HORNY FOR HOR­NETS

‘Ten years and 25,000 miles later I still love my Hor­net’ Ab­bie Banks, Hor­net owner

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week -

The mid 1990s saw the re­turn of the back-to-ba­sics road­ster. Suzuki got the ball rolling big style with the Ban­dit and it wasn't long be­fore ev­ery­one jumped on the band­wagon.

Us­ing the Ban­dit’s ‘parts-bin’ recipe of proven, de­tuned four-cylin­der en­gine in a bud­get, no-frills, upright chas­sis, ma­chines like the Yamaha Fazer and Honda Hor­net of­fered a com­bi­na­tion of easy man­ners, fun per­for­mance and great value that made them all hugely pop­u­lar as first big bikes for thou­sands of mo­tor­cy­cling new­com­ers.

MCN reader James Swaine was one of the many. He says: “I had a 2012 Hor­net in white. It was my first big bike af­ter grad­u­at­ing from a Honda Va­radero 125, I did just un­der 4000 miles and I loved ev­ery mile.”

Ab­bie Banks is an­other Hor­net­lov­ing rider. “I bought a 1998 Hor­net as my first big bike in 2006 and ab­so­lutely loved it,” she told MCN be­fore adding: “Sadly, af­ter 12 months and about 8000 miles, I wrote it off.”

For the most part, though, the Hor­net story is a fun-packed one. In­spired by the Ban­dit, Honda knew its bike had bet­ter be bril­liant – and it was.

Ar­riv­ing in 1998, the bike was built to the same tem­plate as the Suzuki – but Honda added an ex­tra hefty dol­lop of fun. So the en­gine, for ex­am­ple, in be­ing the proven four from the CBR600F, was not only sim­i­larly ver­sa­tile and proven, with 97bhp com­pared to the Ban­dit’s 73, it was far more po­tent and revvy, too. While the han­dling, with wheels from the Fire­blade in­clud­ing a slightly odd 16-inch front, was both sharper and spright­lier as well.

Else­where, by hav­ing a ba­sic, tubu­lar steel frame, naked, upright gait and un­in­tim­i­dat­ing low seat, the Hor­net was about as fa­mil­iar and straight­for­ward as bikes got. In short: it was easy to ride, ver­sa­tile, re­li­able and fun. And, with the cher­ries on top be­ing some­thing of a bad boy im­age – no bike cried ‘wheelie me’ more than a Hor­net in the late ’90s – Honda build qual­ity and a tempt­ing price the Hor­net had an aw­ful lot go­ing for it.

It wasn’t per­fect, though. In 2000, fol­low­ing re­peated crit­i­cism of twitchy han­dling, the 16in front grew to 17in, the brakes were im­proved and, like the Ban­dit, a half-faired ver­sion was in­tro­duced. In 2003, the faired CB600FS was dropped and the Hor­net re­ceived a big­ger tank. Then, in 2005, the clocks were mod­ernised and the Hor­net got in­verted forks.

But the big­gest change came in 2007 with an all-new, 100bhp Hor­net based around the CBR600RR en­gine and with new styling. This ver­sion, al­though suc­cess­ful enough to sur­vive un­til 2013, re­tained the spirit and func­tion of the orig­i­nal even if its im­age and at­ti­tude had been lost. For some that mat­tered, for most it didn't.

Reader Shona Fraser said: “I bought a 2009 gold Hor­net straight af­ter pass­ing my test. I had her for two years, cov­ered thou­sands of miles. It was the ul­ti­mate first bike, mas­sively con­fi­dence-in­spir­ing with its easy han­dling and re­spon­sive throt­tle.”

To­day the Hor­net’s place in Honda’s range is taken by the CB650F, a worthy enough bike but no Hor­net. And Ab­bie? The one who wrote off her Hor­net. What hap­pened to her?

“Just as I was try­ing to de­cide whether to cut my losses or get back on the road, the 2007 Hor­net made an ap­pear­ance,” she said. “I went straight out and bought the only new ve­hi­cle I’ve ever owned. Ten years and 25,000 miles later I still love it.”

‘I had mine for two years, cov­ered thou­sands of miles. The ul­ti­mate first bike’ MCN READER SHONA FRASER

Put that wheel down now! It's not big and it's not clever…

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