Wednesday, 6th October, 2021...
There comes a time in every ol' fart biker's life when the empty space in the garage has to be filled with yet another bike. Five is an odd number, six is so much better. I've never owned a VFR but I did sit on one, way back, in the showroom of Coburn & Hughes, in Luton. I would have bought it there and then if I'd have been on my own, but I wasn't... my wife was with me and thought that what money we had could be spent in better ways... ho hum.
For almost two years, we've been living with the Covid-19 pandemic and what with the restrictions on travel, socialising and stuff, I've managed to save a modest amount of cash. All the bikes I currently own are in fine running order and I need a new project to keep me occupied. Old 'Brit Iron' is commanding seriously stupid money these days so I was looking for something different. My thoughts turned back to the VFR. The engine is probably one of the best that Honda ever put into a road bike. After the problems they encountered with the original VF750, the engine in the VFR was over-engineered to a massive degree. The engine is generally regarded as being 'bullet proof'. Currently, they are extremely good value with good examples fetching less that two grand.
I trawled the interweb and eventually found what I was looking for in an advert in the 'Auto Trader'. It's a late model VFR750FS from 1995, probably the best looking model of the VFRs, and I would get change out of 2 grand. It was in a dealers showroom in Swindon so I gave them a bell. The salesman gave what information I needed and was honest in his description. It had been through the hands of more than a few previous owners and had 67,000 miles on the clock, which shouldn't be a problem for this engine. It was offered with a short warranty and a full years MOT. Delivery was arranged, a payment made, and the bike was delivered to me early this afternoon. Only time will tell if I've bought a silk purse or a pig's ear. I did get off to a good start, however, as a nail was found in the rear tyre during the pre-delivery inspection. The punctured tyre has been replaced with a brand new Michelin 180/55 Pilot radial (Not exactly the correct size for the bike, it should be a 170/60 but I wasn't about to tell them to take it off.) That's a hundred and fifty quids worth of anyone's money. Fortunately, not mine!! There is a great video on YouTube that documents the history of the VFR (Vee Four Racing). If you're interested, you can view it HERE.
Friday, 8th October, 2021.
With the legalities completed the bike is now insured and taxed. Those very nice people at RH Insurance have agreed to add it to the five bikes I already have insured on my Classic Policy and it will only cost an additional £20 a year. I call that a 'result'. I had to wait 24 hours for the insurance to appear on the Motor Insurers Database before I could tax it, however. Today, I rolled it out of the garage for a pre-ride check. I located the oil level dip-stick. It's full of reasonably clean oil. The tyre pressures were a bit below what's recommended (36psi, front and 40psi, rear) so I added some air. I've no idea where the radiator cap is and I wasn't about to start stripping off the body panels to find it. I'll ask Les, my Honda technician mate, in due course. I checked that all the electrics worked as they should and familiarised myself with the switches and buttons. I reset the trip odometer and also reset the LCD dashboard clock. It all looked in remarkably good order. There are some small blemishes on the paint work and a couple of minor dents in the tank but nothing of any consequence. Time to put some petrol in and take her out for a ride. There wasn't a lot of fuel in the tank and the low fuel level warning light on the dashboard was 'on'. Unfortunately, I failed to note the reading on the fuel gauge, but no matter. I emptied a 5 litre can of petrol into the tank but couldn't actually see the fuel level. The warning light had gone out and the fuel gauge now indicated over 3/4 of a tankful. Hmmm..... I dumped in another 10 litres. Now I could see the fuel level but the tank was by no means full. The tank holds 21 litres according to the specification. I'd put in 15 so it was at least 3/4 full now. The fuel gauge was hard up against the stop at the 'Full' end of the scale. Not a very accurate instrument. I'll make a note of that and get a replacement sender unit in due course. OK... time for a ride!!
