Archive for the ‘little Honda’ Category

Clearly, the cheapest, and probably best way to start riding is to get on Craigslist and buy a used bike. There isn’t a lot to add to that, but there are a few tips I can give the new-to-riding.

First, patience. I missed a GREAT deal on a 2005 Suzuki M50 because I was at a training even with my National Guard unit. I had lined up to give something like $4200 for the Suzuki. But someone else snapped it up. I was pissed. Well, the following Monday, I headed down to the family farm where I work as a migrant laborer(thanks for the bang-up economy, Mr.Prez…). Before I set off on the tractor, I checked Craigslist, and there I found my Honda. I saw the 2007 Honda Shadow Spirit C2 with 5000 miles listed for $3000 and I called right away. The bike had been listed for about two hours when I made arrangements for a test-ride. My local bike shop had two 2005 Shadow 750DCs on the floor with 7000-15000 miles for $4500, so I feel like I got a pretty good deal. I still haven’t found a comparable bike for less than $3500–but the guy selling mine was set to deploy to Kuwait for a year and wanted to buy a Harley on active duty, but his wife said the Honda had to go before he got a new one; so I got a deal.

If you watch Craigslist, or for that matter, the inventory at your local bike shop, deals come and go every day. Just because you miss one doesn’t mean another one won’t come along soon. The best time to buy is probably late in the riding season when everyone’s looking to trade for a bigger/better ride. The best time to sell is around the first couple of nice days in spring, and folks will pay ridiculous cash just to get out and enjoy the weather.

Second, do your homework. Ride a bunch of different kinds of bikes if at all possible. If you’re like me and have had some previous riding experience, then get a bigger bike right away so you don’t outgrow it as I have done with my 750C2. Also, make sure to ride different types of bikes. You might find, as I did, that a “standard” like the Triumph Bonneville is a better fit than a cruiser or a supersport. Or you might find you like being scared half to death and riding in an uncomfortable position and buy a supersport. You never know!

That’s about it. Go in with as much information as possible, pay cash (going in debt on a bike is dumb. sorry, it just is), and get the bike you want–not the bike your friends want you to get.



Ride The Fat One

Posted: May 19, 2012 in little Honda, things I want

Last night a couple of friends came up to visit from a local bike night. One has a Victory V92 and the other has a 2012 Harley Fatboy Low with all the matte black extras–and in fact had a higher sticker price than my 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX. I got to go around the block on it, but it was very late and I couldn’t goose it at all without waking the dead. But I did form a couple of impressions.

First, The Fatboy Low is a large machine, and feels large. However, it really wasn’t unwieldy around the narrow town square streets. The motor was very nicely balanced, and made huge, enormous, incredible amounts of power. My friend’s bike has been tweaked and tuned so when it was last dyno’d, it hit 125hp and nearly the same number of ft/lbs. So it was quite nippy for an 800lb gorilla. Cruising the city streets at 25mph was dealt with at idle, as was launching from STOP signs–but it never felt like it was going to run away with me.

Additionally, the saddle is soft and very wide. The brakes were very good, and coordinating clutch/throttle/rear brake to perform low-speed maneuvers was pretty easy. I was initially intimidated by the size and incredible noise, but it really wasn’t any harder to drive around the town square than my Honda 750. One day I would like to make a run down the highway on it and observe its obviously muscular acceleration.

If you have $27,000 lying around, this isn’t a bad way to go. And if you have $54,000 lying around, get one for me too.

As I previously posted, I’m starting to look outside the realm of cruisers and see if there’s another bike out there that might suit me better. My biggest complaint about my bike, and most small cruisers, is a total lack of roll-on power. I don’t want to race or do anything stupid. I do, however, want to pass cars as quickly as possible. And that requires power–something my 44hp Honda lacks.

I also don’t want a crotch rocket. I had one for a couple of months when I was in high school. I took my lunch money and bought a 1986 Fz600R with about 35,000 miles on it, and it was UGLY. But it was fast. Mind-bendingly, frighteningly fast. My mom made me sell it, and a friend of mine wrecked it on his test-ride, making it only a couple hundred feet before the high revving 4 cylinder engine shot him into a tree. He was fine and paid for the bike. I didn’t ride again until the fall of 2011.

But there is a third way. Suzuki very stupidly killed its fantastic SV650 and SV1000, but you can occasionally find one used under $4000 in good condition. The motors from both bikes have gone on to the V-strom, so you can still get them serviced. Just don’t drop the bike because body parts are in short supply. I actually VERY nearly bought an SV650 before I found my Honda. The SV has a riding position between the full lay-down style of the crotch rocket and the upright cruiser. It was pretty comfortable, but I imagine your wrists would hurt after a couple of hours.  That said, the SV’s v-twin motor produced enough low-end grunt to never feel doggy, and could run fast enough to get your blood pumping. I really like this bike and kind of wish I had just gone for it instead of obsessively seeking out online reviews.

Next, there’s the Yamaha FZ6. It has a fully upright ride position while retaining the racing looks of the R6, and in fact having a re-tuned motor from the R6. The FZ’s mill is tuned to give more power in the middle of the rev range, and by most accounts, it hasn’t worked, leaving the bike feeling lost from 5k-7k, then it turns into Mr Hyde. I really want to ride one and see how distracting this power delivery is. My old Yamaha FZ60oR felt very doggy in town, but when the revs built up, it was scary-fast. The FZ6 looks awesome, and seems to have potential. As a bonus, you can find them used for around $4000, sometimes less.

