Clutch­less and classy

The VFR au­to­matic is a glimpse into the fu­ture, writes Craig Duff

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Motorbikes -

ATRICK V4 en­gine and dual-clutch au­to­matic trans­mis­sion push the en­ve­lope for Honda’s VFR 1200 and show where technology can take two wheels.

That’s not to say this is the ul­ti­mate clutch­less mo­tor­bike, it’s not. It is an en­gi­neer­ing mar­vel but the ma­chine can be tricky in slowspeed ma­noeu­vres – there’s no clutch to feather – and own­ers need to pre­pare for the ‘‘it’s a bored-out scooter’’ jokes.

The au­to­matic has two maps, D for drive and S for sport. But you don’t buy a 1237cc ma­chine to run it in econ­omy mode.

The thing’s in third gear be­fore rid­ers can cross an in­ter­sec­tion and will romp into sixth as early as 70km/h. Great for fuel use but it doesn’t come close to show­ing own­ers what the VFR is ca­pa­ble of.

And this is a ca­pa­ble ma­chine. There are few bikes that com­bine technology with tour­ing ca­pa­bil­ity to pro­duce a ma­chine that will hap- pily cover a thou­sand kilo­me­tres a day.

Technology aside, the shaft­driven VFR is a de­light to ride. The fit and fin­ish is as classy as you ex­pect from a top-end Honda. It still looks chunky at the front end, but the side and rear views are much more sculpted.

It hooks into and holds its line through turns like a sports­bike and the com­bined ABS brakes means it slows down as fast as it ac­cel­er­ates.

Stick with S, or play with the man­ual shifters mounted on the left switch-block if you want to ex­plore the per­for­mance po­ten­tial of the bike.

I spent the first day play­ing with the man­ual changes, then opted for the S mode ev­ery time I fired up the bike. Chang­ing up and down the cogs is jolt-free, which holds with Honda’s in­tent of leav­ing the rider free to fo­cus on the road.

The VFR is a glimpse at the fu­ture of two-wheeled mo­tor­ing.

Easy rid­ing: the Honda VFR 1200 comes with drive and sport set­tings.

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