Guys as I have already shared with some of you earlier on this thread, I was a Harley rider till a couple of months ago. But for the past few months my Sportster was not the same to me. It could be some design aspects that I discovered after taking a few longish rides on her (complete lack of suspension, rake angles that do not encourage lane splitting at all, brakes that stop you before you reach the neighboring state), it could be some recent news from Milwaukee (liquid cooled heads, falling sales and layoffs, balanced motors! What happened to all that character?), it could be many other factors. The long and short of it I had decided that I will make the switch to a Japanese bike.
I was mostly exploring showroom bikes and the Versys 650/Ninja 1000/Honda CBR 650 F were high up on my list. Again I will not be dwelling much on these. But sufficient to say that I rejected the Kawasaki stable because of dealership experience (I don't think customers need to arrange for their own test ride bikes by begging other customers. Sorry Kawasaki). And I walked away from the Honda CBR 650 F as it was a bit cramped for my 6'4 frame with a very heavy heart. I did visit Triumph, BMW, Ducati. However there was nothing that could ignite the spark in me. All very god machines but perhaps not for me.
Over these visits I had sort of made up my mind that I will be buying a used one that goes back to the golden age of Sports Bikes - the 90's and 2000's. The reasons were many. First and foremost I could possibly ride away with my bank balance. No EMIs. And second was I like to timker with my machines. I like to restore them. Give them a little TLC and watch em shine. To me that is a big part of ownership experience. The bikes I zeroed on or contacted were.
Honda CBR 900RR/929RR/954RR
Honda VTR 1000 F
Honda VTR 1000 SP2/RC51
Honda CBR 600 F1/F2/F3/F4
Honda Blackbird XX1100
Kawasaki ZXR 750
Yamaha FJR 1300
Suzuki GSXR 750 SRAD
In the end It was the Honda CBR 600 F4i which rode home. The bike was in Jodhpur, the edge of Thar desert. You do find things in strangest of places!
The owner of the bike had bought it from someone who was once GM Umed Bhavan Palace. He really loved the bike but sadly could not ride it as his business now takes him to Phuket. He had stored the bike indoors and the room was dedicated to his passion. Wrenches, spanners, fairings, bits and pieces were all over the room. Kinda like a man cave. And yes his wife told me I can the second one he is married to. She is his first love :-)
But the bike was neglected, sad. She wanted to be ridden on the desert roads and pierce through sandstorms. She did not like being caged up in her room. I straddled her and turned her keys. The HISS fired up and the pump work up to a noisy start. I thumbed the ignition and sure enough she fired right up. I put a screwdriver to the four headers and none of the valvetrain was noisy. I asked the lady of the house if I could take her for a test ride. I did a good 50 Km or so. No major issues. Perhaps the tyres were out and the read brake pads too. But the bike did not skip a beat, just made me skip a few myself. These things are so razor sharp!
I rode back and made my offer. The owner called me late that night. Me and my friend were waiting eyes wide open very much awake. There was a difference of a few thousand rupees and like gentlemen we agreed to meet in the middle. We agreed on a good advance and the remaining to be payd once NOC is issued.
The next morning we enjoyed Jodhpuri breakfast. Nice crunchy jalebis in desi ghee and mirchi vada. I then picked up the OEM fairings (The bike had Chinese fairings on it. More on this later) and a couple of other bits and pieces with the hope that I will be back in a couple of days or a few weeks to ride her home.
However the RTO is still perhaps not as efficient in Rajasthan as in some parts of the country and it took a good part of two months to get the NOC issues. Hence I was only able to make another trip to Jodhpur in June after the initial one in April. First ride from Jodhpur to Gandhinagar - 430 KM
Evening before the ride I had removed the battery and had hooked it up to the battery tender I had brought along (I had a complete kit consisting of a 1/4 drive socket set, battery charger, multimeter, pressure gauge). I also got the bike washed and did a few trips around Jodhpur just to shakedown the bike. If anything would go wrong it better be now. The roads of Rajasthan are pretty desolate with very few dhabas/petrol stations/atms or habitations that are spread apart. I also got my bike washed. I just wanted her to hit the road in glory and not dusty.
