The Honda VFR1200X - Honda's Big Adventure Bike


While currently the Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin gets almost all the attention we easily could forget that Honda also has the range-topping VFR1200X Adventure-Bike available in Thailand.

The Honda VFR1200X borrows the liquid-cooled 76-degree V-Four engine from the VFR1200F. The angle between the two banks of cylinders combined with a 28-degree phasing between the crankpins was designed to eliminate vibration, and the Honda VFR1200X is noticeably calm for a huge V-Four. It features Honda’s Unicam SOHC configuration, which creates more compact dimensions for the 1237cc 16-valve engine by reducing the size and weight of the cylinder heads, and optimizing combustion-chamber shape. Compression was changed slightly from 12.0 to 12.1:1 and performance was reconfigured for more low-end torque. The intake howls, but is not replicated by the exhaust. Aftermarket pipes will be a popular breathing upgrade to make this beast sing.

Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC) constantly monitors wheel-speed. When a difference in speed between front and rear wheels is sensed, engine torque is momentarily reduced by a combination of ignition cut and modulation of the throttle butterflies through the throttle-by-wire system. As the difference in wheel-speed decreases, the system shifts into modulating only the throttle butterflies to ensure a smooth transition as the HSTC reduces intervention. The system features three levels of engagement, selectable via push-button, and can be switched off. As a traction control solution, I found it extremely and annoyingly aggressive in its highest setting and preferred to dial it down.

We tested the Honda VFR1200X with the standard six-speed manual transmission, which sends power to the rear wheel via a shaft final-drive that runs through the single-sided aluminum-alloy swingarm housing. The large and torque V-Four joined to the shaft drive causes a noticeable amount of driveline lash, but manages to minimize jacking. Shifts were clunky, but never missed. We were surprised to find cruise control is not available…

The front suspension features a 43mm inverted telescopic fork, adjustable preload, rebound damping and 144mm of travel. The rear suspension offers also 144mm of travel via a Pro-Link shock with gas-charged damper, hand-adjustable preload and stepless rebound. I stiffened the forks to reduce dive on braking, a common problem with heavy motorcycles. The KYB rear shock is adjustable for rebound damping and features a convenient no-tool preload adjuster, making it easy to fine-tune the ride for varying loads. I took the Honda VFR1200X off-roading, in much tougher terrain than it was designed for, and both the traction control and suspension were up to the task, I only wished I had some good knobby tires…

The Honda VFR1200X features combined brakes – linked so squeezing one will engage the other. The 310mm dual discs with three-piston calipers up front and a single 276mm disc with twin-piston caliper at the rear both feature ABS that works amazingly well. Not only does this heavy motorcycle stop quickly, it is completely stable in the process – remarkable and surprising. The 17-inch rear and 19-inch front wheels are built to handle mangled pavement or well-groomed gravel roads.

The seating position is at 810mm, which is lower than the Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin which is 850mm (in lowest “official” available option). Most of the mechanics at our company were barely able to flatfoot the VFR1200X after sitting on the 288 kilograms motorcycle. The Honda VFR1200X is big. Top heavy and a pain to roll around at stops, but once in motion it handles like a dream. The twin-spar aluminum-alloy frame was fine-tuned to offer improved weight and rigidity, and is the foundation of the motorcycle’s stellar handling. Wide handlebars and ample ground clearance make for excellent leanability.

The instruments and controls are well organized, easy to use, and I didn’t find the dash-mounted fuel consumption and trip-meter buttons necessary to operate while moving. It auto-switched to range on low fuel. The traction control button is easy to reach, though oddly placed in the fairing near the standard cigarette lighter power outlet. Self-canceling turn-signals work, sometimes – it seemed they were more likely to disengage after the motorcycle was leaned. It couldn’t be easier to adjust the VFR1200X’s new one-handed windscreen over its 76mm range of motion. It offers an amazing amount of wind protection in its highest position, which reduced wind and noise so substantially I often rode with my visor up. This is the best-engineered manually adjustable screen I’ve ever used. Major kudos for Honda for that…

The Honda VFR1200X is not a budget motorcycle, and you find this back in attention to detail. This is an attractive and well-thought-out motorcycle. It is challenging to get access to the mechanical bits as they are well packaged between the frame, fuel tank and fairing. I would also recommend better dual-sport tires and crash bars to protect the engine if planning any amount of off-road riding; the motorcycle is capable, but the default setup isn’t. It comes ready for mounting all the touring accessories a rider may desire, and the Honda catalog is full of them…

The Honda VFR1200X is available in Red and Black color, and will cost you 817,000 THB which is an acceptable price for the motorcycle you get. The BMW R1200GS Adventure cost in Thailand 1,060,000 THB.

Tag: Honda VFR1200X VFR1200 Adventure-Bike 1200cc V4 ABS Technology Traction-Control Dual-Sport Off-Road
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