Michael Rutter asked if we could col­lect his new RCV race bike, but didn’t spec­ify we couldn’t ride it home... John McAvoy took an ab­so­lute lib­erty for a once-in-a-life­time blast through Lin­colnshire

Performance Bikes (UK) - - CONTENTS - Words John McAvoy | Pho­tog­ra­phy Chippy Wood

PB runs in Rutter’s race bike on the road

Iknew be­ing friends with Michael Rutter would come in handy one day. By the time you read this, the news will have bro­ken that he’s rac­ing this year’s Ma­cau GP on a kit­ted Honda RC213V-S. But he’s a busy man: un­der­tak­ing team man­ager, rider and lo­gis­tics co-or­di­na­tor du­ties at Bathams Rac­ing, not to men­tion his PB test­ing du­ties, a day off is a rare lux­ury.

Never one to miss an op­por­tu­nity, he noted that the RCV pro­vided for him to race at Ma­cau was ready for col­lec­tion from Honda Rac­ing in Louth – much closer to PB than Michael’s Mid­lands base. “Don’t sup­pose you

could grab it and bring it the next time we’re at Don­ing­ton?” went the text mes­sage...

The road from Louth, via Cad­well Park, to my home near PB’s Peter­bor­ough base, is very fa­mil­iar. Since pass­ing my test 30 years ago, I’ve crossed the Lin­colnshire Wolds sev­eral times a year. There was no way I was load­ing the su­per-ex­clu­sive RCV into a sweaty van for a 57mph trip on th­ese roads. Michael never spec­i­fied how the bike had to reach him...

A plan was hatched to ride it back: one af­ter­noon with one of the most ex­clu­sive and ex­pen­sive mo­tor­cy­cles that world has ever seen, for one of the

most un­for­get­table road tests I’ll ever con­duct. And then deal with an ex­plod­ing Rutter when he sees the odome­ter at 120 miles...

You do the maths

I never ex­pected to cross paths with an RC213V-S, and there’s no chance I’ll ever af­ford one, so it never re­ally got my full at­ten­tion – un­til to­day.

Now, I’m all ears, and giv­ing my ab­so­lute fullest at­ten­tion to Ian at Honda Rac­ing’s HQ in Louth, who’ve prepped and de­liv­ered many of the UK bikes. Every nugget of in­for­ma­tion he gives me has a price tag at­tached to it: a big one. Choos­ing the NR500-trib­ute paintjob (as Michael did) is an ex­tra £6000 over bare car­bon-fi­bre. If you dam­age a panel, Honda won’t sup­ply a sin­gle re­place­ment, be­cause each set is painted in­di­vid­u­ally, and you have to re­place the whole set to guar­an­tee every­thing lines up ex­actly. Scuff the seat unit with my boot. That’ll be a £10,000 phone call to Chris, that’ll prob­a­bly end with, “That’s your prob­lem. Click, brrr...”

To lighten the mood, the Honda boys wheel out a piece of their more mis­chievous knowl­edge gar­nered in the paddock, and roll a small piece of PTFE tape be­tween their fin­gers, then lay it on the fuel tank. It’s a con­vinc­ing fac­sim­ile of a back-to-primer scratch. I send a photo to Rutter. He calls im­me­di­ately and I tell him that I’m re­ally sorry, I didn’t do it, hon­est...

More money talk: the RC213V-S is the sec­ond most ex­pen­sive prod­uct that Honda make, in­clud­ing their NSX sports car. Only Honda’s jet plane has a big­ger price tag than the bike I’m stand­ing in front of. I’ve heard enough; it’s time to leave be­fore I bot­tle it.

