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Staff bikes: Honda Hornet - In search of that elusive new-bike feel

By James Keen -

First rides & tests

 24 March 2010 15:50

Here at MCN we get the chance to ride a lot of crisp new bikes fresh from the manufacturer, so in comparison my Hornet seems a bit old and tired. For that reason my mission for this year is to get it feeling sharp again.

The first thing that needed attention was the chain and sprockets. Due to regular use and irregular care, the chain was shamefully stretched and the sprockets were worn. I replaced them with a new Tsubaki set from B&C Express for £89.98 (+ VAT) and the bike was transformed. More power to the rear wheel, smoother gear changes and a much tighter feel at the twist grip. I’ve promised myself I’ll keep the chain tight and oiled this time.

Next up was the tyres. I had some Michelin Pilot Road 2 tyres on it and they were perfect for my needs. They’re sports touring tyres with a dual compound structure – harder rubber in the middle for longer life, softer rubber on the edges for more grip. The result is tyres that lasted me close to 7,000 miles while still being confidence-inspiring enough to let me drag the pegs on track days.

But the Michelins were worn close to the legal limit and I fancied a change, so I replaced them with some Pirelli Angel STs – the Dan Brown ones with Angels and Demons in the tread. They start out with a halo-ringed angel pattern and after about 600 miles this is worn away to reveal a horned and tailed demon. It’s a bit gimmicky, but I like it. I’m still scrubbing them in so I haven’t had chance to see the demon yet, but despite the bad combination of wet weather and shiny new tyres I haven’t had any moments.

These two simple changes have made a big difference but the bike isn’t quite at the crate-fresh stage yet. I’m unskilled in the black art of motorcycle suspension but I know enough to realise that the shock is well past its best after nearly 23,000 miles. Plus up at the front end the forks were too soft even when new and the brakes lack bite, despite tasty goodridge hoses. In an ideal world I’d fit shiny gold Ohlins front and back and drool-worthy Brembo from disc to master cylinder, but unfortunately I’ll probably have to think of a more wallet-friendly solution…

Honda Hornet 600 (2005)
Value now:
£2,100
Mileage: 22,512
Power: 90bhp
Torque: 47ft.lbs
Kerb weight: 179kg
Info: www.bandcexpress.co.uk and www.pirelli.co.uk

PROS: New tyres + new final drive kit = new bike (nearly).
CONS: Too many two-up touring miles and bumpy back roads have left the Hornet’s suspension struggling. 
VERDICT SO FAR: Feels a lot fresher than it did, but it still needs work.

Further reading:
Staff bike blogs | Honda Hornet blog

hornet10 blog10