What is the ideal bike?
Some say it’s the bike you already have, or the one you could afford to get. For me, the “ideal” bike is the one that has nice handling, great brakes, enough power, reasonably light, large enough so I don’t feel like a bear riding a bicycle at the circus, and finally, if not beautiful at least not an eye sore.
Having been searching for a “new” bike to get, I came to the conclusion that the best bike for me would be either a sport bike turned naked, or a upgraded naked bike.
Mid-side naked bikes are usually the dumbed down/cheapened cousins of their sporty cousins, sharing the same engine (detuned for lower total output and better low-rev kick), but cutting costs with crappy suspension and brakes: non adjusting damper rod forks (straight from the 50’s), 2 caliper brakes. That could be fixed, of course, by replacing the suspension and brakes taken from sport bikes.
Sport bikes have the disadvantage (IMO at least) of crappy looking fairings in most cases, too low handlebars, nasty position (too bent forward, too bent knees) and sometimes lack of low range grunt. That could be fixed by removing the fairings, mounting higher handlebars, lowering the pegs. and replacing the sprocket with one a tooth or two smaller (increasing acceleration but decreasing top speed).
The main “contenders” were the Honda CBR f4/f4i, 1st and 2nd gen Yamaha R6, Honda Hornet, Suzuki SV650, Yamaha FZ6, and a few others. Age was also a factor, as I wouldn’t have bought neither something older than me as that would most likely have needed to much work and hard to find parts, nor something “too new” as that would have meant lower value for money and higher chance of theft (OK, you could call me a cheap ass :)) ).
Finding my bike
Randomly browsing the classifieds I came across an Yamaha FZ6 with some crash damage, mainly at the forks, located around 1 hour distance from me. Since I was planning to replace the front end anyway, it seemed like a good deal. I quickly looked for how easy and costly it would be to upgrade the forks, and after finding that there is a lot of info and people upgrading the forks/brakes on this model I decided that this FZ6 would make a good project bike unless there was more damage than it was shown in the pictures.
After some brief discussions, I arranged a meeting with the owner on a Sunday and went with my girlfriend to see the bike. We also set a few visiting destinations in the area, to make it kind of day trip, so that if the bike would be a bust, at least we wouldn’t have wasted half a Sunday for nothing.
The main concern I had with this was frame damage, and especially cracks at the frame’s head tube.
Checking the bike
I arrived at the scheduled time (well, not really, due to miscalculating the departure time I arrived about 1 hour earlier, calling the guy one hour earlier to tell him that we were about to exit the highway didn’t seem to make him too happy), and started looking at the bike. The previous owner claimed that the damage was caused by sliding on the ground, after falling from an emergency brake, and that it absolutely was not a head-on collision.
The owner claimed no known issues of any kind.
I started looking at the bike:
- Visual inspection:
- damaged front end (fork + triple tree)
- no signs of cracking at the frame. Unlike steel, aluminum alloy materials don’t really bend, so usually a stressed part either remains intact, or snaps/cracks. Of course, there is also the risk of invisible severe material stress causing unexpected failure, but the likehood of that happening is probably the same as any freak-accident happening.
- apparently straight frame, subframe, swingarm, rims, brake rotors
- it was apparent that there was a custom pearl paint job done, the owner said he had it done himself before me asking about it, and also matte black paint on the fork legs (OEM was silver for that year) and rear subframe
- Engine, gearbox, brakes: no apparent leaks, oil level within the allowed range, normal oil color (no signs of burning or cooling fluid inside it), no excessive wear on the brake rotors or brake pads
- Tires: a lot of thread left, but very old- 2006 DOT number
- various broken/scratched parts (presented lower in this page)
- rear sprocket in working condition, not needing replacement
- chain apparently fine (hard to tell since I forgot to take a ruler to measure the chain link distance)
- gear lever straight
- clutch lever a bit hard to press
- cracked headlight back cover,
- all electrical functions apparently fully functional
After finishing the visual inspection, I started the bike:
- it started OK (at ~2-4C)
- no stuttering and revving OK
- no strange noises,
- could shift through all the gears.
I left it on for a while for the engine to get warm and looked again for leaks, and strange noises. After that I restarted it to check the warm starting. It all seemed OK.
Making the deal
Since there were no apparent issues except for what was presented before my arrival, and the owner appeared trustworthy, we shook hands on a price, signed a standard contract and agreed that I’d be coming next week with the money and a trailer, to pick up the bike and the documents.
Picking the bike
As a side note, my car did not have the trailer plug connected to my car’s electrical system (the shop were I got the tow bar attached seemed dodgy enough not to trust their workers to mess with any wires). Initially I didn’t want to be bothered with setting up the plug so I thought that I’d take the risk and go with no lights on the trailer. Checking the weather forecast indicated a chance of rain and mist, and that made it a bit too risky.
More so, my father (who would be coming with me to help me load the trailer) kept insisting that cars would hit my unlit trailer, so finally I gave up and decided to make the plug functional.
So the night before, armed with a phone to be used as a flashlight, a multimeter, and a printed diagram of the 9 pin trailer plug, some quick connectors, I deciphered the car’s rear lighting wires, and properly connected the trailer plug. More detail on how I did that- here
Next week I rented a platform trailer, and went to get the bike. The trailer was flat and had 2 small ramps, one at each side, each ramp held upright at 90 degrees by one steel arm. Unfortunately the trailer was a rusty piece of shit, having one of it’s holding arms snap and releasing the ramp flat, almost causing a massive crash between the cars behind me (to get a better picture imagine how police cars from 70’s movies swere and frantically after an obstacle appears on the road).
I then stopped in the middle of the road, with the car parked on the left lane and the trailer sticking out on the 2nd lane (to make it better this was a crowded road, 300 meters before the highway entrance )
Luckily I carry a ton of crap in my trunk, so using an elastic bunjee style cord, while being honked and sweared at by a string of everpassing cars, I managed to secure the ramp in a vertical position
Eventually it all worked well, though I had to drive more than 2 times slower that normal, to make sure that the trailer won’t tip over.
Sadly, when I returned the trailer, in the renters yard, masked by the snow was a concrete ledge. Not seeing it I drove the front wheel over it, resulting in a noticeable bending around one of the front jacking points…
Total assessment (confirmed after working on the bike):
- cosmetic damage: scraped and dented gas tank, scraped rear cowl + rear passenger handle, scraped/cracked ends at both grips, quite badly scraped but fully functional clutch lever, various fine small scratches on the frame, random small chips on the rims
- functional damage: bent triple tree and fork legs, fully broken left foot peg, cracked headlight back cover, broken front fender, broken plastic tab at the throttle (making the whole assembly rotate freely on the handlebar) – happily no cracking at the frame head, bent front wheel and brake disks, broken side cowl mounting tab (a quick fix with some epoxy and fiberglass)
- bike came with carbon wrapped Leo Vince SBK exhaust, no DB killers
- rear passenger pegs grinded off
- missing handlebar ends, rear fender, rear plate holder and light, a few screws, nuts and rubber gromets
- also got from the owner: a set of OEM working levers, the bike cover, the rear cowl cover, which proved to be useful (it was later exchanged on the local classifieds with an OEM windshield)
Colored in red is what was unknown to me before making the purchase. A used vehicle always comes with bigger or smaller surprises, in this case solving the “surprise” issues was luckily done within the 200€ I originally budgeted for “surprise issues” within this project.
Part 2 will follow, where I will talk about what is needed for the front end swap.