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Rocker66

Bikes you were glad to see the back of

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Xactly

The worst bike I owned (out of more than thirty in over 50 years) was my first, a Honda C114. I was in the sixth form when I got it in 1968 and I ran it on paper round money. It was three years old. Essentially it was a C100 (stepthrough) engine but had a four speed gearbox and manual clutch and looked like a small motorcycle with a tank in the normal place. The mains went at around 10,000 miles and I fell off it a lot, largely because of inexperience and also because it had really skinny tyres. I suppose it went ok for a 50cc OHV bike, topping out at 55 mph. 
This was followed by a Honda S90, a SOHC single, oddly enough of 90cc. I was still at school when I part-exed my C114 against it. The S90 was a lot faster than the C114 and was very smooth, but the rings were worn and pressurised the crankcase. It needed a rebore really but I was saved the hassle when, after passing my test on it, a coal lorry turned right across my path. The resultant collision wrote it off but my passenger friend and I bounced ok, suffering a few cuts and bruises, so we adjourned to the pub, having recently turned 18.
My third bike was also a Honda, a four year-old CB72 250cc twin. I’d like to say that this was great (it looked it) but actually it was a lemon. Apart from getting stopped by the police the first evening I rode it (rear light bulb blown) and getting done for speeding the next day riding home, it was pretty flat and nowhere near the British 500cc twin beater I’d been lead to believe. Looking back I think it had been raced (it had bellmouths on it) and wasn’t in the rudest of health. The electric start wouldn’t work on a cold engine and it jumped out of second gear. The dealer had three attempts at fixing the gearbox because of there were different second gears apparently; he did fix it in the end though. I fell off that bike too. In fact I nearly gave up riding because all three Hondas inspired little confidence because the suspension was awful, being both under-sprung and under-damped and so were the brakes. These coupled with tyres that were either original Japanese nylon types or the fabled Avon Skidmaster square profile rear tyres resulted in poor grip and stability. I was beginning to think I’d never be able to ride well. However, I then bought my first ever new bike, trading in the CB72 - a Suzuki T250 Hustler MkII. 
What a revelation! It went like stink and would wheelie in the first three gears. It braked and handled very well ( by comparison) and it was on this bike that I began to learn to ride pretty well, often scraping footrests, though care had to be taken in the wet because of the rubbish tyres. The bubble burst somewhat when I was racing a Triumph Spitfire one day. I had just overtaken it when the engine lost power. I knew it wasn’t that I’d run out of petrol. When I had coaxed it home on one cylinder it soon became apparent that it had holed a piston. Being one of the first in the country I had a bit of a wait to get replacement pistons and rings. The owner’s manual (which I still have, as well as the ones for the C114 and CB72) advised using a softer plug if riding in town a lot. I had fitted these to prevent oiling up but then had forgotten about it when racing the Spitfire....

Disillusioned with “Jap crap” (my friends all ride British bikes) I did a straight swap at a dealership with a rebuilt 1959 DB32 Goldie. Apparently a mechanic had rebuilt it for his own use but had had a nasty accident on another bike and couldn’t ride any more. Effectively therefore I bagged a rebuilt Gold Star for around £250, albeit a 350cc. That was trouble free and is truly in the “I wish I had it now” category. I can’t say the same for my first three Hondas, which nearly put me off riding altogether. As it is, I’ve been riding for over fifty years now and ironically my riding days will probably end on a Honda, via a multitude of other makes including Moto-Guzzi and BMW (I had a few of these but became disillusioned with BMW as they became more mainstream and sophisticated but a good deal less reliable, though my K series and oilhead Beemers were probably the best bikes I’ve owned, something I can’t say about the F800GT I later owned for a year or so). I’ve also owned Triumphs, Meriden and Hinckley as well as  CZs, MZs and Jawas during the lean years when raising a family. I enjoyed all of these for what they were and had little trouble with any of them. I’ve also owned a Norton 19s 600cc single and assorted BSA singles and 650 Lightning as well as the rubbish Indian RE single I now own, but hopefully not for much longer....Oh, and a couple of Moto-Guzzi New Falcon singles and an NSU Quickly I had to go to work on when I had my Goldie, which had the RRT2 gearbox and needed to do around 20mph before the clutch was fully home in first gear. It was brilliant to just go for a ride on though and would tick over nicely as it has a concentric carb on it rather than the finicky GP carb that had no pilot jet. 
Anyway, I now have two modern Hondas that I hope will be as reliable as is claimed. Both have proven long-lasting engines (VFR Vtech in my Crossie and of course the low-revving unstressed twin in the NC750X). Here’s hoping....
 

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Xactly

Oops, forgot to mention the Harley Sportster 883 I bought new in 1989. Maybe that was the worst bike I owned, come to think of it. I spent loads on it trying to make it go, stop and handle but gave up as a lost cause. I believe the later 5-speed Sportsters with belt drive are much better altogether and they do look nice...

