2017 Honda Fireblade CBR 1000 RR SP1: Insanity, Black Magic and a set of bronze wheels.

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2017 Honda Fireblade SP1 on display at the South Africa Bike Festival

General

The Fireblade has been one of Honda’s flagship litre-bikes since the first model was introduced around 25 years ago. Since then the Fireblade has undergone several revolutions in its design and performance. From the sharp and angular design of the early 2000’s models to the round-nosed version, colloquially known as the Bullnose Fireblade, in the more recent models (around 2009). For some time Honda riders thought that this was it… the Fireblade could not get any better, until 2017. In late 2016 Honda announced that South Africa will see new models of the Fireblade in 2017. As expected, the base model CBR 1000 RR and the meaner SP1. Our focus will now be on the SP1.

The Specs

Frame & Fairing

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A narrower, aggressive looking front end.

No big changes are visible on the frame, however Honda holds that the frame is more rigid, and lighter than its predecessor. Furthermore, the incorporation of titanium into the making of the fuel tank reduces weight even further.

In addition, Honda succeeded in making the fairing of this bike narrower than its predecessors by shaving around 18 mm in width. In totality creating a 14 kg leaner and 11 BHP meaner machine.

The styling has also been completely changed. The bike looks extremely narrow and highly aggressive.

Suspension, Wheels & Brakes

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A sneak peek at the Ohlins TTX36 rear mono shock and titanium exhaust system.

The SP1 sits on a Ohlins NIX30 front fork and a Ohlins TTX36 shock holds up the rear end. Both front and rear integrate into the S-EC semi-active suspension system, which is controlled by a Bosch MM5.10 IMU. Choosing from a variety of riding modes ensures that the rider can get the most out of the new suspension setup.

 

With the amount of power created by the

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Big Brembo brakes linked to a beautiful bronze-coloured wheel.

engine, it’s clear that the bike needs to be able to stop as fast as its able to go. For this the engineers/designers have incorporated Brembo monoblock calipers. In addition the Bosch MM5.10 IMU also replaces Honda’s clunky ABS system, and adds a few features. Such features include cornering ABS, which measures all sorts of parameters to allow for safer trail braking; and Rear Lift Control, which keeps the rear end on the ground under heavy braking, very helpful in those blind corners.

 

The SP1 contacts the ground on a set of beautiful Y-shaped 5-spoke rims, wrapped in a 120/70 R 17 front tyre and a 190/50 R 17 rear. Not much change in the overall wheel dimensions of the bike, apart from losing some unsprung weight in the rim.

Engine

The Fireblade SP1 still uses the 999.8cc displacement engine block, but this is where similarities to the old bike end. All the other engine components have been tweaked to the point where the engine delivers 189 BHP at the crank, with a rev limit of 13 000 rpm. The engineers at Honda have also reworked several of the main components and substituted magnesium alloy engine covers and a titanium exhaust system. All this has achieved striping around 2 kilograms of weight out of the engine. Honda has essentially squeezed every ounce out of what the base infrastructure can handle.

Combine this with the ride-by-wire system that Honda uses on the engine, and one has access to one of three power modes, nine levels of torque control and three levels of Selectable Engine Braking. This allows the user to “play” with different output settings and find one that suits your riding style.

The integrated quick-shift works beautifully with this setup, allowing for very quick, and smooth gear changes under heavy acceleration. Shifting down is also assisted by a redesigned slipper clutch and an auto-blip. The only oddity that I could find is that Honda has opted for a cable-operated clutch instead of a hydraulic clutch found on other models dating as far back as 2006.

User interface

As one can see from all the above, there are quite a few things that must be communicated to the rider, from engine revolutions to riding modes. Honda have devised a beautifully designed LCD display to assist with this. Neatly “packing” all the related information together, without drawing too much attention away from the important measurements.

The Ride

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Test riding a SP1.

This is where my path crosses that of the SP1. At the recent South Africa Bike Festival, several of these machines were available for test rides around the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit. I seized my opportunity and booked myself a time slot.

As our returning readers may know, I’m a big bloke, with average riding skill and a daily ride of 400 cc. Not even a few rides on Mechanical MacGyver’s modified 2006 CBR 1000 RR Fireblade could have even remotely prepared me for what the SP1 offers.

The first thing one notices is the acceleration. As I’ve said before, I’m a big bloke, and because of that, it’s rare to find a bike that really accelerates aggressively with me on it. Nothing compares to the SP1. Gunning it as I exited pit lane, I was shocked at how this bike is trying to pull away from underneath me. The clever electronics kept both wheels firmly on the ground, but this didn’t stop this bike from trying to leave me in the dust. Wide eyed and holding on for dear life I powered up to the first corner.

With the braking markers mere meters in front if the bike it was time to bring the machine to a crawl, going into a tight hairpin corner. Once again, I’m almost flung from the bike, this time under heavy deceleration. Those Brembo brakes clamp on with enough force to pull your breakfast back into your throat. Once again, the clever electronics keeping traction on both wheels, as there’s room to spare before entering the corner.

Ohlins have prided themselves in creating suspension systems for some of the world’s best handling bikes. The Fireblade SP1 is no exception. As aggressive as it may accelerate and decelerate, it’s a real softy when it comes to handling. The cornering ABS and fantastic suspension makes it very easy to get this bike into a corner at some extreme lean angles. “Getting a knee down” is a breeze on this.

The rest of the lap is pretty much a repeat of the above, clinging on as the bike roars out of corners and trying not to go over the handlebars while braking. Yes, going around a bend on this bike was the easy bit. Coming out of the last corner leads one to a pretty decent front straight. It’s here that I found out that this bike really accelerates like a bat out of hell. Doubling the speed I exited the corner with in a just over a hundred meters.

