• Tag Archives Honda RVF750 RC45
  • My bike history

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    I wrote a post a while ago about the way that the bikes we ride shape us as riders, we may favour sports bikes rather than touring, or twins over  fours, but in any case over the years I imagine like me, people will have quite a number of bikes which have shaped  their riding and memories, so I thought I’d delve back into the sands of time and put pen to paper on the bikes I’ve owned and ridden.

     

    Puch Maxi

     

    This barely qualifies as a bike but it had an engine, all of 50cc and was my first foray into the world of two wheels. It was the single speed version (read slow!) and was bought brand new for the princely sum of £105. It had pedals which had to be turned to get it started, and returned miserly consumption of close to 120mpg, which as a teenager with little income was a real plus. I think mine was the N version which didn’t even had a speedo, probably because it was capable of speeds only marginally faster than running! I used to have to carry around a plastic bottle with two stroke oil to mix each time I filled up. As a riding experience it can be summed up easily, it wasn’t one!, but as a cost effective form of transport for a skint youth, then it was ideal and served it’s purpose admirably, till I got fed up of it and bought a proper bike!

    Honda CB125T-

     

     

    The first of many Honda’s I was to own over the years.

    I don’t remember the technical details, but Wikipedia shows it had an OHC engine and a top speed of around 65mph, which after the Puch was mega fast.  I do remember having to learn how to use previously unknown bike parts such as a clutch and gears, and mashing them badly for the first few days as I learnt how to ride. It carried me and my tent from the Midlands down to Devon for a rally so can be officially recognised as being my first touring bike.

    Yamaha RD250C-

     

    This was my first NEW bike and made an amazing impression on me. The colour was my favourite shade of blue, and the engine howled and emitted plumes of smoke from it’s twin exhausts. It’s 247cc oil cooled twin it made a massive 30bhp, returned 50mpg and had a top speed of 95mph. If those stats weren’t enough to get you excited, then how about it’s power band, something new to me after coming from a linear four stroke. The RD was not as exciting or dramatic as the hooligan LC models which came later, but had enough oomph  to catch out the unwary, and it did catch me out, twice! I sold it soon after those two offs, but it’s always held a strong place in my formative memories, and now that I’ve got an R1 in the same shade of blue it’s like I’ve gone full circle and returned to the Yamaha fold.

     

    Honda CB250N Superdream

     

    This was a “sensible” buy. We lived on one side of a river and my wife worked on the other. Public transport wasn’t easy or convenient and we couldn’t afford two cars, so the bike was bought as a commuter tool and worked exceptionally well. I bought it off a work colleague who taught me the pleasures of oil baths for the chain, and I upgraded the worn suspension for a pair of air shocks, which although far superior in performance looked a bit naff in red on a blue bike, as you can tell on the photo above. The bike wasn’t particularly exciting and I remember being shocked at having to pay £40 for an exhaust box, which back then was a huge amount of money, BUT, it was safe, reliable, and an ideal choice to have bought to get back in to biking after a few years sabbatical.

     

    Honda CB400N Superdream

     

    As always with bikers, a bigger engine means more fun, and the 250 soon wasn’t cutting it for the things we wanted to do. The 400 was a logical step up, with the same Honda reliability and was effectively the same bike as the 250 but with a bigger engine. We took it to the channel islands touring, rode with the local bike club, going farther afield and riding harder and faster, still not a bike to get the pulse rate soaring but it started, stopped, and ran like a dream (sic) and proved a great buy.

     

    ZZR600- May 1997-May 1998 ridden 9,600 kms

     

    The birth of my two children pretty much forced the sale of the 400, but 12 years later and the bug had resurfaced, so I did some research, found a good compromise for price and performance, and bought a ZZR600. Renowned for not having the best suspension, the saving grace for this bike was it’s engine. Like many Kwaks it accelerated like the world was coming to an end and it was always a rush letting it rip. It ended up costing me way too much in parts, so using male logic to confuse my better half I “persuaded” her the best thing to do would be to offload it and upgrade!

