A glimpse of bik­ing to come

The Honda VFR 1200 is a sports tourer in the true sense of the word, writes Craig Duff.

The Advertiser - Motoring - - MOTORCYCLES -

ATRICK V4 en­gine and du­al­clutch 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 slow-speed 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 modes: D for drive and S for sport. D is a waste of ECU me­mory – you don’t buy a 1237cc ma­chine to run it in econ­omy, which is what D ef­fec­tively is.

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 very ca­pa­ble ma­chine. There are few bikes – the K-Se­ries BMW’s come to mind – that com­bine per­for­mance technology with tour­ing ca­pa­bil­ity to pro­duce a ma­chine that will hap­pily cover 1000km a day.

Toss in the fact the Honda pan­niers are be­ing thrown in for free un­til the end of the year and you have a sports tourer in the true sense of the term.

Technology aside, the shaft-driven 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 sports bike and the com­bined ABS brakes means it slows down as fast as it ac­cel­er­ates.

De­spite the weight, there is very lit­tle pitch­ing or yaw­ing as you get on and off the picks, which makes for a smooth and rapid ride. Stick with S, or play with the man­ual shifters mounted on the left switch­block 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.

There’s only one rea­son I wouldn’t want this bike: in­side the same deal­er­ship will be the same ma­chine with a real clutch lever.

Call me old-fash­ioned but I pre­fer to han­dle the shift­ing my­self, es­pe­cially on a bike with this level of sporti­ness.

If it was more tour­ing ori­ented, I’d be more in­clined to ac­cept the au­to­matic and the 10kg penalty that comes with it, but it does give a glimpse of the fu­ture of two-wheeled mo­tor­ing.

CARE: The new Honda can prove tricky to han­dle at slow speeds.

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