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larryblag

I currently run a 2013 BMW F800GT - what trouble did you have with yours? 

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Xactly

Mine was a 2013 too. It had horrendous vibration at exactly an indicated 80mph in top. Others reported the same issue on the forum at the time. In some cases the vibes disappeared after a few thousand miles but I’m afraid the vibes stayed on mine. I

never did get to the bottom of it and in any case I didn’t gel with the bike, having had oilheads before that and a Deauville. It just had no character compared to these and so I traded it in after 18 months against a new Triumph Sprint GT SE. 
The drive belt on my 800GT wore quite a bit more than usual and I believe it was misaligned. I’d have preferred a chain really, like all the other 800 twins had. I believe I was just unlucky with mine; it was certainly economical and handled really well. The brakes worked well but the ABS was easily the worst I ever had. On every other ABS bike I owned (quite a few) it usually only activates when I’m deliberately testing it as I don’t rely on ABS but prefer to brake properly in the first place. On my 800 GT the ABS used to activate on the front wheel when braking in damp conditions at relatively slow speed. Just when I wanted to stop eg at a road junction it would release the braking effort and the bike would carry on moving. It was more a liability than an asset. 
I note that it has now been dropped from the range and is the only one of the 800 twins not to have been upgraded to 850cc with a 270 degree crankshaft. Presumably sales figures didn’t warrant it.

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larryblag

Yes, the vibes are a nuisance but I tend to ride around them. The rather keen engine braking and on/off throttle response have taken some getting used to and it's not the best power delivery for two up. But it's one of the best handling bikes I've owned. Not had any  Abs issues though. 

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SteveThackery
On 10/25/2020 at 19:22, larryblag said:

Yes, the vibes are a nuisance but I tend to ride around them. The rather keen engine braking and on/off throttle response have taken some getting used to and it's not the best power delivery for two up. But it's one of the best handling bikes I've owned. Not had any  Abs issues though. 

 

Agreed - mine vibrates from 65mph to 85mph, which is a shame for obvious reasons, but honestly I don't really mind it.  I would say it's the one and only mistake BMW made with this bike.

 

I rather like the engine braking, although bikes with much less engine braking don't bother me and it's easy to ride accordingly.  Like larryblad, I've never had a single issue with the ABS and think yours might have been a one-off, Xacty.  

 

larryblag describes the on/off throttle response, but I would say the exact opposite: throttle-by-wire makes it trivial to implement a non-linear relationship between grip and butterfly, and it feels to me very much like BMW have done exactly that.  It needs more throttle than cable-operated throttles to pull away, for instance.  I think most of us would agree that with a normal throttle, most of the action happens in the first half of the twist, and the second half makes much less difference.  Throttle-by-wire lets BMW shape that response so it feels more linear.

 

For me the big plus-point is the way it oozes engineering and design quality, and the big minus-point is the 360-degree firing interval (acknowledging that most people aren't bothered by this).

 

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Xactly

Despite not generally being a fan, the Boosterplug I fitted to mine did what it said on the tin. Whether or not the ECU would have self-trimmed in the longer term to negate the effect I can’t say as I sold it not long after fitting the plug to the bike. Rather like my RE C5 I agree that mine was probably a bit of a lemon. Certainly the one I test rode was pretty smooth. As for the ABS; yes, I suspect that there was something wrong with mine as it generally doesn’t appear to be an issue. It cut in unnecessarily and then released just when I didn’t want it to. Handy.

I believe we’ve had the discussion about 360 v 270 degree twins before, on Hitchcocks forum. Since then it seems the latter have become ubiquitous. Personally I think it depends on the bike. My 865cc Thruxton that I’ve just traded in against my new NC750X sounded terrific with TORS fitted. It just wouldn’t have sounded right with a 270 degree crank, but that’s just my opinion. As just about all modern 270 degree twins have a balancer shaft (as does my Thruxton) I don’t believe the vibration argument is valid these days. Better traction on more powerful 270 degree bikes, probably true but Triumph Twin Power ( who I used for remapping to suit the tuning I did to my Thruxton) reckon on their dyno-testing that more power can be obtained from the 360 degree twins (Thruxton and Bonneville) than the 270 degree ones (Scrambler and America). Anyway, a bit off-topic, sorry.

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SteveThackery
1 hour ago, Xactly said:

As for the ABS; yes, I suspect that there was something wrong with mine as it generally doesn’t appear to be an issue. It cut in unnecessarily and then released just when I didn’t want it to. Handy.

 

Yeah, that definitely sounds wrong, mate.  Andy might have something to say about this.