     

    VFR800-May1998- May 2000 ridden 25,600 kms

     

     

    Officially this was my reward for passing the IAM Advanced test, but it had been ordered before I took it so I was going to have it come rain or shine! I bought it without having taken a test ride as none were available, and it had been a toss up, between the VFR and the CBR1100XX SuperBlackbird. If I’d have ridden the Bird I’d have bought it, but the VFR was a “sensible” choice ratified by the wife, so it ended up in my garage.

    The trend I notice as I am writing this is that the bikes I’ve bought have all been “sensible” choices, with perhaps the exception of the RD250 a decade previously. The VFR followed that trend. It was a wonderfully efficient machine, the noise of the V4 engine was improved tenfold with the addition of an open Remus exhaust, it was powerful enough to tour on with luggage and a passenger, and when dirty always cleaned up like new. It ran perfectly, never missed a beat, handling improved with the addition of a made to measure  Maxton shock, and looked as good the day I sold it, as the day I took it from the showroom floor.  And why did I sell it? Because I’d moved to Switzerland and found the engine a little lacking at altitude, so something bigger was required of course!

     

    CBR1100XX- March 2000- March 2004 ridden 63,111 kms

     

     

    OMG! I knew within 10 yards of leaving the dealer I had to have this bike. The smoothness of the engine, the whispering exhausts, and unbelievable acceleration had me hooked instantly. I loved the stealth black, the paint quality was exceptional, the ride superb, I put the reworked shock from the VFR on it and improved its handling, and never looked back. Sue (the wife) loved it, we toured Europe on it. It ran and ran and ran, overtook lines of cars as if they were stationary, and all I ever did to it was change the tyres, brake pads and have it serviced, often! It only failed me once at around 55,000kms when the regulator stator failed, but that’s a common Honda problem and I’ll forgive it that one off failure. As a bike it ticked every box I had, it was a dream purchase, and if I hadn’t been forced to sell it when I moved to France I would likely still be on it today, what a bike!!

     

    Laverda 750s- March 2002-June 2002 ridden 3,205 kms

     

     

    From one extreme to another. I wanted a toy to go on track with or do some more sporty riding, but unfortunately this wasn’t it! Lots of nice parts like  Marchesini wheels and  Paoli forks, but the most agricultural POS parrallel twin engine known to man. It stalled, had gutless acceleration, and when friends who rode it confirmed my assertions that it was a pile of poo, it had to go. The only upside was I had bought it heavily discounted as Laverda had just gone bust, again, and I managed to sell it for what I had paid for it!

     

    Honda RVF750 RC45- July 2002-Feb 2012 ridden 21,854kms

     

     

    The Laverda was gone and thankfully the MV Agusta I had wanted to buy turned out not to be such a good idea so I bought this instead.No comparison. It’s true what the bike press wrote about this bike, it’s so much better than you’ll ever be. On the road it goads you into going round corners faster. The low seating position meant your knees decked everywhere, you became a riding god. It laughed at your best efforts on the road, 100mph, hah! All of this accompanied by a wonderful V4 soundtrack which could deafen you if you used the Micron open pipe and forgot your earplugs.

    I used it on track, a lot, but it was completely outclassed by just about every other bike out there.  Sure no one else had one and people would come to see what it was and to listen to the awesome sound, but other than it’s outstanding handling and rock solid road holding in bends, it became a real disappointment to me, and after 10 years of campaigning it I eventually sold it when I decided nostalgia wasn’t a good enough reason to hang on to it. I miss it but am glad I had one, something most people won’t be able to say!

     

    CBR1100XX – March 2004-March 2010 ridden 36,597 kms

     

    The original Blackbird was replaced by another one, why try anything else? But sometimes things aren’t the same. This was a French bike, originally restricted to 100bhp then derestricted, but it never made it’s power the same way as it’s Swiss predecessor had. It didn’t have cats in the exhausts, the paint was nowhere near as deep or the same quality as the black model, and although ridiculously fast, there was always something that you couldn’t put your finger on that made it slightly less good than the old one. It too had the regulator fault, but again it ran forever and only ended up being sold after we were knocked off a GSXR1000 and Sue ended up with a hip problem which meant the seating position became uncomfortable for her whatever we did to try and fix it.