Even when I misjudged a corner, the SP1’s electronic brain comes to the rescue. Entering a corner way to fast, I had to clamp on those brakes to keep me out of the kitty litter. The cornering ABS and Rear Lift Control meant that I could just clamp on and the bike came to a halt with enough force to pop eyes out of your skull.

By extrapolation, if the bike performs that well in stock form on a track, it should make a pretty awesome road going bike. Being very forgiving and having more power than one would ever need on city streets.

As an after thought, it has a pretty comfortable seat, should be okay to ride it for medium distances without stopping. The riding position isn’t that bad for a sports bike either. There’s more than enough room for a 6’3″ bloke such as myself to sit comfortably, without having to squish bits in order to find a reasonable riding position.

Final Thoughts

This is the point where I have to ask myself, would I buy one? To answer this we have to consider what an SP1 would put a potential buyer out-of-pocket. The SP1 retails for around R 320 000 (ZAR), £ 19 125 (GBP), or $ 24 600 (USD). This puts the SP1 at the expensive end of the motorcycle spectrum. Take into account that even Mechanical MacGyver’s ’06 Fireblade is too much bike for city streets , and you don’t need more than 2 gears. It’s reasonable to think that the SP1 would be similar in the city streets.

So back to the question, would I buy one? My answer is absolutely. I can see in my mind how many readers gasp. “What am I thinking?” “Didn’t I just say that it won’t be any good in the city?” And that’s exactly what I said. Why would I buy one then? The answer is simple. As soon as that bike hits the highway or a winding back road it will once again come into its own. On these types of roads it’ll be like being on the GP circuit again. Running beautiful back roads and speedy highways with a bike that handles and performs like nothing I’ve ever ridden before. That’s why I would buy one.

South Africa Bike Festival: Festive indeed.

Hello once more to all of our readers from the vast reaches of the worldwide web. For those of you who have been following the ramblings of this mad man, you would know that this weekend marked a very special occasion. Another item ticked of my 2017 biking bucket list. The 26 – 28 May marked the weekend of the South Africa Bike Festival, “South Africa’s Premier Motorcycle, Music and Lifestyle Festival.”

Again, one of the events that I’ve really been looking forward to since the start of this year. That includes the Dunlop Charity Ride in support if Ride for a Reason – Claws and Paws.

Sunday Charity Ride

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First few bikes at the starting venue.

We got off to a pretty early start on the Sunday morning. Gathering at the Fairlands Walk Shopping Centre. This was the official starting venue for the Dunlop Charity Ride. The parking lot filled fairly quickly with fellow riders joining in to support a worth cause.

Soon thereafter we set off to the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit, where the rest of the event would unfold. Still very battered and bruised, the Little Yellow Honda kept up with the crowd and gave me the best ride in such a long time. Once we reached the GP Circuit, completed two parade laps around the circuit, which was quite an experience. The eagle-eyed among the readers may even be able to spot the Little Yellow Honda in the video below.

What an experience. Riding with 1261 other bikes around what is probably South Africa’s most iconic race track. Really looking forward to doing this again next year.

The Festival

Once the bikes were parked, it was time to head into the Kyalami Pit building to see what was in store. First of all, we had to collect our festival wristbands, lanyard and maps, just to get around without much hassle.

Test Rides

Thereafter, we had to make our way to pit lane, as we have booked a few test drives on the latest models of some of the larger bike brands. Mechanical MacGyver decided that he would try out a bike that he’s been eyeing for quite some time. The 2017 Suzuki GSXR 1300 Hayabusa.

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Mechanical MacGyver on his “out-lap” with the 2017 Suzuki Hayabusa.

Mechanical MacGyver, being a man if few words, didn’t give much information regarding his experience on this bike, but we do have a little feedback.

“Not bad” he said, exiting the waiting area. “Pretty good on the straights, difficult to get into the corners. Probably a good bike to clock some distance with if you don’t want to race. I still think I like my Honda more.” The Honda he is referring to is his personal “Duiweltjie” or little Devil, as seen in the first photo.

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Waiting to unleash the power of the SP1.

I had booked myself a test ride on the 2017 Honda CBR1000RR SP1. I will be posting a review of the bike in the near future, so I am going to try not to give away my true thoughts on it. As a bit of a teaser, this bike is quite fast.

Stay tuned to read what I think of this bike.

Exhibits

The two-stroke club of South Africa had a fantastic exhibit containing various two-stroke legends. This collection included, amongst others: a Honda NSR 250 cc, both a road-going and track version; An Aprilia RSV 250 cc, also  track and road-going versions; A Yamaha RZV 500 cc; and a Bimota that I couldn’t really identify.

The rest of the exhibition contained other classics, such as the Kawasaki Z1000, a few Cafe Racers, and a supercharged Boss Hoss trike.

And a few other quirky and custom builds.

Other attractions

For those who like to play with their two wheels in the dirt or in the air, there were a few FMX and trial bike shows as well. The Monster Energy FMX shows were one of the greater attractions with big names such as Jimmy Hill and Alastair Sayer. Entertaining the crowd with their high-flying, adrenaline fueled madness.

Considering all it was a fantastic day. Can’t wait for next year’s festival.

The road restarts

That moment you turn the key. The moment the warning lights turn on… glimmering like the leprechaun’s pot of gold. The starter turns… The engine fires. The noise, the vibration, the humbling sensation that restarts one’s soul.

It’s been months since I’ve heard my little yellow monster start, and about the time since I’ve ridden on a bike. Those of you that have been following my mad ramblings will know that my bike had suffered oil seal failure, causing it to spew this precious fluid all over. I had tried to fix this by fitting a new seal, that can only be done by splitting the crank casing. If you want to know more you can read about it here.

The problem seemed to be fixed… i thought… Unfortunately, mere days after installing the new seal my machine started to spew oil from the exact same spot. I was at wit’s end. What could have been the cause of the catastrophic failure? Was it something I did wrong in assembling the engine? Was it manufacturer fault? Or was it just plain bad luck?

