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Ten bloody years!

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Ten years on KB! Where did it go?

Having marked previous KB milestones with a post I thought I might do so again. Didn't want to revisit the same things I'd written about previously so thought this time I'd write about the bikes.

I don't consider myself a “born again” rider in that I've owned at least one bike in every decade since the early sixties but the gap between my BMW of the nineties was starting to lengthen. Initially I wasn't attracted to the Hornet 919 but Blue Wing having been their usual over optimistic selves had been trying to sell the Hornets for too high a price and they were not moving, so they dropped $2,000 off the price. Suddenly the Hornet had irresistible appeal and I bought one.

Previously I hadn't “improved” any of the bikes I'd owned, just rode them how they came. That changed. The fuelling on the Hornet was a bit snatchy at low speed so I bought a Power Commander and had a custom map done on the dyno at AMPS. Brilliant.

KBer Sensei pointed out that there was an Ohlins unit for a Hornet for sale on TradeMe and then kindly helped me fit it after the purchase. The Ohlins transformed the bike, it would track dead straight at speed down the bumpiest of roads.

The Scott chain oiler was different. I'd gone for the then new twin nozzle type but it was a pain in the arse and got the toss. The single nozzle works just fine.

The Hornet was doing about 20,000ks a year so after a couple of years it was time to change.
Believing that everybody should own at one least V four in their lifetime I traded the Hornet on a new VFR. The VFR was every bit the accomplished velocipede that reputation suggests.

Had the mortifying experience of putting the VFR in a ditch when it was only two weeks old. The Honda insurance people were brilliant. As was the bike shop, nothing was repaired everything damaged was replaced.

Some people like to decry linked brakes but on the VFR they work bloody well. One suspects that some of the people who don't like them haven't actually tried them or even understand exactly how they work. The VTech worked well enough and wasn't too noticeable but it did catch me out one day while trying to overtake a truck in the rain. Nearly a serious oops but a quick kick at the road saved the day. I hope the truck driver wasn’t watching his mirror.

A couple of years after buying the VFR I visited the bike shop and there, in the showroom, was a Ducati S4R. A beautiful beast. I had never owned a Ducati or a V twin so... There followed a sudden interest in Italian restaurants as is commonly the way. Attended a couple of Owners club events including the national rally and met some nice people.

The S4R was not the nicest to ride in tight twisties, or in town, so I fitted a one tooth smaller front sprocket, a very common mod. That improved matters.

Got a rude shock one day when I went to the garage at work to go home for lunch and there was my Ducati lying on its side. A woman had knocked it over while trying to park her car.
It's a strange feeling seeing your bike lying there. In the dark garage I thought I might have got off lightly but immediately rode the bike to the bike shop where it could be examined in daylight by experts. The bill quickly ran to over five thousand, Ducati parts ain’t cheap, again everything was replaced but this time it wasn't my insurance paying. Hers was.

Carbon fibre had long had appeal but I had never had the pleasure, the Ducati scratched that itch, it had plenty. A couple of years passed, I had toured the South Island on both Hondas and was planning another on the Ducati but was just a little concerned about the 14L tank capacity. When I visited the bike shop one day I saw they had a very nice Anniversary Speed Triple. I'd never owned a Triumph, or a triple so...

The South Island trip was done on the Triumph and it's just was well because a group of us were coming down toward the Canterbury plains from Arthurs Pass having started out from Kaikoura travelled down the inland route, over the Lewis Pass and down past Lake Brunner, three of us were running on fumes before we found a gas station. The Ducati just wouldn't have made it. Not even close.

What a great engine the Triumph triple is, the first time I rode over the Gentle Annie I kept thinking how nice it was to be on the triple. As good as the bike is though, the time for a change could be approaching. The bike is bigger than I need now. The offer I got from the Triumph dealer for my bike as a trade on a Street Triple R was derisory. I'd give the new Honda CBR650 a look, I've ridden it and think I could live with it but at $14,500 it’s at least $2000 over the odds. Blue Wing are being their usual over optimistic selves.

For similar money to their 650 you can get a new Yamaha MT-09 850 triple, or for $3,500 less the new MT-07 650(ish) twin which was BIKE magazine's 2014 BotY. (Although it does appear that the LAMS approved MT-07 sold here may not be quite the same bike that won awards.)

A Suzuki GSR750 is currently $10, 495. A Kawasaki ER-6N goes for $9,995 or an ER-6F for $10,995. Hard to see who will pay $14,500, thousands over the odds, for the Honda. “Ah yes,” they say, “But what about the Honda quality?” Well these Hondas are made in Thailand so the jury is out on that count for a while yet.

So of the four bikes I've owned over the last ten years which was my favourite? Each of the four bikes had its own appeal and I have enjoyed them all, but while it might be a surprise to some the firm favourite is the Hornet. I never felt I was going to put it down, either when sliding across the road or when paddling around on rough ground. It did everything I asked and had a “snap” that none of the others have quite managed even though the S4R and the S3 make more ponies. Just brilliant.

Who knows what's next? These days I’m retired and no longer in any danger of encroaching on the maximum tax bracket, but perhaps I should just visit the bike shops and see what they have on the floor. Never owned a Kawasaki, or a parallel twin. Or…

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  1. unstuck's Avatar
    Great read, cheers for taking the time.
  2. insomnia01's Avatar
    a pleasure to read
  3. Swoop's Avatar
    Damn good write-up Pritch!
  4. Blackbird's Avatar
    Excellent Ron, very nice analysis. Sorry that you won't be joining the Street Triple ranks. Mine has now done 60k and has run flawlessly. Just fitted a new shock.

    Errr..... I think I spot a radar detector on your Triple. What does a retired old guy want with one of those?
  5. pritch's Avatar
    Somebody once commented that the bike has every electrical accessory known to man. Not true but...

    All four bikes had the detector following a couple of minor speeding infringements that only involved minor money but carried points.
  6. Blackbird's Avatar
    Yep, I've had one since doing the Southern Cross round NZ ride a few years back, not for insane speeds but mainly for overtakes when "making progress" a wee bit above the open road speed limit. Doesn't mean you're public enemy no 1 by owning one, eh? Seems to be particularly useful for warnings about camera vans now that the authorities use all sorts of vans. Should transfer it to the car - failed to spot a van at Kawakawa Bay just before Christmas. 55km/hr in a 50 limit and $30. First infringement for years.