This little bike is my mate’s pride and joy – it belonged to a lad that I used to race schoolboy MX with, Aaron, but his old man, Ado, owns it now. And although I was looking forward to riding it, I think they were more excited for me to ride it than I was – they knew I’d love it. It looks great in its cheap Chinese RVF replica bodywork, but then again
anything in Castrol Honda colours is going to look pretty cool, isn’t it? The single sided swinger looks plenty trick too but I wasn’t overly keen on the rubber-topped foot rests
– so last century.
Turning it on (with the flimsy looking key whose keyring has bounced around so much it has worn away the finish off the top yolk) and firing it up resulted in
a deep induction noise the likes of which I don’t remember ever hearing before, despite thinking I was reasonably familiar with the model. On tick over the VFR’s throaty tone sounded impressive but it’s strange V4 exhaust nose seemed a bit muted through the big, bog-standard exhaust pipe.
Like the other bikes on test the Honda sported a hard seat, but was actually quite comfortable. It’s a small bike, yes, but I didn’t feel as cramped up as I thought I might have done. It was the sportiest feeling bike on test to sit on and the empty looking nose-cone made it feel like a bit of a race-bike too. I didn’t like the stiff feeling clutch and the sticking throttle grip put the willies right up me even before I’d got rolling on Honda, but I wasn’t going to let anything spoil my ride. In fact I soon discovered that the sticking throttle grip was due to the fact that the rubber grip had slid down the tube and was rubbing on the bar end – with a bit of manipulation the sticking throttle was cured, even if only temporarily.
The engine felt instantly tractable but, as can be imagined, it needed to be abused somewhat to get the best from it. When you are not riding it like you stole it, the VFR has very reasonable road manners. It fuels cleanly and has a usable amount of low down and mid-range power – nothing that is going to start a fire in your soul, but certainly enough to have a steady ride through town without too much frustration. The real power started to appear, in earnest, at around 7,000rpm at which point the VRF, thanks to its V4 engine configuration, could only be matched by the EXUP Valved Yamaha. At 9k the poke got pokier and kept getting pokier until 15,000rpm. Revving the VFR to such dizzying heights took some getting used to – I found myself changing way
before the power had petered out for the first few dozen miles as I felt like I was talking liberties with a 25-year-old engine. Once I’d grown a pair of balls and got used to revving the nuts off the V4 I had a right laugh screaming around on the thing, taking it to its redline in every gear (not all of them, your honour). The howl that poured from the VFR’s pipe was music to my ears and the more the thing revved the bigger my grin grew. I was starting to see why Aaron and his old man were so keen for me to take the VFR out for a spin.
The gearbox worked with stunning fluency and provided instant selection of the next gear with minimal footwork; there was very little, if any, play in the system to speak of. If I hadn’t known better, I could have easily assumed that
I was operating a gearbox from a five-year-old bike rather
than a 25-year-old bike. I was very impressed.
Accelerating was great fun but braking less so. The Honda didn’t sport the worst anchors in the world but they overheated very quickly and gave way to chronic brake fade. The fluid in the reservoir was as black as the ace of spades though so some fresh fluid and a quick bleed through would’ve almost certainly helped.
And while we are on the subject of niggles, the little Honda’s mirrors, which had
obviously been positioned some years ago, had seized solid. This would have been fine if they were in the right place, which they no doubt would have been for whoever adjusted them many moons ago, but for me they were all wrong – and well and truly jammed in the wrong place. I did have a good go at trying to alter them so I could see what was going on behind me, but I didn’t fancy snapping something in half that I couldn’t afford to replace. So I just left it.
Like the FZR, cornering was where the VFR shone. The back of the tank felt a bit narrow and would dig in to your inner thighs a bit when hanging off, but in the same turns and conditions where the RGV felt as though it was on tenterhooks and the ZXR didn’t want to hold a line, the Honda sailed through gracefully and with pace.
The VFR dropped into the turns quickly, as could perhaps be expected from such a light bike, but what really impressed me was how planted the thing felt on the side of its tyres, at knee-down lean angle. It was great and it had me riding it faster and faster and faster.
In fact I was enjoying the VFR so much that I didn’t think to check the fuel level. Had I actually been listening, rather than away with the fairies, when Ado told me the fuel tap was set to ‘reserve’ I could have also saved myself a long walk. But that’s my problem you see, I never listen.
The VFR was great and didn’t half make me smile, in fact I’m gutted I have to return it. Maybe they will let me take it for another spin some time. Rest assured I’ll be checking the fuel tap next time.
Boothy’s often getting his models mixed-up.
Single sided swinger, for the full-factory look.