Taking a Honda VFR 800 for a Ride

For some minor repairs we had a Honda VFR 800 for a week, the repairs went well and we take the VFR 800 for a ride. As much as I try not to judge books (bikes) by their covers, first impressions count with me; perhaps a little too much at times. The 2006 built Honda VFR 800 is top condition and it shines as if it just came of the production line.

Thinking of riding the Honda VFR 800 I had visions in my mind of what I would be getting: the benchmark sport tourer, a refined capable all-rounder with the comfort and practicality to put is some serious highway kilometers, plus the handling and performance for some back lane scratching. The best balance of economy and performance from the V-Tech engine, superb performance and safety from linked brakes and ABS, quality build, reliability...etc...etc.

I was starting to worry that anything else I rode from then on would come a rather inadequate second to the Honda.

Setting off to Roi-Et, from the our workshop in Bangkok, with 512 kilometers of mixed highways and roads in front of me, my first impressions weren't quite what I was expecting. Firstly the sheer weight of the Honda VFR 800 surprised me, the quoted figure is 218kg dry, but hauling it off the side-stand it felt twice that. Picking my way gingerly through the traffic on Vibhavadi-Rangsit road, that weight was ever present, the Honda VFR 800 feels top heavy at low speeds: the combination of the curb weight and my short legs means stopping for lights and junctions is less than confidence inspiring, it is surely not a girls bike.
Once you're up and running at something like a speed, the weight disappears, and it turns as light and flickable as its sports brethren; not to the detriment of stability though, no amount of ruts, bumps, manholes and other such obstacles move i off line. Cornering is sublime, sharp, positive steering and a well-balanced suspension set-up underlines the 'sport' in the VFR's title. All this helped by the freshly fitted Continental Conti Attacks; designed with a sticky compound and 7mm deep tread to give the best of both sport and touring ability.

The touring moniker is just as underlined by the Honda's road manners, but unfortunately not by its seating position. Low bars and high pegs make for a great combination in the twisties, but not so for long hauls. Halfway, about 10 kilometers before Nakornrachasima, my wrists and legs began to feel the pace and once past the town of Nakornrachasima, stuck in the endless flow of rural tractors and vegetable-filled wagons, I was about ready to get off and lie down. To be fair to the Honda, I'm not exactly the loftiest passenger it'll ever have to put up with, and perhaps handlebar positioning wasn't designed with someone quite as vertically challenged as myself in mind.

Nevertheless, pain relief came in the form of Khai Yang, a small but nicely looking roadside food place which was selling BBQ chicken Isan style... I have to remember that place...

I fear I may be repeating what has already been said, but I want to put my point across anyway. On paper the V-Tech (variable Valve technology) system works; on the road it doesn't quite. At low revs, when it's working on two valves, it's lumpy, snatchy and difficult to control. Cue 7000rpm and a noticeable step in power is evident, no smooth progression, a huge jump from not much to something. At high revs when all four valves in each cylinder are earning their keep it's a dream; plenty of usable power and torque, fast and responsive, but keep it up there and it's heavy on the gas, very heavy.

V-tech niggles aside, the Honda VFR 800 is more than I'll ever need. On song it wastes lines of traffic, powers out of the corners like a V-twin, sits at highways speeds, and above, with ease; it handles exceptionally, brakes well. Everything you want it to do, it'll do.
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Friday, 26 February 2010 @ 01:41 PM ICT
Have had both the 750 and 800 VFRs ...... love them I do. Had problems with the last 800 though when the Fuel injection system started playing up in Phangnga. Apart from that little niggle, I think they are brilliant all round bikes more than capable of staying with any of today's superbikes.