Honda CB900F Hornet
RESTORING THE STING
My how the months – and the miles – roll by. My do-the-lot Honda Hornet 900 now has just over 72,000km on its clock and is racking up roughly 12,000km a year. In stark contrast to the vast and ever-changing collections owned by some MT staffers, it’s my one and only bike – a mortgage and a young family can do that – and that situation isn’t likely to change for a few years yet.
Still, for a bike that, by definition, has to serve as an all-rounder, the Hornet is hard to beat. Fun in the hills on the weekends, with its Ventura luggage setup and a small screen it can easily handle the odd tour while it’s also a superb commuter. With roughly 95 per cent of its life spent tackling the daily grind, it has to be.
With a 2001-spec Fireblade engine it’s got the poke to drag off just about any car and a good share of bikes from a red light which means I’m ahead of the traffic most of the time. Then, when I’m stuck in a gridlock hell, its narrow girth, good steering range and small mirrors mean I can slip through tight spaces with ease.
Unlike other MT staffers’ usual tales of mechanical woe, I can report that life with the Hornet continues to be largely headache free. I say ‘largely’ only because its suspension – mainly the monoshock – had finally waved a white flag. It hadn’t been working well for the last 10,000km or so – it felt harsh and gave a solid ‘thunk’ when rolling over speed humps. Yep, a rebuild was in order.
I waited until it was due to go in for a major service (including valve check) so I could get the lot done at once. This time I decided to go local and headed to Slipstream Motorcycles in Sunbury, on Melbourne’s north-western outskirts. Shane is the man at the helm, and he assured me he could rebuild both the monoshock and the fork good as new while handling the service at the same time.
There was nothing really wrong with the fork per se, but with the bike’s mileage being what it was I thought it an opportune time to replace the seals and fork oil and have it properly checked out.
One week later and voila – she was ready for collection. I won’t say I was expecting miracles but, within the first block – and after hitting a couple of speed humps just outside the shop – I sensed a warm glow of satisfaction. It felt like new bike again and the corners were bliss.
Some years back I had Motologic, to Melbourne’s north, swap the stock springs front and rear with stiffer Eibach items. That transformed the bike’s ride, and Slipstream’s freshen-up restored that sense of control and feel.
Shane basically re-gassed the nitrogen fork and replaced the oil in the monoshock, also checking the tolerances were as they should be. He also changed the fork oil, seals and dust covers at the front end, and gave the fork’s internals a good clean out. At $350 for the shock and $200 for the fork, I felt it was money well spent – the suspension should now be right for several years to come.
AT YOUR SERVICE
Of course the major service didn’t hurt either. I carry out the minor services myself every 6000km – oil and filter change and a general checkover and a lube – as well as fitting new brake pads, rotors and fluid, and a new chain and sprockets, when required. I enjoy the time spent in the shed and it saves me some bucks.
Every 24,000km, however, I throw the bike at a professional. They can handle the valve check and pick up anything I might have missed. The valves were fine at the 24,000km and 48,000km marks but this time around Shane picked up a few tight ones and shimmed them to suit. The rest of the service was the usual, run-of-the-mill stuff.
“It’s really in very good shape,” Shane said. Music to my ears… Total cost? $1285 for the suspension and the major service – fair enough for the work entailed and the end result.
The last set of Pirelli Angel ST tyres (visit LinkInt.com.au for stockists) went on at around 60,000km and there’s still a heap of meat left on them. I’ve raved about these hoops before and I’ll rave about them again here – or at least I would have had I not recently attended the launch of the Angel GT.
The ST will continue to be sold at a reduced price while the GT takes over as Pirelli’s premiere sportstouring hoop. I was blown away by the GT at its launch and Pirelli says it offers 30 per cent greater mileage over the ST. Given my last set of STs went an incredible 18,000km before reaching their wear markers, all while offering excellent grip, feedback, and a nice, even rate of wear, the GTs promise to be the new benchmark in sportstouring rubber.
Soon as the current set of STs expires, I’ll give the GTs a go. Look out for my final report once I’ve got through a set of GTs – sometime in 2015, I expect!
The cheap, Chinese front brake rotors ($200 via eBay) have been absolutely fine. I do get a bit of brake squeal but that’s my fault for not changing the pads over at the same time (okay, I’m a tight arse!). I’ll chuck some new Bendix pads in when the current ones wear out; hopefully that will fix the problem.
Other than that, and now the suspension is sorted, the bike is entirely glitch free. The paint and finish in general are holding up well. The headers could do with a decent scour with steel wool but, because it’s a workhorse, not a show pony, I don’t see the point.
The leading edge of the tank has a few small stone chips but that’s about it – after a wash and a polish she’s still quite a looker.
I’ve got no plans to sell my Hornet, ever. With this many kays, it can’t be worth much more than five grand tops and so it simply wouldn’t be worth shifting it. Besides, no other owner could possibly give it the level of care it deserves!
SHOULDER THE LOAD
I should make mention of the Ventura rack and luggage (visit Kenma.com.au for more information). I’ve been riding with this Kiwi luggage system for over a year now and it’s expanded the Hornet’s practicality even further. It took me a little while to stop smacking my leg on the rack when dismounting but I’ve long since got used to it and the matching Ventura Mistral bag it sitting on the pillion seat for most of the bike’s daily outings.
With a 47lt capacity, it swallows a heap of gear and it’s home to my tyre repair kit, wet weather pants, zip-ties, bungee cords, and other miscellaneous work stuff. It’s got a rain cover for really wet days but it’s water resistant anyway, and the stiff plastic walls of the bag mean it retains its shape, instead of sagging like a soggy biscuit. Best of all, it’s secured by two clips and the rack itself, so it goes on and comes off in seconds.
With a year’s use under its belt, it still looks like new – ditto the handy carry handle on top. It’s also got a couple of concealed shoulder straps that can turn it into a backpack when required.
At $489 for the rack and bag, we’re not talking loose change but I love a quality product that works and lasts well. The Ventura Mistral gets the nod from me on both counts.
2006 Honda Hornet CB900F
Type: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, four-stroke, 16-valve, in-line four-cylinder
Bore x stroke: 71mm x 58mm
Compression ratio: 10.8:1
Fuel system: EFI
Type: Six-speed, constant mesh
Final drive: Chain
CHASSIS AND RUNNING GEAR:
Frame type: Steel mono backbone
Front suspension: Conventional 43mm fork, fully adjustable
Rear suspension: Monoshock, adjustable for preload and rebound
Front brakes: Twin 320mm discs with four-piston Nissin callipers
Rear brake: Single 260mm disc with single-piston Nissin calliper
DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES:
Dry weight: 194kg
Seat height: 795mm
Fuel capacity: 19lt
Tyres: Pirelli Angel ST
Tyre sizes: 120/70ZR17 (front) and 180/55ZR17 (rear)
Max power: 81kW (110hp) at 9000rpm
Max torque: 92Nm (67.8ft-lb) at 6500rpm
Fuel economy: 5.6lt/100km (18km/lt)
Price (new, in 2006): $13,990*
Price (now, as seen): $5000
*Manufacturer’s original list price, excluding dealer and statutory costs