Honda VFR1200F – First ride redux!

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Our original first ride report fell foul of a retro-active embargo, but that ended today, so (once again) here’s Costa Mouzouris’ first ride impression of Honda’s VFR1200F.

costa_ride_title2.jpgWords: Costa Mouzouris. Pics: Bill Petro, Honda


PREFACE – sport bike or sport tourer?

Well, response to our riding impression of the new VFR1200F, originally posted last week (and included below), has been overwhelming.

Probably the biggest controversy about what I had written was that I compared the new Honda to sport touring bikes currently available in Canada.

Journalists, as well as motorcycle enthusiasts, were quick to challenge my comparison, claiming the new VFR is closer to bikes like the K1300S, ZX-14, Hayabusa and the CBR1100XX.

Well, I didn’t make my assumption based on hot air; I actually looked at the spec sheets of all those bikes, as well as actually riding the bike (albeit briefly) before making my assessment. Let me state my case:

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Even without the bags and auto transmission, Costa says sports tourer.

The new VFR claims a wet weight of 267 kg. Lightest to heaviest of the sport-touring bikes, weights are as follows: K1300GT: 288 kg; FJR1300: 291 kg; Concours 14: 304 kg. The sportier bikes in the mix follow at: K1300S: 254 kg; ZX-14: 257 kg; Hayabusa: 260 kg.

At 267 kg, the VFR falls right in between the sport bikes and the sport touring bikes. Add about 9 kg for the saddlebags, and the auto-shift transmission reportedly adds another 9 kg, which would put the VFR at 285 kg, right in the midst of the sport tourers.

Wheelbase was also a factor in my decision — usually, the longer it is the less sporty the machine. The VFR’s 1,545 mm wheelbase compares favourably to the 1,520 mm of the Concours 14 and is the same as the 1,545 mm of the FJR1300. Compare that to the 1,460 and 1,480 mm of the ZX-14 and Hayabusa, respectively. It’s actually closer to the K1300GT’s 1,572 mm than it is to the S-model’s 1,585 mm.

vfr1200_front.jpg

With optional centrestand.

Steering geometry is also closer to the sport-touring bikes than the sport bikes, and I also took into account the fact that the VFR has integrated saddlebag mounts and available styled-to-match luggage, not generically styled items like those available from the aftermarket for sport bikes.

And its new auto-shift gearbox is closer in function, at least in semi-auto-shift mode, to the Yamaha FJR’s gearbox than to any other motorcycle currently available.

As responsible journalists we try to assess a machine as accurately and truthfully as possible — heck, we can compare the new VFR1200F to a camel — but in the end it’s the consumer, the one who sees the bike in person and is either awed by it or completely turned off by it, who makes the ultimate critique by either leaving the showroom floor riding it, or moving on to something else.

Okay, I rest my case, for those who missed it the first time around, here’s my initial ride impression of the VFR1200F.

THE ORIGINAL RIDE REPORT

costa_ride_frs.jpg

It’s a quickie but it gave us a scoop!

The new VFR1200F has barely finished making the rounds on the internet, and we’ve already had a chance to ride it, courtesy of Honda Canada.

Alright, the ride was brief, about 20 minutes, so my riding impression is limited, but enough came through on this new machine that I thought CMG readers would find of interest.

The bike will undoubtedly be compared to other big-bore sport touring machines, namely the BMW K1300GT, the Yamaha FJR1300 and the Kawasaki Concours 14.

Physically, the bike feels slimmer and lighter than those bikes, and it is lighter according to its spec sheet, which puts its wet weight 21 kg lighter than the next lightest bike in that group, the K1300GT.

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Riding position is more sporty than the ST1300.

It seems that most enthusiasts, be they current VFR fans or not, are not sure what to make of the bike’s styling. I say wait until you see the bike in person before making a snap judgment.

Fit and finish are impeccable, and the bike certainly looks quite sleek. The riding position is not as relaxed and upright as on the Honda ST1300; the bike was, after all, designed by an Italian for the European market. That said, the riding position is much closer to a grand-touring machine than that of a supersport.

The seat is wide and supportive, but more time in the saddle will reveal if the ergonomics can sustain long-distance travel.

Honda has gone to lengths to make the engine narrow at the rear so that the frame can also be narrow at the rider’s inseam, and if memory serves me right the bike is indeed narrower than at least the FJR and the Concours 14, and reach to the ground will be easy for average sized riders.

