Asphalt & Rubber was recently invited by Honda America to test ride the new 2010 Honda VFR1200F in both configurations of the standard manual-shifting model, and the all new and highly anticipated ‘automatic’ model with the dual-clutch transmission (DCT). Santa Barbara, California served as our amazing backdrop as we took to the road on the new VFR. On our first circling of the bike it did not take much time to figure out why the VFR community has nicknamed this model the ‘Buffalo’. Given it’s dominant headlight and fuel tank that carries a similar curve of a buffalo profile, the bike is however anything but ugly or slow.
We started the test ride with fellow riders from across the country that were all personally invited by Honda. It was nice to see Honda take the time to seek out individuals by researching online forums and news outlets in an effort to give the opportunity for real VFR owners and sport-touring enthusiast to ride the new VFR, and give direct unfiltered feedback back to Honda. Hosting a group comprised mostly of VFR enthusiasts, and not journalists, Honda had a rare occurrence during its Q&A session: actual questions.
Since many present were current older-model VFR owners, the questions revolved around problems that were experienced with previous generation models; questions that only riders who own the bikes, and use them as daily riders would know to ask. Accustomed to press junkets where the questions have little connection to the model line or brand, it was nice to be amongst people who were versed in the history of the VFR, and wanted assurances from Honda that previous problems were addressed in the new model.
As we walked out to the parking lot it was immediately apparent that pictures hardly give justice to the VFR’s radical design, here at A&R we are use to seeing dynamic sport bikes that are always attempting to be lighter, while adding aerodynamics…bikes that take design cues from fighter jets and things that go fast. These efforts are to give the bike speed and stability while pitching deep into a turn at a track; meanwhile the first images that come to mind with sport-tourers are luggage racks and tanks. Take for example any BMW sport-tourer you have ever seen: it probably has a direct transmission that looks heavier than an entire S1000RR.
Along those lines, Honda has created a new kind of bike that looks heavy enough and durable enough to withstand trekking across the Ozarks, but they have also made a motorcycle that is sporty and light enough to carry a good clip the whole way. True to the Honda brand, the bike’s fit and finish is top quality, they have even gone to the extra mile with the VFR’s details, making sure that the fairings have no visible screw heads holding them together in their multi-layered design. It’s the little things like that which catch your attention and make you think that this is a quality product.
Taking off from the parking lot, the new VFR is incredibly easy to giddy-up. Having no problems from a stand still, the low-end torque means that you can shift right away, keeping low revs in stop-and-go traffic. This allows you to minimize shifting while keeping up with the pulse of the traffic. The VFR1200F is also deceptively quiet, you wouldn’t imagine that you have 1237cc’s at your fingertips until you wind it up under load, at which point the bike makes a fabulous noise that became addicting. Through the entire power band, the bike has no annoying vibrations in the fairings or in the handlebars thanks to the newly designed V4 motor.
In the end, what do we have here? It has a spirited way of riding that we can only assume lends it to live permanently in the sport tab on Honda’s website. However, without pounding the pavement and using the VFR on an extended trek of our own we are left wondering. Can the VFR comfortably fill the saddlebags with Mountain Dew, camping gear, and perhaps the odd midget? Maybe. If Honda would lend us one to blast up the 300 miles to Monterey for the MotoGP race at Laguna Seca this weekend to find out, we would gladly answer that question for you. What we do know is that the miles would melt away without the normal lock up of the wrists and hips that we typically experience on our sport bikes, and instead we would have a grin on our faces the whole way up the California coast.
Until that time comes Honda (hint..hint..nudge..wink), we do not want to claim this as a go-to tourer quite yet, as touring requires more of a relationship with your bike that you can only experience over time. Can the new VFR comfortably shuttle you around town? Yes, and in style at that. With its unique looks and distinct V4 sound, the VFR1200F is a head turner because it isn’t your granddad’s typical bike. When riding it you don’t’ feel the heft of the almost 600 pounds of bike underneath you. What you do feel is a sense of pride in being on a bike that feels like it can conquer states and not just counties with ease.
The Honda VFR1200F is a bike that asks you to twist the throttle in a turn just to see if you can lean it over farther and go faster. While albeit it might not be aimed at the younger sport bike crowd, the veterans of the asphalt can definitely put a young squid in their place through the twisties no matter how chromed their wheels are, or how loud of an exhaust they can manage. Does that mean it is a true sport bike in the sense of track-days and canyon rides? Nope, it’s not. At its price above the famed CBR1000R, we would have a hard time labelling the VFR as being able to outperform its brother in arms. So where does the new VFR fit in the Honda lineup? Really we believe it comes down to the rider. If you have ever wanted a stylish sport bike that is fun to ride, and the traditional sport bikes doen’t fit the bill for you, then step right up, you won’t be disappointed.