At the weekend I was talking to a friend about motorbikes (which is quite often what I spend most weekends doing) and we were discussing rubbish ones. He asked me what the worst bike I’ve ever had was, and I struggled to answer him. I really had to think about it, because most of the bikes I’ve had, I’ve loved, even the crap ones. In fact the more I thought about it, the more crap ones I’ve had; but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy owning them, and riding them. Anyway, I decided that to work out which bike was the worst I’ve ever had, the first thing I needed to do was make a short-list. And here it is.
This was the first road bike I ever had. I rode it every day, to get to school and back. Obviously, as a typical 16 year old, I didn’t have the knowledge, money or inclination to look after the bike properly. And as you can imagine, it got thrown on the floor on more than one occasion. Needless to say, the bike didn’t winter very well, and after a year it looked rather second-hand.
But I kept riding it to school, and kept running it into the ground. I absolutely loved that little bike, it gave me what every teenager craves; independence. I didn’t have to pester friends and family for lifts, or rely on trains and busses. I could get on my bike and go wherever I wanted. And I did. I had some awesome experiences on that bike, but I also had some horrendous ones, too; there were a lot of miles pushing the thing home after the engine had seized, again. And getting lost (I mean completely lost) was a regular occurrence; 200 mile round trips to see friends often turned into 400 mile round trips, after getting lost and going round the houses umpteen times.
Nowadays I realise that embarking alone on a 400mile round trip, with no motorways, no satnav and a Nokia 3310 with no ‘credit’, on a 50cc bike that does 50mph max and will probably break down is nothing short of stupid. I was obviously very stupid. But I survived two years with that bike, and I loved it with all my heart.
When I bought the CBR600FS I was looking for a cheap mule to take to the Isle of Man. I wanted something that I could put miles on as cheaply as I could, without tying loads of cash up. The CBR was not sexy at all. There was no room in the garage, the shed or the house for another bike at this point (like all my cash, all the space was taken up by race bikes), so it lived outside. Outside, under a tree where all the birds could go to the toilet on it. And if you left it there for over a week, to quote Fagan, “it looked like the National Spiderweb Convention had held its annual general meeting on it.”
It looked a mess. And the fuel gauge didn’t work, which caught me out a time or two, but other than that it was a pretty solid bike. When it was cold it sounded a bit rattly, like the cam-chain was about to jump a tooth, the ignition barrel was quite sticky and I was just waiting for someone to ring me and tell me they’d snapped the key off in the ignition (I wasn’t precious about who rode it, it was a bit of a bitch of a bike). But none of that ever happened.
And in all fairness, it rode pretty well too, for an old bike. It would be really unfair to call the CBR600 the worst bike I’ve ever had, because it was actually quite good. It was just really, really tatty.
From one of the cheapest bike’s I’ve ever had to one of the most expensive. I say ‘had’, I didn’t own the 1098R myself. I did race it for a season though. And this might seem like a strange addition to ‘the worst bike I’ve ever had’ shortlist, because if I’m being honest, it’d probably also appear in the ‘best bikes I’ve ever had shortlist’ too. Because the thing with the 1098R was that sometimes it was the most incredible bike to ride. It was as fast as anything else on the grid, and you felt as though you could control it with the power of thought alone. Some days, I rode that bike and thought “this must be what a MotoGP bike is like to ride”. It did everything you wanted it to do.
But unfortunately, that was only sometimes. It was the most frustrating season’s racing I’ve ever done. I’d go from being top six every session one weekend, to struggling to get in the top 30 the next.
I eventually discovered the problem was a setup one. The Japanese bikes I’d been used to riding up to that point were fairly forgiving with their setup. I’d raced a Fireblade the season before, and as long as you were in the ballpark with your setup, you’d be alright.
The Ducati was completely different. If you got it right, riding it was one of the most magical experiences ever. But if you didn’t, it was awful. There was no ‘balllpark’ with the setup, it was either right or it was wrong; and it was so difficult to get it right.
That season nearly broke me. I knew I was quick enough to be at the front (or at least near it) but I couldn’t work out how to set the bike up. So I pushed anyway, and crashed a lot. And then got sacked. Bastard!
This was without a doubt the worse bike I’ve ever bought, or it certainly was when I bought it anyway. I bought it on eBay one night when I was pissed up in the pub, thinking it would be a great bike to go and race at the Classic TT. It was a non-runner, but I thought I’d be able to breathe a bit of life into it, with a bit of help from my old man, and my old mate ‘Udders.
I knew it was going to be bad when I picked it up, but it was even worse than I could have possibly imagine. But I’d bought it. So I handed £600 over to the gentleman and loaded £50s worth of scrap into the back of my van.
The previous owner had tried and tried and tried to get it running, but to no avail. I hoped we wouldn’t have the same problem.
When I got it back home and had a good poke around it was clear why he couldn’t get it started. He (or someone) had put a hacksaw straight through the loom. Not just one or two wires, but a big bundle of them, running down the side of the frame. Why they’d done that is anyone’s guess. After a bit of faffing, we got it running, and the motor worked which was a god-send, but it was still a shed. The forks had zero damping, and you couldn’t tell if the shock did or not because the linkage and all the shock bearings were rusted solid.
After a lot of hours though, and a few thousand pounds, we got the thing tidied up, running properly and actually in alright nick. And just in time for the Classic TT.
As I’m writing this, Budget Bike Battle 5 is in it’s final edit stages and will be coming to you in a few weeks, so I shouldn’t give too much away. But the truth of the matter is, the little three wheeler I bought for the trip was definitely one of the worst bike’s I’ve ever had. Especially when I bought it. In fact I didn’t even make it home before it broke down.
The amount of work it took just to get the thing road worthy was ridiculous (despite it having an MOT). We built an entirely new floor for it, stripped and serviced the brakes (we had to saw the front wheel spindle off, because we couldn’t even hammer it out), rewired the lights, and had to clean out the entire fuel system. And it was still shit.
The best you could hope for was 50mph, and that was with a backwind. Every time you took your hands of the handlebars, the thing tank-slappered itself into oblivion. And it seemed to have a penchant for understeering into oncoming traffic whenever you asked it to turn left.
Apart from the fact that you could get in and out with a wheelchair, there wasn’t anything good about it. But sometimes that just adds to the fun. Despite it being completely rubbish, I still like taking it out for a spin every now and then. It can’t be the worst bike I’ve ever had, because it still makes me smile. I do need to sell it, because I need the cash back out of it and I’ve got nowhere to store it, but I’ll be genuinely sad to see it go. Oh well, needs must. Any takers?