Speedmonkey: Living with – Honda VFR 800

15 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Speedmonkey: Living with – Honda VFR 800
Honda VFR 800 X

Living with – Honda VFR 800

The Bike – Honda VFR 800 FI-W 1998

the Owner – Colin Hubbard

Early in 2011 and after a break from motorcycles for a few years I fancied another bike to enjoy. The parameters were that it had to comfortable, practical, reliable and ultimately fast.

My search took me to Honda for reliability and Germanic-surpassing build quality and specifically the VFR 800 for the practicality and performance. It is renowned for being a good all round tool capable of a fast blat around a race circuit or loaded up with gear and touring around Europe.

If you haven’t owned or ridden a motorbike in the past then you won’t have experienced the rush of a powerful motor with little weight to propel. There’s no need for a large motor on a motorbike and a couple of thousand pounds will get you supercar acceleration and a free supply of goosebumps.

I have owned 6 bikes in the past and knew what to look out for. Personally I like to buy private so you can get an insight into the vehicle’s background and haggle on the price. I saw a 1998 S reg VFR800Fi in red advertised in Autotrader and local to me so got on the phone.

The guy offered to bring the bike to me to have a look at so off he rode from his home whilst I counted some readies.

The bike was just as advertised, in fairly good nick, not perfect but then is was 13 years old and with a full stainless steel exhaust and after a little haggling we agreed on a price just over -2k and he got the train home. Both parties happy.

So that evening I had a good look at her and the stats which make for pretty impressive reading for a sports touring motor. Sixty is annihilated in 3.4 seconds and it tops out at over 150 mph thanks to 110bhp and 59 torques (motorbikes do not need as much torque as a car due to the lack of weight).

Being the same colour as the bike helps it look factory-fitted but I still get the odd ‘pizza box’ comment which doesn’t phase me due to its benefits. I counted these comments with how car drivers wouldn’t cope with no boot, glovebox, door pockets or passenger seat to store shopping, phone etc.

Now the best invention on a bike, if not since they first automated bread-slicing is heated grips. They are brilliant and very easy to fit – remove the old ones, slip the new ones on with a little glue, mount the controller on the headstock with adhesive pad and run the wires near the battery. I connected it directly into the fuse box and took a lead that only supplies power when the ignition is on so I can’t drain the battery by leaving them on.

There are 6 heat settings and on days when the temperature’s just above freezing are an absolute godsend. Gloves can’t keep your hands warm when you factor in windchill to already low temperatures so these beauties mean you can concentrate on your riding instead of how cold your hands are.

Next up was a ‘double bubble screen’ which is higher than standard to reduce wind turbulance to the rider. Unfortunately when I fitted the dark smoke screen I hated it. It ruined the lines of the bike so had to go and I accepted the extra wind rush.

The wheels were looking tatty- being 12 years old – so I had them powder-coated. The shop didn’t have many colours and the one I picked I hated when I first saw them. I decided to fit them and see if they grew on me, which they have a little and don’t bother me now but I would like to get painted in anthracite when the tyres both need changing.

In December Mr Clause kindly sent me a Scottoiler and that was fitted on Boxing Day in about 2 hours. It’s quite easy to install – tap into an engine-fed vacuum pipe from the engine, mount the oil container under the seat and run the nozzle to the rear swingarm. Position the nozzle near the back sprocket and the centre of the chain and centrifugal force means the oil fully lubes the chain.

It takes a few weeks to get the correct flow rate, which is easily adjusted via the reservoir and hopefully will give the chain a longer life and reduce the frequency I have to adjust it.

The last mod was the horn. Motorcycle horns have the volume of a child’s bicycle horn and for something as vulnerable as a motorcycle are totally inadequate. Listen up manufacturers, fit better horns OR at least let buyers have the cost option to factory upgrade as I guarantee a 75% take-up rate.

I fitted a Wolo Bad Boy air-horn, fairly easy to wire in with a new relay fed from the original horn wiring and a new power feed from the battery and find somewhere to mount the bulky beast. Job done fairing on and ready to warn off the sleeping, blind or texting drivers.

Honda VFR 800 X
Honda VFR 800 X

I carry out my own maintenance and essential servicing, ensuring regular oil changes with the correct oil along with other jobs dictated by the Honda Service manual. My Haynes manual is my bible and a cheap but great point of reference – but then the internet is also full of helpful people and essential tips.

The one job I wasn’t prepared to tackle was the valve clearances which were due shortly after I bought the bike. If I mess them up it could kill the engine so it went off to Honda who relieved me of -250, but I have peace of mind it’s been done right.

The most technical job I have done on the bike (probably ever) is to bleed the brakes. Think car, easy, there are 4 bleed nipples, one at each corner. Think VFR 800 with linked brakes and there an unbelievable 8 nipples that need to be bled in sequence and then repeated.

The system works by applying some front brake when the rear brake is applied and vice versa. When the front brake level is applied it puts pressure to 4 pistons in each front 6 piston caliper and a secondary master cylinder on the front left fork applies pressure to a single piston in the rear caliper when rotational movement is experienced.

Separately the rear foot brake operates 2 further pistons in the rear caliper and 2 of the pistons in each front caliper. All in all after having to remove each caliper and hold upside down to remove the air, bleed in combinations of rear footbrake to front caliper and front brake to rear caliper – all whilst the rear wheel off and balancing over the bike holding up a bottle of clean fluid to bleed into I needed a massive brew and felt like I should be awarded a ‘VFR800 brake bleeding badge’ to sew onto my leathers.

Other jobs need to be done and it’s handy to be able to do myself, one to save money and two to ensure they have been done and with the right parts. Essential winter maintenance involves removing the rear swingarm and greasing the pivot points so all works as it should. Also the front headstock bearings need regular grease and in fact this year needed replacement bearings which made it steer cleaner.

Future jobs planned for the winter when it goes into hibernation are to remove the rear monoshock and front forks and send them off for a rebuild to replace the 15 year old internal oil and fit new seals. This should transform the handling as oil goes off after time and a reputable company such as Brook Suspension will ensure they will be better than new with a more modern oil and many years of experience.

In addition I plan to strip the brake calipers and fit new seals to ensure they brake as well as they do when they left the factory. I just hope I don’t need to bleed those darn brakes again afterwards!

Costs. What with the original purchase price of just over -2,000 I have probably spent -500 on accessories and -700 on servicing parts, tyres and labour (valve clearances) but this is fairly small fry when compared with a car’s running costs and my accessories can all be transferred to new bike or sold on should I fancy something new. With mpg at 40’ish, insurance at -80 TPFT and road tax at -76 a year it’s cheap motoring which is so much fun.

I would hand on heart recommend the VFR 800. It’s a cracking all rounder that’s cheap to run and the ONLY vehicle I have ever owned where I am not left dreaming after something better or planning its replacement. I can’t think of anything else that comes close to what this bike can offer short of spending -14,000 on a brand new BMW GS1200 which is the latest 2 wheeled Holy Grail.

In addition if you have never had the pleasure of riding a motorbike I would wholeheartedly recommend it, be it riding on a scooter or riding off-road. Nothing comes close to the fun, enjoyment and adrenalin you experience on 2 wheels. Forget your Alton Towers and high performance cars which cost an arm and a leg to buy and run, instead use some small change for a life changing experience on a daily basis.

Honda VFR 800 X
Honda VFR 800 X
Honda VFR 800 X
Honda VFR 800 X
Honda VFR 800 X
Honda VFR 800 X
Honda VFR 800 X
Honda VFR 800 X
Honda VFR 800 X


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