Or rather, they do too much for me.
My ’03 ZRX1200 is one of the last sport bikes that came from the factory without a computer, without a catalytic converter – without even fuel injection.
It has four carburetors.
I don’t knock fuel injection. The benefits – more precise fuel metering, typically better cold starts and (most important of all, if you care about such things) lower emissions – are undeniable. But then, so are the liabilities – including the need for a computer to control it all and the cost of maintaining/repairing it all. When FI works – and it often works seamlessly for years, without requiring any maintenance at all – it usually works flawlessly. But when it develops hiccups, which are often caused by some electronic-related hairball, the finding and fixing can be a real hassle (and a real expense).
I prefer carbs because I am someone who loves mechanical (as opposed to electric) things. I enjoy the physical movement of machinery – as of four slides synchronized perfectly, moving up – then down. I enjoy the act of synchronizing them, adjusting cable tension until it’s spot-on. I particularly enjoy the sound of four hungry carbs sucking air through pod filters.
Plus, carbs are lifetime items. Short of extreme abuse (and even then, most of the time you can salvage the main parts) a carburetor will do its job for decades. I recently restored an old Kawasaki two-stroke triple. The bike had not run since the early 1990s. I was able to re-use the original carbs. Other than cleaning them thoroughly – and replacing small parts like the jets and floats and (of course) gaskets, they were good as new.
This matters – to me – because I tend to hang onto my bikes. I’ve got an old Kz900 (’76 model) I still ride it regularly. Though nearly 40 years old, it is as reliable as my ’03 ZRX. I’d take it anywhere – and anything that might go wrong along the way I know I could deal with myself, with basic tools – and not much cash lost. I expect to keep the Kz (and the Rex) for the rest of my life – which will hopefully be several more decades.
And whoever gets them after me will – hopefully – get several more decades’ enjoyment out of them. They might last several hundred years. It’s entirely possible.
Now then. Who among you is confident that any 2013 bike will be as long-lived? I mean, of course, if ridden. Ten years from now, what will become of the 2013?
I expect they’ll have been tossed long before then. Because – like modern cars – they’ll reach a tipping point at around 15 years old, when things (expensive things) begin to go wrong and it’s no longer worth fixing them.
New cars, for example, all have air bags and ABS (and of course, port fuel injection). Get into a relatively minor – and otherwise fixable – accident in which the air bags deploy and the car – if it’s a few years old and its retail book value has dropped to say $6,000 or less – may very well be declared a total loss by the insurance company. Because they’re not going to spend two or three thousand dollars – by itself, 30-40 percent of the car’s book value – to replace the air bags (on top of the body damage). And of course, neither will you.
Catalytic converters aren’t cheap, either. What used to be a $200 slip-on (or even $800 for a complete header and can) is now often twice that for the full factory system, with cat and O2 sensor(s). These will not last forever. What happens 15, 20 years down the line? I can get a whole new Vance & Hines exhaust – the header and the can, everything – for the ’76 Kz for about $400. And it will last for decades. The chrome may eventually discolor, of course, but functionally, the pipes will do their job for a long time.
A new GSX-R has a very complicated – and very expensive – exhaust system. A car-like exhaust system. There is an internal valve/actuator – as well as a cat and sensors. All tied into a computer. This sort of rig has become typical. Cut off the cat and a trouble code light will illuminate in the gauge cluster – just like a new car. You can still get away with killing the cat – and run with the tattle-tale light on – because bike smog inspections are easier to avoid (and in some areas, not yet required at all). But they will be.
It’s not a big worry when a bike is new – and under warranty (and still worth something). But down the line? When it’s just a $2,000 (or less) beater?
One of the things I’ve always liked about bikes (as they were) is that you could pick up a 20-year-old machine (hell, a 30 or 40-year-old machine) for less than $2,000 – and ride it daily. Cheap to pick-up, cheap to ride – and cheap to maintain. You could also restore it to as-new condition for relatively little money. That old Kaw stroke I mentioned earlier? It was in need of everything. But except for rebuilding the crank and painting the tank (I’m not good enough to meet my own standards) I was able to bring the bike back to as-new condition with hand tools in my garage, refurbishing rather than replacing most of the bits and pieces (trim excepted). I am extremely doubtful that a similar exercise will be economically (and perhaps, mechanically) feasible with a 2013 GSX-R basket case circa 2050.
Bikes are becoming over-teched, over-expensive throwaways.
Like cars already are.
Throw it in the Woods?