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Into bits once more.

As usual, there would be one way to determine where the fault lies. This inevitably meant that the motor had to be pulled apart once more. This time it revealed that a few deep gouges on the gearbox output shaft had literally chewed through the oil seal. Once again a new seal had to be ordered (as this part is on permanent back order. ETA 3 weeks). This meant that my power plant would be upside-down on a workbench for that 3-plus weeks. In that time, the sharp ridges from the gouges have been polished down as far as possible without altering the dimensions of the shaft. This will, hopefully, solve the problem, or at the very least extend the lifespan of the new seal.

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Assembled. Just before an alarming surprise.

As I am writing this, a little less than three weeks have passed. I’ve received a phone call informing me that my part have arrived. The largest part of my weekend was spent on assembling the engine once more. Not an easy task for one man alone. (Mechanical MacGyver hand work commitments to tend to, and was unavailable to assist for the largest portion of this.) The engine had been installed once more and the battery charged, ready to turn over the power plant once more. Key to the on position… and… hit the start button. Something that should have easily turned the motor over and forcing it to roar to life. But what type of story would this be if that was the end?

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Carb cleaning and float tuning.

Turns out that about 3 weeks of being upside-down doesn’t do carburetors any good. Some fuel has seeped into the diaphragms, immobilizing them. In addition, evaporated fuel leaves a sticky residue. This residue has basically “glued” the carburetor float levels into position, holding the needle and seat in the open position. In laymen terms, the thingy that stops too much fuel getting into the carburetor was jammed open, causing the engine to flood.

The engine flooded to the point where the pistons were jammed into position by combustion chambers filled with fuel. The engine would NOT turn over.

This problem could easily be solved by leaning the carburetor with some off the shelf carb cleaner and elbow grease. A fun day of opening up the carburetor, cleaning the float hinges and fuel jets.

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Jerry rigged testing system.

I really wasn’t in the mood too have the engine lock up again if the cleaning wasn’t the only thing required to stop the engine from flooding. Therefore, it was time to employ some of my backyard ingenuity. ————->

Basically just connecting a gravity-fed fuel source to the carburetor inlet. And this worked surprisingly well. We found that the carburetor supplying cylinder 3 was still allowing an immense amount of fuel to flow. Some fiddling with the float position seemed to have sorted that problem out.

Once again, with the carburetors and fuel tank fitted, it was time to see if the little power plant would be able to start. It took some time before the little engine roared to life. What a beautiful noise that was. The churning of cam gears and the roar of the exhaust. I haven’t heard this noise in a bit more than a month.

I write to you this lovely morning as I am about to embark on the first journey back on my little yellow Honda. Turning the engine over and hearing it roar, brings a sense of peace over my soul. A sensation of feeling alive again. I wasn’t made to spend my days rolling around in a cage, I was ment to fly down the road on the back of an iron steed. Having my bike start once again has, in effect, restarted my soul.

On this new-found drive, I wish you all a safe ride and enjoyable journey.

Heroes from our past

Valentino Rossi once said “Riding a race bike is an art, a thing you do because you feel something inside”. Others hold that the best bike in the world is the one you are on. Not because of how it measures up in numbers, but because of the way it makes you feel. Most expressions regarding motorcycles speak of that intangible, indescribable sensation that one can only experience on a motorcycle. However few acknowledge when and where that sensation originates from.

Well, we here at The Bike Addict we do things a little differently. We would like to pay tribute to all persons and machines that have influenced us, inspired us, and have brought us to where we are now. We have done so by creating a page especially to say thanks to those who have influenced us. Call it our influential hall of fame if you will. Check out the page and leave your comments here.

A special thank you to:

Mechanical MacGyver

A gentleman worthy of acknowledgement. Mechanical MacGyver is the true driving force behind our addiction to two-wheeled machines. Our resident mechanical maestro, riding companion and a father to me. Without his mechanical skill contributions neither Anxiety on Wheels’ Dodgy, nor my Little Yellow Monster would be on the road today. We say thank you for the late nights spent working with us and long weekends spent riding with us.

The machines that have brought us here:

Old Faithful

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Yes. That is a 13 year-old me on Old Faithful.

Make: Kawasaki
Model: ZZR400
Year: 1998
Engine: Original – 399 cc DOHC, carburetor, inline four-cylinder.
Current – 599 cc DOHC, carburetor, inline four-cylinder.
Status: Active duty.

This beauty was one of several bikes that Mechanical MacGyver had owned over the years, and probably the bike he had the longest. A machine that would never truly die. Over the years several pistons, heads and cylinder sleeves have been replaced or re-machined. I have fond memories of riding passenger as a kid, clinging on for dear life, and having to push-start the bike due to charging issues. Old faithful is also the first bike I really rode on my own, given I was only 13 years old when I first rode it.

Later, I passed my learners license and started riding the Popcorn Machine. See, here in South Africa a learners license limits the maximum engine capacity to 125 cc if the holder is under the age of 18. Therefore I couldn’t ride Old Faithful even if I wanted to. During this time Old Faithful destroyed its 400 cc engine. Instead of trying to salvage it, Mechanical MacGyver decided to upgrade to a bigger engine. The ZZR 600 cc engine bolted right in.

More years passed, and I finally turned 18. That meant I could use it occasionally, if Mechanical MacGyver wasn’t riding or tinkering.

However, all good things must come to an end. Mechanical MacGyver bought himself a new bike in 2015. This meant that it was time for Old Faithful to find a new home. My cousin, (let’s call him The Beard), was glad to take it in. The Beard continues the ritual of tinkering on, and upgrading this treasured machine.

The Popcorn Machine

Make: Honda
Model: CBF125
Year: 2011
Engine: 125 cc OHC, fuel-injected, single cylinder.
Status: Missing in action.

