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Honda VTR1000 Firestorm used guide

Published: 21 February 2019

Updated: 21 February 2019

Arguably less desirable than the Suzuki TL1000S and other late 90s booming V-Twins, the humble Honda VTR1000 has become a superb used bet for those wanting a 100bhp thumper for getting their weekend thrills.

Look past the lack of top-end and questionable fuel economy and it could well be the one for you. The first bikes rolled off the production line over 20-years-ago and now we're revisiting the Honda to see how it behaves today.

The original Firestorm test

"There’s many a CBR600 owner who has stepped up to the VTR in full knowledge that those ignoring the Storm are over-wedged-up fools. Unless you fancy yourself in Colin Edwards' seat, the Storm really does offer more than enough." MCN, 2002.

But what’s it like now?

The Honda VTR1000 Firestorm

With a grunty power delivery that makes it a joy on the road, a VTR1000 is still a compelling conveyance. This 1997 bike is in typical good used condition and has a strong engine and slick gearbox matched with brakes that could do with a rebuild and fuelling that could be improved with some dyno time to match the booming race cans.

Riding a Firestorm is all about surfing that glorious mid-range. With about 100bhp at the back wheel, it isn’t fast in the modern context and it grumbles and rumbles at low rpm. But when an engine makes such satisfying shunt between 4000 and 8000rpm you can forgive it anything.

It makes for an effective bike too – letting you bellow past lines of cars without changing gear, exhaust echoing as it passes. It may look conservative, but the Firestorm is anything but conventional.

It uses 90s-spec carbs (at 48mm the biggest ever fitted to a production bike) and has side-mounted radiators to help keep the wheelbase short to negate the inherent length of a V-twin. To help with this, the swingarm is mounted on the back of the engine rather than the frame.

The result is a bike that rolls from side-to-side, with little input needed to get it to change line. The problems start when it comes to holding that line. Like most 20-year-old bikes this Firestorm could do with, at minimum, a suspension service and, if you’re an enthusiastic rider, a rebuild.

Aftermarket pipes are not uncommon

The riding position is neutral, with enough weight on your wrists to help with feel, but not enough to stop you enjoying a day in the saddle. Early bikes were all-analogue and all the better for it, but later machines have a digital segment and a fuel gauge.

You can pick up a Firestorm in this condition for about £2500 on MCN Bikes For Sale, though you would need to put in some work/spend some money to get it working like it should. It’s worth putting the effort in though – it is an enjoyable bike, one that feels more special than most.

Any problems?

The Firestorm can suffer with poor fuel consumption

The biggest problem is fuel consumption – those huge carbs slice fuel into the cylinders. Ride it hard and you can dip into the 20mpg bracket, and this limits tank range.

Mechanically, that 998cc V-twin is pretty bullet-proof. On high mileage bikes, check that the cam-chain and tensioner has been replaced. Look for records of service history and valve adjustment – especially now bikes are in the budget bracket and if the machine is modified ask for the OE parts.

Look for cush-drive problems as bikes can go through them in 8000 miles or less and the brakes will be terrible by now. You’ll need to budget for lines, pads and fluids. That’s £150.

Will it be a classic?

It could be, but there are so many about (it outsold the TL1000 by a factor of 2:1 in 1997) that condition will be the decider. Your best chance to make money out of one is to find a low-mileage 1997 version with OE pipes and screen, which will be vital for classic fans in years to come. At the moment, the bike doesn’t have the cachet of, say a Suzuki TL1000S and values reflect this.

So, what’s the verdict?

It still looks good and it has an engine that in some ways makes more sense on 2017’s crowded roads than it did in 1997. Find the right one and you could be the owner of an amazing sportsbike for less than the price of a fancy Akrapovic full system on a Ducati Panigale.

The mechanic: Shaun Lock, After Sales Manager at Bridge Motorcycles

Honda VTR1000 Firestorm clocks

"They are becoming quite a collector’s item and for that reason they are generally very well looked after. They are strong bikes, but they are prone to a blown gasket where the rear downpipe joins to the rest of the exhaust.

"You need to take the exhaust system completely off and if the bolts are seized then it can be a big job. We are starting to see a lot of older bikes having a lot of money spent on them, as their values are starting to rise. I can’t remember the last one I saw that wasn’t well looked after.

"We do get a few of these bikes in, but not many. The Firestorm, SP-1 and SP-2 all have a similar engine, so you could almost categorise all of them into the same types of engine problems. However, the ones that we see are normally in for service, rather than a repair.

The fairing on the Honda VTR1000 Firestorm

"The modification that people tend to spend a lot of money on for the Firestorm is the exhaust. I think the main brand I have seen is Micron, as when these bikes were new, they were all the rage.

"People also put belly pans on and, much like many other bikes, also modify the back ends to make the tail section a little bit smaller. Some will actually hacksaw the under-tray off and bolt the number plate directly to the remaining part.

"These bikes don’t tend to drink very much oil and have a reliable engine. I personally felt that the Storm wasn’t a very quick bike. They always handled well and were good coming out of corners, but were just a bit slow.

"Most are used for leisure, which is one of the reasons they remain in nice condition. They aren’t used as commuters, as when a bike ceases production and parts become harder to get, they are less suitable for this role.

"If you are going to ride this bike through the winter, then the whole engine and front of the exhaust is open to abuse from the salt on the road. That’s not common and certainly not down to the bike – if you take any half-faired bike out on the road at this time of year, you’ll have to wash it every day to keep it clean.

"The big service on this bike is at 16,000 miles, with regular intervals of 4000 miles for smaller ones. The big service will cost between £500 and £600 and includes valve clearances, throttle-body balancing, replacement spark plugs and a filter change. But put the effort in and this is a rewarding machine."

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