     

    Suzuki GSXR1000K2 -Oct 2005-April 2008 ridden 5,588 kms

     

     

    A monster engine in a frame and with handling that never seemed to quite be in synch. Torque everywhere, but I was always uneasy with it. A big comfortable bike with a great pillion seat, but it was destined not to stay with us for long after some German lady decided that turning across a junction was a good idea, even though we were on the road in front of her. I repaired it but it had already been replaced by the bike below.

     

    Kawasaki ZX-10R (05) Sept. 2006-Nov. 2007 ridden 4,087 kms

     

    Polar opposites. A bike that handled telepathically. I don’t know what the previous owner did to it but it worked like a dream for me, and combined with that famous top end Kwak rush I had some great times with this bike. The howling top end was insane, made even more potent with an aftermarket Shark exhaust. I found myself riding like a maniac every time the road opened up ahead just to listen to the exhaust scream and to feel that huge rush of acceleration. It looked the dogs too in black, although as a pillion bike it sucked big style.  I loved it and was gutted when after trying to take it back into France, after having bought it in Germany whilst working there, found there was no way I could import it. What a shame, great bike and worthy of the future classic status the mags tout it as having.

     

    BMW K1200GT July 2008-July 2009 ridden 23,234 kms

    2008-07-12 001 026

    Back to sensible again and the only bike Sue was able to get comfortable on. It’s built like a bus but handles ridiculously well for such a large machine. ABS, heated seats and grips, cruise control, trip computer, ESA etc etc, it’s all there and is a great bike to tour on, as luggage and pillions seem to make no difference whatsoever . BUT, it was a POS. Riddled with problems it was always at the garage, was the first bike that stranded me (due to it’s crazy electrical servo assisted brakes), and I was only too glad to do a deal with the dealer to take it back against the purchase of another BM.

    BMW K1300GT -July 2009 to date ridden 70,953 kms

    K1300GT

    You might wonder what possessed me to buy the same bike again? Well this is the 1300 which supposedly corrected all the faults of the 1200 and improved it in many areas, and I have to say by and large its been a good buy. I’ve written several posts about it here on the blog, so if you want to find out more about long term and long distance ownership, it’s all here. I’ll summarise by stating I still have it and it’s a great tourer, but I’m wary of potential big bills in the future.

     

    Yamaha R1-Feb. 2012 to date- ridden 3,314 kms

     

    Full circle and I’m back in the Yamaha fold with my favourite shade of blue and 182bhp! A long way from the 30bhp of the RD250 back in the 70’s but I’m loving it. Bought for the track I’m still learning how to get the best out of it after 10 years on the RC45, but it’s coming. I’m consistently 8 seconds a lap faster on this than I ever managed on the RC, which makes me happy, as does having it wide open in fifth at Aragon. I’m hoping for great things and a long life together with this bike!

     

     


  • RC45- PFM discs

     

    Earlier this year I needed to replace the brake discs on the RC45. 17 years of road and track use had taken their toll, and I wasn’t going to be able to ride it anywhere until I fitted some new ones, as the vibration caused by them having warped rendered the bike unrideable.

    I had an issue in that Honda didn’t have any OE parts in Europe at all so would have to come from Japan, along with a long delay and hefty price! Next option was to see if an alternative aftermarket option was more readily available. I found a couple of forums which seemed to indicate that discs from an early Blackbird would fit, but none of the major manufacturers such as Brembo or EBC listed this as an option. After much digging around I found the website of PFM brakes where discs for the RC45 were actually listed!

    PFM is a company who supply top quality discs to many of the TT riders, so I rang them and spoke with owner Wal, who wasn’t sure if he had a set in stock, but  after some hunting around found a pair which had been fitted to a show bike but had not been used. Wal took time discussing what type of  type of pads I wanted and what type of use the bike was going to get, eventually we agreed on Performance Friction pads which proved difficult to source, but were worth waiting for.

