Sunday, November 18, 2012

VFR 750 Exploration

I bought a Honda VFR 750 in November of this year (2011). For some time I had been wondering about the VFR. A practical bike, a sporty bike, a comfortable bike, a technically advanced bike, a bike you could work on, a bike to get to know. It seemed to have it all. After travelling the motorway to Dublin to see Cork City beat Shelbourne to win the Airtricity League First Divison title and thus promotion I decided it was time to stop dreaming and start getting. My Bandit 600, as much as I love it, has no fairing and nowhere to hide from fast air and the rain that often makes an appearance on this island of ours. A VFR was needed.

And a VFR was found. A 1997 model in green in Tipperary with almost 55,000 miles on the clock. For a VFR that means the engine is barely broken in. With the scheduled maintenance adhered to it'll continue to run forever. I've read of one in London running to 200,000 miles or so before the engine was swapped out for a newer secondhand one. A friend of mine has a CBR 1000 with 150,000 miles on it (or more) and it's insides are perfect. In fact if you look at the odometer you'll see that it won't reset to zero until it hits one million miles. Upon seeing that on the ride home I knew I'd bought the right bike.

So what is the plan for it and what has been done so far?

Due to their being no service history for it I have put it out the back yard and have taken all of the plastics off of it to see what is underneath. And the news is relatively good! Everything is in order and everything is pretty clean. Autosol has taken some of the tarnishing from the stainless exhaust downpipes. The rear subframe and the frame itself are perfect and clean with next to no rust on the steel subframe (main frame is aluminium of course). The engine is clean but could do with a wipe of a cloth...I can be a bit of a perfectionist at times.

Seeing as I don't know the service history I want to change the engine oil, change the brake fluid, clutch fluid, spark plugs and coolant and go through all other service items like carb balancing, valve clearances etc. As well as this all bearings need to be checked too. As far as is possible I want to ensure that the bike is almost like new before it hits the road once again.

The first task on this road was to take all of the fairing off of the bike and give it a thorough clean because if that is not done now then it may never be done. Once fairing is on it rarely comes off unnecessarily.

Richa Sky Jacket (and trousers) Review

The Richa Sky jacket is a three-quarter length touring jacket which retails in the above-€200 bracket (generally on sale for between €220 and 250) and is touted as being one of Richas top of the line jackets. I bought one six weeks ago (October 2012) as a replacement for a Duchinni item I had bought in a sale for €80 about 3 or 4 years earlier and which had served me well. However with a couple of rips from a spill I had over a year ago I reckoned now was a good time to go and replace it as the winter set in.

It was strange buying the Sky because I had actually went into the shop convinced that it was not the jacket I wanted. Riding a VFR I wanted something that was a little more of the sports-style cut so it would not bunch against the tank as the Duchinni had. However what the Sky had on offer for the price (it was on sale for €120 or 130...can't remember!) could not be beaten and there was no way I could leave it behind especially seeing as it fitted me so well.

The jacket seemed to fit like a glove with a slight tightness that made me feel safe within it and which I knew would "give" ever so slightly as time went on as much like leather fabric gear also tends to loosen, although to a lesser extent that leather. Even if it did become that bit looser there was a waist strap and buttons to narrow the sleeves too. The shoulder and elbow armour all fitted into place perfectly and the back armour was reassuring too with the tight(ish) fit ensuring that it all stayed in place. Thwt being said I do find that the elbow armour sticks out when you are hunched over on the bike and leaves the elbow itself a little exposed. It may be that the sleeve needs a twist when I go to zip the end of the sleeve and pull across the velcro tab at the wrist so as to move the armour to keep it on my elbow.

It is a 3-in-1 jacket which is one reason I didn't want it initially as I didn't want to fiddle around with so many liners but actually I haven't had to. I find that I don't sweat much in it despite it being a warm jacket while the Reissa waterproof liner is something I had much hope for it keeping me dry in downpours as I have had the trousers version of this jacket for some time and it has never let me down.

In light rain the outside of the jacket just shrugs it off but in today's extremely heavy rain I found that the jacket may have let some rain in....through the gloves and the neck. Not exactly the jackets fault then! I was dry everywhere bar around my neck and the wrists as water gathered there (I wear my gloves OVER the jacket so water must have seeped down). In the safety of home I put the Reissa lining in the shower and it kept my hand dry underneath so the stuff does work (now bear in mind I did 75 miles in heavy rain with an average speed of 65mph so eve if it did leak you can't blame it much!). A good test after the long ride was to check the thermal liner in the jacket and this was all dry so the waterproofing did it's job as far as I am concerned and the task goes on to find what can keep the water away from seeping down my neck and gloves.

Apart from rain storms the jacket is actually quite comfortable to walk around in as it's perfect fit allows you to move easily and it keeps the wearer warm in cold weather too. However there are some fiddly points that a potential buyer should be aware of...

There are not many pockets in the jacket - 3 if you discount the phone holder pocket in the thermal liner when I had been used to 4 large ones on the Duchinni. However the Duchinni pockets were never waterproof while one of the Richa ones most certainly is (tested in that rain storm!) while the other two ain't bad either. The thing is however that the "other two", they're waist pockets, close by velcro and can be tricky to close properly when you've gloves on as there is an overcut on the pocket to ensure the contents stay dry and this can stop the velcro from sticking.

There are two zips to close the jacket - one for the Reissa waterproof liner and one for the jacket itself. You don't need to close both unless you want to in the rain and the storm flap does a good job at sealing the zips anyway. The neck could tighten up a bit more but it closes by means of a button rather than the conventional velcro that many jackets use. I also find the jacket can show up rain stains as I have the lighter coloured of the options (grey as the predominant colour). Still these are but small complaints for the price I paid for it in the sale!

Overall I would not hesitate to recommend the jacket to anyone whether they use it for commuting or for long tours. It keeps the cold at bay, seems to be very waterproof and fits me like a glove. Of course reviews of motorbike gear need to be considered with the bike they are used my case a VFR 750. Perhaps comfort and dryness levels would be different on, say, a Bandit as so much more is exposed to the air on a naked bike. From what I have seen in a month of almost every-day wear though, I would bet it would take it all in it's stride. Keep it on your list if you need a jacket that can serve all purposes equally well, be useful in all seasons (it has vents and the thermal liner can zip out) and be protective.

Oh and you may as well pick up the trousers as you're at it...they're just about perfect with my only complaint being that the pockets are not waterproof (but they kept dry through the rain storm today...may be because the jacket covered them or the fairing of the VFR diverting the rain). They can also tend to make your legs very sweaty if you are walking around in hot weather but the same can be said of any heavy clothing I suppose.