The Popcorn Machine, as it lovingly became known as, is a 2011 Honda CBF 125cc. The first bike I could truly call my own. Mechanical MacGyver had bought it as a 16th birthday present for me. Finally I had the freedom to ride to where I wanted, when I wanted, within limits of course. It was neither fast, nor exceptionally pretty, but it was mine. In the span of two years I had covered 6000 km with it. It may not be much, but for a 16 year-old, travelling to and from school, it was 6000 km of pure independence. Those 6000 km also contained, what I would call, my first proper fall. At the end of 2013, The Popcorn Machine had been parked in the garage indefinitely. The bike had just become too small for my needs, and I was working on my restoration project: the Little Yellow Monster.

In 2016, Anxiety on Wheels decided it was time for him to start riding. To this extent, the Popcorn Machine was sold to him as his first bike and training wheels. It had served him well as a training bike before it was stolen less than 5 months after he bought it. The bike has not been tracked down at this time, and it probably never will.

The Little Yellow Monster

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The before and after images of my restoration project

Make: Honda
Model: VFR400R (NC24)
Year: 1987
Engine: 399 cc DOHC, carburetor, v four-cylinder.
Status: Active duty.

The Little Yellow Monster was found in a garage, heavily neglected and with most of its parts missing. A hunt for the owner, more than a year of elbow grease, and pretty much all of my savings have gone into creating the story of my Little Yellow Monster. I’ve written extensively on how this machine came to be my daily driver, you can find that post here. At the start of it all I really hated that awful yellow colour, but going riding for the first time after finishing the project one realises something. It grows on you. About 3 year down the line I can’t imagine this bike being any other colour than yellow.

I’ve had some crazy experiences on this bike. I spent weekends and nights working on it. I bonded with family, because of it. I’ve gotten lost on it. I found myself on it. I’ve seen some amazing places on it. I’ve ridden some fantastic roads on it. I’ve fallen with it. It nearly set me and itself on fire, (the reason why Mechanical MacGyver calls it the “Yellow B*tch”). All these experiences makes this the best bike I’ve ever had. Not because of its specs, but because of its stories.

The Little Yellow Monster has served me well as a daily driver since it was finished. It’s gotten me from A to Z and every letter in between. However, it’s now starting to show its age. It’s machine build far before I was even born,the passing of time and not knowing how it was previously treated has led to us finding some flaws. Hopefully, with time, these flaws can be mended and the bike restored to its former glory.

Dodgy

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Dodgy’s first ride to our garage.

Make: Suzuki
Model: RF 400
Year: 1994 approx.
Engine: 398 cc DOHC, carburetor, inline four-cylinder.
Status: Missing in action.

The tale of Dodgy involves late-night dodgy deals, and some horrendous bike abuse. Throw in a gallant young knight named Anxiety on Wheels and you have yourself the stuff of legends.

The tale starts after Anxiety on Wheels received the insurance payment, following the theft of Popcorn Machine. Him, Mechanical MacGyver and myself had set out in the hunt to find our friend a new set of wheels. Following a long day of disappointment in viewing bikes from local classifieds we made one last-ditch effort. The last seller we phoned, around 6:00 pm one Friday evening, had told us that the bike we were looking for had been sold, but he had another bike if we were interested.

We set out, in the dark, to a neighbourhood we had never ventured into before, to meet a young chap selling a bike from his back yard. Immediately some faults were brought to our attention, and Anxiety on Wheels still decides to buy the machine. It was set, in a week from now, we would return to collect the bike. The minor faults that had been highlighted would be mended before our return.

The week had passed and we returned to retrieve Anxiety on Wheels’ new ride. Alas, what a nightmare it unfolded to be. You can read part 1 and part 2 of the saga in our previous posts. For those who did not read the tale of Dodgy, the machine had been repaired and its new owner used it as his daily commute. In so doing having his first proper fall.

Unfortunately, Anxiety on Wheels seems to be having the worst of luck regarding bikes, as Dodgy also was taken from him by the criminal underbelly of society. As with Popcorn Machine, we have been informed that the Police are doing all they can, but are yet to recover his pride and joy.

Duiweltjie

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Duiweltjie’s first ride out.

Make: Honda
Model: CBR1000RR
Year: 2006
Engine: 998 cc DOHC, fuel-injected, inline four-cylinder.
Status: Active duty.

Duiweltjie (pronounced ‘dœivəlki) is an Afrikaans word that translates to little devil. Which is exactly what this machine is.

Near the end of 2015, Mechanical MacGyver, had decided it was time for him to buy a newer bike. Old Faithful had lust its oomph and could keep up with the riding group on their newer 600 cc bikes. In the bike hunt we came across a 2006 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade that had already been modified slightly. These modifications included a full Yoshimura exhaust system, modified cam shafts, and a Dynojet Power Commander. Uping the standard power output considerably, and removing those pesky restrictions.

Mechanical MacGyver fell in love with this bike at first glance, and with the paperwork completed and payments made the bike came home with us. Now, instead of chasing the pack, he could lead it. After the fist ride one could notice a change… The former Kawasaki die-hard has become a Honda fan. He dubbed the bike Duiweltjie because of its aggression and sheer power. The new Honda groupie often refer to this as his forever bike. Not wanting anything else than his ’06 Fireblade.

Being the son of the owner has its perks, as I’ve taken Duiweltjie out for a few rides myself when my bike has been acting up. The power difference between 400 cc and 1000 cc is what catches one off guard. An immensely powerful bike, and a fantastic ride.


So there it is ladies and gentlemen. Here is the story of how man and machine has influenced two young blokes into becoming completely addicted to our iron steeds. Feel free to share your stories of “getting hooked” on bikes with us in the comment section of our tribute page, which you can find here.

Mechanics Masterclass: Horsepower, torque and other important words.

