Showing posts sorted by relevance for query fireblade. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query fireblade. Sort by date Show all posts

Sunday 11 April 2021

Zero Sum Game: motorcycle restoration as a hobby

The Fireblade project motorcycle has moved on to its next owner.  It had been sitting in a garage for the better part of a decade before I got my hands on it; the result of a bitter divorce.  The fuel system was shot and had dumped gas into the engine.  It had just over twenty-five thousand kilometres on it, but hadn't been used in a long time.

Over the winter of 2019/20 I rebuilt the carburetors, resealed and sorted the fuel tank and got a new petcock, all of which conspired to put the otherwise eager Honda back on the road again.  When I checked the valves they were exactly in the middle of spec and some of the cleanest internal parts I've ever seen (thanks to the gasoline in the engine?).

Once the fuel system was sorted and the bike had a few sympathetic oil changes and other maintenance addressed (like new tires and a K&N air filter), it was licensed and put on the road where it performed flawlessly for a year.  When I sold it the odometer read just over twenty-seven thousand kilometres, so two thousand of them were mine.

The 'Blade was a lovely device.  If I didn't live in such a tedious place and ride-on track days were a possibility (they aren't anywhere in Ontario - the rare track-days that do exist are for rich people who trailer in race prepped bikes), I'd have hung on to this remarkable thing and let it do what it does best: explore the more extreme limits of motorcycling dynamics.

Trying to do that on the road makes no sense.  Ontario's roads are in atrocious shape thanks to our brutal seasons and lack of sane governance.  If you can find a piece that isn't falling to pieces, it's arrow straight because Southwestern Ontario is also geologically tedious.  We had a Californian trip a few years ago and drove up to Palomar Observatory outside of San Diego in the mountains.  Those are twelve miles of the most technically demanding roads I've ever seen.  That I had to drive them in a rented Toyota RAV4 is a crying shame.  If I lived anywhere near roads like that, owning the Fireblade would make some kind of sense, but I don't.

In our tedious, conservative province, this Honda Fireblade makes as much sense as owning a lion.  In three seconds it can take you from a standstill to jail time.  I only just discovered what happens to it at 8000RPM the week before I sold it.  Up until then I was astonished at how quickly it accelerated, but if you keep it cracked the madness becomes otherworldly.  The Honda Fireblade's athletic abilities make it a perilously expensive proposition in our police state and there is nowhere you can let it off leash to do what it was designed for (without buying a truck and trailer and stripping it back to being a race bike).

I was hoping to put racing stripes on it and really do it up, but then you have trouble selling it around
here where individualism is frowned upon.  Am I sad to see it go?  I honestly wrestled with the idea of waving off the buyer and keeping it, but instead decided to aim my limited space  toward another bike that would not only be more generally useful in the bland vastness of southwestern Ontario, but would also make me a better dad; the Fireblade is an inherently selfish thing.

If Practical Sportsbikes thinks it's the number one 90s
sportsbike, then it is! They helped me sort out the fuel system!
I bought the sidelined 'Blade for $1000 and then paid an extra hundred to get it delivered to me.  The new tires ($400) and a set of replacement carbs ($250) that I mainly needed to replace hard parts, along with the carb kit and other rubber replacement parts as well as multiple oil changes and filters, and some replacement LED lights for the broken stock ones, pushed my cost for the bike up to about $2000.

It cost me $500 for insurance for the year - mainly because I don't think my company (who doesn't usually do bikes but do mine because I've been with them for over 30 years) didn't realize what it was.  I sold the bike for $2500 as is, though it's currently fully operational and road legal, which means I got to ride the best bike of its generation and something I wished I'd owned in university when I was younger, fitter and more flexible for no cost.

That (of course) doesn't consider my time, but this is a hobby and if I can make it a zero sum hobby then I'm much less likely to feel guilty about it.  I'm going to miss the Fireblade, it was a lovely thing that spoke to me.  Having a 23 year old Japanese super-model whispering in your ear as you ride along was thrilling and I'm going to miss it.  Should I eventually find myself living somewhere where a sportsbike makes some kind of sense and where I can exercise it as intended on a track, I'll be quick to rejoin the tribe.


In the meantime I contacted a fellow in Toronto who has a latest-generation Kawasaki Concours 14 that he couldn't sell in the fall (I was in-line but the 'Blade failed to sell so I didn't go for it).  He still has the Concours and we're lining up a cash sale for next weekend.  My first three bikes were Kawasakis and this would be my second Concours.  I've owned a first gen C-10 and my son and I rode a first gen C-14 through the Superstition Mountains in Arizona, but this one's a gen-2 C-14 Concours, which makes it one of the only bikes out there that can comfortably carry my now-adult-sized son and I two up.