    PFM discs are different in that the disc rotor is detachable from the holder, so in the future should you wear out the discs, you can replace the rotor only, saving a big sum against the cost of a full unit. Pic below shows the 3 component pieces, the disc, carrier, and retaining ring.

    This shows how rotor slots into carrier

    This shot shows the retaining ring which allows simple and quick removal/replacement of the disc if necessary

     

    The discs arrived ultra quickly from the PFM base in the I.O.M but didn’t fit! A couple of calls to Wal and some exchanges of photos showed the problem to be the fact that my bike still has the original 16″ front wheel, and that has a slightly raised lip where the carrier mounts, and the discs wouldn’t fit over that lip!

    I was under pressure to attend a track day I’d previously booked, based on the fact that I’d expected the discs to have arrived and been fitted in plenty of time, BEFORE the trackday, so I posted them back to Wal with some very clear measurements of the offending lip, and thanks to a a quick machine job and the speedy services of DHL, the discs were back to me within days.

    Comparison pics of OE (left) and PFM (right)

    You can see that the PFM disc is solid, this is because it is ductile iron not stainless steel, and  is capable of dissipating heat rapidly without needing ventilation/cooling holes. The grooves which are on both sides of the rotor surface clean used friction material from the brake pad surface in a constant sweeping fashion without reducing pad life.

    One “interesting” point to note is that the discs will rust if exposed to rain, so Wal advised to spray with WD40 after wet usage, important because if you forget, you’ll find the pads rusted to the discs and the wheel won’t turn!

    So how did they work? VERY well indeed! The trackday was at Bresse, and once the pads had been fully bedded in, I ended the day braking at least 50 metres later than I had been at the start, and looking back at some of the film from that day, quite a bit later and harder than several other more recent model bikes!!  I’d like to give a big shout out to Wal and PFM, for a great quality product, and for their superb customer service. Wal is is an ex racer and knows his stuff inside out. The combination of the discs and the pads he recommended have proven to be superb. I’m looking forward to enjoying their performance for many years to come!


  • Numbers- 2011

     

    Last year in July I posted a set of numbers documenting various aspects of my riding, Here are some numbers along the same theme from this year.

     

    253,691– Kms ridden in the past 15 years

    158,556– equivalent number of miles

    45,594– total number of visits to this blog

    24,469– kms ridden so far in 2011

    22,983- number of unique visitors to this blog

    18,121– average number kms ridden per year since 1996

    15,293– number of miles ridden in 2011

    11,326- average number of miles ridden per year since 1996

    4,269 number of kms of longest tour this year

    3,412– days of ownership of RC45

    2,039– ave kms ridden per month in 2011

    1,274– ave number of miles ridden per month in 2011

    1,015– kms ridden on RC45 in 2011

    837– days ownership K1300GT

    197- number of published posts on this blog

    56– tankfuls of fuel used in BMW K1300GT

    9 years of ownership of RC45

    7– todays date

    4– Number of countries ridden in this year (Switz, France, Italy, Austria)

    3– sets of tyres on K1300GT

    2– number of track days in 2011


  • RC45

    In 2002 I bought my RC45 with only 8790kms on the clock. Although I’ve ridden it a mere 22,000kms in the past 9 years, it has become something of a track day veteran. My most recent outing at Magny Cours in September was memorable for several reasons, one I nearly highsided myself off it, but mainly because I have decided to retire it from future track activity.

    At Magny Cours I had the chance to ride her for a last time with an open Micron pipe, with it’s 106db emitting a unique low level rumble which can easily be picked out amongst the sounds of screaming 4 cylinder or even twin machines.

    I still appreciate its sturdy looks and it still turns heads due to it’s rarity, after all, it is a 17 year old bike now, but still extremely pretty by anyones standards, hence I like to collect track day pics like these which really show off it’s lines.

