Confessions of a negligent Motorcyclist

Forgive me Honda, for I have sinned.

There was a spate of ‘Automotive Confessions’ on Twitter yesterday. Most concerned people admitting to owning terrible cars or bikes, and indeed paying over the odds for said abominations. So this got me thinking, do I have any Automotive skeletons in my closet? Turns out I do, but not in terms of owning vehicles considered to be lacking in any kind of merit. My confession is one of the crippling and ultimately terminal  neglect of one of my vehicles. I’ve killed…

A little background. I passed my motorbike test in 2002 on my first bike, a Suzuki GS125 which I’d owned since I was 17. When doing your motorbike test (I think this is still the case) you can either do it on a 500cc ‘big bike’, or a 125cc. If you pass on a big bike you can then go out and buy any bike you like, without any restrictions. If you pass on a 125, like I did, you are restricted to a bike of 33bhp or less, for a period of two years. A lot of people buy a middle sized bike, like a Suzuki SV650 and fit a 33bhp restrictor, which you can then remove, once your probation is completed. I however was skint and couldn’t afford a ‘proper’ bike so I trawled the classifieds for a bike that had less than 33bhp as standard. This invariably meant, small and old if it was to be cheap. I struck gold, £290 got me a low mileage 1983 Honda CB250 RS. The RS bit sounded good so I went for it. This had 28bhp, good(ish) handling and, being a Honda single cylinder, was bulletproof. I fell in love with this bike, it felt so much faster than my 125, it would do an indicated 80 mph with one’s chin on the petrol tank. I went everywhere on it as it was my only form of transport, great times.

Exactly the same as my RS, only in much better nick

Fast forward to July 2005, I’m at the end of my 2nd year at university and I have landed a summer placement at the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA) in Coventry. The MCIA is a  motorcycle industy body, involved in the promotion and safeguarding of motorcycling in the UK, great dissertation fodder. The MCIA had a pool of press bikes on hand, kindly provided by the likes of Triumph, Yamaha, Suzuki and Honda. One of my roles was to pick up a brand new, all black R6 from Yamaha UK in Weybridge. So I pootled down all the way from Coventry to pick up this bike on my little Honda which, even on the motorway, performed admirably. University meant no money, so I couldn’t upgrade from my 250, even though my two years were up.

The R6 I picked up from Yamaha UK, incredible.

I hopped on the R6 and frankly, after an intimidating start, had some of the best fun of my life on that bike, it was mental. I don’t buy in to this ‘600s are for girls’ bollocks that is spouted by certain sportsbike riders, it was hilariously fast, but I digress. So, my time with the R6 came to an end, and I blasted back to Yamaha UK to drop it off and collect my RS. Compared to the R6, it felt like it was about to fall apart, even dangerous but eventually we got to know each other again. On the ride home however, it didn’t feel as powerful as I remembered. I put this down to having just gotten off a bike with roughly 90bhp more, so continued on my merry way. Just before I got on to the M25, I stopped, the bike just didn’t feel right, it was very sluggish to rev, ignoring any R6 comparisons. I unscewed the oil filler cap, which sat conviniently on the top of the crankcase. Upon doing this, little whisps of white smoke came floating out and I thought to myself, ‘ooh, that smells a bit hot’. Yes, I know, this should have rung alarm bells but as I’d never opened the filler cap on the bike when the engine was hot I didn’t see this as an issue *facepalm*

I pressed on.

Just as I passed Prodrive at Banbury on the M40, it happened. Revs dropped dramatically, BANG, then a chirp from the rear tyre as it locked, whip the clutch in and coast. It had seized. It then dawned on me, I had run the thing out of oil. I couldn’t remember the last time I had checked the oil, let alone topped it up, poor thing. I phoned a mate, who came with a van to pick me up. It was clearly destroyed, it would freewheel even when in gear, no compression owing to the massive hole that the valve punched through the top of the piston.

My dad is an automotive mechanical engineer, when I got home and told him what had happened I could tell he was ashamed. His eldest had royally knackered a bike through neglect and lazyness that would have lasted for years more. That said, let’s look at the positives, my little Honda did the thick end of 70 miles with no oil in it, now that’s build quality.

So there it is, my confession, but I’ve learnt from it. Let’s just say I’ve checked my oil levels very closely ever since.

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