Honda VFR800 VTEC RE­VIS­ITED Fast tour­ing for half the price of a Du­cati Su­per­sport

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Buying & Selling - By Bruce Dunn MCN GUEST TESTER

What we said then

“In the late 90s the old VFR800 was a great bike but it needed up­dat­ing. Its re­place­ment, the VFR800 VTEC, is a beau­ti­ful thing and rides, goes and han­dles su­perbly, but the vari­able valve tim­ing is caus­ing some con­tro­versy – it’s clever but is it re­ally nec­es­sary?” MCN launch re­port.

But what is it like now?

The VFR has come to de­fine mod­ern sports-tour­ing, hav­ing been a sta­ple in Honda’s range since 1998. With a V4 en­gine that traces its lin­eage back to the com­plex-but-char­ac­ter­ful 750s of the mid ’80s, the 2002 launch of the Vtec-en­abled 781cc ver­sion proved Honda were back to their cut­ting-edge best. Or so they thought.

But dyed-in-the-wool VFR fans were not im­pressed with the new ma­chine; many were turned off by the alien­faced an­gu­lar styling, while oth­ers crit­i­cised the un­der­seat ex­haust sys­tem’s im­pact on strap­ping on soft lug­gage. Then there was the VTEC which put a dis­con­cert­ing step into the de­liv­ery when it kicked in at 6800rpm.

Four­teen years down the line, those crit­i­cisms look more like nit­pick­ing when you come face to face with a VFR800 VTEC from to­day’s used mar­ket, as this 2003 ex­am­ple re­cently pur­chased in a pri­vate sale for £2600 proves. With 45,000 miles un­der its belt the bike has shrugged off any­thing the el­e­ments have thrown at it. It is still fit­ted with the orig­i­nal ex­haust, and is show­ing no signs or cor­ro­sion.

The en­gine fires up from cold with no rat­tles or un­wanted noises, and ev­ery­thing from the throt­tle re­sponse to the switchgear feels good. The V4 is le­gendary; its 107bhp is tractable and flex­i­ble, and per­fectly suited to the bike.

Al­though the VTEC is de­scribed as Vari­able Valve Tim­ing, this is some­thing of a mis­nomer. In fact, there is no vari­a­tion at all. It works sim­ply by shut­ting off an in­let and ex­haust valve on each of the four valve heads at low revs. So be­low 6800rpm the VFR runs an eight-valve head, and above that it runs on 16 valves. Sub­se­quent models did have changes to the way it worked. But nev­er­the­less the V4 is still en­gag­ing, pro­vid­ing great flex­i­bil­ity.

Any worth­while ex­tras?

Pre­vi­ous own­ers have fit­ted taste­ful and prac­ti­cal ac­ces­sories, and they’re fairly typ­i­cal of other used VFRS on the mar­ket. The taller screen helps keep wind pres­sure off the up­per body, re­duc­ing fa­tigue on long runs. There’s a set of good qual­ity, ad­justable heated grips, and the rear hug­ger looks good and keeps the worst of the road dirt from the un­der­side of the bike. An­other pop­u­lar ac­ces­sory is a hard lug­gage sys­tem, as the heat from the un­der­seat ex­haust does limit your op­tions as far as soft lug­gage is con­cerned. There was a colour-coded fac­tory-fit­ted lug­gage sys­tem avail­able from Honda, but not many own­ers went for it as it was pretty pricey. Honda of­fered the VFR800 ei­ther with or with­out ABS.

Is it a worth­while used buy?

There is no ques­tion that the VFR800 has stood the test of time. For sport­s­tour­ing, or even week­end blasts, it's still an ex­cel­lent choice, es­pe­cially when you take into ac­count the comfy rid­ing po­si­tion and rangy 22-litre fuel tank. Bikes in of this age and con­di­tion are ex­cel­lent used buys, and £2000 - £3000 will buy a good ex­am­ple, like the one we have tested here, and the beauty of it all is the price has now hit its base value. Kept in good or­der, a VFR800 of this vin­tage won’t cost you any­thing in de­pre­ci­a­tion or break­downs.

Fast, slick and com­fort­able – the VFR is hard to beat

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