a private number plate on, so I’ve got to wait 3- 5 days for the amended V5 logbook to come back with the old registration number before I can properly buy it. I’m taking it for a test ride to run it through the gears, but I reckon that’s a formality.

I’m hoping when I’ve got it I can stop making myself miserable second guessing myself.

Should I have got a cheap hack, or the perfect but bog standard and not as pretty one, or a kamikaze full bore, pretty as a picture CBR609RR?

Will I get my money back, paying top dollar for this one?

I’m absolutely ruining the joy of the anticipation of my new bike by fretting over what I could or should have done. This is totally not like me. I’m impulsive and I enjoy the thrill of tracking down my perfect bike. This is just miserable.”

 

That vacillating and fretting lasted for days. I couldn’t sleep at night. I was stressing myself ill.

I finally found some peace when I thought about it as buying the bike for me, not for selling on.

I wanted a cheap “it will do” one, because it was cheap, would still be an adequate bike, and I’d be able to get my money back if and when I sold it.

I wanted the immaculate one because it was pristine, would be just as Mr Honda intended, and in that form would be saleable. The thing is, you start actually riding a pristine bike and the miles go up, the condition deteriorates, and you want the upgrades to make it more useable.

And the CB600RR is not a practical choice. It’s a track based race bike. Not comfy, not soft on real roads, and it would look stupid with a top box.

So, my bike. It’s a bit pricey, I’ll probably lose a few hundred when I come to sell it, but it is the bike I want.

I rode it home last night, in the rain. Mr Honda has done it again. A bike that can be mad as a carrot with the application of throttle, but will commute at legal speeds without any fuss. When you’re riding a new bike home down country lanes in the rain, that is very comforting.

Today I rode it to work. Empty motorway at early o’clock, I thought I’d test the other end of the scale. 6th gear at 90, hit the throttle, sluggish acceleration. Hmmm. Dropped it to 5th, tried again. Still poor. Started worrying I’d been sold a dud. Stopped at the lights then accelerated away, the power starts kicking in quite high in the revs, about 8,000rpm (13,000 redline) so by the time I was wanting to change out of 2nd I was doing 90. Ah, that’ll be why.

I think it’s just going to take some getting used to.

The VFR750

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was like that, plod along quite happily, get it past 7,000rpm and it shot off like a scalded cat. Totally different bikes under and above 7,000rpm.

It’s a bit of an adjustment. The Triumph was a triple, and geared for wheelies, so the power and torque smashed you whenever you twisted the throttle. This one you have to work it.

This is not a bad thing.

The FireBlade

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never felt like it was working. You spent the whole of your ride slamming the throttle shut. It felt like 75% of the bike was being wasted.

On the Triumph

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the front end kept lifting unexpectedly under acceleration, it felt like you were torturing it at higher speeds, and it had a bad riding position. Also, as Wendy has just pointed out, the Triumph was a pretty bike. And naked (no fairing). But in the few months I’d had it, the paint on the front of the engine block had started to peel. If you ride a naked for any amount to time, especially through winter, it’s going to start showing wear, and lose lots of money.

This bike could be the perfect compromise. I need more time to adjust, to find the speed and power. So far though, it handles nicely and feels completely secure and planted. And I’m fairly sure there’s a whole lot of potential I’ve not yet discovered. It keeps you out of excessive wind blast, has hand warmer grips, and the engine is both protected by the plastics and hidden from view. The prettiness of the engine is not a selling point, is what I mean.

I got it home last night, fitted the rack for the top box, drilled number plate holes and fitted screws (the seller had a tiny ‘plate, held on with tape) and had the rear plastics off to check out the rectifier. I’ve bought the upgraded one already to be on the safe side.

So, that’s where I am.

I’m going to take it for a longer spin tomorrow, test the long distance comfort and try and find the performance.

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Bikes.

PS, the actor Sam Neil posted a picture of his pick up truck, some classic from his birth year, which got me looking. There’s always this ugly old thing from 1966 for me.

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That is the perfect example of an investment bike. Never to be ridden.

£8,750.

You would cry every time you got it wet.

But what a beauty.

 

PPS, I thought about doing a new post, but it’s just more bike stuff, so I’ll extend this one.

I took the bike for a test ride today to try and find the power band and adjust my riding. A quick nip up to Barrow in Furness. 90 miles each way.

The good news is it was a 180 mile round trip, I only stopped to fuel up, and my bum was fine by the end. That’s quite respectable. My knees were getting a bit uncomfortable though, oddly. Also with plastics it’s way more comfortable to hold a speed without discomfort. And, an added bonus that I should have thought about before, the noise level is hugely reduced. They say above 40mph all you are hearing is the wind noise, so having the fairing slicing a hole through the wind really makes a difference. I’ve already got mild tinnitus, which is a bit irritating, I don’t want to make it worse.

The bad news: Huston, we have a problem. It’s got tons of top end, and it will scream away when you get right to the top of the rev band, but getting there is painfully sedate. That is not how Mr Honda builds a sports/ tourer. Also, I set off with a full tank of petrol, (13 litres/ 3 gallons), and I was flashing on the last bar of my reserve tank (of 5 bars) 90 miles later. I was in the sticks in the Lake District, I thought I was going to run out and have to walk to a petrol station. On the the way back I didn’t thrash it, kept in the top gear for most of the journey home, and I was still down to 4 bars of reserve.

That is so not good. The Triumph, naked, as aerodynamic as a brick, with an engine that was screaming for mercy over the ton, got 120 miles to the tank.