Luckily the car was was just besides the house where I picked her up from. The guy did a a thorough job when I told her it's the last time he will be setting eyes on her
I set my alarm for 4.30 am, but the excitement of the ride awoke me before the alarm went off. I straddled my saddlebags over the bike and made sure everything was secure and by 5.30 I had hit the road. The onward journey was really effortless when compared to what I was used to on the Harley. In the wee hours there is very little traffic on the roads and getting up to speed was so effortless with the bike just a few notches above idle. I was home in Gandhinagar by lunch time and I felt I could do at least a hundred Km s more. Something I could not think of on my sporty.
Enrote you pass by the Om Banna Shrine, also known as Bullet Baba. Paid my respects and rode on. Those who are interested in the mystique around this shrine can google. I found many bottles of IMFL and cigarette/bidi packs being offered by the devotees, most of whom looked like simple village folk. Seems it is popular not just amongst bikers. Attachment 174161
My riding mates were also out on that Sunday so I suggested they ride up towards Mount Abu and we can meet mid way. Here we are at our rendezvous having breakfast. The last pic is a doodle made by one of our riding partners. As you can see he is a very talented guy and both of them could not help ogling my ride
While I was on her for the day I did notice few issues with her. She had been parked for some time and it would be inevitable that rubbers would harden, fluids will loose operative qualities. The few things that I noted were that when the engine was up to operating temperature the engine would sometimes bog down or hesitate. I sensed that the bike was not fueling properly. Apart from that the ride was flawless. And the tyres were well past their life - probably the first thing that would need to be changed. I will do a detailed list of things I want to do on the bike. But that will be for later. Likes
- A very well rounded sports bike
- The suspension on these CBR 600 F4s is not as focused as the CBR 600 RRs/Fireblades. It is designed to be a much more plush and comfortable ride. Not at all harsh on the real world riding conditions and they provide plenty of adjustability. Still by no means sloppy the bike's handling is sharp. The front and rear are fully adjustable with 4.7 inches of travel at both ends. However mine being a 2006 model the front forms are not adjustable. This is how Honda made them in their last iteration. The stock settings are also a bit too plush and almost all riders stiffen up their rides a bit. A good reference for road conditions would be an inch of sag front and rear with those thinking of more aggressive riding aiming for a bit lesser sag, perhaps half and inch.
- Brakes are fantastic though there is no ABS. The feedback is really good at both ends. One does not need more than 2 fingers to operate the front and the rear too has plenty of bite. However my rear pads seem to be on their way out. I must order new ones.
- Riding triangle is perfect. Committed but not overly aggressive. Comfortable yet not too laid back. However many refer to this bike as a ‘sport tourer’ which is at best a very loosely defined category. I would not go that far. To be this is a very practical sports bike with good touring credentials.
By comparison the Ninja 1000/Honda CBR 650F both have more relaxed riding triangles. However given proper riding posture – straight back, legs on the pegs by the ball of the foot and not arches, elbows not locked, thighs gripping the tank and supporting body weight wile braking and not wrists – I am sure a whole day in the saddle is perfectly doable. When one is is doing 130 Kmph + the wind breaks on to your torso and it takes away all the weight from your wrists. Sorry cruiser guys - but that feeling one gets after two hours on a saddle with all your weight supported on the sitz bones is just horrible.
- Steering geometry is sharp. The rake is 24 degrees which makes for a very flickable ride. Again compared to the sports tourers this is a more aggressive rake angle. Most of the tourers are around 25 degrees of more of rake.
- The bike is perfectly sized for me. It is a ‘big bike’. Bigger than the Honda CBR 650F and in the same league as the Ninja. That makes for a roomier and comfortable ride. But at the same time it is not really intimidating, to me at least. Some of my pals did remark she looks like a beast. But then they ride Enfields
- Parts availability is fantastic. You can go to eBay and find almost everything – fairings/cowls, fuel pumps, chains & sprockets, you name it.