Hello again from the vast reaches of the world-wide web. A friend of mine, who is considering buying her first bike, posed a very interesting question: Which is more important, torque or horsepower? This had me thinking of how to properly explain to someone what these concepts mean and how they factor in to how a machine performs. How does one explain this mechanical lingo to someone who isn’t really mechanically inclined?

To answer this in brief, one can always refer to the age-old saying : “Horsepower is how fast you hit the wall, torque is how far you drag the wall with you.” However, this doesn’t really capture the true linking of these concepts. To this extent I have done some research and phrased it as best I could, so that even the most mechanically challenged person should be able to understand. So if you think “fuel goes in the tank, magic and unicorn farts happen, and then the vehicle moves forward”, pull up a chair, grab a notepad, because class is in session.

Before we can get into the nitty-gritty detail, I think it is appropriate to first create a scenario to help explain what I’m about to say. So, create the following image: you have a work horse, capable of pulling a specific load, let’s call him Steve. Steve is connected to a rope that runs through an intricate pulley system that can alter how force is applied by a pull of a lever. The other end of the rope is attached to a weight. Everybody got that? Now let’s dive into the first concept.

Torque

You will not find a dictionary definition here, as these are just words that don’t really explain the effect of how torque applies. To define torque, once again it’s important to create an image: Engines consist of pistons moving up and down, applying force to a crankshaft. It’s the crankshaft that converts the up and down motion of the pistons to rotation. Think of torque as the amount of force the engine turns the crankshaft with. Alternatively think of torque as how strong you would have to be in order to stop that rotation. The higher the torque output of an engine, the stronger the rotational force of the crankshaft. This is usually measured in ft.lb (foot pounds) or n.m (Newton metre) depending on which side of the big blue pond you are on.

To bring Steve back into the picture, Steve’s torque output would determine whether or not Steve can apply enough force to move the weight attached to the rope. This is the force measurement that defines how easily Steve can overcome the static friction of the weight, and overcome inertia. In laymen’s terms: It’s the measurement of how quickly Steve can get the weight moving and at what rate the weight would accelerate.

*Side note for all the two-wheel fans reading this: Torque is also the magical measurement that determines if your bike’s front end would still lift in 3rd gear.

Horsepower

This is where the explanation becomes a little tricky, as horsepower is directly linked to torque output. We all now understand that torque is the force that the crankshaft rotates with. We next have to determine how “good” or “efficiently” or “consistently” that rotational force is delivered.

To go back to Steve. We know that Steve can apply X ft.lb or Y N.m of torque. Now we can create the scenario where Steve can move the weight, weighing 100 kg (220 lbs), a distance of 2.5 foot, in one second. This means that Steve, with his torque output of 550 ft.lbs (745,58 n.m), is able to produce 1 horsepower. In this 1 hp = 550 ft.lbs of torque delivered in 1 second.

Now imagine that Steve has a buddy. Another work horse that we will call Phillip. Phillip agrees to help Steve to pull this 100 kg or 220 lb weight. Together Steve and Phillip pull it a distance of 5 foot, in one second. Keep in mind that Phillip and Steve individually can still only apply torque of 550 ft.lbs. The torque output has remained unchanged, but the horsepower output has doubled to 2 hp.

*Side note: the average horse produces about 1 horsepower.

Thus, horsepower is essentially the product of the torque produced or applied in a specific time. Linking this back to an internal combustion engine, usually increasing the number of cylinders would lead to an increase of horsepower. Alternatively, altering how much torque a piston applies to the crankshaft would also alter how much horsepower is produced. That is why, increasing bore size, and compression ratios leads to higher horsepower, because, effectively, each cylinder is now applying more torque to the system.

So… now back to the question of which is more important. To answer this question: torque is the power that can be applied by the engine. Horsepower is how well the aforementioned torque is delivered. Therefore neither is more important in relation to one another, unless another aspect is thrown into the mix…

Power-to-weight ratio

So we now know that horsepower is the amount of torque that can be applied in a set time, but what does this mean for different types of vehicles. Well, let’s first refer back to 1 hp Steve. In the scenario we know that Steve has to pull a weight of 100 kg, and can do so with 550 ft.lbs of torque. So, to determine the power-to-weight ratio of Steve we do the following: We take the horsepower that Steve can apply and divide that by the weight that needs to be moved, in metric tons. This would look a little something like this:

1                                                           |           –  Steve’s horsepower.
0.1                                                        |           – The 100 kg weight converted to metric tons
=  10 horsepower per ton.

I don’t really know whether this is good or bad, seeing as Steve is a horse, and one would never really need to determine the power-to-weight ratio of a horse. However we now know how to determine the power-to-weight ratio. Which means that we can now use this math in a different scenario. Let’s say that we have a 150 hp engine that we are now going to use in 3 different types of vehicles. A bike, weighing around 190 kg, with the engine installed and without a rider. An empty car, with the engine installed weighing around 1200 kg. Lastly a truck, without a trailer, with the engine installed, weighing about 4500 kg. Keep in mind that the exact same engine would be fitted in each of the vehicles. Now the math looks a little something like this;

Bike

150                                                | – the horsepower from the engine.
0.19                                               | – the 190 kg weight converted to metric tons.
= 789 horsepower per ton.

This would be a ratio in the supercar territory, and which explains why most modern sports bikes accelerate like a bat out of hell. A vehicle with this type of power-to-weight ratio would definitely feel very aggressive and sporty on acceleration.

Car

150                                                | – the horsepower from the engine.
1.2                                                 | – the 1200 kg weight converted to metric tons.
= 125 horsepower per ton.

This is pretty much what one can expect from the family sedan. It would be able to adequately transport you from A to B, but it wouldn’t be an experience to write home about.

Truck

150                                                | – the horsepower from the engine.
4.5                                                 | – the 4500 kg weight converted to metric tons.
= 33 horsepower per ton.

