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Honda VFR 800 F

Honda ’03 VFR 800: Ride Impressions

ZenOfZoom said: 09-18-2003 05:53 PM

Honda ’03 VFR 800: Ride Impressions

In 2002 Honda updated its venerable all-rounder the VFR and brought it into its sixth generation; it was five years between updates so it caught my attention.

While the previous VFR was getting a bit long in the tooth so expectations were high so they updated the VRF; maybe out of boredom from consistently winning British motorcycle magazine sport tourer shootouts. So they fixed a bike that wasn’t truly broken and brought to market the controversial (at least among Viffer fans) VTEC VFR.

A lot has been written about the VTEC engine so lets skip a complete rehash. Honda redesigned the existing VFR power-plant. added variably applied valving, removed the distinctive sounding gear driven cams and created a brand new engine. Except it had torque and power properties as the old one. If copying is a form of flattery then this might be a bit self-indulgent.

Ok the new engine is a bit of an improvement; it’s a bit lighter and meets distantly upcoming Californian emissions standards.

Unfortunately there is also a catalytic converter making the bike heavier, use more fuel and effectively undoing all these fabulous technical feats. Enough said, it’s worth simply shrugging and moving on, and you can because despite the technical irony of having a power plant that is functionally identical to its parent it’s a really brilliant lump!

The VTEC v-four is free reving, torquee without an urge to loft the front wheel skyward at the slightest application of throttle (yes I know the longish wheelbase has a bit to do with that too), with near inline four smoothness and has a great near twin sound (even with stock pipes). And the sound gets better when the VTEC kicks in.

The VTEC wasn’t as intrusive as several reviews I’ve read implied. It’s not subtle but as the extra two valves per cylinder kicks in there is a freeing up of power and the pipes just growl. It’s an artificial power-band and it just leaves you giggling and it’s nothing the rest of the bike can’t handle.

You’d have to be doing something pretty catastrophic in a corner for the VTEC to upset the dynamic of the bikes suspension. Indeed the suspension on the Viffer felt solid, planted and surefooted on the road; this includes in the wet (first time I test road the bike it was in cow floating rain). Actually the VFR’s suspension felt a lot better than those of the Blackbird, much more planted and yet just as flickable.

Honda VFR 800 F
Honda VFR 800 F

Take the corners counter steer only it’s happy, hang off it’s happy too, the bike is just user friendly.

Honda has done something very fun here thru the fine art of VTEC they have given an otherwise solid, stayed and conservative bike a personality disorder. Below 7000 RPM this bike is a hardly vibrating tourer, then you give the free turning throttle a tug, and a the bike becomes just a little bit of a hooligan. Not much it’s a hooligan on Prozak, but it is willing to play.

It was entertaining enough I found myself playing with the VTEC throughout the test ride, up to about 150 where I called it good.

Speed on the Viffer is fun, it feels like you’re moving. At 150 the VFR feels fast, at 150 the Blackbird feels like well… yawn.

So is this the all-rounder of all-rounders? Maybe, it has well integrated bag, ABS (for those who like it), linked breaking, cutting edge technology, good weather protection (ok a taller wind screen would be nice), comfortable ergos, stomping handling by sport touring standards and a bit of artificially installed personality courtesy of the VTEC… So why isn’t my credit card on the counter? One reason… 1980’s Mustangs.

In the 80’s Ford redesigned the Mustang, it was squared off, it was angular, it was edgy, it had design appeal that lasted about a week. Honda must have been thinking “younger, edgier, a redesign that appeals to a sportier market” and it got a design that after 2 years is feeling a little like a 45 year old at a rave. It’s almost instantly dated.

For a bike noted for an engine that will last 200,000 km and more a design with classic design cues would probably serve it better as the years go by. Especially given Honda’s propensity to leave the Viffer for 5 years between updates. Other than that this bike is a frontrunner for me.

Honda VFR 800 F
Honda VFR 800 F
Honda VFR 800 F
Honda VFR 800 F
Honda VFR 800 F
Honda VFR 800 F
Honda VFR 800 F
Honda VFR 800 F
Honda VFR 800 F
Honda VFR 800 F


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