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Column: Blast from the past

2010-09-10 08:02

Dave Fall

It’s been 20 years since the last Honda NC30 rolled off the assembly lines in Japan, but they are still around.

It’s been 20 years since the last Honda NC30 rolled off the assembly lines back in Japan but it’s quite amazing how many of these little ‘pocket rockets’ are still seen - and heard!

Back in Natal my garage was crammed with bikes — mostly British iron — but it was a friend’s NC30 V4 that always attracted the most attention when company called.

History tells us it was back in 1986 that the NC30 VFR and its supremely reliable V4 motor first saw the light of day and continued to be constantly refined from the first VFR750FG through 1998’s VFR800, the VFR VTEC, and of course Honda’s latest superbike, the 2010 VFR1200F.

The day my pal called to say that he was returning to the UK and taking the diminutive NC30 with him actually left a lump in my throat … why, I don’t really know, because tucked away in the garage I had a Velocette Venom, a Norton Model Seven, several twin BSAs, numerous Triumphs and even an NSU Quickly moped - how sad was that!

If you read owner reviews about the NC30 on the Internet the common theme revolves around rider enjoyment: words such as smile, grin from ear-to-ear, thrill, sensational, revvy and “like a dream” abound. Even more pleasing to read was that the very same reviewers also emphasised reliability and the quality finish…

And I felt exactly the same way every time I took the little bike for a spin - with the owner’s permission, of course (well, I did have to keep the battery charged, didn’t I!).

Brilliant chassis

It may well be “only” a 400cc but that little jewel revved to 14 500r/min and produced 45 sensational kW, making it easily capable of a top speed of over 200km/h (although the Japanese versions were limited to 180km/h). Another revelation was the long first gear, good for 100km/h — I kid you not.

The handling of this brilliant chassis was absolutely stunning on those now sorely missed Sunday morning breakfast runs along the Midlands Meander though, to be honest, I never even came close to doing the bike justice.

I can well believe that in the hands of a more capable rider it had what it took to keep up with bigger bikes on everything but the straightest of roads. And while I never got anywhere near the bike’s limits, I still felt sufficiently confident to push it hard enough to finish every ride with one of those ear-to-ear grins mentioned earlier.

Absolutely phenomenal

A practised eye would constantly search for the twisty bit of road in and around the Natal Midlands, or even occasionally taking the long way home from the main city of Pietermaritzburg, perhaps even riding to another town just to pick up a lettuce (that really did happen).

The V-four, four-stroke engine proved absolutely phenomenal and had enough torque to pull cleanly, although it started to really get a move on around 7000rpm, yet always sounded its best north of 10 000! Despite these heady highs, the engine was always the model of reliability.

Are there any downsides to owning such a bike? Well, being a race-replica sports bike, it’s not designed to be comfortable... and it’s not. The handlebars are low, and the footrests are high, so most of your weight is placed on your wrists while you ride. The result from even a moderately lengthy ride, predictably, was always aching arms, tender hands and a protesting back, so it was never the ideal commuter- or touring bike.

That said, you do get used to the riding position quite quickly and after a few days the aches and pains would disappear. Perhaps more importantly, the smiles always far outweighed the aches… did I mention my pal in England still owns the bike?

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