I've always been drawn to Kawasaki engineering and I like their style.  This one is very low mileage (only about 30k) and needs some TLC (the owner is older and dropped it while stationary which is why he's moving it on).  Once sorted this Connie will have a lot of life left in it.

What makes it particularly useful to me is that it's a capable sport-touring machine that's built like a brick shit house, can cover the endless miles we face in Canada and can still entertain in the corners.  It also happens to be powered by the same motor that drives the ZX-14R hyperbike.  It may sound juvenile but I grew up in the 1980s and they had me at Testarossa strakes!

One of the side benefits of Concours ownership is that they have one of the most active and engaging clubs around: the mighty COG (Concours Owners Group).  I got stickered and t-shirted up with them as a full member when I got my first Connie, but have since been exploring other bikes.  I'm looking forward to re-engaging with them when I'm a Concours owner again.

Kawasaki Heavy Industries has weight in Japan!

Saturday 9 May 2020

Athletic Intent

Coming to terms with the Fireblade...

The first couple of times I rode the Honda I found the riding position hanging over the gas tank somewhat extreme.  The bike was astonishingly light compared to others I've ridden (dirt bikes excepted), and changes directions like it's telepathic, though the clip on handlebars mean you don't get a lot of leverage when turning.

While the riding position is pretty extreme compared to the adventure and sports touring bikes I've ridden recently, it's the bike's geometry that really surprises.  The rake on the front wheel is nearly vertical, and feels like it's right under your hands rather than stretched out in front of you.  This results in those telepathic direction changes.

I've actually jumped on the Fireblade and had my groin seize and had to stop to stretch.  I've taken to doing some limbering up, Zombieland style, before I get moving on the Honda.  It's nothing that a bit of yoga doesn't address in my 50 year old self, but the 'Blade is an extreme thing that demands physical interaction; it reminds you that it's a SPORTS bike.

So, why be uncomfortable?  It might be argued that the CBR900RR is an appearance bike; something you put on to get attention, but that isn't why it's the way it is.  The 'Blade is built to explore the physical limits of what a motorcycle can do - it's the opposite of a cruiser, it's about the sport of motorcycling, not the appearance.  Every choice on the bike, including the riding position, is designed to maximize speed and agility.  The 'Blade is more of a boxing boot than a high heel.

One of the most shocking things about riding the Fireblade is its acceleration.  I've yet to own a bike where I can't turn the throttle to the stop opening it up... until the 'Blade.  It's so light it pulls strong through the first sixty-five hundred RPMs, but then it lunges to the redline in a startling manner.  Even in higher gears I haven't turned the throttle to the stop yet.

The CBR900RR is described as a bike that is engineered to exceed your abilities but is accessible enough to show you how to improve them, and that's just how it feels.  As someone who has gone out of his way to explore motorcycling, it checks a box for yet another aspect of the sport to discover.  I won't be putting big miles on the CBR, but they'll be highly intentional and informative ones.

Tuesday 10 March 2020

'97 CBR900RR LED Indicators and Rubber Parts

The Fireblade project has the main bits (fuel leak leading to an engine drowned in gasoline) fixed with a carb rebuild and a new petcock.  But there are lots of bits and pieces to sort out before I go get it safetied and put on the road.

The weather warms up tomorrow so I'm hoping for a ride, but Saturday was a -20° March 7th kinda day, so into the garage I went to get the little details worked out.

I was initially going to hold off on the LED indicators, but dead bulbs and broken covers on a 23 year old motorcycle meant the LEDs were actually the cheaper, easier and more modern looking fix anyway.  I'd brought a second set when I got the ones for the Tiger, and also got an adjustable indicator relay, so I had all the parts on hand.

The rear indicators look like they were attached by a monkey.  I ended up pulling them all off and removing all the stripped, half installed wood screws that were holding them in.  I then drilled a hole in the rear plastic under-tray and mounted the second set of LEDs I had on hand from the Tiger upgrade.

