HONDA CRF 230 – LOCKDOWN PROJECT
A quick resume...
I am refurbishing a 2004 Honda CRF230. It is a little trail bike, an air-cooled four-stroke single that had a fairly hard life up till now.
Most of the work had been carried out earlier in the year by Mark up in Cambridgeshire who has an ongoing CRF project and more than knows his stuff.
The need to get it completed was obviously less necessary due to COVID which was now affecting the administrative side more than the mechanical progress.
Certainly the electrics were causing some head-scratching. Mark had planned to use a “floating earth” system that I didn’t understand in the summer and can’t say I’m fully up to speed with now. However after some checking and rechecking of various components that do the magic that is electricity production and regulation, a satisfactory “floating earth” system has been achieved.
The engine was less of a challenge as fitting a new piston and putting the top end back on is pretty straight forward.
So there we are with a running engine and a bike that goes and stops with lights etc that work. The next step is to get an MOT which can be done without a registration number. The MOT person will do the test using the frame number. Surprisingly straight forward.
The same is so for insurance. They were happy to offer cover pending the registration with DVLA. Insurance cover is required before sending in the application.
I had to wait for Honda to provide the letter confirming that they were the manufacturer and the date of manufacture. This they did after a delay, again understandably due to COVID.
The next task is to complete a V55 and submit it to DVLA along with the other required documents and the fee for registration and tax. The website warns that it can take 6 weeks for a reply, and so it did. The documents were sent back with a rejection as they required more explanation as to why the bike had no documents. The documents were resubmitted along with the explanation and another 6 weeks or so passed before the second rejection arrived. This time I was informed that information from the manufacturer was required. This confused me as there was the letter from Honda among the documents they had returned.
What to do?
I had no idea what further documents I could provide. I had been warned by a couple of friends that phoning the DVLA was a waste of time during this period. However in desperation, I tried and within a few menu choices, I got through to a very helpful fella. He wasn’t able to put me through to anyone but seemed knowledgeable and was able to access the letter that had been sent to me. After I explained about the letter from Honda and its contents, he said that he could not understand why there had been a rejection and suggested resending with another letter of explanation. This I did with some trepidation.
Mark had a theory that DVLA may run a system like local authority planning departments. In as much as an application will automatically be rejected twice on inconsequential grounds. All one needs to do is re-order the papers and resubmit and all will be well on the third attempt. He was right and after another 6 weeks, a V5 landed on the doormat.
We are good to go?
Well not exactly as our world had re-entered the next lockdown and it was clear that all plans of having fun on the trails were now going to be put on hold for a good while longer. Yes it was frustrating but compared to either being ill with COVID or working directly with those who were it was not a biggie.
Or so I kept telling myself and anyone else that cared to listen. Time passed, jabs numbers went up and sick numbers came down.
Once the green light to travel further afield came, I headed in a Transit to Cambridgeshire to collect the bike. Before putting it in the van and heading south I went for a spin around the Fenland lanes and put 100 miles on the clock so the valve clearances could be checked and to make sure everything was tight and not falling off. Happily I reported that all was well and there were no issues at all. Mark was able to point out all the fiddly challenges that came with a well used and abused little trailie. The broken, seized fixings needed to be teased out and replaced. New brackets were fabricated and welded in place. All with time and care. The bike doesn’t look new but everything works very well.
One thing Mark was a little concerned about was the new charging system. The standard CRF only has a starter motor. No lights or other ancillaries to burden the system. Fortunately the neat speedo from Koso has a handy voltmeter that shows output whilst the motor is running and there are volts a plenty with the headlight on so plumbing in a GPS for longer sojourns should not prove to be an issue.
The lanes of Kent were calling
Once home the next and most essential task was to take it along some trails. The lanes of Kent were calling and I was more than ready for a little blast. It had been a long time.
Would this little bike be what I’d hoped or would the lack of power make the whole enterprise an anti-climax?
Course not. I would have been too embarrassed to admit that all the effort had been a waste of time. I would have quietly sold the bike and said nothing. No it is exactly what I want it to be. Easy and relaxing to ride, a go anywhere, take on any trail bike. Fast and furious it ain’t but capable it is. The improved suspension means that it works much better than the standard set up. It will be more than capable of riding the trails over the Pyrenees or the Alps which is where I want to be going once we are allowed.
In the meantime, I am down the byways of Kent which, whilst not Alpine passes, are at least close at hand and great fun. The trails were dry and even dusty in part so no problem with grip. We did a little over 100 miles door to door and apart from being ‘kin cold, just the odd flurry of snow, it proved a great afternoon's ride. If only we could have locked the bikes in the garage at the end of the ride and walked in the local, up to the bar and ordered a pint of Guinness. Too much to ask I know, but perhaps one day in the not too far distant future.
The small trail bike has obvious limitations apart from speed and that is the ability to cover long distance, particularly for days on end. Alongside this, the CRF is limited on carrying capacity. Some small sling over panniers are available but I will try to devise something with a crate of racking that is lying in the back of my garage. Until then it will be a backpack and a couple of bungees.
Loving a challenge
At this point I have to thank Mark for all his CRF knowledge and expertise. For him, on his bike the next stage of development is to fit some forks from an XR400. He has shortened them and made a spacer on his lathe. He is not sure if they will work but loves the challenge of trying to get them to fit and work. That is why I asked him to sort mine.
I’m now looking forward to when we can go off further afield, Devon, Wales, even up north. Ultimately we should be heading to Spain in October to take part in Austin Vince’s Pyrenees up. Already postponed a couple of times so fingers crossed that the jabs keep coming and enough people are vaccinated, enabling proper travel once more. Onwards and upwards!
Any thoughts on Dave's lockdown project? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop us a message on Facebook.
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