As you may have seen, I just checked one bike off my bucket list with the recent purchase of a Honda RC30. I had been commuting with it for a few days, and was really looking forward to my first weekend with it so I could try out the local canyons. The verdict? The front end was terrible – to the point that I thought the front tire was flat. Time to figure out what’s wrong!
As a little bit of context, my bike was built in December of 1989, and it’s #35 of the ~300 that the US got (all of which were 1990 model years). The US bikes are differentiated by the “RC30” on the tail (as opposed to “VFR750R” in other markets) as well as a red tank logo (yellow in other markets).
During my first week of ownership, I had noticed a few things that were annoying. Some were obvious before I bought the bike – it was missing the turn signals, horn, and seat lock. So I had the service department at Iconic order some parts, and a friend of mine sold me some used front turn signals.
There was also plenty of minor cosmetic issues such as chips and bubbles in the paint – but if it was a pristine bike I would have a.) paid much more and b.) been scared to ride it regularly anyway, so I’m fine with that.
I also wasn’t excited about the 18″ rear wheel as there aren’t any decent modern rubber options, but finding a 17″ rear is an expensive proposition and I’m not yet motivated enough to spend that kind of dough. It’s currently equipped with Shinko Podium tires – I once had a set of Shinko 705s on my R1150GS and was pleasantly surprised with them for the price, but I’d like to have some higher quality tires for the RC.
Once I started commuting with it, however, a few more things came to light. One big issue was the abysmal turning radius (I knew it was a sport bike, but I was still shocked by how wide I was running at walking speed). What really concerned me was what happened the first time I got to take it out in some canyons on my first weekend ride. As noted above, the handling got so bad halfway through the day that I thought the front tire was flat. I switched bikes with a buddy who has lots of RC30 experience to see what he thought, and he knew something was up within 15 seconds. So I got back to the shop and parked it. By that point I had already covered a couple of hundred miles and decided that I’d be keeping this bike for a while, so it was time for a service, anyway.
Over at Iconic, our head mechanic Steve has been given the nickname of “The Professor” because he’s wise and he can work on anything. He has years of experience with AMA Honda race bikes and he’s the perfect person to work on my RC30, especially seeing as he’s serviced roughly 25 of them in the last two years. Steve got to work with the basis – oil/filter change, hydraulic fluid flush, coolant flush, etc. But he also took some time to go through just about every bolt and he had some interesting findings.
First of all, the WP steering damper was blown. That explained the poor steering – it didn’t rear its ugly head during my mostly-straight commute, but after a few corners it overheats and goes to hell. That came off immediately.
He also figured out why the turning radius was so bad. Turns out that the previous owner/shop who rebuilt this bike (it had an engine failure early in life and sat in pieces for about 25 years) installed the clutch hydraulic line at a bad angle, which caused it to hit the speedometer when the bars were turned all the way to the right.
I was glad to get this RC30 back to a relatively normal baseline, but my partner at Iconic (Adam Tromp) is always thinking big. We had two sets of WSBK forks laying around, one of which we’ve installed on a Honda NR750 project (more on that later). The measurements are closer than you might suspect, and he’s trying to convince me to put the other set on this RC30, but I’m planning on keeping it stock for now. Who knows what the future might hold…
After some care from the Professor, my bike was ready to enjoy again – and getting that much closer to street legality with front turn signals (I’m still waiting on the rears, which are coming from the Netherlands). Time to put some more miles on it!
On to Part 3!