The wiring was pretty straight forward with green being ground on both indicators (connected to black on the LED) an orange to LED power (yellow) on one side and light blue to LED power (yellow) on the other.  The LEDs also have brake light function where they strobe when you first press the brake.  Both red cables on the LEDs go together into the middle pin on the brake lights.  It works a trick:

Front LED indicators working:

Rear indicators working with brakes:


Some other odds and ends are also proving troublesome.  Living in rural Canada means everyone's still in love with imperial sized fasteners.  All our local hardware stores have rows of 'em, and maybe 2 metric bolts.  It was tricky figuring out the sizes of missing fasteners anyway, but some internet research into OEM parts supplier parts listings got me this far:

Bolts to hold down the fuel tank:
Bolt, flange (6x40)

Other metric sized bolts in the same assembly:


A 6x40 metric bold means (as I understand it) a 6mm wide bolt that is 40mm long.  But metric sizing also looks like M6x40. I'm assuming their the same but don't understand why there isn't a consistent format for metric bolt sizing.

Some other resources around motorcycle fasteners:

Lots of links to other websites.

The bolts into the frame that hold down the fuel tank and the brace for the windshield are 6x40, but I couldn't get an M6 bolt in there.  I ended up cleaning out the thread by tapping it out again and then it went in nicely.


Rubber parts are particularly hard to find on this kind of bike - it's just old enough for existing stock to be gone and just young enough not to have a classic aftermarket parts ecosystem.

The cracked airbox rubber connector to the carbs is nearly impossible to find.  The only
online place I can find them is for a full set of four plus shipping from Europe and ends up at over 70 Euro ($110CAD)... and I only need one of the damned things!

I'm looking into some cunning fabrication options.  Some people have tried plumbing PBC couplings as a kind of secure bandage over the original rubber tube.  Though if I can find one that is the right diameter and well put together I might simply be able to trim it and substitute it.

Others have tried various fixes like heat shrink or inner tubes.  I'll do some more research and figure out next steps...

These guys suggest silicon hose as a temporary measure.  Since what I need is on the airbox side (I was easily able to get carb side rubber replacements), it shouldn't see too much gasoline so the silicon fix might be the quickest way forward.

These guys suggest a sealant.  Again, because it's not on the carb side this might do the trick.  In terms of cost this is the cheapest fix, so I'll probably start here and see how it goes.

I'm wondering if I can't 3d print the correct part.  There are flexible materials we can use to print objects using a 3d printer.  I suspect we're only a few years away from having a 3d printer in our garages that can print these rare parts out of flexible filaments:

Saturday 4 April 2020

COVID19 Rapid Restoration: Fireblade for the first time since Obama was President

The Fireblade project has come together nicely thanks to the strangeness we all find ourselves in with the COVID19 pandemic.  With a suddenly extended March Break, I was able to sort out the fairings, get the LED indicators wired up and finalize all the plumbing for fuel delivery.  It was all fiddly, last minute stuff, but with the time in hand it was easy to sort.  The adjustable indicator relay got wet when I cleaned up the bike which prevented the LEDs from flashing, so it got waterproofed and sealed.  The first ride was enlightening...

360° Video from RICOH THETA. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

That's the first time it's been running since Obama was in office.  It's a very different thing from other bikes I've owned.  I'm a big guy and 50 years old, but the yoga helps with the flexibility needed to ride this machine.  The foot pegs are significantly higher than anything I've owned before, and I'm leaning forward over the gas tank in a much more prone position than on the Tiger.  I was very conscious of the clip-on handlebars and the lack of leverage you have when cornering - steering on an adventure bike is much easier because you've got big, wide bars that offer a lot of pull.  The Fireblade was so much harder to turn (the weight of leaning forward doesn't help) that I actually thought the steering was obstructed, but it wasn't, it's just a lack of leverage.

After the first ride I thought, 'this thing is virtually unrideable!'  But as I was working out the details and getting used to it the riding position started to make a different kind of sense; I think this bike can teach me things.  The centre of gravity is so low, and the bike is so much lighter (over 40 kilos!) than my Triumph Tiger, while producing thirty more horsepower, that it's a significantly different riding experience.  I wouldn't want to go touring with it, but for an athletic afternoon out on nearby twisty roads, it's the instrument of choice.

The inline four cylinder 918cc engine makes a glorious noise when you crack the throttle, and the 'Blade is responsive in a way that makes any other bike I've ridden feel heavy - that's something I could get used to.  On subsequent rides I got my legs into the cutouts on the tank and once locked in place the whole thing suddenly clicked.  It'll take all the core work I've got to work with it, but this machine expects you to take riding as a sport rather than a leisure activity.

So far I'm at $1200 for the bike delivered, $250 in taxes and registration, $280 for a replacement carburetor which I cannibalized with the one I had to create a working one (if anyone needs late 90s CBR900 carb parts, get in touch), and another $200 in parts that included the shop manual, oil and filters and the LED lights.  All in I think I'm at about $2000 on the road and running like it's new again.  Looking up CBR900RRs online, a one a year older model with three times the kilometres is on for $2800.  Low mileage mint ones are going for $6-7000.  I think I could sell it in a year for a thousand more than I put into it.