     

    I think that after all these years she deserves some rest, and there are a couple of small issues that need sorting due to the age factor, and given the fact that it’s down on power by at least 30bhp compared to most bikes on track these days, I’d like to find something a little more modern to thrash around instead of my pride and joy. So after a good innings and 9 years, it’s time to take it to pieces, polish it to within an inch of it’s life, make the repairs, restore her to former glory, and revert to riding it only on the roads, on sunny Sundays.

     

    Thanks for the memories, I’m sure there will be loads more, but not on track!

     

     

     


  • Honda RVF750 RC45

    In 2002 I decided that I wanted to buy a “proper” sportsbike. I had been riding my CBR1100XX Super Blackbird throughout Europe since 1999, mostly two up with my wife, and enjoying epic tours together, but missing the thrill a trackday or knee down riding can bring.

    I’d had a brief foray into “sports” riding, with the purchase of a Laverda 750S which I bought new and with several thousand off the list price after Laverda went bankrupt. This was the Zane version parallel twin with Piaoli forks and Marchesini wheels, a great handling bike, but ultimately one with the worst engine fitted to a bike I have ever had the pleasure to ride or own. Lumpy and prone to stalling, I sold it after only 3 months and started to look in earnest for its replacement.

    I had ridden an MV Agusta 750 F4 and had pretty much decided to buy one when Karel Van Loon suggested I try one again BEFORE I put down the 30,000chf cost of a new one. His logic was that my opinion may now have changed after several test rides on twins such as the Aprilia Mille, and Ducati 996 and 998 models. It wasn’t possible to get a test ride locally, so I had to drive 3 hours to Lugano to find an available demonstrator. This model turned out to be the fabulous silver and blue model with the special Arrow race exhaust fitted, itself a 4000chf option. The fuel pump of the VW VR6 I owned gave up the ghost just outside Lugano resulting in a hire car journey home, but that’s another story, the real story however was the test ride.

    Overjoyed at riding an MV again, I saddled up and rode gently out of Lugano centre, but unlike the very first test I ever took on my CBR1100XX, where within 20 yards I had decided I was going to buy it, this ride wasn’t going how I imagined. The first problem was the traffic, and a sports bike in traffic isn’t the ideal mix. Frustrated by the slow inner city speed, heat and tight steering lock, the outskirts couldn’t come soon enough and a chance to let it rip a bit, but that’s where the next problem came, the power was all at the top, by the time you’re at 10,000rpm you’re doing 140kph and already in licence losing territory, and no matter how I tried to convince myself the sound and thrill of the ride was all I needed, the more it became unrealistic to consider owning such a focussed machine. Returning the bike to the shop I left deflated and needing to reassess what exactly I wanted from a bike, as this hadn’t been it!

    Back home I came across some old UK bike magazines and started to thumb through them. My eye fell upon a review of a Ducati 916, Kawasaki 750, and Hondas RC45. Reading on it was clear that the RC45 was the winner of this review, excellent on track, and a bike that the testers noted could be ridden indecently fast on the road without ever feeling stressed, and a machine which you could take liberties on in total confidence, knowing the reserves of handling the chassis held, after all, it was a homologated race bike with lights for the road, built only to satisfy WSBK rules that there must be a road bike equivalent of the superbike race machines.

    I started to look for used models and soon found two relatively close by. One turned out to be an outright track bike with the genuine Honda equivalent of a power commander fitted and adjustable from the side panel. This bike handled like a dream but looked a little jaded, showing plenty of signs of the hard life it had had thrashing round race tracks. The second bike however was much more promising. It had clearly been on a track at some time, as there were numerous parts lock wired and the number 45 in large numbers on the rear number board, BUT, it was in good condition, sounded great, and ticked all the boxes, the best thing being the price. I agreed to buy immediately, and so began the start of a relationship which is still running today.