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Bike is quite narrow.

The fairing is unique in that it is a layered design claimed to manage airflow for improved engine heat control, aerodynamics, high-speed stability and rider comfort. That’s a tall order, and unfortunately, my ride wasn’t long enough to reap these benefits.

The engine, which is really the focal point of this machine, is remarkably torquey and very powerful. Throttle response is instantaneous but easily manageable. I rolled on the throttle full from about 2,000 rpm in second gear, expecting to have my arms stretched straight, but was surprised to discover that the engine pulled in a subdued manner.

vfr1200_shartdrive.jpg

No driveline lash makes for smooth rolling on and off throttle.

I asked Honda Canada’s Warren Milner if there was some kind of electronic intervention in the lower gears, like Kawasaki does with the ZX-14, and he said he wasn’t aware of such engine tuning but would look into it. Regardless, the engine is very manageable at low speeds.

Honda has done a remarkable job of controlling driveline lash, and rolling on and off the throttle is exceptionally smooth. As well, the gearbox on the manual-shift model we rode (the auto-shift will be coming to Canada, but later in the year) was light-shifting, precise and quiet.

Also, the new drive shaft system, which locates the transmission output shaft below the swingarm pivot to reduce driveshaft jacking, works as claimed, with no noticeable hopping or squatting.

vfr1200_motor2.jpg

Single cams ride atop the intake valves and act on the exhausts via rocker arms.

The engine’s 76-degree V angle, the first time Honda has deviated from using a 90-degree V-four design, uses offset crankpins to reduce vibration without the use of a counterbalancer. Honda claims engineers deliberately let some vibration get through to enhance the riding experience, and the engine is quite smooth, with only some unobtrusive, throbbing vibration letting you know what the engine is doing.

One thing Honda has been working up in its marketing hype is the new bike’s unique sound, which Honda claims produces a “fantastically stirring note”.  The bike does have a unique sound, partially due to its unusual firing order, but also due to the exhaust system.

The muffler uses a servo-operated valve to quell noise at low rpm that opens at higher rpm to unleash “a truly inspiring, hard-edged V4 howl to stir the emotions”.

vfr1200_fairing.jpg

Admittedly, I found the sound at idle about as inspiring as a toddler banging on a bongo that has a loose-fitting drumhead. The sound was offbeat and flat. However, once the engine revved, that rich, distinctive V-four drone, which has become a Honda hallmark of sorts, tickled the eardrums.

Oddly, the machine emitted a low-pitched mechanical whirr on take-off and acceleration from low speeds, but it was not intrusive and quite agreeable.

Honda has yet to set Canadian pricing, though Milner hinted it would be in the high teens to low 20s. That puts it on par with its three main competitors, though those machines include saddlebags, items that will be offered as accessories on the VFR.

We’ll have pricing info as soon as it’s released, and we’ll keep hounding Honda to let us have it for a somewhat more complete ride before the snow falls!

 

1 COMMENT

  1. Every time I look at it at the dealership, I want to buy it! I just love the look of this bike :eek The only thing, it’s too pricy :roll It’s more than I paid for my 2009 ST1300, can you believe it? That’s why I purchased a 2009 VFR800A and I’ll wait until I get tired of my ST1300 before buying the new VFR1200. It looks so good though (temptation, temptation…)

  2. I bought the 1200 DCT last summer. This is my fourth bike. I only have 5,000K but I absolutely love this bike. It handles like a charm even on a pee your pants unmarked section of tarmac turned gravel under construction, local county practices. Range hasn’t been an issue. In any event, with the concentration it takes to drive this bike at high performance levels, it begs to take a break every hour or so. It keeps up with anything. My only disappointment is the riding position. If anyone comes up with a modified permanent solution, I’d like to hear of it.
    Yes it’s pricey but it competes comparably and I believe fairly.

  3. I had a test ride the day it came out. I was a bit worried about weight and seat height because am a shortarse and can only just reach the ground on my 05 VFR800Vtec(which I love) I found the height and balance perfect and felt at one with the bike straight away. A quick blast down towards Brighton and back, wind noise about the same as my 800 but was supprised when I glanced at the speedo a couple of times to see that I was going just over 140mph. Not bad eh!. A nice bike but more sports than tourer. Small tank, top box and panniers spoil it.

