Friday 10 July 2020

HONDA VFR (Not Radio)


I've had a thing about Honda's V4 for many years. Well actually, since the early 90's when they brought out the the 4th gen model - I didn't really care much for the appearance of the previous models.

The 4th generation VFR was something altogether different to the past models and (for me) really stood out as something special. Needless to say, the red one was the best and the fastest and mine was one of the last to be built - 1996. It had more than a passing resemblance to the staggeringly advanced and experimental NR750.

My little red VFR750 will always hold a special place in my heart and it's the one bike which I truly wish I'd kept hold of.

I also had a VFR800 which was a great all-round sports-tourer but I have to admit, it was quite  heavy for such a low capacity bike. Having said that, it still had that fabulous V4 masterpiece behind the fairings and the newly introduced VTEC system which gave it quite a bark when it kicked in.

The look of the bike changed dramatically, with sharp angles and underseat exhausts. The single-sided swingarm sported what I think was the best looking wheel of the VFR range.

Then came the ugly duckling - the 2010 VFR1200. This was 

definitely a Marmite bike! Although I didn't think it was particularly attractive, neither did I think it was that bad. 

The real beauty of the the VFR1200 was that stunning V4 engine. It was simply amazing - 170bhp and massive amounts of torque! With two people onboard and a load of luggage, it still rocketed forward at an amazing pace.

Comfort too was fabulous and despite the huge size of the bike, it had a fantastically low seat height and felt like a 600 when on the move.

So here we are in 2020 and I'm at Honda North West collecting my CB1100RS after a service. As soon as I enter the showroom, a bright red VFR800 RC93 comes into vision. "Wow, that's beautiful", I thought out aloud. The salesman responded by suggesting I take it home.

Minutes later, I've ordered a £10,000 bike and I'm wondering how I'm going to explain this to the wife 😂

Before signing up, I asked the salesman if he'd got any decent registration numbers and the best they had was "OMG" so I took it.

The only addition I made to the purchase was the addition of a luggage-rack on the back of the bike to accommodate our Givi V56 topbox. I absolutely hate having them on but my wife really doesn't feel safe without it 😂

It's worth pointing out that this bike, like the VFR1200, has a very neat mounting system for panniers. There's no need to add on ugly pannier mounting bars and it's very quick and easy to mount or dismount the panniers.

The new bike (pictured above) is the 8th generation VFR and features totally new appearance, with slimmer profile and a loss of weight. The costly twin side-radiators have been swapped for a single larger rad mounted centrally behind the forks. The new 8-spoke wheels are lighter too and reflect the bronze colours used around the handlebar area and the engine covers.

There's a new swing-arm (single-sided) and a single-exhaust which is actually different to all the images shown on Honda's website and literature.

Admittedly, the exhaust covers a lot of that rear wheel which is a real shame - not much point having single-sided swing-arm if you can't see the wheel (IMHO). The only option would be to buy a stubby exhaust from a third party, but I like the look and sound of the existing one.

This 2020 VFR is fitted with twin LED headlights which BOTH light up at the same time, thankfully. It drives me nuts when I see twin headlight bikes with only one side lit. WHY???

The rear light cluster look pretty damned good too. As does the instrument cluster. It all looks very classy and just slightly understated - nothing brash here!

There's not much of the modern world's high-tech computer wizardry to be found at the dashboard, but it does offer a nicely presented array of rider information with a big central dial to show revs and a white LCD speedo display. The speed (and other units) can very quickly be altered from imperial to metric which is handy when travelling abroad.

The latest model also comes with a 5-level set of heated grips, self-canceling indicators and for the first time - Traction Control. Gone is the famous Honda Linked Brakes system.

The suspension has adequate adjustment front and rear. Up front is a pair of 46mm upside-down forks and a pair of 4-pot radial brakes. ABS is, of course, standard.

The seat height is adjustable so that's good for short-arses like me. The back seat is perched up reasonably high to afford the pillion passenger a good view ahead. There's some storage space below the pillion seat for bits and bats.

