Canadian grabs first quick spin on Honda VFR1200F

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Canadian Motorcycle Guide grabbed a first 20-minute quick spin for pictures on the new Honda VFR1200F at the weekend.

MCN is riding the new bike in an exclusive extended track test later this week – for now here’s CMG’s Costa Mouzouris’ first impressions. See the full story here

“The new VFR1200F has barely finished making the rounds on the internet, and we’ve already had a chance to ride it, courtesy of Honda Canada. 

“Alright, the ride was brief, about 20 minutes, so my riding impression is limited, but enough came through on this new machine that I thought CMG readers would find of interest. 

“The bike will undoubtedly be compared to other big-bore sport touring machines, namely the BMW K1300GT, the Yamaha FJR1300 and the Kawasaki Concours 14. 

“Physically, the bike feels slimmer and lighter than those bikes, and it is lighter according to its spec sheet, which puts its wet weight 21 kg lighter than the next lightest bike in that group, the K1300GT. 

“It seems that most enthusiasts, be they current VFR fans or not, are not sure what to make of the bike’s styling. I say wait until you see the bike in person before making a snap judgment. Fit and finish are impeccable, and the bike certainly looks quite sleek. 

“The riding position is not as relaxed and upright as on the Honda ST1300; the bike was, after all, designed by an Italian for the European market. That said, the riding position is much closer to a grand-touring machine than that of a supersport.

“The seat is wide and supportive, but more time in the saddle will reveal if the ergonomics can sustain long-distance travel. 

“Honda has gone to lengths to make the engine narrow at the rear so that the frame can also be narrow at the rider’s inseam, and if memory serves me right the bike is indeed narrower that at least the FJR and the Concours 14, and reach to the ground will be easy for average sized riders. 

“The fairing is unique in that it is a layered design claimed to manage airflow for improved engine heat control, aerodynamics, high-speed stability and rider comfort. That’s a tall order, and unfortunately, my ride wasn’t long enough to reap these benefits.   

“The engine, which is really the focal point of this machine, is remarkably torquey and very powerful. Throttle response is instantaneous but easily manageable.

“I rolled on the throttle full from about 2,000 rpm in second gear, expecting to have my arms stretched straight, but was surprised to discover that the engine pulled in a subdued manner.

“I asked Honda Canada’s Warren Milner if there was some kind of electronic intervention in the lower gears, like Kawasaki does with the ZX-14, and he said he wasn’t aware of such engine tuning but would look into it. Regardless, the engine is very manageable at low speeds.  

“Honda has done a remarkable job of controlling driveline lash, and rolling on and off the throttle is exceptionally smooth.

“As well, the gearbox on the manual-shift model we rode (the auto-shift will be coming to Canada, but later in the year) was light-shifting, precise and quiet.

“Also, the new drive shaft system, which locates the transmission output shaft below the swingarm pivot to reduce driveshaft jacking, works as claimed, with no noticeable hopping or squatting.  

“The engine’s 76-degree V angle, the first time Honda has deviated from using a 90-degree V-four design, uses offset crankpins to reduce vibration without the use of a counterbalancer.

“Honda claims engineers deliberately let some vibration get through to enhance the riding experience, and the engine is quite smooth, with only some unobtrusive, throbbing vibration letting you know what the engine is doing. 

“One thing Honda has been working up in its marketing hype is the new bike’s unique sound, which Honda claims produces a “fantastically stirring note”.  The bike does have a unique sound, partially due to its unusual firing order, but also due to the exhaust system.

“The muffler uses a servo-operated valve to quell noise at low rpm that opens at higher rpm to unleash “a truly inspiring, hard-edged V4 howl to stir the emotions”.

“Admittedly, I found the sound at idle about as inspiring as a toddler banging on a bongo that has a loose-fitting drumhead.

“The sound was offbeat and flat. However, once the engine revved, that rich, distinctive V-four drone, which has become a Honda hallmark of sorts, tickled the eardrums.  

“Oddly, the machine emitted a low-pitched mechanical whirr on take-off and acceleration from low speeds, but it was not intrusive and quite agreeable.“

Chris Newbigging

By Chris Newbigging