Honda VFR800F: long-term test report
A quick recap: I’m (mostly) a VFR man. I’ve ridden or tested all of ‘em over the past 25 years or so; had a lovely Mk II VFR750FL for a year back in the early ‘90s; owned the last of the 750s, a VFR750FR (the bike many, me included, still reckon one of the best of all time) and sampled most of the ones since.
That said, I was never smitten with the 800Fi and like many had mixed feelings about the V-Tec version. So when I tested a significantly new VFR800F in April and found it revitalized then had the chance to run one for the remainder of the year, I jumped at the chance.
For one reason or another (testing other bikes or being away being the main ones) I haven’t had the chance to clock up as many miles as I’d have liked this summer, but as the depths of winter beckon we’re starting to bond more than ever before.
It might sound like sacrilege for such a beautifully finished, classy machine, but this new generation VFR makes a surprisingly brilliant winter weapon. Any front end uncertainty is surmounted by the Honda’s brilliantly-precise front-end feel and ABS brakes; rear end trepidation is countered by the V4’s smooth torque, the virtually ironed-out VTEC ‘blip’ and the new-for-2014 traction control plus there’s also the new-for-2014 heated grips (which mean I can keep wearing my summer or medium gloves), a fabulously natural riding position and decent weather protection.
There’s more: the centre-stand makes chain-lubing a doddle, the mirrors are big and wide enough to alert me to twats failing to leave enough braking room and the lights in this winter murk are good, too.
Which brings me to the tyres. An errant driveway nail killed off the OE fitment Dunlop D222 Sportmaxs the VFR wore for its first 1700-odd miles, and they suited it, too. But on the recommendation of others I’ve now switched to Bridgstone Battlax T30s with, I have to say, slightly mixed results. Sure they work fine and are acceptably predictable. But the VFR’s precise front end ‘bite’ now seems diluted a little and my overall confidence isn’t quite as great. That said, this is quite a minor niggle: I’m in no rush to switch back. The rest of the VFR more than makes up for it and, overall, it’s making a breeze of winter so far.