What to look out for...
Owners and mechanics highlight the weak spots
The VFR’S V-four is very similar to the previous model’s, and the only thing they’ve ever been prone to is a bit of top-end rattle at high mileages. With the oldest new-style VFRS still only five years old and few having covered huge miles, we weren’t expecting many complaints and in fact, we didn’t get a single hint of any mechanical woes.
The clutch itself is pretty reliable (though occasionally noisy) and unless you’re mainly in town or fond of clutch-based wheelies, should last 35-50,000 miles no problem. The pushrod between the slave cylinder and clutch mechanism can rust and stick in its bushing though — clean and grease occasionally. Also, keep an eye on the state of master and slave cylinders — a build-up of gunge can cause the slave to stick — and ideally change the fluid at least every year, even if the schedule says every other year.
When buying a used bike, make sure you get both original keys, along with the tag which carries the key number and a barcode — you’ll need this to get replacement keys coded by a dealer. Keep the spare key and tag safe — if you lose them you’re stuffed. The only solution is to change the bike’s ECU, plus a complete lock set and new keys. The new ECU alone is £1113.56…
Most owners were happy with the VFR’S general build quality and finish but some complained of tarnished exhaust headers and flakey paint on the front of the engine, as well as on the fork legs. There were a couple of reports of badly corroded front brake bobbins and bolts as well.
Here’s where you start to see the benefits of having stumped up for a premium-priced motorcycle — the suspension is really very high quality (though we did hear several reports of fork seals blowing at relatively low mileages) and generally well set-up. That’s not to say it can’t be improved though. Darren from specialists MCT Suspension knows how: “We’ve done maybe 40 or 50 of them. They’re great bikes. The only real problem is the forks — they’re not fully adjustable but there’s too much rebound damping compared
with compression. The springs are hideously soft as well. So we fit better springs, change the oil and modify the rebound damping behaviour — we don’t need to touch the compression at all. The rear shock’s fine — for the road it’s just a case of getting the settings right. The work on the fork and setting up at both ends is £290 plus VAT, ride-in, ride-out, and you won’t believe the difference it makes.”
The standard setup gives a good mix of power and feel for average road riding but at the expense of a very soft feel at the lever, which some owners don’t like. Upgrading to braided hoses will firm things up a bit but experimenting with some harder Hh-grade pads will make the biggest difference. You’ll never get a truly ‘hard’ feel at the lever though — that’s down to the ratio of master cylinder to caliper piston area. Best bet is learn to live with it — the extra feel/modulation it allows, especially in the wet, is better on the road than a harder setup.
Quite a few owners have upgraded to a lighter, fruitier exhaust, with Akrapovic coming out as a clear favourite (and Arrow as a close second). Comfort-wise, bar-riser blocks are popular and the good news is you can raise the bars by around 30mm with no need for extended hoses and cables, and no clearance problems at full lock. For some owners this has been the difference between keeping the bike or having to step away — it makes a huge difference to long-distance comfort.
Add in a taller screen to keep the wind off and that’s another step towards ache-free touring. Don’t go too tall though — we’ve heard some reports of very tall screens making the turbulence a lot worse at certain speeds. Some owners complete the package with footrest lowering kits, but you’ll quickly eat into your available ground clearance.
On the practical side, a front mudguard extender is more or less essential, as is a rear hugger — Honda supplies one as an accessory but it really should have been standard. One of the most useful mods you can make, though, is to fit a chain oiler — properly set up, it can make the difference between adjusting the chain every week and adjusting it every few months, and between replacing the chain and sprockets at 10,000 miles or teasing them out to three times that. We’ve heard of OE chain/sprockets lasting 40k miles, which is impressive.
“We didn’t get a single hint of any mechnical woes”
Engine, chassis and suspension are well up to the task of a sporty ride