I found this review I did back in 2010 that I published to another forum. With the thought of consolidation of my various ramblings … here it is.
In 2010 I had a bit of a problem with my ZX14 and there were a number of holdups with diagnosing the issue and getting parts etc so Canberra Motorcycle Centre most generously provided me with a demo VFR1200F to use. So I put together the following thoughts of the bike at the time after a weekend of riding it.
I ended up hanging onto the VFR for a bit longer than expected and at the bottom of the report is a 1,000km update with my longer term thoughts.
Styling – I can’t help you there. I have to say that from the outset I haven’t been overly keen on the styling of the VFR but it seems to growing on me.
Fairing – I found the fairing very effective. My hands were out of the wind (still need heated grips though) my helmet wasn’t buffeted around and it was quieter than many bikes I’ve ridden. The mirrors give a great view but can be a bit vibbey.
Display – This is fairly typical with a digital speedo and analogue tacho with LCD fuel and temperature gauge, two trip meters, time and air temperature. It also has a gear position indicator; however what I found as annoying was that it would only show gears 1 – 6 and neutral is shown by a light in a separate location. I would have thought an N in same location would have been a better option.
Controls – When I picked up the bike Jamie said to me that I would be surprised at how many times I will hit the horn. Why … You’ll see, he said…
It seems that Honda have decided that we have to move our thumb too much to turn on/off the indicators so they have swapped the horn and indicators around and made the horn button much larger. So needless to say when I turn the indicators on/off there have been a number of occasions where I have hit the horn instead. So now I find that I have concentrate on where my thumb goes so I don’t hit the horn. It also appears that the dimmer switch has moved up to accommodate the larger horn button, which has made the light switch harder to use.
Seat – is not a bad shape, narrow at the front making it much easier for shorter riders to touch the ground. However I found it a bit slippery when wearing nylon riding trousers and it was hard. After a few hours in the saddle my bum was getting quite sore. The other problem I may have is the high pillion seat being too high.
Ergonomics – great. yes it is sporty but I found it fairly natural, I’m told that it is pretty much identical to that of the 800.
Lights – that weird light actually has a purpose and what it provides is a great pattern. Low beam has a single globe with a big wide reflector which provides a super wide oval shaped beam with the addition of not as bright wide angle (with some shadowing) out to near 180 degrees. The high beam is courtesy of single beam straight down the centre. Overall the light could do with more intensity and I can see that a HID conversion would make a huge improvement. Oh and while we are on light in addition to the indicators in the mirrors there are some funky running light LEDs in the mirrors which set up the triangle of light that is often talked about. This makes the front look pretty cool at night time as well.
triangle of light
Suspension – wow there’s a lot of bumps on these roads. When I picked the bike up everything was very stiff. I mean I’m no shadow and I was seriously being thrown around on the bike on some of the back roads we were on. After a quick stop to adjust the remote preload (why can’t my bike have this FANTASTIC feature) by about 1 turn, that just transformed the bike and it road over the bumps much better with out trying to throw it off line. If it was mine I would like to soften up the front a bit as well, it’s just a bit too harsh. Overall though the suspension does a great job and after I softened the rear I had no concerns what so ever.
Motor– why have I put this so far down? Well I’m still trying to make up my mind on this. I won’t go into the technical stuff because that’s available elsewhere and my mechanical knowledge is fairly limited.
I guess I’m a bit disappointed in it. I thought the bottom end grunt was lacking, yes I know I’m comparing it to the tectonic plate towing capability of the ZX14 so everything else is a bit hoe hum but it is a 1200 sports tourer and I’d expect more low down grunt. Below about 4000 rpm it seems to bog down a bit. The trouble is that at 100 km/h in top you are at around 3500 rpm. On the 1400 I can ride into town and tootle through town in top (even at 50) and just open the throttle as you leave town and it just pulls away smoothly. On the VFR you have to go through town in 3rd anything higher than this and it is very unhappy, this is also apparent when going through twisties. The thing I like about a big bike is that I can either work the gears and muscle the bike or just use the bikes low down grunt to flow through the corners simply rolling on and off the throttle. I found I couldn’t flow the same way on the VFR as slower corners and corners where the revs drop below 4000rpm the bike would hesitate or just bog down.
However, once you are over 4000 rpm it’s great! It just goes! And the sound in the higher revs when the exhaust flap opens just lets the V4 sing that glorious V4 song.
Yes it also has a shaft drive. What’s it like? Didn’t notice it, so I guess that’s good.
As a Long Distance bike – Obviously anything can be used as a long distance bike. If this was mine though the things that I would look at would be
• seat – I found it just too hard and would struggle to be on it all day.
• fuel – the tank is 18.5ltrs and by all accounts the bike can be a bit thirsty (Australian Road Rider reported 6.8ltr/100km average for their test). The bike’s gauge hit empty this morning so I filled up the tank. On mainly highway riding the empty sign flashed at 230km, with about 4.5ltrs left in the tank. My fuel consumption for that tank was 6.1ltr/100kms.
• lights – I’d probably look at upgrading the lot
• luggage – need some.
Overall – on the sports tourer continuum it is certainly firmly placed on the sports side. The handling is very sharp and the bike is a lot of fun to ride. If you give it its head it can certainly hustle, it is very sure footed and confidence inspiring. I have always found VFRs bland, nice, and a bit characterless. This one, well the jury is still out, but I think under that funny front end there is character in there.
Finally, would I have one? If they sorted out the low down grunt and possibly fit a bigger fuel tank, then yes, I think I would.
I’ve now had the VFR for 2 weeks and put on just over 1,000km over a variety of riding experiences – out in the country, highway riding, commuting, two up, night time, rain…
So what do I think now..?
In the last week I’ve been wondering whether I was a bit too harsh in my original write up when comparing it to my ZX14. But if the VFR is a Blackbird replacement than the ZX14 is a direct competitor. The thing I’ve struggled with is knowing where this bike is pitched, I wonder whether this bike is actually a bit confused with its own identity, it has a small fuel tank, a seemingly concentration of power up high, shortish wheel base, very easy to throw around, and a seat a bit like a sports bike, however, it has a shaft drive, good fairing and comfortable riding position making it better for longer miles. Who are you?!
Over the last week I have really settled into the VFR and have changed my riding style to accommodate the VFR, and I haven’t hit the horn once in the last week (apparently you can teach old dogs new tricks). I have really enjoyed riding the VFR and there is an inner mongrel wanting to get out but that pipe has it on a very tight leash.
Commuting on this bike was very easy as it doesn’t feel like a big bike at all and it is very easy to manoeuvre. The biggest thing I noticed when commuting was that the fuel consumption climbed quite a bit with the empty fuel warning coming on at 200km with a fuel consumption figure of over 7.2ltrs/100km.
So after 2 weeks, I still think the seat is too hard, I really like the light pattern provided by the headlights, a quick search shows that Ventura have a fitment kit for the VFR so that takes care of luggage, and fuel … MR HONDA WHY DID YOU PUT A 18 LITRE TANK ON? The VFR800 uses 30% less fuel and has a 22 litre tank.
So to sum up. If you are after a big bike, with huge torque that will rip your arms off then you will be disappointed. However, if you love sports bikes and want more comfort and the ability to do bigger trips then this is the bike, just know where the next fuel stop is otherwise you are in for some walking.