Harry Shaw takes our VFR800 VTEC demo bike for a run. These are his impressions of Honda's advanced sports tourer ...
The VFR seems to have been around longer than the government, if not as long as the Transalp. It arrived on the scene following some initial Honda development difficulties with V shape engines, so it had to be right, from the start, and it was. It has been developed constantly over many years, into its current hi-tech form, with the VTEC changeable valve timing. There is always something to wonder about when complex technology is added to motorcycles, but this piece works particularly well. It even lets you know it’s there as you hit around 7000 rpm.
That’s when you realise this was initially a sports engine. At 7000 or so the bike howls and takes off with a wow! Of course it isn’t a sports bike, it’s far too stable for that. Lay the bike into a bend and you’ll actually feel like a hero as your blob disappears in a shower of sparks. This being the in the UK though, you can’t do that often enough unless you leave, and that’s something you will want to do.
Officially it’s a ‘sports tourer’, whatever that is. It is taut and sweet and goes around corners easily flicking from side to side, just as you hoped it would, and then you get where you were going, lift off the matching luggage and take out that one set of smart casual clothing you brought in the matching panniers. Neat matching luggage adds to the quality feel and the usefulness of this bike. Everything feels beautifully put together, and while the dash is classical it’s also got every thing you need. The fairing is quietly stylish and being a single colour, instead of having had tins of coloured paints thrown at it by a five year old, adds to its elegance.
The brakes bite smoothly and haul you down easily when you are playing. They also work well when you are carrying the weight needed for that continental trip. The suspension is harder than a full-on touring bike, which helps that playful side of the bike show through. Loads don’t faze the bike, nor do bad roads.
The VFR is well capable of commuting, being slim, low and flickable. It is all year useable because it is beautifully put together from high quality components. It’s a lovely bike, even if the clip-on style bars gave me ‘RSI’ wrists. I had fun riding it as a sports bike, around the Cheshire lanes, and I’m sure it would carry its owner across a continent with ease, as it did when John Brown swept off for a south of France holiday not long ago. It has a sharper edge than a CBF and it’s rider will keep up with CBR riders much more easily, but you need to be sure the bars suit you. The foot pegs are higher than the CBF too, letting you get the knee down with ease, but those with long legs might prefer the CBF, or the Varadero riding position. Take it for a spin, a good long one, and you’ll fall in love even if you don’t buy it.