We had our first rideout yesterday and covered 210 miles around beautiful North Yorkshire. Liana was very happy with the riding position and the level of comfort. The topbox is a necessary evil - she isn't happy without the reassurance of it stopping her being thrown off the bike backwards, LOL.

In all fairness, the Givi V56 is a very handy thing to have when you're going out exploring new places - it will accommodate two helmets which means you're not lugging them around when you reach your destination.

So, first impressions are very positive! There's some slow-speed throttle-snatch which is a little annoying and the lack of bottom-end grunt has led me to stall the bike twice, LOL. I think it's just a case of getting used to a different bike.

Liana commented on how much more "aggressive" I was on this bike and I think she's right. It's quite a sporty riding position and the engine loves to be pushed hard - when those 4 valves kick in at 7000rpm, the noise just makes you want to go faster for some reason 😂😂😂

Despite the clip-ons being low and the footpegs being high, I wasn't tired or aching after the day out. It was all good. So I'm a very happy chappy once more. The VFR800 is a fabulous bike for UK roads. You can rag the arse off it and not get into trouble and that makes it great fun (for me at least).






JUST A WORD about magazine reviewers: there's so many Honda-Haters out there. Young, spotty-faced keyboard warriors who don't know their arse from their elbow and yet they feel knowledgeable enough to slag off anything that doesn't ride like a Kawasaki H2.

Makes me laugh when they fail to review bikes with the target audience in mind. It's always been the same for some strange reason and although I appreciate that we all have our own preferences, likes and dislikes, professional reviewers should remain objective and on-point.

Instead of comparing this bike to its natural competitors (like the BMW F800), writers speak of the Z1000 and other bikes which have an extra 200cc and therefore more power and torque. I've noticed this is much more prevalent in the UK.  American reviewers seem to be much better in this respect.

Most people who buy a VFR do so because of its history in the world of motorcyling. The link to the early use of a V4 engine in Honda's famous NR500, the link to MotoGP V4, the RC30, the RC45. History!

The buying decision is much more cerebral and nothing to do with whazzing up and down a highway at prison speeds. VFR owners lust after that beautifully crafted V4 engine which sounds like no other. They want build quality and reliability and the dependency of a superb engine which has been developed, sequentially updated and in production for over 20 years instead of yet another inline-four.

Motor journalists cry "They should have made a VFR1000". Well maybe there is a market for a VFR1000, but that's not what this is - this is an update of one of the most popular sports-tourers of all time - the VFR800!

For all those VFR lovers whose bikes are approaching replacement time, this represents a nice update without getting rid of all the things that owners have come to love. They've removed the heavy twin-exhaust system, slimmed the old girl down by removing the side-radiators, fitted an all new set of fairings and nose cone, new hollow-spoke alloys, traction control, ABS brakes, self-cancelling indicators, heated grips, fully adjustable suspension, built-in pannier mounts, fabulous modern dashboard, LED lights and a strengthened ProArm. What's not to like?

No matter what you think of Honda as a manufacturer, you simply must acknowledge and admire what they've done in the last 8 decades. The fact is, since 1949, Honda have built over 400 million motorcycles!! What a staggering achievement!

Honda Dream
Honda CB750

Throughout that period, they have regularly led the way in design and engineering, dominated racing at all levels including Formula-1, IOM TT, MotoGP and World Superbikes. They have built motorbikes, superbikes, cars, supercars, marine engines, and even JETS!

Am I a Honda fanboy? Well I guess I am. I do appreciate the amazing achievements of Soichiro Honda and I've always loved the bikes he'd designed. I don't follow Honda blindly though, like some buffoon. When other bikes have been more appropriate, I've bought those instead. I've had 4 Yamahas, 2 Triumphs, 2 Kawasakis, 1 Moto Guzzi and 1 Suzuki (and about 36 Hondas) 😂

No comments: