Ride Quality & Brakes
Honda describe the Crossrunner as having 'taut long-travel suspension' and it’s a bloody good description. The forks and shock might not have the option of high-tech semi-active damping and automatic electric preload, but the VFR800X doesn’t miss such embellishments.
The suspension is firm, composed and lets the bike scurry through corners with impressive pace and composure, yet has deliciously plush damping and generous wheel travel that hide potholes and deliver a sumptuous ride. The riding position is great too, with a wide, deep, soft seat that’s got a pleasing '90s feel to it. You’ll happily perch in it all day.
At 242kg wet the Crossrunner is hefty old thing (it’s 23 kilos heavier than a BMW F900XR), but you can’t tell. Honda have made the 800 feel chunky and reassuring, yet nimble and effortless at the same time; handling is neutral, the chassis flowing wherever you place your gaze, while feeling accurate. Clever.
The four-piston front brake calipers don’t have the initial grab of newer big-brand fitments on some rivals, but in normal riding offer more than you need. And with a big panicky grab the Crossrunner stops as swiftly as the opposition.
There’s a unique character to Honda’s VTEC-equipped 782cc engine. Though VFRs haven’t used gear-driven cams for a while (boo) there’s still a whirring clock-like sound to the V4, backed up with a glorious exhaust sound.
VTEC isn’t actually variable valve timing. Timing is fixed; what the system does is change from two valves per cylinder at lower revs to four valves per cylinder at higher revs. It gives the V4 a distinct powerband, and with more top-end revs than a rival twin the Honda feels urgent and engaging.
This isn’t to say it’s not tractable lower down. Crack the throttle at 30mph in third gear and the Crossrunner falls behind a Yamaha Tracer or BMW F900XR in side-by-side tests, but in real life riding the Honda has plenty of flexibility, with clean low-rev drive and midrange thrust. There’s a slight off/on fuelling step but it’s no worse than any alternative bikes.
Quick, clean gearshift action too – old fashioned clutchless up-shifts are slicker on the Honda than using the quickshifter on most rival bikes.
Build Quality & Reliability
It’s easy to be distracted by buttons, black boxes and flashing lights these days. The Honda is a brilliant reminder of the appeal of solid engineering, that the core of a machine is more important than its trinkets and baubles.
The Honda is reassuringly Honda; from the extruded aluminium frame spars, machined finish on the fork legs and single-sided swingarm, to the high-quality switchgear, classy hand levers and perfectly fitted bodywork. You sense the bike’s ancestry – models like the CBR900RR, Super Blackbird and, of course, VFR750.
The VFR800X is also a perfect example of why Honda have such a good reputation for quality. The V4 will do massive miles without bother and finishes are superb. VTEC means the 16,000-mile valve check service can be pricey, though.
There may be reg/rec issues when you reach massive mileages, and the chain adjuster on the single-sided hub will seize if it doesn’t get a regular squirt of GT85 where the pinch bolt goes. There’s lots of metal that can fur up in winter too (and exhaust headers tend to corrode with winter abuse), though component quality is high.
Insurance, running costs & value
The Crossrunner is group 12 insurance. That’s a group lower than a Yamaha Tracer 900 or BMW F900XR, and two groups lower than a Ducati Multistrada 950.
Its V4 engine shows its age a little when it comes to fuel economy – an average of 44mpg is worse than rivals (Tracer does 48mpg, F900XR does 50mpg) although the Honda’s pleasingly generous 20.8-litre fuel tank still means a useful 200-mile range.
Value? On like-for-like spec the Crossrunner is priced nose-to-nose with its opposition, though you don’t get the Honda’s quality feel and sense of engineering elsewhere. Ten grand feels like exceptional value for a bike of this standard.
Insurance group: 12 of 17 – compare motorcycle insurance quotes now.
Don’t be put off by the lack of riding modes, semi-active ride or infinitely variable traction control. The Crossrunner may not have the very latest blingy extras but the base specification is loaded with useful standard-fit toys. There’s three-level traction control (easily adjusted on the move), ABS, five-level heated grips, power socket, self-cancelling indicators and LED lights.
There also are plenty of features that boost practicality too. The VFR800X has proper bungee points on solid pillion grab handles, adjustable seat height (815 or 835mm), adjustable (and effective) screen, integral pannier mounts, excellent mirrors – plus the peace of mind that the Crossrunner will feel as slick and together after 100,000 miles.
Indicator and horn switches are the opposite way around to convention. Though it makes sense for the winker control to be closer to your thumb (you use indicators far more than the horn) it needs some acclimatisation. The LCD dash also feels a bit cluttered next to the latest widescreen offerings, the heated grips aren’t as hot as a BMWs, and the headlight throw is a tad curious.