- Maintenance support and know how is readily available. These bikes have been and still are immensely popular. There are many forums/groups where one can discuss or ask questions. I am sure the nearby Honda service guy who has worked on the CBR 650 F will also find this bike very familiar.
- The engine delivers 110 BHP and for the bike that weighs in at 193 Kg wet makes for a better power to weight ration than the CBR 650 F or the Ninja 1000. The bike is sedate below 5-6 K RPM after which there is a sudden exhilaration and things start happening very quickly. Top speed is 256 Kmph + and a quarter mile takes 11.7 seconds. Midrange is good but not as good as the litre class. The bike has very respectable performance figures.
- Fuel capacity is a respectable 18 L. That haves a range of about 350 Km. Dislikes
None really that relate to the bike in general but there are a few issues with my particular one which I will need to address. Most of these will be future posts.
- Tyres are in urgent need for replacement
- Front forks need preload adjusters
- Sag needs to be adjusted front and rear
- Fuelling needs to be checked - tank, filter, pump, hosing, sensors - the complete lot
- Throttle bodies need to be synced
- Rear pads need to be replaced
- Chain needs to be adjusted. Perhaps in the near future it will also need to be replaced
- OEM fairings need to be restores and the bike needs to be reverted to its original colour scheme (Red Black and not the current Black Red)
- Someone has lost his shoe sole on the exhaust. It needs to be cleaned
- One of the rear view mirrors need to be replaced as it is a bad weld job
- Consumables like air filters, oil filters etc.
- I need a new bike cover. A good one
- The bike does not come with a rear hugger. Perhaps before the monsoons set in that should be fixed
- The previous owner had installed an additional switch on the handlebar after cutting away the grip. The way it sits now one grip is considerable narrower than the other and this just feels odd to me and makes the horn further to my reach. I want to cancel this switch and install new grips Other alternatives that I considered
I will put these into two buckets, the new and the used ones. And the new ones I will bucket into stables.
Kawasaki stable – I looked at the Versys 650 and the Ninja 1000 and almost applied for a loan to buy the Ninja. However the completely indifferent attitude of the Kawasaki dealer kept me away. I visited that guy for almost 6 months on and off. Initially I rode on my Harley and discussed with him that I am thinking of flipping my ride. And later on a couple of occasions after I had sold off my Harley as well. Finally I cross Kawasaki after I failed to have a single test ride after pursuing for 2 months. “Sir mai aap ko ek bande ka phone number de dunga aap us se baat kar lena. Who friendly banda hai aap ko shiyad test ride de de”. F&%$ O** Kawasaki Ahmedabad!!!
Honda stable – The CBR 650F. The bike is a beauty. Pictures do not do justice to the bike somehow. It looks so much more substantial and tempting in the flesh. If only I was a few inches smaller It would have been it.
Triumph/Ducati/BMW – I did visit the showrooms. Good bikes. But the high price tags along with high ownership cost kept me off. I was done with the days I wanted to brag about my bike. I wanted something to ride, a bit further than the nearest cool hangout place.
Amongst the used ones the nearest I can to putting down my money was the Honda VTR1000F. It is a torque monster and wheelies are just effortless. The only thing that put me off was the seller refused an NOC even though he claimed he had all documentation. Nevertheless a very clean and affordable litre class Japanese V Twin superbike. Another one that nearly seduced me was the FJR 1300.
To sum it up the Honda CBR 600F series are a really a very well rounded, comfortable, dependable and sorted bikes. No wonder they were the most popular bike in the UK ever and only recently to be surpassed by the BMW 1200 GS in sales figures.
Over the nest few months I will be working on the bike and restoring it, bit by bit. I will keep you guys posted on each of those operations.
I hope you all enjoy the ride :-)