 

1 hour ago, Xactly said:

As just about all modern 270 degree twins have a balancer shaft (as does my Thruxton) I don’t believe the vibration argument is valid these days. 

 

To me vibration has never been an issue - perhaps because I was brought up on old Brit stuff.  The nice thing about the 270-degree cranks is that they deliver almost perfect secondary balance, and just need a crank-speed balance shaft to give primary balance.

 

1 hour ago, Xactly said:

Better traction on more powerful 270 degree bikes, probably true but Triumph Twin Power ( who I used for remapping to suit the tuning I did to my Thruxton) reckon on their dyno-testing that more power can be obtained from the 360 degree twins (Thruxton and Bonneville) than the 270 degree ones (Scrambler and America). Anyway, a bit off-topic, sorry.

 

Hmmm.... I don't really get this.  The individual cylinders don't "know" anything about their colleagues, or even if they exist.  They produce power solely in terms of the gas flow through them, the combustion chamber geometry, etc.  The relationship of the crank pins can't affect any of that.  HOWEVER, where cylinders share some or all of the intake and exhaust systems (the NC being the most extreme example), then they can interact and one can affect the other.  In fact the NC has slightly differing valve timings between the two cylinders to compensate for them getting differently timed resonant pulses on the inlet and exhaust strokes.

So I reckon the difference Triumph Twin Power have noticed must be due to interactions and compromises in the exhaust and inlet systems, rather than anything fundamental or mechanical in terms of the crank pin spacings.

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Xactly

Well I don’t know about the science, but the dyno tests they carried out so as to develop maps to suit all the twins with various mods to inlet and exhausts showed that (IIRC) the most bhp was obtained from a 360 degree twin. It’s possible, I suppose, that the 360 degree twin was a better example than the 270 degree one. The ECUs are different of course and maybe there was a difference there. Triumph seem to be obsessed with uneven power pulses these days as the latest triple has been ruined by changing from a lovely smooth characterful motor to one that vibrates right where most riders will operate it. This was apparently done on the basis that the new layout is better at finding traction off-road. Trouble is most never see more than a bit of gravel....

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slowboy

I thought the uneven firing orders were more about getting the motors through emissions. The extra traction thing sounds like marketing to me. Traction is why the Big Bang motors were developed for Moto GP, because the best traction is when it fires like a big single, once every two revolutions. But they vibrate like a jack hammer.:hyper:

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Tex

The Hinckley 360 vs 270 crank engines differed quite drastically in power. The 270 came in with the Scrambler model and the high level exhaust meant they couldn’t use the bulky primary silencer hidden under the engine on the other bikes. Indeed, it was mooted at the time that the primary reason for the 270 crank was easier silencing not increased traction. From memory the 360 was claimed at 65 hp vs 55 for the 270. 
 

Edit: Just seen Brian’s post! :) 

 

For the record, I really like the 270 layout in my Bonnie and, for whatever reason they chose it, it’s an excellent layout that sounds less ‘busy’ than a 360 at all speeds. I have been on record in the past as liking the 360, but continued experience with the new bike has comprehensively changed my mind.

Edited by Tex
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MatBin

@Xactly abs, my BM k75s did that after I fitted non Brembo pads in the rear brakes, put some Brembos back in and all was fine again.

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Xactly

My K75S ABS worked fine in that it never cut in unless I deliberately provoked it. My K100RS was the same. To be fair these bikes had the original clunky ABS1with a control unit in the tail section that was bigger than an average tablet today. In my experience the system was less trouble than the later ABSII fitted to my R1100RS. That suffered from the usual low voltage issue in that, having started the engine, the self-check the determined that the voltage was too low to prime the ABS, with the characteristics ker-chunk sound once 4-5 mph was reached. There was a fix for it involving re-wiring but I never bothered. One simply had to stop and re-start the motor. Anyway these days a battery tender would have sorted it.

Then of course we got the infamous servo ABS system that could fault leaving residual braking only and ultimately it could fail, costing £1400 for a new unit that BMW wouldn’t warranty. Owners therefore removed the ABS. 
Full marks to BMW for pioneering ABS but, really, it hasn’t been a total success story.

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Xactly
3 hours ago, slowboy said:

I thought the uneven firing orders were more about getting the motors through emissions. The extra traction thing sounds like marketing to me. Traction is why the Big Bang motors were developed for Moto GP, because the best traction is when it fires like a big single, once every two revolutions. But they vibrate like a jack hammer.:hyper:

Triumph themselves gave the reason I stated. The change is about traction on dirt. The previous 120 degree triple was so smooth it didn’t grip well on dirt. Same principle as Yamaha R1 crossplane crank. 
I read most modern bike mags and every test says the same - they could have had a peach of an engine (the new 900) but it’s been compromised by the unnecessary, if fashionable, messing with the crank layout.

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