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Honda CBR1000F hurricane

Silly bloody idea

(Travels with Guido series #305, by Guy ‘Guido’ Allen, Feb 2021)


Winning the world back-pedalling championships

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Really. You see I’ve been on this long-term mission – more of a background shuffle than an actual mission – to find a suitable donor bike for a café racer project. (Yep, okay, years behind the trend…whatever!)

I’ve nominated all sorts of logical hosts in the past, with Triumph’s early Hinckley Bonneville series as good an example as any. The problem is that I want to do this on a budget and, by the time I pay for a working Bonnie, I’d be tempted to leave the poor thing alone and just enjoy it.

So, what about something older? Have you looked at the market lately? It’s full of carpet-baggers, rogues and delusional optimists. The world seems to think the mere act of adding the term ‘café racer project’ to some clapped-out shitbox will instantly double or more likely quadruple its value. Sadly, they’re right.

For pity’s sake, I’m seeing mid-1970s Kawasaki Z400s being advertised for up to Au$4500 (US$3500, GB£2500). I know what they’re really like and, while they’re an okay machine if treated gently, they’re not worth what is in fact the price of a pretty good Blackbird. The Bird would suck the headlight out of the Zed on the way past. Geez…

The other thing that’s annoying the crap out of me is the limp stuff that people are turning into café racers. Some of it wouldn’t pull the proverbial skin off a rice pudding.

So I thought sod it, I’ll try something different and just buy the cheapest litre-plus 100hp-plus bike I could find and see what happens. A mere $1083 later, I was the proud owner of a 1987 Honda CBR1000F with what the seller cheerfully described as “manky” bodywork but a workable chassis and powerplant. It hadn’t run for a while but turned over okay on a battery.

I mentioned this scheme to a few people, including then Motorcycle Trader mag Editor Chris Harris, who gently reminded me that café racers were all about style. My response became increasingly cranky. Yes, I was aware of the style factor but had anybody noticed that the term ‘café racer’ included the word ‘racer’? By my observation most people thought the correct term was ‘café slug’.

“And another thing,” I ranted (daughter Ms A junior has warned me about this), “how can you call something ‘racer’ if you can lap time it with a friggin sundial? What’s wrong with these people? Do they understand the concept of racer – it’s meant to be fast…” You get the picture. Even though Harris was speaking to me by phone, I suspect he was still mentally backing away and avoiding eye contact.

Once calmed down, I did a quick strip of the CBR to see what we were up against. Jeezuz H Kerrist! This thing – fondly known as the flying condom in its day – is seriously ugly with its clothes off. It’s like catching Donald Trump in the shower, an image you will never shake.

No stylist on the planet could turn this into a good-looking café racer. You’d need a magician.

Righto, it’s time to go hunting again. My criteria remains at least 100 horses from the stock engine, but I might go looking for a written-off SV1000 or Tuono – something along those lines.

In the meantime, what happened to the CBR? I quietly put it back together and contacted the under-bidder from the online auction, who was more than happy to take it off my hands. All up I’d owned it for a week. That was a silly bloody idea…

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