RC213V #090 hasn’t turned a wheel in its short ex­is­tence, the odome­ter reg­is­ters zero. It has taken one ded­i­cated HRC em­ployee three days to hand-build the bike from the ground up with ut­ter pre­ci­sion. The guys at Honda Rac­ing filled it with flu­ids, fit­ted the mir­rors and car­ried out a num­ber of other PDI-re­lated tasks, and my con­tri­bu­tion is to ca­ble-tie a trade plate to it and push it out­doors on to a pub­lic road for the first time ever. I main­tain the mo­men­tum cre­ated by push­ing it out, start it, and leave Honda Rac­ing to the en­gine builds, chas­sis over­hauls and other work on BSB bikes that I’d in­ter­rupted. I’m fi­nally away from the un­spo­ken re­minders of the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of cock­ing this up. I can’t wait to get go­ing.

It needs petrol, though, so I have to stop 150 yards later at the near­est fuel sta­tion. Within sec­onds, a guy has stopped his car and runs over to take pic­tures of the bike as the fuel tank is filled for the first time. “Oh my God! I never thought I’d ever see one of th­ese in my life”, he ex­claims. Sadly for him, I’m not my usual en­gag­ing self, so I leave him to take pic­tures of it while I go and pay.

It’s just a bike... it’s just a bike

Ex­clu­sive and su­per-ex­pen­sive bikes don’t al­ways live up to their hype and as­sumed sta­tus, so I’m pre­pared to be un­der­whelmed, and spend the day worried about mark­ing it, let alone crash­ing it. Es­pe­cially as it’s elec­tron­i­cally re­stricted to 7000rpm in road spec – some­thing few peo­ple re­alised, as every bike sold un­til now had the ‘Sports Kit’ ECU with no such lim­iter fit­ted from new. But it’s a small price to to pay for my time on the RC213V-S.

Head­ing south on the A153 to Horn­cas­tle, it’s all a bit rub­bish to be­gin with. The brakes and dry clutch don’t re­ally bite, both the lever bite points are wrong, and the only things I can see in the mir­rors are my gloves. I feel para­noid that everyone is watch­ing and scru­ti­n­is­ing the berk on a posh bike, and that every lit­tle stone on the road could flick up and do un­speak­able dam­age to the paint­work.

Gen­er­ally, I’m not re­ally en­joy­ing my­self, but I tell my­self to be pa­tient and switch off; give the thing time to bed in. When I get to Horn­cas­tle, in­stead of car­ry­ing on south, I de­cide to turn right on the A158 for a few miles to pick up the B1225 and head north. It’s a re­ally fast open, quiet road which I love, and one we’ve used a lot for pho­tos in PB. It will even­tu­ally take me back round to where I started, on the out­skirts of Louth, and give me chance to bed in the tyres and fric­tion ma­te­ri­als a lit­tle more. I pull over and ad­just the levers to my lik­ing, and just pause for a mo­ment be­fore climb­ing back on the bike. This time feels dif­fer­ent; my head is clear, my emo­tions have set­tled. This time, I just get on, and ride it like any other bike.

‘If you dam­age a panel, you have to re­place the whole set of body­work to make sure it all lines up prop­erly’

Com­ing on song

Free of the ‘what if’ men­tal bur­den and riding as nor­mal again, I’m pass­ing the gates of Cad­well for the sec­ond time in less than an hour in a southerly di­rec­tion, this time at high ve­loc­ity. I can’t take ad­van­tage of the crests in the road, and throw in a wheelie or two. There just isn’t enough go­ing on be­low 7000rpm for that, but it doesn’t mat­ter. Lin­colnshire is stun­ning to­day: a view of blue skies and golden fields en­hanced by the sound­track of Honda’s V4 mo­tor bark­ing through its twin ex­hausts. It isn’t es­pe­cially loud but its pitch and tone are pure class. It sounds just like an NC30 that’s been through pu­berty, its voice now bro­ken.

