2000/01 Honda SP-1

Honda’s V-twin world-beater

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Road Test -

What we said then “Built to beat Du­cati on the track, beau­ti­fully made and it sounds awe­some.” What hap­pened next De­vel­oped with the sole pur­pose of beat­ing Du­cati in WSB at their own game, the SP-1 was es­sen­tially a Ja­panese 916 de­signed by HRC. And that was its prob­lem. It may have won the WSB title first time out, but it didn’t ex­ude the ex­otic feel of a Du­cati, had a rep­u­ta­tion for ter­ri­ble fuel in­jec­tion, a peanut for a petrol tank and the new Blade was cheaper and faster. What’s hap­pen­ing now Now, the SP-1 is be­ing ap­pre­ci­ated for what it is, a won­der­ful piece of en­gi­neer­ing that is ac­tu­ally stacked full of char­ac­ter – just Ja­panese char­ac­ter and not Ital­ian. The ride is sub­lime, the fu­elin­jec­tion eas­ily sorted and it holds such a unique place in Honda’s his­tory that good ex­am­ples are seen as true modern clas­sics. Honda’s VTR1000 SP-1 has steadily grown in rep­u­ta­tion – and price! How does it ride? Com­pared to a 916 the SP-1 is sheer re­fine­ment and you never get that will-it-or-won’t-it feel­ing that sur­rounds an early Du­cati. With the Honda it starts on the but­ton, ticks over per­fectly and feels and sounds me­chan­i­cally per­fect rather than rat­tle and clank like a Duke. In that way it is a typ­i­cal Honda, but in other ways it is far re­moved.

Back in the day, rid­ers moaned about the SP-1’S fuel in­jec­tion, but while it isn’t that great, it’s far from bad and the crit­i­cisms are as much to do with the peo­ple rid­ing the SP-1 as the bike it­self. Rid­ers tested the V-twin ex­pect­ing it to re­act with the smooth­ness of an in­line four, which it will never do and rather than adapt their rid­ing style to suit the bike (you do need to slip the clutch quite a lot at low speed) they sim­ply moaned and bought a Blade. And be­cause of that, many missed out on the joys of rid­ing what re­mains a very spe­cial slice of Honda’s sports­bike his­tory.

The SP-1 is a proper racer with lights, in fact the pro­to­type mule was ac­tu­ally Doohan’s NSR500 chas­sis with the V-twin in it! It’s nar­row, has an ag­gres­sive rid­ing po­si­tion and once taken by the scruff of the neck re­wards the rider with early 2000s Wsb-level feed­back and han­dling. And all this is backed up by a won­der­fully smooth and re­fined V-twin mo­tor that thumps out a gen­uine 124bhp with to­tal re­li­a­bil­ity and min­i­mal main­te­nance. It’s an ex­quis­ite jewel of a bike and one that is de­servedly now gain­ing the re­spect it should have com­manded from the very start. What to look out for The build qual­ity on the SP-1 is ab­so­lutely top-draw, so treat any tatty bikes with sus­pi­cion and al­ways check for crash dam­age as quite a few are used as track­day hacks. The V-twin en­gine is very ro­bust, but the clutch is a known weak point and can be­come grabby while a few own­ers also re­port gear­box fail­ures, es­pe­cially af­ter track use. There are also cases of SP-1S hav­ing a thirst for oil. Most used SP-1S come with race cans fit­ted, which makes the bike sound fan­tas­tic, but al­ways try to get the OE ones from the seller, re­place­ments from Honda cost a for­tune. A Power Com­man­der and a bit of dyno time will make the ini­tial throt­tle re­sponse much smoother.

The SP-1 still looks stun­ning, but prices are ris­ing fast

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.