First Impressions... were favourable. The bike felt comfortable as I tootled off down the road. Where I live in rural Lincolnshire, there is a network of minor country roads out by the Wash, stretching from Sutton Bridge in the east to Fosdyke in the west. I have developed a 'test circuit' of some 35 miles on these roads that I ride my bikes round. There are some 'twisties', some corners and some long straights (but no hills). Unfortunately, at this time of the year, the farm traffic lays an awful lot of mud onto the roads, which limited me a bit. On the whole, I was very happy with the way the bike performed. On Red Cow Drove, a 2 mile long straight with a slight curve in the middle, I managed to wind the throttle open in 4th gear... 'Kin 'Ell... It's fast!! Fortunately, the triple disc brakes are well up to the task and hauled the bike back down to something a little more comfortable. The run back down the A17 from Fosdyke was congested in both directions with lorries and huge tractors hauling trailers so I just stayed with the traffic and enjoyed the ride. Looking forward to the next outing.
Sunday, 17th October, 2021.
I didn't have to wait long for the next ride out. Yesterday was fine and reasonably warm so I headed to the local petrol station to fill the tank and reset the trip odometer. A precaution, as I don't trust the dashboard fuel gauge. A search on the internet suggested that 35 m.p.g was about average for these bikes. With a full tank, that equates to around a 150 mile range. I headed south... to The Two Wheel Centre in Harpenden to be precise, to meet up with Les, Nick and Sophie for a chat and a cup of tea. I called in to see my sister in St Ippolytes on the way as I hadn't seen her for a while and I wanted to show off my latest acquisition. As suspected, she wasn't overly enthusiastic. Older brother would be better occupied planting flowers and playing Scrabble rather than racing around the country on a 150m.p.h. motorcycle... Ho hum... Not going to happen! My younger niece told me I need a carer when she saw a photo of me up at High Neb in a howling gale a year or two ago. Heaven knows what she'll think of me when my sister tells her I've got ANOTHER motor bike. (My elder niece saw the same photo and posted a short note... "Old uncles rock!!")
Having had tea at the TWC, and having the tacit approval of Les, one of Honda's biggest fans, I headed to the nearest petrol station. I had around 130 miles on the clock and needed to fill up again. Surprisingly, it only took 10.57 litres (2.33 gallons) to fill the tank. That's about 56 m.p.g. Much better than I'd expected, but to be fair, I wasn't exactly racing it. I guess that figure will drop as I get familiar with the bike and start riding it harder. That will have to wait until next year, probably. There are one or two issues to sort out over the winter. The tank has three dents in it but I've sourced an un-dented replacement of the correct colour on the internet. It also has a fuel gauge sender unit fitted so it may well sort out two problems. There is some repair work to do to the body panels at the rear end as it turns out that the rear light assembly is not secure. The fixing tabs have broken and need sorting out before I ride the bike again. Currently, the Bonneville in in the workshop but the work on that has been completed. I'll move that into the garage and bring the VFR into the workshop sometime in the not-too-distant future. That will give me all winter to sort out the wrinkles and give it a full service.
Second Impressions... It's quite hard work. With a full tank, the bike is a bit "top heavy" and tends to fall into corners if you let it. I found initially, I was too stiff, and riding it like my old AJS. Being a bit too careful, probably. By the time I'd got a hundred or so miles on the clock I'd loosened up a bit and riding it a bit harder into bends. Don't get me wrong... I wasn't exactly wearing out the knee sliders but I was definitely leaning it over further with more confidence. Les reckons that the limit will be me, not the bike. At the moment, about 250 miles is as far as I'd want to ride it in one day. By the time I got home, my hands and shoulder were aching significantly. Hmm...
Wednesday, 20th October, 2021.