  4. U.S.price $15,999.00/Canadian price high teens/low 20`s! “Hi Soichiro,I`m from Canada.” “Pleased to meet you.Just bend over and wait over there.I`ll get to you as soon as I get a minute! 🙁

  5. I was really hoping Honda would have come out with something closer to the last VFR only a bigger motor… Like the Triumph Sprint ST. This VFR 1200 is not very good looking, too heavy, too high tech, and too expensive. It should include panniers for that sort of pricing. I think Beluga whale when i look at the front half.

  6. Why Centerstands uhhhhh. Changing the tires, maintenance on the linkage for the shock, Front end maintenance. When U do all your own work, it makes it so much easier

  7. Some of you guys must have your bikes put away…getting a little cranky?

    I kept expecting Honda to release a 1000cc version that was just a little updated but this is interesting. Too bad they didn’t include the higher spec ABS from the supersport bikes. I’d like to see that on a lot more bikes.

  8. I have to ask what does Costa’s current ride have anything to do with his short evaluation of the new VFR, that and his riding position in the pictures. Here’s an idea. Do some research and read some of the many articles that Costa has done in print and on the web. Then base your evaluation of Costa on his work, not his current ride and not his “snapshot in time” riding pose.

    Just for the record, I have never met the man nor talked to him on any forum I’m aware of. And yes, I do think his opinion of such this is valid. He’s an experienced Canadian rider with CDN ideals for our riding mindset

  9. Ride what you like…like what you ride… Difference strokes for difference folks… Whatever. Another new bike is good, regardless of what you think you need to call it. Enjoy the last remnants of summer and get out and ride!

  10. Japan on track impressions lead me to believe it’s going to be a very capable 600 lbs sport Tour. Emphasis on “Sport”.
    Wheelbase and weight are somewhat indicative,but mass centralization and fanatical suspension tuning can mean more.I expect it to surprise people in the way the 1800 Gold Wing does,in that your mind says there is no way a bike that big can hustle down a twisty road as fast as it does.
    The dual clutch set up is nothing like the Yamaha set up thankfully.
    It’s leading edge as in Porsche,Ferrari,Formula one etc. With throttle by wire,can you say perfectly matched downshifts.
    I still am feeling a little faint on the projected optioned up price though……
    🙂

  11. The cost to buy is the first hurdle we are waiting for over here in the UK, the next is what is it going to cost to service. The VFR 800 I’m told is over £700 for a major and this bike is more high tech, would we be looking at nearer a grand then for the 1200??

    As regards being a tourer it can only be really evaluated once it has all the kit on and is fully loaded; small light bikes don’t always make the best tourer.

  12. I’ll be keeping my ’99 VFR800 for a while. VFR1200 not looking too good – price, cost of extras that should be standard, etc. Have a lot of add-ons on my Wee-Strom, but cost of entry was so low to begin with …

  13. Here’s a bit more about the ride we took, perhaps to put things into perspective.

    Eight motorcycle journalists were allowed about 25 minutes each on the bike, which included a 10-minute photo session. The ride was in a semi-rural area just outside Kingston, Ontario, in midday traffic and temperatures barely broke 6 degrees C.

    So no, I did not test the bike’s top speed, nor how the engine pulled at high rpm, nor its prowess around high-speed corners.

    I did state that my riding impression was limited; if you read a more detailed test by someone who attended this event, let me know.

  14. Costas evaluating your article with out knowing your knowledge in engineering is not possible for me. But looking your pictures and your sitting position on the bike I can surely say that you are not the best person to trust. You definitely need to improve your riding skills and then write about throttle response and stretched hands on hard acceleration.
    The bike is a Honda product and also it is made in Japan and these two ingredients guarantees the perfection.
    Sorry for my grammar, but I’m Greek so I’m trying my very best here.

  15. Lads this has to be a first! Canada in particular CMG get a ride of one before MCN!

    [url=http://www.motorcyclenews.com/MCN/News/newsresults/First-rides–tests/2009/October/oct1909-canadian-grabs-first-ride-on-vfr1200f/?&R=EPI-119393]Link[/url]

  16. That ugly design is not going to make to the halls of iconic designs like VFR did. This is DN-01 in new clothes.

    Fairing. Gas pipe. So ugly.