    Where do you start to describe such a bike? Well, first there is the sound. The V4 engine has a totally unique sound, a bit like a WW2 bomber, especially when fitted with a Micron open pipe. At track days it always draws attention as people don’t always know what it is, and ask lots of questions. What is it? How old is it? What engine is in it? How fast? Etc.etc. I never mind answering as it’s a piece of HRC history, and I’m an extremely proud owner.

    Handling- The bike has a very low seat height, which makes knee downs very easy. When on its side at speed it feels rock solid and inspires confidence. At the track it always has more in reserve than I’ll ever exceed, whilst on the road you will never get close to its limits. A journalist once wrote that you have to be riding at 100mph on the road to even start to feel as if you’re going quickly, it’s that composed. The bike also features a 16 inch front wheel which was in vogue back in the mid nineties (Fireblade) and a single side swing arm.

    Riding position- is quite forward, and remember this is an old school race bike. Corners require some muscling it round, and weighting the front in bends works well. This is a bike that almost demands you move off the saddle and get your knee down to make it work as HRC intended. Work with it, and it rewards you in spades. The suspension is plush and on track settings can be trail braked right to the apex, its best trick being the ability to dive under others in bends.

    Engine- As standard the bike didn’t make a huge amount of power, but I found a garage who used to race RC45’s in the WSBK series, and they were able to find another 10bhp after some fiddling with the ECU and fitment of the open Micron pipe mentioned earlier. Power is now 122bhp at the rear wheel, and acceleration improved, at the expense of outright top end speed, by the fitment of a 16tooth front sprocket.

    Speed- on track the bike is equally as frustrating as it is magnificent. A 14 year old 750 is now pretty slow against almost any modern 600, and I find myself being overtaken far more than I am ever able to overtake anyone myself. Forget 1000cc superbikes on the straights, they’re gone, but I sure as hell can make it difficult for them to pass in the corners, which is where this bike excels. I guess max speed would have been around 240kph before I changed the front sprocket, and each gearchange only drops the revs by 500rpm. Whilst it pulls well from low, 7000rpm upwards is where you need to be, changing at 10000 rpm and dropping just 500rpm with each change to keep it in the power band. Also frustrating is the ultra tall first gear, 120kph being available in first means I often find myself in bottom gear in slow speed bends.

    Reliability- It’s a Honda so is built extremely well with slipper clutch and titanium internals. I once had it stolen and the dented tank cost 2500chf to replace, and we were lucky to even find one as they are hand formed aluminium! Batteries, regulators and stators are the Achilles heel of this bike, not helped by the alarm which constantly drains the battery, requiring it to be permanently hooked up to an Optimate. Other than electrics which are costly to replace and to find the actual faults, the only things I have changed are tyres and brake pads, and I upgraded the hoses this year as the brakes were starting to feel a little spongy.

    Tyres- These don’t seem to last long as I always seem to mix road with track days. I have ridden on Pirelli Diablos almost exclusively as they are one of the few brands and models where the 16 inch front wheel size is available.  Fronts seem to last around 5000 kms whilst rears can be destroyed in as little as 3500kms. Worthy of note though is the traction available in the wet. Like the VFR800 I owned, the V4 engine puts its power to the road in such a way that grip seems there even when the road or track is under water. Several times at track days, I have been amongst the first out in atrocious conditions because of the feedback the tyres and suspension are able to give.

    Condition- The rear seat unit split, as so many do, but I have had this repaired and then repainted, along with the wheels which I had stove repainted in gloss black. I also fitted some new decals as some of the original (unlacquered) ones were starting to peel. It now looks in top condition again.

    I’ve allowed very few others to ride this bike, but those who have, always express their enjoyment of the ride and understand why I’ll never sell it. In truth I don’t ride it anywhere near enough, and countless times after track days where I’ve been passed a thousand times I threaten to stop taking it to the track, but I always go back, it was made for the track and deserves to be there, it’s better than me and the pleasure I get each time I ride it far exceeds that I get from my more modern machines. If you ever get the chance to ride one, grab the opportunity with both hands. I paid less than a third of the price of a new MV Agusta, and reckon I got a better bike!