The marmite VFR
2002-2013 VFR800F VTEC 152mph 96.0bhp £8499 -£10,500
Top speed Power
By 2000 the world of motorcycling was changing and no-one was quite sure what direction it was going. Adventure bikes had become de facto sports tourers, coupling flagship technology and decent engine performance with upright riding comfort. And while people can change their minds overnight, manufacturers take longer to respond. The VFR800 was caught in no-man’s land.
The shock news was that the 2002 VFR swapped gear-driven cams for a conventional cam chain, ironically claiming the same benefits Honda had cited for using gears 16 years previously: lower friction (and less noise). Honda also introduced a controversial variable valve timing system, which wasn’t really variable. Up to around 6800rpm, two of the four valves per cylinder stayed shut, optimising efficiency and theoretically increasing torque in the area traditionally compromised by fixed cam timing. Approaching 7000rpm VTEC would switch the motor to four-valve operation, resuming normal top end performance.
The result was a distinct dual character VFR motor, with a noticeable step in power and change of exhaust and induction note. It was divisive among VFR cognoscenti: some thought it added character, others that it was an unnecessary complication. More obviously, the VFR’S looks were sharper and more aggressive than the previous VFR800FI, but throwover-unfriendly underseat pipes didn’t make a lot of sense for a touring bike. So although, dynamically, the 2002 VFR was indisputably a cracking bike, for many VFR fans the values of peerless engineering that permeated earlier V4s was further diluted. Jon Riley’s VTEC is fast, sophisticated, and sweet handling; it’s hard to see what people complain about. “It’s my first big bike,” says Jon. “I wanted something comfy, but also good for playing on. My instructor said check out the VFR, but said not to get a VTEC, but I took the plunge anyway because they’re so cheap. It was a steal, and I’ve never looked back.”