This is very poor. This semi-truck would barely be able to move itself about, let alone pull a loaded trailer. Normally a vehicle such as this would have much, much more horsepower, however this was only done to illustrate that different vehicle weights also factor in on how a vehicle performs.

With all the above in mind it becomes a little more clear. Horsepower is the definite defining characteristic when it comes to how a vehicle can and will perform, when the weight of that vehicle is also brought into consideration. In essence, the power-to-weight ratio of a vehicle will determine how well the vehicle copes with acceleration and an all together aggressive feel.

Bonus concept: Power curve

For those of you who have now scratched your heads and thought : “how is this power available from idle” or “whats the purpose of a gearbox then”. This section is especially for you.

This is the reason why Steve’s rope was connected to a pulley system that can alter force with the pull of a lever. Think of Steve as being the engine of that system, and to make Steve’s job as easy as possible one sometimes need to trade torque for speed, or vice versa. This is exactly the job of the gearbox.

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Power curve of the 2008 Triumph Street Triple 675. View source here.

View the power curve above. As one can see the torque output of the engine is very consistent throughout the RPM range. However, at around 2500 RPM the engine barely produces 20 hp. This means at low revolutions, the engine is not very efficiently applying torque to the system. The maximum of 92 hp is only achieved at the peak end of the rev range. This means that if an engine would only have a direct drive, one would only have 20 hp to pull away with. This is would prove to be very difficult.

This is where our hero, the gearbox, steps in. This is a mechanism containing different ratios (usually 5 or 6) between the speed of the input (crankshaft) and output (wheels) shafts. These different ratios allow the driver to trade speed for torque (the 1st gear end of the spectrum), where the crankshaft could be turning around 2 and a half times faster than the wheels. Thus giving the vehicle more torque to overcome inertia. In essence the driver would be able to use close to the maximum horsepower to get the vehicle moving from a standstill, without much strain on the engine.

Or vice versa, trading torque for speed (5th or 6th gear end of the spectrum) where the crankshaft could be completing about half a rotation for every rotation of the wheel. Here the driver trades torque for speed. In essence having the wheels rotate faster than the crankshaft. This either leads to an increase in top speed, or alternatively a more fuel-economic lower speed. However, attempting to accelerate quickly would put a lot of strain on the engine, hence the intuitive gearing down before accelerating.

It is now, with all this new-found knowledge, that I must send you into the world to experience the science for yourself. In that sense I wish you a safe ride and very enjoyable journeys.

Rim and Rubber Assembly

Hi once more from the blinking cursor on my screen. Those of you who follow my ramblings know about my bucket list of events and destinations that I have set myself for this year. Prospects of completing the list seem to be waning in my current situation. This had led to me being in one of my notorious slumps.

Luckily, family will always come to the rescue. My birthday was recently and the family decided to treat me to a meal at one of the restaurants I wanted to visit on my bucket list. Just the pick me up that I so desperately needed.

Rim and Rubber Assembly

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What a motto.

Situated at 26 Gleneagles Road, Greenside, Johannesburg, Rim and Rubber Assembly fits perfectly in the Greenside vibe. An area known for shops and restaurants that cater for niche markets. Rim and Rubber definitely caters for a very distinguished niche market, namely, bike enthusiasts.

I’ve added a map for those of you in South Africa who would like to check it out. And here’s a link to their Facebook page.

The venue

Entering the venue one is greeted by friendly staff and some very interesting motorcycle related decor. A few things caught my eye. The first is cocktail tables made from old, spoked motorcycle rims. Something every man should dream of having in his man cave.

The second eye catcher is the workshop at the back of the venue. Yes, you read correctly. Rim and Rubber has a fully equipped, fully functioning motorcycle workshop at the back of the restaurant. From what I’ve heard, some amazing custom bikes have been built in that workshop.

The third point if interest, a small apparel shop just across from the workshop. I didn’t pay much attention to the apparel store, as my eye was caught by a rare beauty. An Ariel 600 VB, pretty much in mint condition, on a display pedestal just left of the main entrance.

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What a beautiful machine. Ariel 600 VB.

Most of the decor in the restaurant is either motorcycles or motorcycle related. To give example: there is an Aprilia RS250 hanging from the wall. Not a shell, a complete motorcycle, engine and all.

Just across from the Aprilia hangs an Honda 50cc. And above the bar, what looks to be an old Yamaha frame and engine.

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Yamaha frame, engine and wheels above the bar.

This place is heaven for a self-confessed bike addict such as myself. The decor and vibe alone puts one on a fuel induced high. One feels as at home in this venue, as one would feel at home in your garage. A restaurant I would definitely visit again, based only on the vibe.

Another reason to visit this place is the fact that the Bike Show records their episodes at the venue on Wednesdays. Although I haven’t personally seen this, I’ve heard that it can be quite the experience. The place is usually filled on weekends with patrons enjoying big screen broadcasts of either SBK, MotoGP or F1 events. Be sure to book a table in advance if you wish to visit at the time of such an event.

The food

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Beef Pepper Pie

To be honest, I feared how the food would turn out. The vibe that I get from the space was just phenomenal and what I had read about the food made me slightly nervous. The reviews on Zomato and Facebook definitely did not do it justice. Once our order had arrived, that knot in my stomach vanished instantly.

I had ordered the Beef Pepper Pie, served with chips, salad, an crumbed mushroom. To describe this meal in one word: Delicious. Add to this the interesting plating options, giving the meal a unique spin. The crumbed mushrooms, not exactly crumbed, rather battered, but tasty nonetheless. The pie was far from what I had expected, in the good sense. A creamy beef and mushroom filling topped with a quiche-like pastry. It definitely tastes like a home-made pie should. The salad added the much needed greens to this dish, a fine compliment. The fries on the other hand, not tasting as home made. The chip spice was good, but overwhelming in relation to the other aspects of this dish.