The 7000rpm cur­few isn’t a big deal on the road, it’s not spoil­ing my fun, but it does mean there isn’t a lot I can say about the mo­tor, apart from just how in­sanely smooth it is. There are no vi­bra­tions at all, it is eas­ily the smoothest en­gine I’ve ever ex­pe­ri­enced. It feels like it is in the same ball­park as my BMW S1000RR long-ter­mer be­tween 4000-6000rpm but with a sub­tle dif­fer­ence. The Honda feels like it re­lies less on the brute force of a surge of torque at low revs, but more of a purer, low-in­er­tia form of re­sponse with less torque. I imag­ine the sec­ond half of the rev range would be largely un­spec­tac­u­lar and de­void of any dips or surges in power or torque, yet ut­terly ef­fec­tive. The fact that it is sig­nif­i­cantly lighter than the BMW will also ac­count for some of this sen­sa­tion.

Then there is the close-ratio gear­box. Oh my word. It has a re­ally tall first gear, but the way it swaps cogs... It feels me­chan­i­cally pre­cise on a level that would shame a Swiss watch maker. Even us­ing the quick­shifter, which on most bikes masks the me­chan­i­cal feel of the trans­mis­sion, my big toe can still feel and fully ap­pre­ci­ate the en­gi­neer­ing that’s gone into ra­tioshift­ing per­fec­tion. The gear­box is sent from heaven.

The stretch of A153 from Con­ingsby to Sleaford isn’t great, but things get in­ter­est­ing again on the A15 to Bourne and A6121 to Stam­ford. The sur­face is smooth, and most of the cor­ners are re­ally fast, punc­tu­ated by a few sec­ond-gear bends, though that’s still na­tional speed limit ter­ri­tory with th­ese tall gears.

The whole bike is now on song. The brakes are bit­ing hard, and the dry clutch is mated prop­erly, too. Fully fu­elled, the RC213V reg­is­ters 188kg on the PB scales. That’s 4kg lighter than a Yamaha R6, and it feels even less. The com­bi­na­tion of this lack of weight, a chas­sis that isn’t just stiff, but is no­tice­ably stiff in places I’m not used to notic­ing (such as around the head­stock and swingarm pivot), and of course top-spec sus­pen­sion ex­plains why for a while I re­ally strug­gled to un­der­stand what was be­neath me. It turns so fast, and so eas­ily and with such pre­ci­sion and sta­bil­ity all at the same time, then holds a line with no ef­fort from me that I’ll spend the rest of my life try­ing to de­scribe the in­de­scrib­able when peo­ple ask about this bike.

It’s that good and re­moved from su­per­bike nor­mal­ity that I can’t ref­er­ence it to any­thing else I’ve ever ridden. Which isn’t sur­pris­ing, be­cause I’ve never ridden a pro­to­type MotoGP bike. Honda used the 2014 RCV1000R, it­self only a pneu­matic val­ve­train/seam­less gear­box away from Casey Stoner’s fac­tory weapon, as the start point. Cat­a­lysts and capped bhp aside, they’ve gen­uinely not sac­ri­ficed much of the pro­to­type feel in mak­ing it road-le­gal.

As I ar­rive in Stam­ford, the temp­ta­tion to go for a few ex­tra miles is strong, but I don’t want to push my luck. Rutter’s new bike has 120 miles on its odome­ter, and is ready to be fit­ted with the race kit and dive straight in to full-throt­tle test­ing with­out him hav­ing to com­plete th­ese few bed­ding-in miles. If he’s for­given me by then, I think I’d like to try it again at full power...

Johnny even had his hair cut spe­cially in an­tic­i­pa­tion of this hot date

Johnny stops to ad­just the mir­rors and calm the f**k down

Wold you be­lieve it? Johnny scrubs in the tyres on Lin­colnshire’s finest tar­mac

Clock­wise from above: Even in ar­eas hid­den from sight, the weld­ing is next-level, while pack­ag­ing is as you’d ex­pect from HRC; it didn’t take too long for the monoblocks to bed in; De­spite an ad­mir­ing by­stander of­fer­ing up his own Har­ris to spare it, Johnny ruth­lessly takes the RCV’s fuel pump vir­gin­ity

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