Hornets, Hornets, Hornets..

An unfortunate turn of events lead me to finding and buying back my old bike.. a quick fixer upper winter hack soon turned into a labor of love

After Ashleigh had an unlucky off on his GSXR after only owning it for 3 weeks, I suggested to him to look for something to use for transport through winter while we completely rebuild his bike.

Reminiscing about how good my little old commuter Hornet 600 was, I suggested he take a look at a 900 as he would dwarf the little 600, with the 900 having plenty of power they’re still great on fuel and plenty of fun but still practical as a day to day bike.

This then lead to us finding up a lovely blue 900 seen online in a dealership. It ticked all of the boxes; low mileage, 1 owner, full service history, a few little extras and Ashleigh’s favorite feature -powder coated fluorescent yellow wheels (gross!) it was a perfect match, so we thought..

Not so much, there was brake fluid pouring out of the brake light switch, there was over spray all over the bike, the forks were pitted and the engine casings had definitely seen the gravel at some point, although I could spend all day listing other things wrong with it.

This was within 3 miles of delivery.

A swift rejection and refund now in place, it was time to take another look, settling on a little bargain we had found, the only down side is that it had the tank re-sprayed after a drop, and the colour wasn’t quite a perfect match.

Ashleigh now happy with his new 900, I couldn’t stop thinking about my old 600, I’ve always said I’d buy it back if I ever saw it again.. I even wrote about how I’d buy it back on my post about rebuilding it the first time around..

Within the next week I spent more hours than I’d like to admit looking for a cheap Hornet project to fix up all over again when I scrolled passed one on Gumtree that was fairly local, the heading was “Hornet 600 for swaps only” so I didn’t look at it any further.

But something drew me back to the advert, reading further he only wanted to swap for a motocross bike, then it clicked, hideous orange wheels, renthal bars and orange Samco hoses.. it was my old bike!

Through the window of the dealership I knew it was mine..

I had actually spotted it a few months back and had taken a photo, knowing none of my friends would believe I’d found a bike I sold over 2 years ago so close to home!

Before I knew it we were exchanging messages and I asked him what it would take for him to sell instead, but with no luck at all.

Another week passes and he had sent me a text, he wanted to buy a new car and asked if I were still interested in his bike as he now wanted to sell it quickly, at a bargain price.

That same day we made the 30 mile trip with a friend, Nathan coming up to his house as pillion and riding it back for me, I was ecstatic.

Having only covered a little under 1100 miles since I sold it, the bike clearly needed a little more than a wash and polish, as well as being completely drained of fuel before we collected it.

Running out of fuel just out side the petrol station, we got it in and fueled up and it became apparent that it would benefit from a carb clean, as well as noticing a new dent in the tank and a few scuffs it looks like it had been dropped recently.

Getting it home, the plan was to strip and assess the damage the next morning and get to work with whatever needed doing.

Although we all stopped and took turns having a go on each others bikes, comparing the 600 with the 900 and then with the GSXR just for fun.

Getting out in the garage, the shopping list had already started;

– Powder coat the wheels
– Ditch the orange hoses for standard or black
– New braided lines they were rusted and the coating had worn away
– Brake rebuild kit
– Service kit
– Mirrors and possibly wider/flat bars

After a good load of Harpic on the headers and a good cut and polish

The belly pan was unfortunately broken and was amazingly held onto two of the mounting points with copious amounts of tape the plan was to repair and repaint it, as well as the mudguard back to the original colour.

The engine could do with some touch up paint, having been stored outdoors for the past year it has a fair few rust patches as well as oxidization all over the wheels.

After some cleaning and polishing, I took it for a run to see if I could see or think of anything else that needed work, the suspension was suspiciously soft, with me being able to bottom out the forks when getting it off the kerb to leave

Another thing that was noticed was some missing bolts, and not your typical missing fairing bolt..

As well as this, the disc bolts were all worryingly loose, so I began the wheel strip down with the bike now on axle stands sat in the garage.

I planned to take them back to the original colour, which wasn’t dissimilar to gun metal grey which is what I eventually settled on, but with a little twist.

The wheels now at NL Powder Coating, I ordered front and rear bearings and seals, totaling just under £20 for both.

As well as this, I ordered some new carbon look braided hoses and found a Chinese copy mudguard for only £8, I figured it was a risk worth taking, for only £8 if it’s rubbish it doesn’t matter too much, and I couldn’t find a genuine blue one anywhere.

Next I sold the Samco orange hoses on an owners group on Facebook, these more than covered the cost of the new black ones I had then ordered for only £19.99

The bike was now beginning to take shape again, with the wheels ready for me to collect the same week. I picked up some cheap “street fighter” mirrors for £12 and there wasn’t much left to do aside from the brakes and some tidying up.

The wheels were back, and I was totally in awe of them, the finish was great, the quality was great, and every thread had been taped up and covered properly so there would be no worries when reassembling them

Gun Metal Grey with Sparkle

Next came some wiring repairs, I quickly found that the plug to the alternator had exposed wiring and had melted, fusing the wires together. I then removed the plug entirely and hardwired the alternator wires to the bike.

I also removed what looked to have been an alarm at some point, although now it was just some broken wires, none of that was there the first time I owned the bike

All of the connector blocks were cleaned, all dodgy wiring removed and repaired or replaced as well as the addition of some sequential “drop proof” LED indicators to modernise the bike a little

Of course energy drinks and snacks are the only way to get through wiring headaches

The wiring now repaired and the bike rolling again, the calipers were in dire need of a rebuild, so I went to work with stripping them down ready to order the kit..