Something was bugging me... It was the cowl over the rear of the dual seat and the two grab handles that stuck up like a pair of horns. I had to do something about them. First off, a previous owner (hereafter referred to as the PO) had seen fit to adorn the cowl with a "Yoshimura" badge. I know not why, for it is a genuine Honda part. So that has to come off but first, I undid the two retaining bolts and took the cowl off completely. It's easier to work on it in the workshop. Fortunately, the adornment was only stuck on with a contact adhesive and it came off easily. The sides of the cowl had been seriously attacked with what looked like the PO's false teeth to create the cut-outs that cleared the two grab handles. Quite honestly, they were a mess. Much too big and two completely different shapes. It's unlikely that I will ever carry a pillion passenger, so the grab handles are superfluous. I have it on Les's authority that they can be refitted under the set and only brought out in the unlikely event of a passenger being carried, in which case, the cowl will have to come off anyway. With that in mind, I'll repair the cutouts and restore the cowl to how it was originally, without them. As someone once said... "We have the technology. We can re-build him (it)." To that end, I've ordered a small sheet of 2.5mm thick black ABS sheet, the same material as the cowl, and I'll cut out two patches and fix them in. That repair will be documented on a separate web page, once the repair has been successfully accomplished and I'll put a link to it at the bottom of this blog. It will, of course, then require repainting. Honda, in their wisdom, affix a label under the seat stating the colour and the paint code... In this case "Color R-158P" and "Code R158D". I've ordered an aerosol of colour base coat and clear lacquer top coat. Hopefully, I'll be able to restore the cowl correctly. The more "eagle eyed" amongst you will no doubt have noticed that the front fixing point is also broken. I'll attempt a repair on that as well.
I've not been idle at the computer, either. Fowlers website has full parts lists for Honda bikes. Very useful when ordering spare parts from them or that very nice Mr David Silver, purveyor of spare parts for aging Hondas. I've ordered some stuff that I know I'll need to service the VFR... oil, filters, plugs, cam cover gaskets etc. It's not cheap!! It came to over two hundred of our finest British quids, but as I have no service history for the bike and it has done over 67,000 miles, we (me and Les) will be doing a major service, including the valve shims.
Friday, 22nd October, 2021.
While I was waiting for some stuff I'd ordered to arrive, I got the VFR into the workshop, and with the help of a local friend, Jonny Benton, we got it onto the workbench and up on its centre stand. That was yesterday... Today, I stripped off the seat, side and rear fairing panels and rear light assembly. As mentioned earlier, the rear light was loose and now I know why, but I'll come to that later. There have been more than a few POs and some of them weren't as conscientious as they might have been. A number of the fairing fixings have been brutalised. The two main fixings for the side panels had both seen better days. The left hand captive M8 nut had been stripped at some point and repaired. That was OK and was serviceable. The right hand one was also stripped had had been bodged with a non-standard bolt. That I've repaired by brazing a new M8 threaded insert into the frame. I've ordered new bolts and rubber mountings for both side panels. The rear light was loose because one side of the lower plastic cowl had completely broken away. New parts like that are no longer available from Honda but I have managed to find a good one on eBay for £13. It's the wrong colour, but hopefully, I'll have enough in the aerosols to paint that as well as the other parts that I'm going to repair. A number of fixing screws for the panels around the rear light weren't doing their job properly either. I've ordered all new fixings for those panels as well. The left hand side panel has a nasty crack in it but hopefully, I'll be able to repair that too. There are some second hand ones on the internet but I'll have a go at repairing this one before I spend a lot of hard earned pension on replacements.
Sunday, 24th October, 2021.
I've not had a lot of experience at repairing plastic fairing panels. The only other fully faired bike I've owned was a 1986 Honda VF1000F-2 Bol D'Or that had 120,000 miles on the clock. The fairing panels on that were so beat-up that they were all held together with cable ties. With that in mind, I decided to test my skills on a small panel first, probably the smallest panel on the bike, the rear light upper cowl. That had a small crack in it adjacent to the central fixing lug. I'd acquired a cheap electric tool for repairing plastic panels from a well known internet market place, possibly located in Brazil. It passes an electric current through a steel "wavy staple" to heat it up and melt the plastic, leaving the staple embedded across the crack. Nothing venture, nothing gained so I gave it a go.
