A glimpse of biking to come
The Honda VFR 1200 is a sports tourer in the true sense of the word, writes Craig Duff.
ATRICK V4 engine and dualclutch automatic transmission push the envelope for Honda’s VFR 1200 and show where technology can take two wheels.
That’s not to say this is the ultimate clutchless motorbike – it’s not. It is an engineering marvel but the machine can be tricky in slow-speed manoeuvres – there’s no clutch to feather – and owners need to prepare for the ‘‘it’s a bored-out scooter’’ jokes.
The automatic has two modes: D for drive and S for sport. D is a waste of ECU memory – you don’t buy a 1237cc machine to run it in economy, which is what D effectively is.
The thing’s in third gear before riders can cross an intersection and will romp into sixth as early as 70km/h. Great for fuel use but it doesn’t come close to showing owners what the VFR is capable of. And this is a very capable machine. There are few bikes – the K-Series BMW’s come to mind – that combine performance technology with touring capability to produce a machine that will happily cover 1000km a day.
Toss in the fact the Honda panniers are being thrown in for free until the end of the year and you have a sports tourer in the true sense of the term.
Technology aside, the shaft-driven VFR is a delight to ride. The fit and finish is as classy as you expect from a top-end Honda. It still looks chunky at the front end but the side and rear views are much more sculpted.
It hooks into, and holds its line through, turns like a sports bike and the combined ABS brakes means it slows down as fast as it accelerates.
Despite the weight, there is very little pitching or yawing as you get on and off the picks, which makes for a smooth and rapid ride. Stick with S, or play with the manual shifters mounted on the left switchblock if you want to explore the performance potential of the bike. I spent the first day playing with the manual changes then opted for the S mode every time I fired up the bike.
Changing up and down the cogs is jolt-free, which holds with Honda’s intent of leaving the rider free to focus on the road.
There’s only one reason I wouldn’t want this bike: inside the same dealership will be the same machine with a real clutch lever.
Call me old-fashioned but I prefer to handle the shifting myself, especially on a bike with this level of sportiness.
If it was more touring oriented, I’d be more inclined to accept the automatic and the 10kg penalty that comes with it, but it does give a glimpse of the future of two-wheeled motoring.
CARE: The new Honda can prove tricky to handle at slow speeds.