What a problem to have- which motorcycle to take on a road trip.
The Wild Rose Squad’s annual pilgrimage to Nelson, BC is sacred. Nothing keeps us from Nelson, except however, border guards. I found that one out the hard way last year, but that is a story for another time. If I do somehow manage this year to not be asked very politely to make an immediate u-turn and Leave Canada Right Now Sir, my next conundrum is which motorcycle to take. I have three compelling choices with reasons for and against. Help me decide.
Contestant #1: Indy
The 5th generation of Honda’s legendary VFR line is possibly the best all around motorcycle in the history of man. You name it, my bike has done it. In its 115k touring miles it has encountered rain, hail, snow, 117 degree Nevada desert heat, done hot laps at the racetrack, more dirt miles than most ADV bikes, ridden with multiple cattle drives, served as a beer cooler and acted as a fairly good ski touring mount. And that is just for starters.
On the plus side it is fairly quick, has decent brakes, is comfortable for 750+ mile days and has a stirring exhaust note.
However, it has done this trip many times. Like constantly ordering the same thing from the menu, how often can you eat your favorite meal before you need a change just for change’s sake? It is the predictable and excellent choice, but it just feels like time for something different.
Contestant #2: The Unicorn
My dream girl. For multiple decades I put myself to sleep every night dreaming of her and that gorgeous RC30 inspired rear wheel only to find one on a farm in Oregon a few years ago. Basically, I paid thousands for an 8 spoke rear wheel and got the bike for free.
Reasons to take it? She is always the most beautiful machine in the crowd wherever she goes. She draws attention like a fire engine full of Dalmatians and starts thirty minute conversations at coffee stops. After this picture I chucked the stock exhaust for a Delkevic carbon fiber setup so when spun past 8k RPM she howls like an Indy Car. It is the best sounding engine short of a Rolls Royce Merlin V-12 in a P-51 Mustang. Every time I look at her, I pinch myself that something so beautiful is mine, like the time I somehow convinced the prom queen to date me, even for a short while. By the way Ian, sorry (not sorry) I stole your date from you.
However, her speed does not match her looks. She is heavy, underpowered and slower than an old man trying to make up his mind at the buffet line. Passing requires a downshift, sometimes two. Once up to speed, braking must be planned in advance since her front brakes are wooden, even after I replaced the stock lines with braided steel. Her short range means gas stops after 130 miles if I take it easy on the throttle, which I won’t, because I will be flogging The Unicorn on Canada highway 31A just to keep up with the rest of the Wild Rose Squad and their newer VFRs. It will take me twice as much effort to go half as fast.
But I will look good and sound so amazing at the back of the pack.
Contestant #3: The Pig
The brave/radical/stupid choice. The Pig is a 1998 Honda Superhawk with some modifications for track days.
I dropped one tooth from the front sprocket and added two teeth to the rear sprocket for added corner drive, as if a 1000 cc V-twin that revs to 10K RPM needs any help. Past 6K The Pig has enough torque to spin the earth in the opposite direction, sending us all back in time. For additional drive I had four pounds shaved off the flywheel so she spins up quicker than a blender on full whip, which no big-inch V-twin should be able to do. When exiting turn 11 at The Ridge Motorsports Park in Shelton, front wheel lift is a serious problem. Drive out of the chicane at The Ridge means long black streaks and the spinning rear must be kept under control. Or not. This sounds like the perfect tool for a 3-day tour, right?
Maybe not. Needing more braking performance to match the torque I ditched the stock brakes and fitted binders from a 2004 Honda CBR F4-i, which required grinding off some extra caliper meat. I am sure this in no way compromised brake integrity. I also fitted race grade Vesrah RJL pads which do next to nothing when cold. The brake lever will absolutely hit the handlebar before anything significant happens in the morning. But, this improves with heat. Once up to temperature, two fingers will make the front tire howl and push your eyeballs to the front of your visor, consistently, lap after lap.
Each pulse from the V-Twin is like a cannon shot.
I also replaced the exhaust with a pair of silencers from Black Widow that are about the size of a Pabst Blue Ribbon tallboy. Each pulse from the V-Twin is like a cannon shot. Yesterday my son started it in the garage when I was inside the house. I could see the windows vibrate.
Also, after shaving multiple pounds off the flywheel I neglected to have it balanced. Smart move. So, given the lack of flywheel damping, its unbalanced nature and pair of big pistons slapping away at ridiculous speeds, The Pig vibrates like a space shuttle at takeoff and makes certain favorite body appendages go numb. There is no way that will cause permanent damage after hundreds of miles.
Also, after much track abuse, the clutch has become very binary, It is either in or out, there is no slipping it. Leaving a stoplight means either pulling away in a wheelie or killing the engine. Cruising down the main street at Nelson during the car show would either be quite the spectacle or completely humiliating.
In summary, I took Honda’s polished, sporty Ducati killer and made it completely unridable. Recognizing that fact I fitted a full stunt cage. That sends a message.
But I still want to take it. The torque is as addictive as my morning caffeine hit, it makes speed effortlessly and after many hours on the racetrack the bike and I are one. I know what it can do and what it can’t. I could probably ride highway 31A in third gear for the entire 30 miles and get there in time to order coffee before everyone else caught up.
It would be brilliant for maybe 100 miles, then it would run dry, because it has a gas tank the size of a coffee cup. And no gas gauge.
Which bike should I take? Let me know in the comments below!