I googled it and someone else had the same issue. Everyone replying was saying “No, you should get 40mpg, up to 140 miles per tank” . The answer was fuelling. It’s probably running way too rich. It could be the autochoke is staying on (nope, my revs drop), the temperature sensor not working, (nope, starts off without a reading, registers at 34C, climbs to 90s, which is normal) or an aftermarket sports exhaust without the fuel injection computer being remapped. Apparently Honda run them a bit rich anyway, with a free breathing exhaust its way too rich. If so there would be carbon deposits on the end of the silencer. I wiped my finger around, a sooty as a Tory’s child chimney sweep. Ah, that’ll be why.

I’ve ordered a power commander (a plug in device that gives the fuel injection system new instructions for optimum performance.) I was a bit miffed at having to do so (£364!) but the bike would just irritate me otherwise, and 90 mile to a tank is a joke.

I was getting upset with Porcine McPigface for knowingly selling me a dud. Then I did some tinkering. I was trying to swap the clunky, chunky old fashioned indicators for funky new ones. It was a total pain as I had to take the front fairing off just to get at them. While was working on the front of the bike I noticed one of the pinch bolts on the spindle of the front wheel was protruding. There’s a nut on the end of the spindle, you take that off, loosen the four pinch bolts and the spindle slides out so you can take the front wheel off.

Just found this image. Ignore yellow, but two pinch bolts, spindle and nut all present and correct.

pigtryingtokillme

Seeing one loose, after a long and fast ride was a bit worrying. I tried the others. All four were finger tight. I could literally tighten them with my finger and thumb. I’d just thrashed it to the Lakes.  I don’t think the plod knowingly did anything. I think he was a totally incompetent moron.

I’ve tightened them. Now realising I should make sure the nut is tight as well. I put it up on centre stand, cleaned the chain, adjusted the chain tensioners and made damn sure the back wheel was bolted on.

This has made me realise two things. Never deal with the police. Take nothing for granted.

I’ve checked through the paperwork that came with the bike, he had it serviced 700 miles ago, so the air filter and plugs should be fine. Perhaps sooty with it running so rich. I’ll do an oil and oil filter change for my own peace of mind and clean the air filter and plugs when I fit the power commander. After that it’s just the cosmetics of the smaller indicators and job’s a good ‘un for many a year.

I’m still really hopeful this is going to be a great bike. Otherwise I wouldn’t have spent that heartbreaking amount on the power commander. I had a 2003 Honda VFR800Fi (fuel injection) that had an aftermarket exhaust and a power commander and that went like stink. That was a sports/tourer as well, but weighted towards ‘tourer’, the CRB600F is more sports than tourer. Hopefully the power commander will sort it out and I’ll be a happy bunny. 

Bikes, eh?

PPPS, final amendment.

My power commander arrived yesterday(Tuesday). I was going to wait until my day off (Friday) but I needed to know, so I fitted it last night. I took it for a local test ride last night and it seemed to have a load more punch when you hit the revs. I rode it in to work and back, mostly motorway miles, and OH MYYYYYYYYY!

I was really worried before I fitted it. I spent over the odds buying the bike, then had to spend another £364 to try to get it to perform like a Honda sports/tourer should. If that hadn’t fixed it,… well, I just don’t know. It would have been awful, whatever I did.

As it is, it goes like stink! You can race through the gears and the revs until you hit a good speed, then chug along quite comfortably. The thing to remember is: it’s a 600cc sports/ tourer, not a 1000cc hypersports like the FireBlade. So if you’re chugging along at 90 in 6th gear, you can’t just twist the throttle and jump straight to light speed, you have to drop it down two gears, into the higher revs, then scream away. So that’s me a happy camper.

Also yesterday I dug out the baffle for the exhaust. As I’ve been thrashing the higher revs to try to get it to work right, the exhaust has been howling a constant racket. Some people go for that. I wouldn’t mind if it was an old Brit twin or a Harley, they make a gorgeous sound, but this is 14,000rpm of tortured steel. It’s a pain filled scream. You can see the size of the exhaust opening, so a lot of noise gets out of there at revs. I dug out the baffle, expecting something that was going to fill the hole with layers of mesh or something. It was a hollow tube. Slightly thinner than a bog roll tube and a bit longer. That was it. I thought I’d give it a go anyway. It actually works! It turns the scream into a “Vvvwwwoooh” sound. Surprisingly quieter, and a much more pleasant sound. That was a shock win.

After plod trying to kill me with the loose front wheel I thought I’d better make sure the service had been done, so I ordered some oil and a filter. (The service was only 700 miles ago, so the new plugs and air filter should be fine). They arrived today. Again, I didn’t want to wait, so I was lay outside in the rain after work changing that. To be fair to Porcine McP, that was the cleanest oil I’ve ever changed. 

I’ve ordered some indicators with built in resistors (to stop the LED indicators from making the relay flash too fast) that should be a straight swap, when they arrive.

So that’s me. Happy bunny. I’ve got the acceleration to get me out of trouble, the top end should I need it, the handling and comfort, and a strong engine that will happily chug in all day.

It’s been stressful, unpleasant and expensive, but I’ve got a bike that can do it all.

Final bike thing. The guy who bought my Triumph rang me up earlier. “Have you fitted a quick reaction throttle to it?”

Never heard of one.

“Snatchy throttle, front end keeps lifting.”

Yup. That’s the bike. Suck it up, buttercup.

 

Now I can just get on with riding my bike. All  year round. Without worrying about it.

Brilliant.

Now back to my equally boring running obsession.

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