Hmm... I have to say that for a first attempt, that went reasonably well. The electrikery thingy did what it said on the box and there is now a wavy steel staple embedded in the plastic, at both ends of the crack. That holds it together securely but it doesn't actually "mend" it, if you see what I mean. According to the writing moulded onto the underside of the panel, the material is "ABS", which, if you really want to know, is the abbreviation for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene. I knew the two years I spent at college studying Organic Chemistry wouldn't be wasted, because I know that it's the same stuff that plastic waste pipes and fittings are made of... and you can glue that stuff together, right? Right!! I cleaned the back surface and applied a liberal coating of waste pipe solvent cement to the crack, then left it for 24 hours. It's now really solid and should last another 26 years.
The paint I ordered from Advanced Paints has arrived. One 400ml aerosol of red base coat and one 400ml aerosol of clear top coat. Now there might just be a problem with that. When you check the Honda colour code on-line, it comes up as metallic red. I didn't think that my bike had metallic paint and Honda's name for the colour, "Pure Red", did nothing to make me believe otherwise; particularly as the two other colours that Honda painted the VFR in 1995 had "metallic" in the name... "Mute Black Metallic" and "Starlight Silver Metallic". I reasoned that if it was metallic paint, it would have been called "Pure Red Metallic". Anyway, when I spoke to the guy at Advanced Paint, he told me that there were two different paints with the same Honda code, a solid red and a metallic red. I ordered the solid red paint. I hope I've made the right choice. That's another reason I've chosen to start with the smallest panel on the bike. There will be less to correct if I've made the wrong choice.
Wednesday, 27th October, 2021.
Good news and bad news... Good news first. I was very happy with the repair to the little cowl panel. I'd ground out the crack on the face side, filled it with a flexible epoxy filler, and then rubbed it down with 320 grit waterproof sanding paper. I gave it 5 coats of hi-build filler primer and left it for 24 hours. That was flattened off with 1200 grit paper and then had 5 coats of red base coat. Again, left for 24 hours and then that, too was flatted with 1200 grit paper before being given just one coat of gloss clear lacquer. At that point I stopped but even with just one coat of lacquer and no polishing, I was impressed with the finish.
Now the bad news... the colour match with the original was a bit off. Not easy to see in the photo, but the new paint was a little more 'orange' than the original paint work. In fairness, that may well be down to me. When I bought the filler-primer, I didn't realise it was yellow. That may well have contributed to the slightly orange hue of the finished job. I've also done a bit more on-line research and it turns out that I may well have ordered the wrong base coat from Advance Paints. It seems that the general opinion on the VFR chat forums is that the red should be the pearl metallic. Ho hum... Anyway, I've now ordered a couple of aerosol tins of white primer and a tin of the pearl metallic red from Advance Paints. In due course, I'll sand the cowl back to the plastic, apply white primer and the pearl base coat. We'll see if that is a better match!! Win some, loose some!!
Friday, 29th October, 2021.
The replacement rear light lower cowl that I sourced on the interweb turned up a couple of days ago. It's the wrong colour and has a couple of light scuff marks but nothing that I can't correct. At least this one isn't broken and should go a long way to securing the rear light correctly. It was a bit on the grubby side so a quick turn in the parts washer (my kitchen dishwasher) and it was sparkling. The aerosols of white primer and red pearl base coat have also arrived so I'll be good to go when I come back from a fishing holiday in Norfolk.
Friday, 12th November, 2021.
After a reasonably successful week's pike fishing on the River Bure, it was time to get back to the VFR. Quite a bit has happened since my last entry on this blog. First off, I wasn't altogether happy with the repair I made to the rear sub-frame thread. The paint on the sub-frame, or lack of it, was also giving me some concern. The metalwork was pretty rusty on the underside where the paint had fallen off over the years. I decided to take it off, put two new threaded inserts in and get the frame powder coated. In the great scheme of things, it wasn't all that difficult. There were a few electrical bits and pieces to take off but they were mostly held in rubber mountings and could be removed from the frame without disconnecting them. That just left the pillion footrest hangers and exhaust silencer mounting. With those off, the four mounting bolts at the front end were removed and the sub-frame was slid out backwards. The rear threaded fixings were repaired properly and the frame is now with Breckland Finishing in Thetford to be media blasted, then powder coated with a chromate primer and a silver top coat.
