2014 Honda VFR800F
For many years, the Honda VFR has represented the ideal road bike. Capable of touring, commuting, and not too shabby when you turn up the wick, the VFR has widespread appeal. Being such a strong all-rounder, the VFR has sold well over the years, and the legendary Honda build quality, which is particularly strong with this one, means they last well and look good decades later. Honda estimates there are still 75,000 VFRs in regular use in Europe.
The formula for a good road bike is simple; A middle weight engine with strong performance low down and in the mid range (check), road biased suspension setup (check). Weight under 250kg (check). Comfortable ergonomics with a light forward can’t (check).
Road bikes carry a bit more weight which lends them a less flightly nature, and gives them more confidence inspiring handling over the UK’s potholed roads. The V4 engine is also ideal for a sports tourer like the VFR800F; communicative and punchy with good drive in almost any gear, there’s also an interesting engine character. The V4 is not bland, and not too smooth; it is a cross between the smoothness of an inline four and the punchy nature of a V-twin. It also has the zero inertial torque that Yamaha engineered into the R1 by adopting a cross-plane crankshaft. In the right hands, the VFR is fast enough for most riders down most roads, and will surprise a lot of faster riders with its competence, as it drives confidently over the bumps that make the out and out sportsbike rider back off.
The RC46 VFR800 (1997-2001) was (and still is to be fair) a competent road bike. The VTEC version which replaced it was heavier and more complicated and with styling which divided opinions. It didn’t look better than the outgoing model, it looked like the ugly duckling of the Honda flock. Often radical designs take a time to ripen, but in the case of the VFR800 VTEC, I have never liked the styling. It looked to me at least that Honda was trying to make their bike look a bit too sporty. As a British gentleman I would always err on the side of quiet discretion. Bikes (and cars) should be purposeful in their looks; the sporting essence of a machine’s form should follow function. In trying to ‘sporty’ up their VFR, big H lost quite a few fans. But it seems they have listened to the VFR Faithful, and the new 800 model is a return to the VFRs of old, at least in the styling department. I think it looks great in the photos, especially in victory red.
The 2014 VFR800F takes the styling back a step towards the RC46 and the VFR750F before it, rather than continuing in the distinctive manga styling of its Vtec predecessor. It does retain the VTEC’s engine and frame however. Honda says it has reworked the engine (some gentle tweaking I’m sure) by adapting the VTEC transition, throttle body maps and cam timing. The crux is the engine produces around the same power (105bhp), and around the same Torque (55 ft.lb) at 8300rpm, redline remains at 12,000.
The rest of the bike is new, and the bike borrows from the best of the breed; the front styling is sporty but grown up, with a touch of Ducati Panigale in the front light styling, especially in red. The rear wheel design harks back to the beautiful multi spoke wheel of the 90-94 VFR750, the rear swinging arm is a lovely sight too, with the chain threading through. The bike is narrower than before which is welcome, and the rear subframe is also a new aluminium section which reduces overall weight to around 240kg.