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Nighthawk ST

Modern Bike Rant


Here's a little info about my personal experiences with this machine. It's basically stock, so I have little to report regarding mods. It works pretty well as is, I think.

I've always run Metzeler ME33s on the front, preferably in the Comp K compound, and they work great (except in sand or soft dirt, where they act like slicks -- Lord have mercy). I get between 6000 and 9000 miles out of the Comp Ks, and a little more for the regular compound. Note that the 120/80V16s work fine, this is what Metzeler specifies in Comp K. I highly recommend this tire, a sticky front is good to have.

As for rear tires, I get rather low mileage. The Metzeler ME55s work well, and last about 3500-5000 miles. These tires do slide a bit, but it's very consistent. I ran a ME99 once, and it didn't grip as well and seemed to last only a little longer, about 5000 miles. I tried a Dunlop 591 Sport (street compound), and it gripped better than the Metzelers, except for the times it let go suddenly! Not good, and only 3000 miles to boot. Lastly, I am currently on my second Pirelli MT66 Route, which I like a lot. It grips at least as well as the ME55, has never scared me (rear brake lockups excepted!), and gave excellent traction even when brand new. The lack of initial slipperiness may have been because of the rubber "fingers" from the mold still being present, but whatever the reason it's a good thing. I did notice that traction got worse after about 4000 miles, which happened to coincide with the onset of winter's cold and wet conditions. All told I got about 6000 fairly easy miles out of this tire.

When I needed to recover my seat I used a plain, matte black cover from Sargent. (Their part was actually wrong, but service was excellent and some vigorous stretching did the trick.) Although glossy black nylon would probably be a better choice, I think that either would be much superior to more complicated covers with non-slip surfaces and piping. The contour of the stock seat foam is, to my eye, sensual and drop-dead gorgeous, and obscuring it would be just plain wrong. On the other hand, it's worth noting that the seat foam itself is a bit on the soft side.

I get about 37-45 MPG during normal riding, usually 40+ when touring. I've found that hot weather makes for the worst mileage, and long cold rides the best. With only 4.2 gallons in the tank, range could certainly be better. I've put as much as 4.1 gallons (as indicated by the station fuel pump) in at fill up time, so you can run it pretty low. Putting the bike on the centerstand (remember those?) may allow a little more in the tank, which is helpful on trips.

I've built some hard luggage out of plywood, and boy does having a couple of small trunks help. The old-school design of the seat and tail section made this fairly easy, with bolts and holes already available. (Remove the under-seat reflectors.) I assume that pre-made hard bags and mounting hardware aren't available for this machine, and Honda's weird factory rig is said to be very hard to find. I've also built a hard wooden "tank trunk", so far as I know the only one in the world. (Am I wrong about this? Let me know!) I've used it on a two-week tour, and damn if it's not handy. I hope to get some pictures up on the site someday. I'd better hurry, one SV650 or Transalp could come along and steal my interest away. Actually, with my finances, there's probably little worry on that front.

When I bought this machine (14,000 miles) it was wearing a straight-shot racing exhaust from Vance and Hines. It was light as heaven and loud as hell, with a nasty flat spot around 6000 RPM and hellacious power from about 7500 RPM on up. (Well, it seemed powerful to me, maybe I don't get out enough.) Stock the power doesn't really hit until 8500 RPM on this bike. I think the carbs hadn't been re-jetted. I put the stock pipes back on to keep the racket down, too bad about that extra 25 pounds...

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