Angry Hamster EVO II: Holy Crap, I drove it! (and now I’m deaf)

24 Hours of LeMons Angry Hamster Honda Z600 CBR1000

Angry Hamster EVO II

Holy Crap, I drove it!

by Dave Coleman 

It takes 3 or 4 stalls to get rolling with only 1 liter of torque, no flywheel and a tall motorcycle first gear, but I pretend not to be embarrassed. As I pull on to Thunderhill's front straight, with 120 of the most pathetic heaps of rust and oil smoke hurtling themselves at my hindquarters, I suddenly realize the direct connection between my right foot at the searing, rattling pain in my brain stem.

THIS IS, WITHOUT HESITATION, THE LOUDEST THING I’VE EVER DRIVEN. PARTS OF MY ANATOMY ARE BARELY AN INCH AWAY FROM A HONDA CBR-1000 POWERPLANT, SO MAYBE I SHOULDN’T BE SURPRISED, BUT THIS IS JUST INSANE. MY POOR, SUFFERING EARS ARE HIDDEN BEHIND A HELMET, AND JAMMED FULL OF EARPLUGS, BUT THE DIN IS STILL AT A LEVEL THAT RATTLES THE MIND.

EVERY INSTINCT STARTS TELLING ME TO UPSHIFT AS THE DIN PASSES THE FAMILIAR DON’T-PUSH-YOUR-LUCK FREQUENCY OF 8000 RPM, BUT HAVING JUST DONE THAT IN PIT LANE, IT'S OBVIOUS NOTHING MEANINGFUL IS GOING TO HAPPEN AT SUCH LOW REVS. WITH AN ANGRY MOB OF LIKE-MINDED HALFWITS QUICKLY APPROACHING THE PART OF MY CAR THAT SHOULD BE A REAR BUMPER (BUT IS ACTUALLY A GAS TANK), I HAVE LITTLE CHOICE BUT TO PUT THE HAMMER DOWN AND EXPLORE THE UPPER FREQUENCY RANGES OF MY AUDITORY HELL IN AN EFFORT TO SEAMLESSLY BLEND WITH THE CHAOS.

24 Hours of LeMons Angry Hamster Honda Z600 CBR1000

THE MECHANICS OF DRIVING A MOTORCYCLE-POWERED CAR SO SMALL IT LOOKS UP TO AN ORIGINAL MINI ARE COMPLICATED ENOUGH WITHOUT THE SONIC SCRAMBLING. THE SEATING POSITION IS LIKE SQUATTING IN A JAPANESE BATHTUB. MY BODY POSTION IS NEAR-FETAL, AND I’M ON THE FLOOR OF A DEEP, NARROW BOX, WALLED IN BY ROLL CAGE AND DOOR ON THE LEFT, AND A HOT, THIN VENEER OF VIBRATING SHEET METAL ON THE RIGHT. THE PEDALS ARE OFFSET TO THE RIGHT LIKE A ‘70S ITALIAN SUPERCAR, BUT THE GAS PEDAL IS JUST A METAL STUB ON THE END OF A LONG LEVER, THE FLOOR-HINGED PEDAL ITSELF HAVING DISAPPEARED PROBABLY DECADES AGO. THE STEERING WHEEL IS SMALL AND AWKWARDLY HIGH, BUT AT LEAST THIS KEEPS IT OUT OF MY KNEES.

IT TAKES A LAP OR TWO JUST TO FIGURE OUT THE SIGHTLINES OUT OF THE CAR. LEMONS RACING IS A CROWDED AFFAIR. EVERY WEST COAST EVENT HOLDS THE RESPECTIVE TRACK RECORD FOR THE MOST CARS EVER TO RACE ON THAT PARTICULAR TRACK (INFINEON, BUTTONWILLOW, THUNDERHILL AND RENO-FERNLEY), SO OUTWARD VISIBILITY AND YOUR ABILITY TO FORM AN EVER-CHANGING MENTAL MAP OF THE CRAP HEAPS AROUND YOU IS CRITICAL. THE AIR BOX ON TOP OF THE ENGINE IS SO TALL I CAN BARELY SEE OVER IT IN RIGHT TURNS.

24 Hours of LeMons Angry Hamster Honda Z600 CBR1000

It's no mystery why the Hamster is so hot and loud. Sure, there's a thin piece of aluminum sheet there normally, but, you know… thin aluminum sheet.

IT TAKES MUCH LONGER TO FIGURE OUT SHIFT POINTS. THE SEQUENTIAL SHIFTER, 6 SEEMINGLY IDENTICAL GEAR RATIOS, THE LACK OF A GEAR POSITION INDICATOR AND THE UNFAMILIAR SOUNDSCAPE BEYOND 10,000 RPM CONSPIRE TO MAKE SHIFTING A NEW AND MYSTERIOUS EXPERIENCE. WITH THE BIKE’S ORIGINAL DOGBOX IN PLACE, THE CLUTCH IS UNNECESSARY ONCE YOU’RE ROLLING. A TUG ON THE COOK-BROS.-BIKE-CRANK-TURNED-SHIFTER AND A LIFT OF THE THROTTLE IS ALL IT TAKES TO BANG OFF AN INSTANT UPSHIFT. AS WITH MOST DOGBOXES, THIS ONE REQUIRES A FIRM, AUTHORITATIVE YANK TO GET THE DOGS ENGAGED QUICKLY ENOUGH TO AVOID A NASTY GRIND THAT WILL DAMAGE THE CORNERS OF THE DOGS. PULL TOO HARD, THOUGH, AND OTHER PARTS OF THE SHIFT MECHANISM FAIL. ALEX VENDLER’S METROGNOME SUFFERED SOME INTERNAL LINKAGE FAILURES AT A TEST DAY JUST A MONTH AGO FROM OVER-AGGRESSIVE SHIFTING, AND PART OF THIS CAR’S SHIFTER SNAPPED OFF JUST YESTERDAY, SO I’M TRYING TO FIND THAT HAPPY SWEET SPOT BETWEEN BREAKING THE LINKAGE AND DAMAGING THE DOGS. I’M FAILING WITH SURPRISING FREQUENCY.

24 Hours of LeMons Angry Hamster Honda Z600 CBR1000

DOWNSHIFTS ARE EVEN HARDER. ALL YOU NEED TO DO IS GIVE THE THROTTLE A TINY BLIP TO UNLOAD THE DOGS AND A QUICK PUSH ON THE SHIFTER SHOULD DROP IT DOWN A GEAR, BUT THIS ALWAYS HAPPENS UNDER BRAKING, AND THE HAMSTER’S BRAKE PEDAL IS A FRIGHTFULLY SQUISHY AFFAIR. THE BRAKES ARE FROM A 1984 RX-7 GSL-SE, WHICH IS BETTER THAN BEING FROM THE HONDA Z600 THAT DONATED ITS BODY (AND LITTLE ELSE) TO THIS BEAST, BUT NOT BY MUCH. RUNNING TILTON MASTER CYLINDERS SIZED TO WORK WITHOUT A BRAKE BOOSTER MEANS BRAKES WITH AN UNFAMILIAR COMBINATION OF HEFT AND SQUISHINESS. BY ITSELF, THIS WOULDN’T BE A BIG DEAL, BUT THE LONG PEDAL TRAVEL DROPS YOUR RIGHT FOOT WELL BELOW THE GAS PEDAL STUB. I TRY TO BLIP WITH MY ANKLE, BUT STILL END UP EXITING MOST CORNERS A GEAR OR TWO HIGHER THAN I SHOULD.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*
*