I really just want a solution to the roll-on power problem, and it’s hard to solve in the cruiser class. The only option is really to go bigger, and eventually you end up with a bike that is excellent on the highway and kind of a pig in town. I would like to preserve the in-town ability of my bike and just give it some more power to make passing quicker. I guess the lesson to be learned here is to think about what your bike will be used for before you buy. And don’t get hung up on a single class of bike just because all of your friends have one.

I got the Honda plug wrench in the mail today and with the aid of a cheap set of metric ratcheting wrenches, I quickly swapped out my two remaining old plugs. The Honda wrench looks cheap and cheesy, but boy does it work. And for under $10, you should probably just buy one of those rather than learning the $18 lesson that I did. While the MotionPro socket is nice, it doesn’t work on all the plugs, so save yourself some heartache and just buy the Honda OEM wrench (that should have been included in your bike’s tool kit).

That’s all I have to say about that.

I’ve been taking a harder look at my beloved little Honda lately. Part of me wants to upgrade next year, and part of me says put short-shots and a stage-1 jet kit on and hope for the best. I’m afraid that if I spend around a thousand dollars on pipes, jetting, and a new seat, I’m still going to be left with an anemic but fun little ride.

The gunfighter seat isn’t suited for two-up, and a Mustang touring seat is about $500, and I have serious doubts about performance with two people and a light load of luggage. Even if I gain 3-5hp with pipes and a jet kit, I will still have power-to-weight issues, as well as underwhelming roll-on power. A brand new Shadow Phantom 750 put down a meager 36hp at the rear wheel in a recent article I linked. I wonder how many horses are in my five-year-old Shadow?

My Little Honda

But part of me is still having an emotional affair with the pretty blue Honda. It handles perfectly in town, and on the big sweepers just outside of town, I can hurl the bike in at well over the posted speed limit. It feels like it should have power to match maneuverability. But it doesn’t. Nor does it have impressive brakes, which also gives me pause when I think about adding a passenger and bags to the mix. And that was a big reason why I wanted a cruiser instead of a rocket (I was positively drooling over a Suzuki SV1000 back in January) was that I could take my wife places on little day trips over the weekend.

There are two ways to go from here: go big, like a Vulcan 1500 or Honda VTX1800, or get a newer middleweight like a Suzuki M50 or Vulcan 900 Custom. I’m leaning toward another middleweight, namely the Vulcan 900 because of the power-to-weight ratio. The Vulcan 900 Custom put down 50hp at the rear wheel, and while far from fast, it has enough guts to haul two plus luggage and still have some roll-on power. The middleweights are more handy around town, but can still complete a highway haul in comfort. The two bigger buses have tons of power, and are made to haul two in relative comfort, but can be pigs in town. It’s a really tough question though because 2000-2008ish bikes of all four types mentioned can be bought for the $5000-$7000 range, which is exactly my budget.


I ordered spark plugs, a gap tool, and 12-point 18mm socket. It came in just now and I went out to swap out my old, roached plugs for shiny new ones. Well, while the MotionPro socket I ordered is really well made, it isn’t made to fit in the left-front or right-rear plug recess. So I pulled to two plugs I could reach, gapped two new ones, and made the swap. Weirdly, the throttle does feel a little sharper, but it could all be in my head.

The two plugs I pulled were clearly old, given the faded appearance of the middle part of the plug. They were blackened, indicating a slightly rich fuel mix or maybe some failure of the insulator, but not so sooty as to indicate oil burn. I probably could have gotten away with brushing them off and checking their gap, but since they appear to be the originals, I feel better about new plugs. It’s cheap insurance. I will attach pics as soon as I find my USB cable. In the mean time, enjoy this link on how to “read” your spark plugs.

Note: I have ordered a Honda OEM plug wrench that is supposed to be in your tool kit, but was absent from mine. I will include a link to it.

The part number of the MotionPro socket that does not fit is: 57-8175

Updated: Wear was normal, and they still were close to spec when measured with my gap tool. New plug on right for comparison.

When I bought my bike, I insisted I wasn’t going to modify it. If anything, I would save up and trade it for a bigger bike. Well, I’m still open to the second option, but I really want different pipes on my bike. After nearly being hit about a dozen times by senior citizens  in beige Toyota Avalons, I want to make some noise and hopefully become a bit more conspicuous. My bike is nearly silent at or near idle, which is most of the time in town, and I really don’t want to be hit by an ancient person who didn’t want to stop at a stop sign.  I like Vance & Hines pipes, as I have a number of friends who have them on their metrics (and a couple of Harleys). I want the V&H Short Shots. View below and rejoice:

They’re about $350, plus probably an hour of shop time to install, which runs about $70/hr, and it will require a re-jet, which will be another three hours of shop time plus parts. I’m not super stoked about the bill totaling nearly $1000, but if I save for a year, it will be easily paid for. Then again, I may kick it into super-saver mode and try to come up with $4000 to blow on a VTX 1300 (plus the trade of my beloved little blue Honda).

I’m really happy with my bike, and I’m getting a bit attached to it, which kinda makes me want to just tweak it a bit and hold onto it for many more years. That would be a much cheaper option than immediately jumping to the big VTX. The only things I want to do are the pipes, a re-jet, and maybe bolt on a Mustang seat so my wife can go on trips with me. That would make about $1500 and I could ride the bike for many more years, and since it’s a Honda, nothing will break.