To summarise, it’s a creamy, delicious, home-style meal that I would definitely order again.

The cost

Here’s the big one. I know the average man is on a budget, and some niche spots tends to want to break said budget. Rim & Rubber on the other hand, breaks the mold. For a family of five, it costs about the same as a meal at your average steak ranch here in South Africa. In comparison, I feel one gets far more value for money here, than at said steak ranch. The quality of food and ambience is definitely where the value lies.

On that full stomach, I wish all a safe ride, and enjoyable journey.

Bike envy

Hello to everyone in the vast reaches of the world-wide web. Once more I apologise for a very long bout of silence. My personal duties have kept me so busy that I barely had time to dream about motorcycle adventures, let alone write about them. In addition, my little yellow monster has not been itself lately, and my car had also broken down. This had led to an interesting two weeks.

Mechanical MacGyver was kind enough to let me use his ride in this stressful time. Keeping me on wheels, whilst I see to the repairs of my bike and my car. What a ride it is. A 2006 Honda CBR1000R Fireblade, slightly modified, to add some excitement. Using this machine to commute really gives one an in depth feel for what a bike is about. In my two weeks of using this machine I realised the following things:

  1. I really really really want one. They are extremely powerful bikes in view of their small engine displacement. Furthermore, this bike has an amazing seating position, even if you are a 6’4″ bloke such as myself.
  2. Although it was an amazing ride, these bikes were never really made for the daily commute. Something that I had noticed after the excitement had worn off. They tend to heat up very quickly when stuck in traffic, and one never really needs to go above third gear in 60 km/h speed zones.
  3. Big sports bikes turn heads. Not only the heads of pedestrians, but fellow bikers as well.

But as all things go, things must come to an end. My little yellow monster is in a good enough condition to keep me on the road, and therefore my fling with the Fireblade has come to end. An interesting exprerience indeed, but I’ve never been happier than on the bike I call my own.

On that note, I wish all of you a safe ride and enjoyable journey.

Winter is coming

Hello again to all of you out there on the world-wide web. The first few days of March have passed, and that makes this the start of the fall season here in the southern hemisphere. As I’m writing this, I can feel a definite change in the temperature over the past few days. Along with this we have been having some really peculiar rainfall in the South African High veld. Winter is coming indeed.

However, for us here in the High veld, this does not mean that the riding has come to an end for the season. Nor that time has come to prep our bikes for winter storage. For those die-hard riders among us, the change of season is merely an indication to prepare for a little cooler ride. See, in the Gauteng province we experience average winter temperatures of between 17,8°C (64°F) and 3,4°C (38°F) (around middle June). Yes, that is cold for someone used to 29°C (82°F) summer weather. Yes, the wind chill will be something fierce, but we fortunately do not have to deal with the possibility of snow and ice endangering our ride. I have found if one prepares well for a ride during this time of year it can be as good, if not better than a summer ride.

This is especially true in the early mornings on weekends. The roads seem eerily abandoned. The cold piercing through your riding gear, keeping one alert. An experience quite enjoyable for someone fond of colder temperatures, such as myself. In addition, empty, twisting, country roads are a playground to bikers. I am planing several mid winter trips this year, that’s if I can get my bike fixed properly in time.

On that note, I wish the die-hard winter riders a safe ride, and enjoyable journey.

2017 Bucket list kicking the bucket.

Good day to all our followers from all around the world-wide web. Once more, I apologise for the long bouts of silence that has recently been occurring on the site. Things on my side of the screen have just gone to the dogs in recent days.

Let us start at the beginning. At the start of 2017 I had posted about South African Biking Events that I would like to attend in the year. This has become my biking bucket list for the year, and I would have loved to complete it. However, the mechanical gremlins just couldn’t resist being drawn to my Honda VFR400R, commonly known as the little yellow monster. Several issues decided to rear their ugly heads, prohibiting me from enjoying one of my favourite activities, riding. You can read all about my struggles in my opinion of the problem with sports bikes.

From the time that I have posted the above, I have been able to reassemble my bike and have done a few short trips in the neighbourhood. To my surprise the new final drive dampers have worked wonders in smoothing out power delivery. No more jerky pull-away or engine braking. On the other hand, the entire exercise of removing the engine to install one pesky oil seal has proven useless. On my return today, I noticed that oil came gushing from my power plant once again. This means that my machine may have to be parked once more, until this problem can be resolved permanently.

This brings me to the problem at hand. One of the events on my bucket list is the Impala Rally 2017. This gathering takes place from 10 to 12 March 2017, slightly more than one week away. Taken into account that my bike parts have totally obliterated my budget, and that the oil leak on my bike shows no signs of stopping, it is highly unlikely that I will be able to attend the rally.

On this note of despair, I wish all of you who are riding a safe ride, and enjoyable journey.

The problem with sports bikes.

A sports bike, in my opinion, is one of the most exhilarating bike type/layouts available on the market. There’s just something about these full fairing beauties that makes you feel like a MotoGP rider as you fly down the straights and try to drag a knee around bends. A sensation I’d assume to be similar to straddling a stinger missile. Apart from just being fast, these machines look fast even when standing still. Poised like a predator, just waiting to pounce.

However, those beautiful body lines on that aerodynamic masterpiece of a fairing kit often hide some serious flaws. Failures, leaks and breaks are often hidden behind some sort of panel, cover or fairing. Something that I have recently discovered on a bike of my own. For quite some time I’ve noticed that my chain had been gathering a lot of oil residue. Something I wrote off to the cheap chain lubricant that I have been using. After a recent trip to Hartebeespoort dam, I discovered that the oil seal on the gearbox output shaft had finally given in. It had been slowly leaking and mucked up my chain. The long trip must have pushed it beyond its limits.