When the pandemic happened here just before March Break I took home the Structure Sensor 3d scanner and did some scans, which is what you're looking at here...

It's very satisfying to bring the 'Blade back to life.  Now that the mechanicals are in order I'm thinking about racing stripes.  Amazon has some well reviewed ones on for a good price, I'll give them a go rather than painting them on.

Unfortunately I'm stuck for getting the bike safetied and registered on the road because everything is closed at the moment.  I'll spend the time making sure everything is order and looking to the aesthetic details and hopefully I'll be able to put the bike on the road when we put society back in motion again in May.

Wednesday 4 December 2019

2020 Moto Wishlist

Next season is a long, cold winter away, but I'm already daydreaming about what might be...

TomTom Rider 550 Moto-GPS:  I've always made do with my phone, but Google Maps is kinda crap when it comes to navigating on a bike.  Whenever you reach a way point it wants input, which isn't easy when you're flying through the air at 60mph with gloves on.  The TomTom not only is glove friendly, but the software is moto-specific, so no pointless inputs.  It even has a twisty-roads function!  $370CAN

A New Roof: I'm partial to Roof Helmets. To date I've owned a first generation Desmo and a Boxxer. The Boxxer is a simple thing and I miss the plush, quieter and more substantial Desmo I had before. Roof has actually come out with a new Desmo, the RO32, and I'm partial to the new flat dark blue lid they've just done. Roofs are hard to find in North America, but Chromeburner has the new lid on for about $500CAN.                          

Racing Kit!  A one piece racing suit for the other thing below.  Now that I'm with sports bike, perhaps I could take it out to track days.  To do that I'd need the proper racing kit.  To get the right spec helmet, boots, gloves and racing suit, I'm at about $2200.  Fortnine has the bits I'd need.

A long time ago I did a car performance driving school at Shannonville Race Track and really enjoyed it.  Taking the Fireblade out on track would be a brilliant way to get to know this athletic machine. has track days.  I just need to get the bike sorted and have the kit necessary to do the business.
Starting at about $170.

Of course, if you're doing track days and need to prep a bike for the track, you need to drain coolant and all sorts of other stuff.  What you really need is a way to get it there.  The new Transit Connect is super fuel efficient for a van and would carry my stuff and people when needed.  About $37k.

Van's got a tow hitch, so trailer, obviously...  $1600 at Canadian tire for this one.  Maybe trailers don't matter, but I'd like to colour match this one to the van.  With that and a fitted cover, it could take one or two bikes to wherever the snow ends in the winter and trackdays in the summer.


A next level off-roader.  I've done a few rounds of off-road training and dig the experience.  I'd like to race enduro and need something dependable and big enough to carry me.  There was a Suzuki DR650 I looked at in the summer for a very reasonable $4000.  It was five years old but basically brand new due to some back luck by its owner.  I wish I could go back in time, get that bike, sort it out for enduro racing and then do it!

Track-day bike:  I've already got this one underway with the Fireblade project.  Sorting out the CBR900rr in the garage and then making it track-day ready would be brilliant.  The real block to entry is the cost of racing kit and the ability to transport the bike to the track.  I think I'm some finishing up and detail work away from putting the Honda back on the road in the spring.

Top Speed Machine:  I've always been partial to the Suzuki Hayabusa, and it would let me do a bucket list thing (200mph on a motorcycle) with only a few modifications.  To stretch the bucket list wish, I'd take it out to speed week in Bonneville and do 200mph on the salt.  If I wanted a leg up on this, someone has a modified turbo Hayabusa in Windsor.

A 2-up Touring specialist:  The Tiger will do 2-up work, but it isn't ideal for it.  A bike that's a 2-up specialist would be the ideal tool for the job.  Out of all the big cruiser/touring bikes out there, I think the Goldwing is the best.  I've ridden a friend's.  It's surprisingly athletic, even with 2 people on it.  Touring bikes don't come cheap - the 'Wing is a $30k thing.

Anime Dream Machine:  The Kawasaki Z1000 has long been a favourite and its Sugomi designed look is pure anime awesomeness.  I've got to admit that the Fireblade project sitting in my garage scratches many of the same itches though.  There's an orange Z1000 in Quebec going for about $10k.  I think the Fireblade might have scratched this itch...