While the rear sub-frame was away, there were a few other things I wanted to do. The paint on the rear wheel didn't look too bright so the wheel came off for a closer inspection. 'Kin 'ell, those wheel nuts were tight... much tighter than they should have been and I had to get a bit inventive to get them undone. Up close, the paint on the wheel was not good. It had bubbled up and lifted allowing the aluminium underneath to corrode... badly. That was a bit of a bummer. While the corrosion could be removed by media blasting, powder coating wouldn't disguise the pitted aluminium and it's structural integrity may well have been compromised. A quick search on the interweb revealed that there were a number of second hand wheels available, all in better condition than mine. I will be driving down to Bury St. Edmunds this evening to pick up a replacement. While the wheel was off, I had a look at the rear brake calliper. I know from experience, that single sided, sliding callipers could, if not looked after, seize up and no longer slide as they should. Fortunately, the calliper seemed to be in perfect condition. The pads were more than half worn so for the sake of a few quid, a set on new EBC brake pads were slipped in. I've also sourced a new set of wheel nuts to replace the very rusty ones fitted. To buy a set specifically for a VFR750 would cost the best part of £38. However, Honda in their wisdom, used the same nuts on their cars and a set of four chrome nuts, listed for a Honda Civic, only cost £8. That's what I call a result!
Sunday, 14th November, 2021.
I collected the replacement rear wheel and I'm happy to say that it is much better condition that the one that was fitted to my bike. I've taken the front wheel off and I'll take them both over to Central Wheel Components in Coleshill. They will media blast the old paint off and powder coat them. I had to remove the front wheel bearings as any grease they contain may leak out during the powder coating process and ruin the powder coating. I've already obtained a new set of bearings and grease seals to put back in due course. Like in the rear brake, the brake pads in the front callipers were more than half worn, so they will be replaced, too.
The rear cowl mouldings have now been re-sprayed with the pearl metallic paint and look good. The colour match isn't perfect but I can live with that. It's better now that I used a white primer undercoat.
Tuesday, 16th November, 2021.
Yesterday, I took the 'new' rear wheel and the front wheel to Gildo's Motorcycle Centre in Wisbech. Adam (good bloke) kindly agreed to take off, and dispose of, the old tyres for me. Splendid... tomorrow, I'll be taking them both to Central Wheel Components to be stripped of the old paint and powder coated. I will no doubt be meeting up with a couple of mates in The George and Dragon in Stoke Golding (the 'Brewery Tap' for the Church End Brewery) to enjoy a pint of lunch.
Having sorted out the plastic rear cowl panels, it was time to have a look at the left hand side panel. There was a nasty split in the plastic which needed to be sorted before it became any worse. I did try the heated staple method but unfortunately, the panel wasn't thick enough and the staple went straight though. Time for Plan "B". I cut up a number of pieces of 2mm thick black ABS sheet. Having removed the paint from around the split on the inside of the panel, the pieces of ABS were cemented over the split with an acetone based solvent adhesive. I did think about grinding out split on the outside of the panel and filling it with a flexible filler, but I don't think the paint match would be good enough and decided to just leave the split as it is. I feel it will be less visible that way. I'll keep my eyes open for a second hand panel. They do come up on eBay from time to time.
Link to Index and Home Page.
Link to Matchless G3/LS rebuild page.
Link to AJS M18S web page.
Link to Triumph Tiger 90 rebuild page.
Link to Triumph Bonneville T120R rebuild page.
Link to Matchless G80CS page.
Last updated 16/11/2021