    The reaction in my spine says it is ugly – only my brain wants to think up some socially acceptable slur that keeps me friends with those who have not courage to speak their mind!

  17. Nice bike. LMFAO
    What a brilliant idea, move the vfr up to 1200cc’s so it can
    compete with YOUR st1300. LMFAO

    Beautiful styling. LMFAO
    Everyone has a spare 20 grand lying around. I can’t wait to
    buy one so I can park it next to my DN-01 LMFAO

  18. At that price for a stripped bike for touring! Sorry Honda, I’ll stay with my 1250S Bandit with soft luggage and use the extra money for motels/gas/food while traveling.

  19. “C’mon now, where’s the friggin’ center stand…?”

    A centre stand is optional. If you look at the story announcing the bike’s release in our news section, you’ll see a picture of it.

  20. In the past Honda has insisted that the VFR is a sport touring motorcycle even though it took many years to actually provide the promised hard bags (and only then optional at extra cost). It would appear that this new VFR falls into the same category. It will be interesting to see what it’s classification will be when the rumored “touring” version arrives. This looks like an interesting motorcycle. There is no question that Honda can deliver “new tech” when they put their mind to it, however providing it at a price that is acceptable to the market seems to be somewhat more difficult.

  21. I just saw a web banner ad – Honda Massacre pricing – New 2007 VFR 800 for $7900 US!!! I’m glad I traded in my 2002 model when I did, for about the same amount.

    Are they blowing them out to make room for $18,000 VFR1200s?
    Will the VFR800 still be offered in 2010 and beyond?

  22. I’m bothered by the gestalt of a 600 lb bike sans center stand, & no option of installing one later. Otherwise, very intriguing.

  23. “I rolled on the throttle full from about 2,000 rpm in second gear, expecting to have my arms stretched straight, but was surprised to discover that the engine pulled in a subdued manner.”

    This is not a good thing, right?

  24. Just to get an idea, Costa;

    What is you’re current ride? When is the last time you rode a large bore streetbike, (All I can remember is Mad Bastard rides…) and how does this (obscenely priced) ‘sport tourer’ compare when you relax the throttle and aim for your apex, then what kind of feeling does it give you in the pit of your stomach as you power out of that curve?

    Not that it’s done anything to get me excited about a honda, but 20ish??? That’s almost as much as I paid for my last car, in ’02.

  25. “The questioning of catagory [b][sic][/b] speaks to the new place the 1200 finds itself.”

    I think it says more about the fact that these categories don’t readily cross continents. Here in the UK and the rest of Europe, we know that the K1200S, Hayabusa and the new VF1200 are hyper sports tourers. Bikes such as the ST1300, Yamaha FJR1300 and their ilk are tourers, not sports tourers. It’s only because of the North American penchant for bloated mega tourers – Gold Wings, Harley Electraglide, Victory et al that you guys think of tourers as sport tourers. HTH…;-) Terribly bland write-up.

  26. Closest BMW competitor is the 1300s.Based on weight,power and shaft.
    The coming new Honda ST version will compete with The BMW GT,Concour’s,etc.
    The questioning of catagory speaks to the new place the 1200 finds itself.I’m sure it will be a fantastic bike,just a different category then where it’s always been.
    Hopefully it will attract a new larger, richer?, group of buyers who are not taken back buy the 600 pounds and $20,000 price.

  27. Did Honda put some sort of a publication ban on how much you were allowed to say? I’d love to hear about how it handles. (I’ve got a deposit on one here in Calgary) Very excited about this bike.

  28. “Odd that the reviewer compares the VFR1200F to the K1300GT but omits mention of its real rival, the K1300S.”

    The BMW K1300S is closer in specs, pricing and targeted market to the ZX-14 and Hyabusa. The VFR is aimed more at the sport-touring rider, like the bikes mentioned in the story.

    Costa.

  29. Sounds like a “Toddler banging a drum …” Lordy I am so impressed !!!
    That is a new benchmark in Moto Jourmalism
    I humbly defer to you Master.

    What I wanted to know is if you clip off the oil drain plug when you run over a beer can.

    With the V-Twin market saturated, there is a curious unleashing of pent up visual designs. I’m wondering where the next moto iconic vision will fall from ?

    A toddler banging on a drum with a loose skin. OMG, with editor ‘Arris’ domestic expertise I’m wondering why he didn’t come up with that one first. 🙂

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