Sunday 6 December 2020

Last Light Of The Sun: 2020 Edition

Without putting too fine a point on it, 2020 has been a steaming heap of shit.  I can't put it behind me fast enough.  One of the only breaks in a year that seemed more interested in trying to break me than providing opportunities was a series of warm days into November.  Last year the snows descended on Hallowe'en and we were under it for five months, only to emerge into a world wide pandemic.  This year I've been able to steal rides here and there right up until the end of November.  I'll take what I can get at this point.

We looked like we were corked November 1st when we got our first big round of snow, but only three days later the snow was on the side of the road and I was able to take the Tiger out for a late season ride.

Nov 4th:  By Black Power Bison Company

Long shadows in the West Montrose Cemetery

That weekend we were up in the high single digits so I jumped on the Tiger and went for the last long ride of the year, up to the edge of Georgian Bay to have a look a blue horizon before heading back to my landlocked existence. This is close to where the year started off with a banzai ride up to Coffin Ridge Winery out of the endless winter to pick up some pandemic supplies early on in the lockdown, so it was nice to close the loop.  It ended up being about 300kms of the twistiest roads I can find in the tedious riding desert that I live in:

The Beaver River in the Beaver Valley before the snows fall.

Highland cattle grazing in Glen Huron.

With less than six weeks to mid-winter solstice the sun is never that high in the sky in mid-November in Ontario.

I thought that was the end of things.  The Honda had flooded itself and I ended up having to pull the
carbs which led to an inside out cleaning and installation of new airbox boots that I'd been waiting for winter to do.  I spent a warm Sunday afternoon on the driveway doing all that and when it was back together I took this athletic work of art for a shakedown ride and discovered that it was even sharper than it had been.  Honda Fireblades are something special, and this particular generation was ahead of its time

With everything sorted I shut off the petcock and ran the bike dry before wrapping it up for the winter knowing that it was ready to roll again in the spring, many months hence.  Surely I wouldn't get another chance to ride again this year.

I got home from work the next day and it was still well above zero and sunny, so I primed the carbs and off I went again.

The Fireblade, already an impressive piece of engineering, felt like a sharpened pencil with the carbs cleaned and the airbox rubbers replaced.  It was a nice final ride.  I once again shut off the petcock and ran the carbs dry before covering it up for the winter.

Of course, things weren't done yet.  We got a couple of weirdly warm days around November 21st so once again I primed the Honda and took it for a blast.  By this point the Tiger was up on stands and getting ready for a deep winter maintenance, but with the Fireblade so frisky I wasn't feeling bike poor.  Running a 17 year old European bike as my regular ride and a 23 year old Honda superbike as my spare, I'm often frustrated if both are sidelined, but not this long autumn.

When I got home I (can you guess?) shut off the petcock and ran the carbs dry before wrapping it up in blankets again for the long, cold winter.

Now I was really done. The Tiger was wheels off and up on blocks and the Honda was in hibernation under a sheet.  No more riding this year. Time to get my hands dirty. The Tiger needs some deep maintenance this year if I'm going to get it to one hundred thousand kilometres by the time it turns 20 years old in 2023. This past summer we did alright miles and it's up over eighty-thousand now, so I have three more riding seasons to put in 20k kilometres to hit my target.  With any luck things will be opening up over the next year and I can get back on track to putting on some miles on longer trips.

Meanwhile, the weather looked like it was getting wintery.  Snow was closing in on the forecast but never seemed to land on us with any real weight.  I ended up priming the Fireblade one more time for a very cold, end of November ride.

One of the benefits of having the sports bike is that it makes even a short ride a thrill, and this one was that.  The 'Blade's telekinetic handling and explosive engine in a very lightweight package shot me down the road.  It was nice to find that feeling of being on two wheels one last time before finally putting things away for the winter.

I couldn't feel my hands when I got home after 40 minutes out, but it was totally worth it. By late November we're typically looking at minus double digits and knee deep in snow.  Since then we've had multiple blasts of snow, a snow day at school and the roads are thick with salt and sand.  The Fireblade is sleeping under its blanket and the Tiger is in the spa.  Today I used my new tire spoons to remove the 10k squared off Michelins on the Tiger.

Changing my own tires may fall into the more-trouble-than-it's-worth category, but it's still a good thing to do at least once just to look things over.  I think I'm going to take the tires in to the autoshop at work to mount them next week rather than try and do it by hand with tire spoons.

Here's a winter moto-themed video to get you in the dark season's maintenance mood:

WAITING OUT WINTER from Andrew David Watson on Vimeo.