You don’t get a job as a motorcycle journalist because the money is great. Quite the opposite, in fact. You get a job as a motorcycle journalist because you’re obsessed with motorbikes, you think you can write and you think you can do a job at least as good as those that you study in magazines and on websites. The problem with having an all consuming passion for motorbikes is that publishers (the grown ups who dish out jobs as bike hacks), know that you’d sell your sister for a go on that shiny new press bike in the car park and they pay you accordingly. From the outside looking in, we live a very glamorous life, jetting around the world carrying brand new leathers and fancy lids to ride bikes that aren’t even out yet, on empty tracks, all the while being told how amazing we are by PR people. It’s a lovely way to not really earn any money. The idea of taking biking back to where it all began for Chris and I (the same place as all of you, I hope) was one that we’ve been playing with for ages. Set a tiny budget, buy a couple of bikes that are way beyond their sell by date and have some fun on them. This isn’t going to be a serious feature, we don’t intend to impart any technical wisdom along the way, nor do we expect you to rush out and buy a cheap bike at the end of the piece. The aim with what we’re about to undertake is to make you laugh and to try not to break anything made of bones or blood along the way. So, what did we buy?
With a budget of just £350 it was always going to be a challenge to find something half decent. The Honda C90 route was ruled out on the grounds that they’re indestructible and that’s just not cricket. No, we had to find actual motorbikes. Chris had his eyes on Honda CB500s straight away, to say that they are plentiful is like saying that sometimes it rains a bit in the UK. Chris found a suitable victim and dragged his 2006 bike back to his lockup. As is the norm with the Northover family, within minutes bits of it had been pilfered for other bikes within his fleet (17 bikes and counting last time I checked).
Chris also couldn’t help himself and fitted a handbrake with a view to this bike eventually being used for some enthusiastic amateur stunt riding. At £360 it was already ten quid over budget, but it looks pretty straight and is no doubt the safe bet between the two bikes we have.
I cheated straight away, not with the budget, but with the audience I used to find my bike. We agreed that the bikes should only come via the normal route (ebay, Gumtree and Biketrader), naturally I went straight to Twitter and Facebook and found my little gem for bang on £350. I got myself a 1987 Yamaha FZR 750RR. Yes, two Rs, just like an OW01.
Mine was an American import, came with tax and an MOT. Kirk, the lovely chap that sold it to me was using it as everyday transport. He was also a SuperBike fan and was happy to let it go cheap in order to see it being used for the good of this feature. I win round one, I reckon.
My first look at the bike was on the day of the first challenge, which was little more than a chance to point and laugh at what we’d bought and to see if either of them actually ran. The fuel tank on mine had more holes than a Hollyoaks storyline, a mirror made of rusty toilet roll and a paintjob that is best viewed through binoculars. There’s something about it though, sitting on it and stretching for the skinny bars reminded me of sitting bikes when I was a kid. It feels, fast. We finished laughing and got stuck into getting the things running. Chris and his super reliable Honda hit a snag, his bike refusing to play the game due to, well due to being a bag of shit, mostly. I cheated straight away and discarded the original fuel tank, instead hooking up the nearest spare I could find in the workshop at DMP (the place we shoot all of our tech features, owned by Dan Miles). A cough turned into a splutter, which turned into regular combustion. My bike was alive! I even managed to ride it out of the shop while Chris and his stupid hat were still stripping bits out in order to find the problem. I returned from a lap of the car park, sat with a cuppa and watched Chris eventually get the super reliable Honda running. My ship had already sailed though, and along with it a round one victory to team Hogan. The plan for round two involves making them look pretty for not a lot of money. I’m going to cheat, continuously because as soon as the challenges involve riding, Chris will shine and no doubt make me look very silly indeed. Click the link and watch the footage of what we got up to. You’ll be able to keep up with the shit bike challenge here on SuperBike as well as on Bike World, which goes out on Motors TV.