But curiosity got the better of me as it always does, and soon enough I was looking at caliper and master cylinder upgrades as these felt poor compared with the Brembo set up I have on the GSXR

A little research lead to me find out that the 1999 Honda Deauville NT650V had Brembo calipers from factory, and going off the measurements they should be a straight fit onto my Hornet

With a rebuild kit costing around £40 for a decent quality one, I looked at the cost of the Brembo calipers, the average price seemed to be around £75, a few cheeky Ebay offers later and I had a set posted to me for £50, hoping the condition matched the description.

Another test ride was in order, something a little further knowing that all of the work to my knowledge had been done, while waiting on the delivery of the new calipers.

I planned to keep an eye out for anymore issues or faults, there was bound to be something, there always is!

I was right, the first noticeable issue was how soft the suspension was, even after I had initially adjusted it it just plodded along like a pogo stick.

The next issue was the radiator cap, it wasn’t actually on at the right angle so was leaking coolant, a minor issue that was instantly resolved

The final issue noticed was a wobble at higher speeds, which was expected as the wheels had not yet been balanced

All in all, after 200 miles there didn’t seem to be much wrong so it was back to finishing what I had started, but with a suspension service/rebuild added to the list!

The calipers had arrived!

They certainly weren’t bad for the money, a bit of a clean up needed and a replacement seal, one piston in the left caliper was seized, but with a bit of wiggling and help from the compressor it came out with ease, also spraying me with brake fluid on the way out

There was a rebuild kit for GSXR calipers already in the garage, luckily with them having the same size seals I saved a small fortune on the rebuild kit for the Brembo calipers and within minutes everything was moving as it should be.

A few photos of the old and new side by side really show the difference, and just how worn the original ones were as well as the new mudguard, it looked miles better in next to no time.

Next on the list was LOTS of touch up paint, the entire bottom end of the engine, it looks like it had been covered in road salt at some point and had just eaten away through the paint.

Armed with nothing but a soft paintbrush and a tin or heatproof silver paint I got to work with repainting the engine.

The finish wasn’t the best in the world, but who can actually see the underside of the engine? Better protected than rotten.

I also had to repaint the brake and gear levers, these had also rusted quite a bit, so used the same colour as the engine to go over these after they’d had some preparation done to them

The bike now aesthetically better off, it was time for the fork service to be done, no more Pogo Stick all over the place, and I wanted to get it on the road and the GSXR off the road before winter hit us.

The first job was taking it all apart, a routine I now have down to a T after carrying it out over and over, just hoping that it would be the final job to be done.

The bike stripped down and the forks now off, it was time to see the state of what came out of them, the smell was awful.

Just under 400ml of oil came out, black, grey and stinking of a stench I’d struggle to properly describe.

In went the recommended 485ml of oil, starting with the 10W that was in the garage

It looked a much better colour, the bike reassembled and a quick ride around the block and things didn’t feel much better, the front end had no feel and it still felt like it would fall over in the corners.

A longer test run was needed, so the plan was to ride it to work the following day and see how it behaved, the back end now slightly stiffened up as well as the forks being serviced.

I think it’s safe to say that it didn’t end well..

Whether it was down to greasy roads, autumn leaves all over the place, a patch of oil, loose gravel, bottoming out the forks (still), heavy braking or just rider error, it still didn’t feel quite right.

As usual, I picked it up, laughed it off and carried on my way to work, taking a little more care from then on!

A quick look on a Hornet forum as well as an owners group and it seemed a common issue, lack of front end stability with the biggest complaint almost always being that it felt like a pogo stick, echoing my previous thoughts..

Most riders seemed to have resolved this with progressive springs or more cheaply, by changing the 10W fork oil out for a heavier 15W fork oil, the 15W then ordered it was time to try things again..

The 15W oil did the job perfectly, the bike now handling much better it was time for it to carry on with it’s new life as a commuter.

The last bits and pieces for the Hornet were upgrading the crash protection.

Noticing where touched the floor following our little spill I invested in the same exhaust guards I use on my GSXR as well as some new beefier frame sliders

The frame sliders are a simple bolt on job, with them being fitted through an engine mount and supported through the bracket you can see above them.

All I needed was a jack to support the weight of the engine while I changed them over, easy-peasy with the only tools you need being a 17mm spanner and a 17mm socket!

Next was fitting the exhaust guards, surprisingly an even easier job than the frame sliders

The exhaust guards lined up with where I wanted them to be, the only work needed it to tighten them until they fit snugly against the cans, which can be done with either and 8mm socket/spanner or a phillips screwdriver

Several minutes of tightening the screws on each exhaust and they were perfectly fitted, it couldn’t be easier.

The weather now horrendous it was time to retire the GSXR for winter and make the Hornet the daily ride, confident in the changes I’d made to it, it was time for it to return to the roads again.

The Hornet rebuild now complete, I no longer have a project in the garage to work on..

Although I’m sure I’ll find something else to do to it over winter..

I guess I’ll have to keep an eye out and see if I can be reunited with my old SV650 next!

Feel free to let me know what you think in the comment box below..

Where am I located?

Cardiff, Wales, UK