Honda VTR1000 SP-1 – Cycle Torque Magazine

25 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Honda VTR1000 SP-1 – Cycle Torque Magazine
Honda VTR 1000 SP-1


Test by Nigel Paterson. Pics courtesy Honda.

V-twins are where it’s at in motorcycling. Nearly every cruiser is powered by a V-twin, and now a growing number of sports bikes are, too. It is an indication of the importance Honda is placing on this market that the firm is making its premier street-based racer in this form, breaking away from the V-fours which have powered its hand-built racing specials since the late eighties.

It was back in the eighties Honda was looking to conquer the big bike market with V-fours, and it launched a plethora of models, from 400cc to 1000cc. Reliability problems and price, aligned with a fear of the complexity of these bikes, quickly killed off the smaller capacities, while a lack of racing success for the VF1000R killed its chances of becoming a classic. It was in the three-quarter litre category Honda got it right.

By the time the early VF750s were killed off and the VFR750 was available, Honda had a winner. Reliable, fast and capable, the bike first launched in 1985 has since gained many updates and the philosophy of the bike can still be found in the VFR800. But it was the HRC (Honda Racing Corporation) special which really captured the imagination of racers, both real and imagined, around the world.

The VFR750R, or RC30 as it was better known, won the first two Superbike World Championships in the hands of American Flying Fred Merkel, won numerous Australian Superbike Championships (including Troy Corser’s memorable 1993 title, on what was then a supposed out-of-date machine) and many other titles and races around the world. It was replaced by the RC45, or RVF750.

This bike promised much, but couldn’t deliver in quite the same way as the RC30. For a start, it only managed one world title, that of John Kocinski’s in 1997. Aaron Slight and Colin Edwards also picked up many race victories on the machine, but in the year now-four-time title winner Carl Fogarty was poached by Honda he could only manage fourth overall, and went back to Ducati at the conclusion of his contract.

Fogarty won the Superbike World Championship crown in both of the following years on a Ducati V-twin. Enter the VTR1000 SP-1.

With this machine, Honda has decided (possibly a decision forced on the firm by the coming SWC rules, which require companies to make a minimum number of performance kits) to make the bike available to the public in large quantities rather than just produce the minimum required for eligibility to enter the world championship (as it did with the RC45).

The VTR1000 SP-1 has been conceived, designed and built to win races. It’s chassis has been designed and built to take more horsepower than the stock engine produces, and the ancillary components are either of race specification or are designed to be replaced easily. An important factor in the development of the bike, according to Honda, was to make the bike a suitable racer for everyone from club to world championship level.

In its literature about the bike Honda indicates it hopes to see many more SP-1s on the road than is the case with RC45s.

Honda’s literature states the new bike should be ‘…at a price that both weekend club racers and Superbike racing fans alike easily could justify and afford.’ For this to be true, Honda will need to peg the bike under the $20,000 mark. If it’s over that it’s an expensive bike – under the $20K figure should make it good value. The bike was also developed to be a reasonable compromise for street use.

Honda hopes riders find the bike suitable for ‘light touring’ (credit card an toothbrush?) and carrying pillion passengers.

To make sure people don’t forget the heritage of the machine, it will be available in only one colour scheme – Winning Red. The Exterior Honda’s designers have spent many hours trying to get the optimum shape for the SP-1 to punch through the breeze with the least effort, while keeping the riding position reasonable for street use. The firm claims the bike has a mall frontal area and low drag coefficient, but figures aren’t quoted.

The graphics feature a large black wing over the red colour base.

The full fairing effectively hides the engine, but the twin-beam alloy chassis is there for all to admire. As is expected on a race-style bike, the raised ducktail leaves something for the rider to slide back into, but surprisingly there’s no pad. The pillion seat is replaceable with a cover to further enhance the lines of the bike.

The fairing is made with a new gas Pressure Injection construction process so it is thinner and therefore lighter than fairings of comparable size.

Honda claims the liquid-cooled, DOHC four valve per cylinder four stroke powerplant of the SP-1 produces over 134 Horsepower (100kW), at 9000rpm. Maximum torque is reached 1000 revs earlier, peaking at 105Nm. The engine is very different from the unit powering the VTR1000F, although they do have similar heritage. The SP has a shorter stroke and higher compression to allow safer higher rev speeds, which helps produce more power.

It isn’t stated whether the valves are bigger, but I would think so. The pistons ride in aluminium ceramic composite sleeves – similar to those used on the RVF750 – to reduce friction and wear. The cam drive is also different, using a gear train rather than chains. Similar to those used on the RC45, the gears ride in slots adjacent the engine barrels.

They are Honda’s spring-loaded scissor-action type of gears, which reduce noise and minimise gear lash.

