Re­laxed bush er­gonomics

Honda’s Cross­run­ner of­fers all the looks of an ad­ven­ture bike, but with a def­i­nite on- road bias

The Witness - Wheels - - BIKING - DRIES VAN DER WALT

JO­HAN­NES­BURG — When Honda de­cided to use the iconic VRF800F’s mo­tor in an ad­ven­ture- style frame to cre­ate the VFR800X Cross­run­ner, they didn’t get it right the first time around.

The rid­ing pub­lic found the looks odd and the er­gonomics awk­ward, and the bike got a luke­warm re­cep­tion on deal­er­ship floors. Honda ( even­tu­ally) took note, and re­vamped the ’ Run­ner com­pletely in 2015. The “new” VFR800X is now avail­able in South Africa and Honda SA in­vited us to test it.

Fol­low­ing what is be­com­ing an in­creas­ing trend, Honda de­signed the Cross­run­ner to have all the looks of an ad­ven­ture bike but with a def­i­nite on- road bias.

De­spite the rugged looks and long- travel sus­pen­sion, it rides on 17- inch mag wheels fit­ted with Pirelli Scor­pion Trail tyres — not ex­actly suited to bundu bash­ing. In­stead it of­fers com­fort­able seat­ing, re­laxed er­gonomics and a flat torque curve — fea­tures that be­come se­ri­ously im­por­tant when you’re stuck in rush- hour traf­fic.

Tak­ing its cue from the VFR1200X’s ap­pear­ance, the new Cross­run­ner has much more co­her­ent styling with greater em­pha­sis on rugged­ness than its pre­de­ces­sor. The X- shaped LED head­lamp is joined by the typ­i­cal ad­ven­ture “beak” and ( on the re­view bike) front pro­tec­tion bars to bring the Cross­run­ner visu­ally closer to its big­ger sib­ling.

‘ Vastly im­proved’

In fact, the lat­est it­er­a­tion is a down­right hand­some ma­chine that needn’t stand back for any of its com­peti­tors.

The bike feels big­ger and more solid than its pre­de­ces­sor, and its er­gonomics have been vastly im­proved. The seat­ing po­si­tion is re­laxed and com­fort­able, and the rider is perched high enough to be able to clearly see over most of the sur­round­ing traf­fic.

Un­usual on a bike in this cat­e­gory, the han­dle­bars don’t feel too wide and as a re­sult are less af­fected by wind buf­fet­ing.

But­tons and switches are rea­son­ably easy to op­er­ate, al­though Honda’s habit of mak­ing the hooter but­ton more prom­i­nent than the in­di­ca­tor switch is as an­noy­ing as ever.

Crea­ture com­forts

Crea­ture com­forts in­clude fiveset­ting grip heaters and self- can­celling in­di­ca­tors. Al­though the fact that it is sum­mer pre­vented me from test­ing the for­mer, I can re­port that the lat­ter works ex­tremely well: the in­di­ca­tors are can­celled within a rea­son­able time of go­ing around a cor­ner ( a feat it ac­com­plishes by us­ing the ABS sen­sors to mea­sure wheel speed dif­fer­en­tial). In ad­di­tion to the speedo and rev counter ( the lat­ter a bar graph), the re­designed LCD dash also in­cludes a gear po­si­tion in­di­ca­tor, fuel con­sump­tion and cruis­ing range in­di­ca­tor, clock, am­bi­ent tem­per­a­ture gauge and twin trip me­ters.

The 782 cm3 V4 VTEC en­gine fires up with ease and emits a sat­is­fy­ing growl if you give it a hand­ful of throt­tle. In its cur­rent it­er­a­tion, the en­gine serves up more low- to midrange power and torque.

Peak power and torque have been in­creased to 78kW at 10 250 and 75Nm at 8 500 rpm, re­spec­tively. Dur­ing rid­ing it is ev­i­dent that a gen­er­ous help­ing of torque is avail­able from low down in the rev range, mak­ing the bike feel very re­spon­sive in traf­fic.

The VTEC ef­fect has been tamed in this ap­pli­ca­tion — al­though still no­tice­able, it is a lot less in­tru­sive. How­ever, things do get rather ex­cit­ing closer to the red line when the Cross­run­ner be­gins to feel more like the sport tourer it orig­i­nated from and less like the ad­ven­ture sport it has be­come.

How prac­ti­cal is it?

On the sub­ject of tour­ing, the ca­pa­cious top­boxes and pan­niers Honda of­fers as ac­ces­sories, com­bined with the smooth en­gine and com­fort­able seat­ing makes it a cred­i­ble light tourer.

The bike is heavy for its size, but the cen­tre of grav­ity is low and the added weight doesn’t af­fect its han­dling neg­a­tively.

In it’s de­fault set­ting I found the trac­tion con­trol sys­tem too in­tru­sive, es­pe­cially on wet roads.

I would rou­tinely put the TCS in its lower set­ting, but un­for­tu­nately it re­turns to de­fault next time you switch the bike on.

This is an­other mi­nor an­noy- ance, one which the re­cent­ly­launched Africa Twin also suf­fers from.

On the up­side, the bike’s gear­box is smooth and pos­i­tive, re­sult­ing in very few mis- shifts dur­ing the re­view pe­riod.

With the se­cond gen­er­a­tion of the Cross­run­ner, Honda has ad­dressed most of the ail­ments of their first at­tempt, and the bike has grown into a com­fort­able com­muter that’s equally at home on the open road, with sure- footed han­dling for the twisties.

I don’t think one could wish for much more in a light ad­ven­ture sport bike. — Wheels24.

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

En­gine: Liq­uid- cooled 4- stroke 16valve DOHC 90° V- 4 Dis­place­ment: 782cm3 Max­i­mum Power: 78kW @ 10,250rpm Max­i­mum Torque: 75Nm @ 8,500rpm Fuel sup­ply sys­tem: PGM- FI elec­tronic fuel injection Fuel type: Pre­mium un­leaded 95 oc­tane RON Fuel con­sump­tion: 5.6 L/ 100 km ( ac­tual) Trans­mis­sion: Con­stant mesh 6- speed, fi­nal drive: Chain Kerb weight: 242 kg Fuel tank: 20.8 litres Brakes ( front) 310mm x 4.5mm dual float­ing hy­draulic disc with ra­dial fit 4- pis­ton calipers (* ABS) and sin­tered metal pads ( rear) 256mm x 6mm hy­draulic disc with two- pis­ton caliper (* ABS) and sin­tered metal pads Sus­pen­sion ( front) 43mm HMAS car­tridge- type tele­scopic fork with step­less preload and ten DF ad­just­ment, 131mm axle travel, 145mm stroke ( rear:) Pro- Link with gas- charged HMAS damper, 35- step ( re­mote- con­trolled hy­draulic) preload and step­less re­bound damp­ing ad­just­ment, 148mm axle travel Wheel, front: 17M/ C x MT3.5 Wheel, rear: 17M/ C x MT5.5 Price: R141 990

PHOTO: HONDA

Honda ticked all the boxes for a light ad­ven­ture sport bike in its VRF 800 X Cross­run­ner.

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