Little old me decided to pull the seal in the easiest/crudest way possible and went to all my local part stores to find a replacement. Turns out it’s a part only Honda brings into the country, and to my delight (sarcasm) it was on permanent back order. As my only resort I had to order this, along with new final drive dampers, a sprocket set and chain. The parts, apart from the seal, were in need of some attention and what better time than down time to do some maintenance. The order had been placed three weeks ago.

This brings us to the day before yesterday. I decided to check on the progress of my order. Luckily, my parts (some all the way from Japan) arrived mere hours before I decided to check on my order.

As soon as I arrived home I set about fitting the new bits to my bike. Not really in the mood for manual labour, I started with the rear drive hub.

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Fresh dampers going into the rear drive hub.

I’ve been experiencing tons of shudder from the rear wheel on pull away and under engine braking. Coupled with a lot of play in the hub when the bike’s in gear, leads to the obvious conclusion that the final drive dampers are shot.

Upon disassembly, I discovered that the original rear dampers had turned to dust, literally. This meant dusting out the rear hub and installing the new dampers. Easy as pie, right? Here’s the interesting thing regarding the NC24-100’s damper set up. The forward and rear sections of a single damper is joined in the casting/moulding process. To those of us who aren’t in the know, one has to remove this joining section in order to assemble the hub again.

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New, generic sprocket vs old, lightweight sprocket.

Part of my rear drive hub maintenance was to fit a new rear sprocket before fitting it back on my bike. I had opted for a cheaper, aftermarket/generic sprocket as this was the best option for my budget. I use the term generic loosely, as the sprocket only fits a hand full of bikes, at most.

I would have preferred to replace the “lightweight” sprocket with one of the same type and make. Not really for any specific reason apart from the fact that I prefer the way it looks on the bike vs the generic one. I don’t quite understand why the “lightweight” sprocket costs that much more, as there is barely any difference in weight between the two sprockets.

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Rear drive hub complete.

As I’ve said before, I don’t really like the way the new sprocket looks, but function over form. The old sprocket had been worn down very badly, and has served me well for a few thousand kilometres. It was time for it to be replaced.

The new sprocket is a tad heavier, and this makes me curious to see how it affects the ride, if it will at all. I really don’t see it having any noticeable effect for a bloke using the bike as a commuter and weekend get away.

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Place oil seal here.

Everything I’ve described up to this point has absolutely nothing to do with the title of this post. The reason I feel this post is aptly titled is the instructions I received from the technicians on how to install the pesky little oil seal. It turns out that the oil seal has a lip that fits into a small groove in the upper crank casing. The easiest way to install it is to split the casing and insert it. Bugger…. …. ….

See here’s the punch line. In order to split the crank casing an a V 4 engine, one must remove the exhaust manifold that acts like a cradle around the bottom half of the engine. Take into account than on the NC 24 frame, the rear section of the manifold is blocked by a section of the frame. Therefore those bolts cannot be undone. Therefore the entire engine has to be removed in order to gain access to these bolts. I repeat… Bugger … …

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Motor down.

This brings us to yesterday. A day I would spend on nothing else, apart from removing the V 4 power plant from my beloved bike. This job is hard enough with two people. Think about how bad it was if you were man alone on this job.

 

After about two or three hours of draining fluids, undoing cables, wires, hoses, radiator mounts, and oil coolers, the engine found its way onto the floor of the shared garage. Here’s the fun part. After that massive hunk of steel and aluminium hit the ground it was time to wrestle… A good 120 kg (approximately 264 lb) dead lift brought this little power plant to rest on top of my newly claimed workshop table.

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On the table and starting to open up.

Now the fun could begin. Although I’ve owned this bike for about three years now, I’ve never had reason to open up the engine apart from the superficial. When I was restoring the bike, a quick glance into the casings with the sump removed revealed a nearly immaculate engine.

I set about removing the side covers over the magneto/stater and the opposite end which covers the clutch drum assembly. The starter, water and oil pump, and sump also had to go, as they were blocking access to some of the bolts holding the casing in place. Lots of care must be taken in removing the stater, any damage could lead to some catastrophic consequences.

Another big risk is, removing the lower casing leaves the crank shaft unsecured. Any movement or slippage on the cam gear train could have monumental consequences. Therefore it was time to call in the assistance of our in-house mad mechanic, Mechanical MacGyver. Not only has he had experience with similar jobs on other engines, he’s also been working on engines since before I was even born. This is a walk in the park for our mechanical maestro.

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DANGER!! Crank unsecured.

Minutes later, the crank case was open and the gloop left by the former mechanic had been scraped off. This is the point in time where I start sweating bullets. I was unable to get hold of a shop manual for the NC 24, and therefore I would be unable to reset the timing marks in the event that something does go wrong.

And I do believe that nothing was nudged or moved in any way. The slight markings I had made on the cam gear train teeth seemed to be unaltered. However the only way I would truly know if everything is fine is to take this little monster out on the road again.

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The troublesome seal, finally in its resting place.

Mechanical MacGyver made short work of the seal installation and the crank casing was sealed with fresh sealant and tightened down again within an hour of it being opened up in the first place. During this time I was able to get a glance of my main crank bearings, which seemed to be in amazing condition for a bike that had been badly neglected before I purchased it.

With the crank casing finally tightened down, and the oil pump and tubing securely back in place, we called it a night. My grandmother used to say that night-time work is shady work (an Afrikaans saying that seems to lose a lot of effect in translation). Keeping with that saying I will try to complete assembly of the V 4 power plant during the course of the day today.

It’s been more than three weeks since I’ve been able to go for a ride, and this has driven me to the edge of insanity. Once one has grown accustomed to biking everywhere, being trapped in a cage and stuck in traffic makes one long for the freedom offered by an iron steed.

For those of you who are on the road, I wish you a safe ride, and enjoy the journey.