Classic Bike Guide

I rode this one! – Matt


The red, white and blue example you see here is owned by expert restorer Matt Marsham. It is stunning. When he asked if I wanted a go on the cold and damp day we took these photos, I quickly said yes.

It is light, and with its relatively low seat height it feels like you are in control. The perfect – this a Honda – clutch is light, gear changes light enough, and all the controls are where you want to make it all feel instantly familiar. Depending on your usual ride, it feels lacking in torque at first, but that is deceiving as it is pulling much less weight forward than any four-stroke, so the speed is higher than you may think when you look down.

What anyone hearing these bikes on track wants to do is to get into that powerband and then go through the gears in quick succession! Honda’s patented ‘racy, in control, yet comfortabl­e riding position’ gave me confidence and I managed three gears, but I had to give in to the road conditions and sensibilit­y. But it still felt crisp, it felt racy, it felt as I wanted it, like I was catching Fast Freddie.

They are quiet, but I was still aware I was possibly within earshot of Matt waiting for his bike to come back so cruised more sedately. The NS400R will ride like a modern bike, if such a two-stroke existed, but with smoothness and more torque than you may expect. And those small-looking brakes are plenty for the weight, the seating position and suspension calm on the road yet supportive when you brake or accelerate, making the NS a very useable bike. I gave it back to Matt with a smile on my face, but inside I was very envious.

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