Hello Fast Bikes readers, my name’s Simon, or ‘Pip’ to my ‘friends’. I work in the FB office, and I’m new to biking – so Moby thought it would be good if I shared my experiences with you here on the FB website. I think he’s just working on the theory that I’m bound to make a tit of myself through a lack of experience, and the fact that I’ve bought a needy VFR400 will make good practical advice and tips for readers who also aren’t rich enough to be able to buy a minter.
I have always loved motorcycles and after a stint working for Fast Bikes decided to stop just talking about it and do it. Just under a year ago I started looking for my first bike. Originally I was searching for something sensible, mainly SV650s and Honda Hornets. After looking at a few of them I decided that I actually wanted something a little more inspiring – a sportsbike it was then. I thought a 600 was my best option but after speaking to some insurance companies eager to pull my trousers down for a year’s cover, I decided a 400 was the way to go if I wanted a proper sportsbike without massive insurance costs. For me there were only two choices; a ZXR400 or an NC30.
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Most of the Kawasakis I could find for the money I had were pretty bad and there seemed to be more NC30s about so it was an easy choice, plus you can’t deny that a 400 with single-sided swingarm and V4 is cool. I reckon the Honda easily beats the ZXR on looks too. After deciding on an NC30, I went scouring high and low for something around the grand mark. Unsurprisingly fleabay came up with the goods for my limited budget and a couple of days later I was looking at the bike on my driveway – what had I let myself in for?
Spending under a thousand pounds on an NC30 got me a bike that is essentially decent, but it needs some work. Things that were immediately obvious were the missing left side middle panel and the fact that the original fairing had taken a battering over the years – they were properly bodged together where they meet under the bike. The rear brake was awesomely badgered with the rear pads worn down to the metal, shot seals and a master cylinder in need of a rebuild. A closer look at one of the front brake discs also revealed that it had a hairline crack – glad I didn’t notice that before riding it 60 miles back to my house.
After having the bike for a couple of days one thing became immediately obvious – I had a bit of a project on my hands. The previous owner’s obvious lack of mechanical sympathy and general neglect meant it was a bit of a dog – nothing that couldn’t be sorted. I thought a good place to start work would be with the basics – an oil change, new oil filter, new spark plugs and because they were looking a bit worn, some new front brake pads. I bought all the bits I needed from Wemoto and proceeded to get the work done.
Draining the oil and replacing the filter was relatively simple – I managed to avoid spilling oil all over my garage floor and although it was fiddly, changing the filter was not a problem. The front brake pads came out easily and before fitting the new EBC items I had to gently work the pistons back into the caliper, which was no fuss. Changing the spark plugs was probably the most annoying thing, simply because access to the front two cylinders is so limited. I unscrewed the crusty bolts on the seat unit, removed it and then lifted the tank up and supported it with a piece of wood to get to the back two cylinders and remove the plugs with a 13 mm long reach socket.
Getting to the front two plugs means taking off the smaller middle fairing panels on each side and then slackening off the screws that hold the top radiator in place. Lots of people recommend removing the top rad but I found that loosening the bolts enough so that I could pivot it out of the way was enough to get my hand behind it and only skin my knuckles a little bit.
Next time: FB’s resident mechanic Moby sorts my brakes…
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