My friend Alex’s recent acquisition, a nice 1989 Honda CBR600F
This wasn’t the first time I’ve been in the position of trying to convince someone that they do in fact need a motorcycle in their life, it wasn’t the first time I’ve done foolish or stupid things to bring a motorcycle home, and it surely wasn’t the first time I’ve frozen my ass off on a motorcycle at 2:00 in the morning. Sadly the crazy series of events that unfolded last night were actually quite predictable when you mix a young man with the need for a bike and cash in his pocket, a long-time rider and motorcycle enthusiast eager to help, and a motivated seller with a cheap 20-year-old sportbike. On Saturday evening we headed up to Vancouver Washington to inspect a CBR 600 that Alex had spotted on Craigslist for $1350.
After preparing for the worst we were actually quite surprised by the condition of the bike. Aside from a destroyed front fender, missing mirror, and a few scratches on the plastics the body was in remarkable shape for an almost-vintage sportbike. Indeed most of this bike’s kin have been crashed then scrapped, rattle-canned in dismal flat-black, or stripped of their shattered shells entirely and morphed into squidly “street-fighters”. This example, though far from perfect, was still a respectable street machine. The style of the late 1980′s and early 1990′s sportbikes is destined to be classic since it was the era that brought us the first modern fully-faired race-bikes-for the road. I suspect that in a few more years Honda Hurricanes, Yamaha FZRs, and Suzuki GSXRs will be to my generation what the 1960′s British twins were our father’s.
There were some problems beyond the obvious cosmetic ones. The chain and sprockets were complete junk, red rusty grime was visible even though the chain was well lubricated and the teeth on the rear sprocket were nothing but a series of small bent-over points with razor-sharp edges, in other words perfectly normal for this kind of bike. Then there was the running issue, the owner claimed a fouled plug was to blame for the uneven idle and rough acceleration, I took a quick test-ride and it was indeed very reluctant to rev. The skeptic in me was thinking that any sane person would have changed the $2 spark plugs if that was all that was causing the problem, why try to sell it in this condition if the problem was so easy and inexpensive to repair? There was a good chance something very major and expensive could be the source of troubles. After much hesitation and negotiation Alex struck a deal and dollars changed hands.
The proud new owner astride his steed.
Now it was my turn, Alex had not yet got his motorcycle endorsement so it was my task to ride the bike, but how do we get this thing back to Eugene, 150 miles away? It was already after 9:00PM! After a terribly long phone call to Geico (those cavemen sure are slow!) Alex handed me a scrap of paper with the bike’s newly assigned policy number and the recently signed title should I run afoul of the law, which was seeming more and more likely. As we merged onto I5 my doubts were growing, by the time we crossed the Columbia River bridge into Oregon, around 10:45PM, I knew I wasn’t getting home on this thing. I took the next exit straight into one of Portland’s crappiest neighborhoods where I found a dimly-lit parking lot to consider our dilemma. Feeling the exhaust pipes told the story, 3 burns and then a cold pipe, it wasn’t running on #1 cylinder. Amazingly the cycle’s original tool kit was still stashed under the seat and contained a spark plug wrench, good fortune too that it was an outer cylinder not firing since the inner two would have required major surgery to access. Still what were we to do at midnight, 2 hours from home with an immobile motorcycle, this situation was getting frustrating quickly!
Yours truly trying to get all the cylinders firing.
Luck shifted to our side when I switched the #1 and #4 plugs the miss changed cylinders too, amazing, it might just be a faulty plug after all. My fears of low compression, burnt valves, carburetor failures, and similar were fading. After scraping the plug’s electrode with a screw driver tip it finally showed some spark when the engine was cranked, weak sideways little sparks but there was a glimmer of hope. I installed the plug and the engine lit on all four for the first time. A test run up the road confirmed that this was now a real motorcycle! I grinned in my helmet and thanked fate for giving us a break.
The ride home was freezing cold and nerve-racking as the interstate was being heavily patrolled for late night DUI drivers. Luckily none of Oregon’s finest noticed my expired tags and the CBR didn’t miss a beat the whole rest of the trip. The 600F actually rode quite nicely, it has good power, decent brakes, light steering, and a comfortable riding position. Pulling into my driveway at around 2:00AM I was relieved to be home safe on a running motorcycle, it had seemed impossible or at least very unlikely just a few hours before.
I awoke Sunday morning after just a few hours sleep and headed out to the garage with a cup of coffee. This isn’t even my bike but I couldn’t wait to clean it up a little. Alex was out of town for the day so I decided to take some liberties with his new girl. I removed most of the body work and cleaned it up, leaving the filthy engine and frame for him. I changed all the fluids and replaced the spark plugs. The motor revs happily now but a test ride will wait until the chain and sprockets are replaced along with the mirror.
Starting the disassembly and cleaning process
Carburetors and cables all working smoothly
She sure looks good with the VFR!
I look forward to a long summer with many happy miles ahead.