I hadn’t been planning on getting a new bike this year, let alone one this expensive! However after my last bike was written off after a SMIDSY, and chatting to my friendly Honda dealer, I decided to upgrade to a larger bike.
Looking around I went to look at several bikes. The ones that interested me were the Kawasaki Z1000SX and the Triumph Sprint GT. The Sprint was too long to fit in the space in the garage and there were no Kawasaki dealers near me any more. That left me the VFR. After a test ride, alongside the Fireblade (awesome bike but not for me), I was taken.
Never having ridden an old VFR with the older VTEC system I have little to compare, but I never felt any problems with it as it kicked in. The only obvious indication was the change in the exhaust note to a glorious V4 growl. Pop the bike into first gear and pull away, and pull and pull. The engine just keeps on giving. It is also silky smooth and the gearbox is quite nice as well. I do have some issues with finding neutral, my last bike (an ER6F) had a positive stop for neutral if you had come to a stop and tried to get into 2nd gear. Was really useful to get neutral easily. Otherwise the ‘box happily clicks through the gears with little issue.
Styling is always in the eye of the beholder. From the pictures on Honda’s website I was never too sure on the headlights. Everything else looked great, just not the lights. If I am totally honest I am still not totally sold on the styling of them. That said they fit in great with the rest of the bikes design, and understated look with a single colour palate and only VFR emblazoned on the fairing. And the red paint... I have seen the bike in both white and red (thought not the black) and have to say red is definitely the VFR’s colour. The quality of the paint is extremely high and even though it is not a metallic it still draws you in with a depth to the finish. Actually the whole bike is finished to a very high level, gold highlights on the engine casing and on the wheels adding to that feeling of quality. Despite the price tag of the bike, it does feel very much worth the money. And that is before we talk toys...
The bike comes with an array of ‘extras’. You get heated grips, traction control, ABS, trip computer, LED headlights, center stand and self cancelling indicators. If you are an all weather/season rider the inclusion of heated grips are a godsend. Neatly packaged into the bike there is a button next to the left grip to activate. It has 5 levels of heating which is displayed on the dash as you select. The previous heat level is remembered so the next time you turn them on you are greeted with the same heating. It is a shame the button for the traction control isn’t as neat. It looks like they had finished designing the bike and someone noticed it was missing and just added it on. Unlike most other bikes out there with TC the VFR’s is a simple on/off affair. To be honest I can’t see you needing to ride with it off unless of some exceptional circumstances (if you are a wheely king maybe, or riding on gravel). ABS is standard and can not be turned off. The trip computer is a great addition, giving average fuel consumption, instant fuel consumption, engine temp, air temp, 2 trips and clock. Unfortunately to navigate the display you have to press buttons on the dash, which isn’t easy if you are moving.
Most bikes headlights are okay, neither lighting everything nor as bad as a candle in a jar. However the LED headlights in the Honda are amazing. Dipped they are probably slightly better than I am used to, giving a pure white light. Switch to main beam and the sun has come back up! Okay not quite, but the only other vehicle I have seen light the road that well was a car equipped with Xenon projector lights. The last toy is my least favourite, the self cancelling indicators. I have taken to saying my suffer with PCS - Premature Cancellation Syndrome. As I understand the theory, the bike takes into account speed, tilt angle etc to determine if you have left the indicators on. At a stop they will blink for as long as you want, start moving and the timer starts. However they don’t seem to be very good at roundabouts. When I turn right at a medium to large roundabout I can get about a third the way round before they cancel. Meaning I have to remember to turn them on again, not a good thing at that moment in time so giving me something else to think about. Speaking of sight, the mirrors offer a great rear view. Even though you have a good chunk of your elbows, there is a clear view behind you.
Getting settled onto the bike is very nice. It has a riding position on the more sporty side of Sports Tourer but it isn’t uncomfortable. I have ridden for over an hour on it and not felt any real pressure on my forearms or wrists. The suspension is quite supple. It absorbs the bumps without unsettling. There is also some minimal adjustment. It is somewhat of a shame the single swing-arm is largely covered by the exhaust so the VFR’s defining feature can’t be seen easily.
Overall I love the bike. Most of the problems I found with it are niggles, tacked on switchgear, buttons not in easy reach, although possible the self cancelling indicators are a real issue. The rest of the bike feels really well put together. The styling is conservative and lacks the multi-colour paint jobs of sports bikes, but works well and will hopefully age well. The VTEC gave me no issues and the engine is smooth and torquey with a great V4 soundtrack. It is an expensive bike, yet it feels really well put together and worth the premium.