Honda VFR800 Fi Review 97-01

andrew Bike Reviews, Motorcycles, VFR


30th October 2014

My last bike was highly desirable; both to me and to the thieves who eventually took it, cutting short our fun together. During the last few months of our time together, my trusty K5 GSX-R1000 and I covered many thousand miles, commuting from Oxford to London through the wettest winter I can remember. All in all we covered around 10,000 miles in around eight months and the bike never missed a beat.

I found it a thing of beauty, but also a really useful tool, that highly tractable engine which inspired the BMW S1000RR, combined with a riding position which was excellent over distance, and you have the perfect fast road weapon. There is nothing, repeat nothing that compares to riding a full fat superbike. I had the GSX-R’s suspension tweaked by Darren at MCT in Stowmarket, and it definitely handled better than I rode. Me and my bike toured Scandinavia, France, Wales, did a couple of track days at Brands Hatch GP and Cadwell and commuted Oxford to London. All in all I did around 30k miles, and our relationship was getting stronger and stronger.

I bought the K5 after I did read a road test for RiDE magazine up in Peterborough, riding the K7 GSX-R 1000 in the wet. Coming from my CBR600F, the Suzuki was a revelation. I was astonished at how communicative the forks were and how effortless it was to ride fast and with confidence. Hardly a whiff of throttle input was required to get it to shift; I knew then and there that I had to have one.

It was the complete package in my book, so I bought a nearly brand-spankers K5, which looked better (it’s a modern classic I would hazard) in its classic red white and blue paint scheme not bettered to date; Suzukis of old seem to be aping the design and coloration of the K5. Suzuki need to get the person who did the original K5 design, and get him to redesign the fleet of GSX-R’s with similar originality. At the moment, they look like poor imitations of an original masterpiece.

A Suzuki classic, the 2005 GSX-R1000

My beloved GSX-R1000 – what a lovely bike

The design of the K5 is cock-on. The colour scheme too; not shell-suit fussy like some sports bikes, and not too grown up with single tone paint. It looks racy and classy at the same time. It looked the business then, and it still does now. If you haven’t owned a GSX-R 1000 – may I suggest you test right one. They may not be the fastest round a track, and they may not have traction control, but they are extremely capable road bikes. Like a man in love, I’m getting carried away. This is supposed to be a Honda review:

So after my beloved Suzuki was taken from me, I decided to buy a workhorse, something I could park without fear of returning to find it gone, something cheap and reliable and sporty *enough*. A Honda tick, A Sports tourer, tick. The Honda Blackbird? I test rode one at Chiswick Honda, and I remember spinning up the back wheel accelerating along the A316 in the wet – maybe the 1100 is a bit to much of a handful for commuting into town. It’s also a bit big. What about a Fireblade? I like the red velvet paint of 2008; another classic looking bike, but you would buy the C-ABS version now, given a choice.


Wonderful thick Honda paint in a very grown up, and timeless, velvet red

No, it’s too expensive and too desirable. In the end, I settled on a VFR800F, pre V-tech (so I could adjust valves etc myself). I also prefer the ‘wise old owl’ styling to the futuristic Japanese manga-esqu V-TEC. After all, VFR stands for Very F***ing Reliable. I think it’s a direct translation from the Japanese.


The wise old bird – shot on Kodak Ektar on a Fujifilm GA645Zi if you’re interested