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HONDA TLR250

PROJECT HONDA TLR250 PT.8?

So how long has it been since JB's TLR was last ridden. Really? That long?!

Hey, I got the TLR out for a trial! It’s been a long time, too long, but it was great to be back out there, sweating my way through the sections – it’s a tense old game, trials, even at my low-old level. Actually, I still can’t believe just how long it’s been since I last rode the TLR. According to RUST’s records I rode that last – and first – trial on the TLR in 2017… Have I fallen into a time warp? It just can’t be that long ago, can it? Time is one cruel mistress.

Of course, I’ve lost over a year to the combination of Covid-19 and a serious knee injury, but I still can’t account for the other years. And really, I only got out this time on account Mrs B was suggesting I sell the TLR as I never use it. I think it was then that I remembered the TLR wasn’t needing any pressing repairs or maintenance, and with lockdown measures eased, yes, I could trial. So rather than submit – I lost my CBR600 to such reasoned argument – I hastily put in an online entry (as we must these days) on a Thursday evening and rocked up for the trial on the Sunday.

As always, the Honda ran pretty sweet despite the lack of use. And I’m super-happy to say that my (recent-ish) work on the wee bike all worked out well. The new fork seals retained the new fork oil and with the 20mm spacers on top of the springs they felt pretty good, as did the new OZO shocks. The new steering head bearings worked a treat and the new(ish) exhaust stayed in place and did a decent job of silencing the bike. And I didn’t lose any of the new Titanium bolts I’d fitted to tidy the bike up (a bit). Even the new brake shoes which seemed pretty ineffective last time (in 2017) seemed to bed-in and actually slowed the bike on the descents.

I was also really impressed at just how little fuel the Honda used over the three and a half hours of the trial. Maybe two litres – this bike is insanely frugal. I stand to lose more fuel through the slight perforations on the bottom of the fuel tank than goes through the carb.

However, when it comes to my actual performance at the trial – well, that wasn’t so stellar. For a first ride back – only my second trial in over 30 years – it wasn’t bad. But I gave away two or three 5s where I gambled on a clean when a 1 would have been the way to go. Got to use my noggin a bit more there.

HONDA TLR250
The smile is on account this was a clean – just got to be able to repeat that 40 times a trial...
Honda TLR250
You can see the rear-slanting 'bar clamps in this image, which means less weight over the front (not a good thing with the TLR)

And here I can start blaming my tools, like any bad workman does. For on this trial – which was a fair deal harder than the last one in 2017 – I really started to notice the Honda’s limitations. One biggish issue is its light front end. On steep climbs it wants to loop over way too early, I really need to get right over the bars to keep that front down – it caught me out a fair few times. But as well, the light front end means the front wheel pushes out in tight turns, especially on loose soil – this cost countless 1s and one 5 when I just couldn’t save it.

Combined with that issue is the Honda’s grabby clutch. It’s not what you would call smooth and at a point shortly into the third lap it started making bad noises, like it was overheated. So again, in trying to make tight turns, between the front wanting to push and the clutch snapping in and out I was losing countless points as dabs and even paddles were needed to save the situation.

So, I see some more garage time (and more spending) coming. I’ve seen there’s actually a Honda update for the clutch – there’s an anti-judder kit that smooths it out considerably.  I’ll have to fit one of these and probably some new friction plates just to make the job complete.

The fix for the light front end is more complex. A lot of guys sort this with a cut-and-shut on the frame, bringing the front wheel ‘in’. I’m not sure I’d like to take the knife to my TLR, I like it being an authentic mid-80s trials iron – modernising the geometry seems to go against my idea of classic (I also have an issue with 18” wheels on Manx Nortons and 17” wheels on Suzuki XR69s – I’m talking road racers here, back in the day they rode on 19”/18” respectively). But maybe I could allow myself a new top yoke, with the handlebar clamps set central not rearward as they are standard – at least that’s a mod that’s instantly reversible.

I’ve a few other tweaks I need to make as well. I need a couple of new rim locks and as I found out from just about every rider at the trial – I need a Michelin/IRC tyre combo if I’m going to really compete. Hmm, mounting costs…

So short term – new clutch and an oil change. And new rim locks so I run ultra-low pressures in my not-quite-the-ticket Pirellis. I think that’s the budget done for this month (year?!). Then another trial – I’d like to ride say six a year, at least. It’s a cracking good laugh, and boy it’s so good to practice trials technique, it really does play into all our other riding…

All this in something like my 21st year of ownership of the TLR. Now this really is a long termer.

Honda TLR250
Refreshed suspension and new exhaust are great. Leaking tank and swimming pool foam seat might need some attention...
Thanks to the Double 5 club for a great trial. And to Nick James and his mates for letting me ride with them for the day and relearning a few tricks.

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