Honda has developed a smaller, lighter oil pump thanks to being able to use centrifugal force to help distribute the oil through the crankshaft. In most engines the oil is forced down oilways in the case’s crank journals. The crank then rides on a thin film of oil within the bearing. The drawback is that the oil must be forced into the hollow from without, which is the opposite to the way it wants to travel under the centrifugal force of the spinning crank.

In the SP-1 the oil is instead fed from the very end of the crankshaft, down its centre axis. When the oil reaches the passages leading outward to the bearings and big ends, centrifugal force helps pull the oil upward and outward toward the bearings. The result is less oil pressure required, so the oil pump can be smaller and lighter.

To further reduce weight, the engine features magnesium head covers, clutch cover and left rear crankcase covers. Fuel Induction and Ignition Air is provided to the engine through a ram-air system from the centre of the fairing, below the headlights. The induction path is dead straight; Honda has cast the alloy steering head with the intake port integrated into the design. The steering stem has an aerodynamic ‘foil’ fitted so it doesn’t disturb airflow to the airbox.

The intake tract is so straight that, with the air filter removed, the velocity stacks can be see from the front of the machine. The big carburettors on the 1000F have been dumped in favour of fuel injection. Large 54mm throttle bodies with two injectors each are used.

The injectors themselves have a four-jet nozzle to inject a fine, widely-dispersed spray of fuel into the short, straight intake port. The injection combines with the ignition system to provide computer-controlled fuel delivery and combustion. All of the electronics to control the injection and ignition lie in one ‘black box’.

Honda VTR 1000 SP-1

The spark plugs are iridium-tipped with U-groove electrodes which Honda claims provides a hotter spark with longer life. High-octane unleaded fuel is specified for the VTR1000 SP-1, with detonation likely if lower-grade fuel is used. Honda’s air-injection system is also employed, to reduce exhaust emissions by better burning of residual fuel.

The system provides an injection of air from the airbox into the exhaust port of each cylinder at its exhaust stroke. Clutch and Transmission The clutch is conventional design, being a multi-plate wet unit. However, it has a two-piece magnesium cover, enabling maintenance without oil spillage, which will make race-track preparation easier. The transmission is a close-ratio six speed set-up.

The transmission shift dogs have been slightly dovetailed for surer engagement.

Despite the knowledge most owners will replace the street-legal exhaust soon after purchase, the standard system is still a high-performance set of pipes. The highly polished stainless steel system has a larger volume (10.6 litre, up 1.6 over the VTR-F) silencer for freer-flowing air. Chassis Frame The new VTR uses a twin-beam triple box section alloy frame with the engine as a stressed member.

Unlike the VTR-F, Honda hasn’t used its ‘Pivotless’ design, the increased output of the Superbike contender putting too many stresses on the swingarm pivot point for the engineers to be happy with that. Instead a large cast alloy section of the frame provides stiffness by having two large alloy beams to hold the swingarm in place.

The same structure has cross beams to mount the rear shock and brace the frame near the swingarm pivot point. The steering head described earlier is also cast alloy. It features ball-bearing races, large aluminium triple clamps and a hollow steering stem of the same metal. Suspension This is one of very few Hondas to feature inverted style forks.

The company is at last happy with the weight (early inverted forks were heavier than comparable conventional forks) and reliability of the upside-down style units. They are fully adjustable 43mm cartridge units with fully adjustable compression and rebound damping, as well as spring preload. Honda also claims they also offer easy maintenance.

The rear shock is a remote reservoir gas-charged unit which is also fully adjustable. It is mounted to the frame’s lower cross-member by a pair of aluminium arms.

The swingarm is a large, braced alloy unit of hybrid construction. Two extruded alloy arms are welded to a cast cross-member pivot section. There are also Yagura-style braces welded to its upper surface for increased rigidity. Wheels, Tyres and Brakes The VTR1000 SP-1 has newly-developed lightweight wheels.

The six-spoke front and seven spoke rear are 3.5 and 6.0-inches wide respectively, carrying Metzeler or Dunlop tyres in 120/70-17 and 190/50-17 sizes. Stopping is provided for by similar brakes to those fitted to the VTR1000F and CBR900RR, four-piston calipers with sintered metal pads gripping floating 320mm discs. However, the SP-1 features bolt-on aluminium caliper stays, enabling easy replacement of the calipers with racing units.

A 220mm disc and dual piston caliper provide the rear braking. Equipment

For road use the SP-1 features a fully electronic instrument display with horizontal multi-segment bar graph tachometer. There’s a large LED speedo and various idiot lights. The whole assembly weighs just 360 grams and connects to the electrical system of the bike with just one connector.

The headlights and taillights are high-intensity multi-reflector units to provide excellent night time illumination and bright visibility. Under the pillion seat is a storage area for a security lock and other items. There’s also a set of ocky-strap hooks.

Honda VTR 1000 SP-1
Honda VTR 1000 SP-1
Honda VTR 1000 SP-1
Honda VTR 1000 SP-1

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