What about the VFR?

It's me ! (Wim Janssen on one of the best bikes ever made) After a 11+ year love/hate relationship with a BMW R80 (RT for a while), a worn-out camshaft finally made me consider a new bike. I think a MC-dealer is far more important than a MC-brand, and it happened to be the dealer that helped me out with the R80 several times that also had a Honda dealership. So I looked at what Honda had to offer...

The dealer had already granted me a ride on the VTR1000 Firestorm when it came to Holland, even though he knew I wasn't in the market for a new bike at the time. (I liked the VTR1000 a lot and discussed the possibility of owning one as a fun bike with my wife. Not a chance...). I knew now that the VTR was great, but I had to be sure it was very reliable as well because I had to commute on it daily. And this was a very new bike, too little was known about reliability.

The VFR seemed to be the ultimate reliable machine: many people of the Compuserve Ride forum had discussed the qualities of the VFR750, and I had never heard serious complaints about them. And now there was the VFR800FI. New as well, the engine itself being the new element, but as it had a good press...

So I decided to order one in november 1997. It arrived in january 98, and I had my first foreign trip on it within two weeks. For three years I also used it for commuting (average round trip 120km).

I passed the 101.000km mark in august 2004 and to this day I'm happy with the purchase. Pros are:

  • Great engine, decent performance. Just a bit buzzy over 7500 rpm.
  • Road behavior. Excellent on public roads, no problem keeping up with faster bikes in twisties and sweepers. Suspension is a bit soft for track use though.
  • Very good brakes (I happen to like the Linked Brake System in this setup). They don't feel aggressive like on the VFR750, but they DO brake!
  • Reliability. The engine itself turned out to be stone reliable.
  • Summer mileage. In summer the range is quite good, thanks to a 21 litre fuel tank and a consumption of 16.5 km/l. However in winter it can be like 14.5 km/l, seems to have something to do with fuel injection.

    Cons:

  • Resistance to Dutch weather. So far two radiators and the front part of the exhaust rotted away.
  • Voltage regulator. It died at 110.000 km and is quite an expensive part.
  • Time. You always want to ride this bike, but there are so many other things to do.
  • Looks. I don't like the front end of the fairing, where the indicators rise out like Mt.Everests. The rest isn't too bad, but worse compared to the previous model.

    Extra's added: a K&N airfilter and a Scottoiler. A good purchase, but 'just'. I bought the touring version which never worked properly, even though many experts (including the dutch distributor) have had their say and/or their do about it. The little container has to be refilled when empty instead of being refilled by the big one.
    As to chainlife: so far (july 2003) I have no indication that it will last longer with a scottoiler. The first chain, without scottoiler, lasted 38000 km, the second one, with oiler, lasted 27700 km. The third one was shot after 20000 km but this was partly due to a mechanic that overstressed the chain. (This and some other little problems made me end the relationship with the original dealer).

    After the september 2000 crash I added a bagster tankbag and a Bos high exhaust. I like both add-ons. The bagster is practical, protecting the tank and providing quick removal capabilities of the bag. The can gives the V4 the sound it should have in the first place whilst adding some horses in the 4-6K range (very usable) and the +10K range (nice to know).

  • Tyres. The standard BT57's were OK. I tried a BT56FG in front, which made steering even quicker, but it resulted in riding characteristics a bit too nervous for my taste. Then I switched back to BT57's and I liked them. After Bridgestone had released new tyres, I tried a BT010 front/BT020 rear combination. The rear 020 gives good grip and is about as lasting as the previous BT57. The front 010 is again too nervous for me. It's great when cornering fast and it's very stable. No more wobbles at 50mph with 'no-hands' riding. On the other hand when in touring mode it gives an over-steering reaction; you have to force the bike into a straighter line. The BT020 front I bought later is near perfect. Stable and lots of grip. Apparently a set of BT020's were the way to go. Then I used BT014's. Great performance but lower mileage. I suppose I'll switch back to the latest Bridgestone sport/touring tyres when the time comes.

    At 89000 km the rear shock was replaced by an 'airshock' of the Fournales brand. At first it was comfy and adequate, but after the Iberiatrip, some 8000 km later, the inbound damping had gone. After 6 weeks (due to holidays in the factory) it was returned after a "revision complete". Another 4000 km later oil was leaking out again. So I dumped it and bought an almost new original Showa shock from a Belgian woman. Let's hope the rides will be a pleasure again.

    March 2009, 120.685 km: I sold the VFR. Retirement and such. See goodbye vfr.


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