First ride on the Honda Hornet 900

By Matt Statham 11/12/01

(apologies for the crap digital camera pictures - I'm getting a new one asap!)

Hornet 900 first ride ö the Hornetmeister view·

I wake bright and early on Saturday the 8th December, like an excited kid on Christmas day ö Mark at Tippetts has loaned me their brand new Hornet 900.
The sun is splitting the curtains in two, so I roll out of bed and head for the window. Oh bugger, itās freezing cold and icy.
The ride to Tippetts to pick the bike up goes like a blur, my head full of expectations. I arrive and there it is sitting outside the showroom, straight out of the box and shiny as a new pin.
My first impressions on sight are that this bike looks no bigger than the 600 - side-on. But my grin widens as I stand before it and notice the wider tank, the chunky clocks and that all-important Fireblade lump, 919cc clearly stamped on the side of the block. Yum. A quick shuffle to the rear end and my smile widens further, two tasty pipes astride that fat back tyre.
Iām in Hornet heaven and I havenāt even sat on it yet.

Hornet 900 side view - from a distance it looks like 600.

Me in there for scale.

After a quick exchange of pleasantries with the Tippetts gang I scuttle outside ö key in hand. I mount her. The tank is definitely wider, but the position and feel is very much like the 600. I notice my knees arenāt slightly bent, so the ride height is slightly higher than my own bike, but then, my suspension might be set softer. I slowly pass the weight from foot to foot ö feels nice, not much heavier. My thoughts at this point ö ĪIām gonna like this·ā

Gorgeous rear view.

Those twin pipes.

I slot the key in and twist it. The lights on the slinky dash illuminate, the digital odometer appears and thereās a sort of whizzing sound for a couple of seconds, probably the fuel pump lining some juice up to the fuel injectors in anticipation of ignition. Instinctively I look for the choke, none of course, so I hit the starter and the beast comes to life. No big roar, just a nice deep purr. I tweak the mirrors, slip into first and head off.

Nice looking dash layout.

The view from the seat.

Any thoughts that this bike was going to scare the living daylights out of me quickly vanished. The power is very user friendly. Now, bearing in mind that this baby is box fresh, 95 miles on it to be exact, and the roads are icy in the shadows and wet and greasy in the sun, this is not the best day to be ripping up country lanes. The tyres are nowhere near scrubbed in, so plenty of straight-line action is on the cards.

The bike rides well and feels positive. The handling is very similar to the 600. Apart from the power, the next thing I notice is the front brakes. They stop on a sixpence. Very nice indeed. Before I know it Iām heading South on the A3. The engine doesnāt scream like the 600 and what feels like 50mph turns out to be 95. Blimey. She redlines at 9500 rpm and kills at 11,000. Compare that to the redline of 13500 rpm and kill of 15,000 on the 600 and you can see what a difference 320cc makes.

The rev counter - showing the redline..

The Fireblade 919 engine fits snug.

Those hot-stoppin' Nissin calipers.

Split brake lines instead of the pass-over system on the 600. Should be perfectly balanced.

Later, with a bit of open road before me, I decide to test the grin factor. From a standing start I wind her up. You just know that the front end would love to part company with the tarmac. Up to second, third, fourth ö my arms are stretching, backside pushed right to the back of the seat. I want one I want one I want one!

Hey look, a Bandit 600 rider with scorpion end can ö lets gun him down. Down to third and onto the power again for maximum passing effect. Keeeeerchow! Later potato. Funnily enough, that was the last I saw of him.

Riding a bike thatās just hit the showrooms and is as rare as rocking horse doo doo on the road gives you something of a buzz. Youāre suddenly aware that you crave the looks of everyone. And I mean everyone. At one set of lights I carefully line the bike up so that the Hornet 900 badge emblazoned on the tail unit is perfectly in line with Mr Old Boy Volvo driverās side window. He mustāve noticed. I tell myself he has and make a point of being three quarters of a mile up the road before heās even selected first. That told him.

The word 'Hornet' finally makes it onto the bike.

Nice looking swing arm.

Downpipes drop straighter, leaving a bigger gap -
should be easier to keep clean down there with less scuffed knuckles!

The rear end is a nice tidy affair - very cool.

The bike looks more balanced now with twin pipes.

Spring covered lower coolant pipe - but the top one on the other side has gone.

Nicer looking headlight and indicators.

Little foot protectors on the passenger footrests.

Lots of detail on the filler cap.

Even the alloy headlight bracket looks cool.

Hugger as standard.

Now for a six gear roll on. Nice long quiet stretch of Motorway before me, Iām sitting at 70. I let her slow to around 60 mph and then open the throttle wide. The white lines quickly become one long solid one. My arms get longer and I realise how tight Iām holding on. With my helmet pushing hard against my face I sneak a look down, holy cow, and indicated 145mph and she still wants it. I can only just bring my head back up. I ease off the throttle ö after all, sheās not run in yet. Ahem. The wind blast eases up a tad and I can move around on the seat again. Awesome.
I can see it now, any 900 Hornets on future Swarms and ride-outs will leave 600ās for dead on the straights.
Next I head for a few of my favourite roundabouts and corners. But itās all too slippery to get the bike over too far. So off we head into Surrey. What a day. Iām loving this and somehow the roads keep taking me further and further away from the Tippetts Showroom. I might even get lost taking it back. Perish the thought.

When I finally do, itās hard to give it up. Time for an insurance quote me thinks.

Left side view.

The long and short of it.

The up sides·
The bike looks great. The restyled tank and sleek tail unit with integral rear light look the biz, retaining the overall look of the 600 but bringing it up to date.
The bike handles well ö very much like the 600 but with oodles of more oomph.
Itās quality all round. You can see the differences in materials compared to the 600. Even small things like the headlight bracket look tasteful in sculpted alloy.
The twin pipes look great, but the bike just begs for some twin race cans for that extra bark.
Great looking clocks and warning light setup.
It has a hugger as standard, which is good.
The Nissin brakes are spot on.
Even the horn is beefed up.
ĪHornet 900ā on the tail unit is a nice touch, something they should do on all new 600ās.

The (very few) down sides·
The fuel injection felt a little grumbly at low speeds in 1st and 2nd gear.
The front brake fluid reservoir and the finger controls (including that pig ugly clutch lever from the 600) could have done with a facelift.
The position of the stand lever is awkward. Itās behind the footrest as a pose to in front like the 600, which means you canāt drop the stand with your heel. Instead you have to faff around with your toe behind the footrest. A small thing, I know.

To conclude, this bike is a sound package. A lot of bike for little money. Buy this and your smiles will be as wide as your neck muscles. Iām giving it a well deserved 9 out of 10. Now, whereās the bank managers phone number·


Hornetmeister 11/12/01