HONDA RC213V-S RIDDEN
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
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