QUIKSPIN: Honda VFR1200 - Load Up

23 March 2013

This machine was a long-time coming for Honda. A long-time believer of the V4 engine format, it took the Japanese manufacturer the best part of a decade to succeed the old VFR800 with something a little more modern, while at the same time staying true to its roots. 

The modern aspect came from not just a masterpiece of an engine but also the option of having the shifting done for you, via Honda’s new Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT). 

And now that we’re moving back into real riding weather, it could be a good time to have a look at sticking one of these new sports-tourers in your shed – and Honda is trying to woo you even more now offering the bike with free panniers and a topbox valued at $3185 until 31 October – exceptional value. Add a touring screen for $358 (pictured), and the VFR transforms in to a long-distance mile-eater. 

I was never really convinced by the VFR until I took it for a long spin on a recent test, where I could actually stretch its legs and feel the flexibility of that marvellous V4 engine. There’s a feeling that there is a lot more that could be had form this engine, mind you, as the whopping great muffler/catalytic converter arrangement does a good job of making the engine feel restricted, particularly in the higher revs. This is not Honda’s fault – the international noise and emissions police are responsible for this, and you can bet Honda would have given it more noise and a smoother-looking pipe if it was allowed to. 

Despite this, the V4 produces one of the smoothest power curves of any bike I’ve ridden in the past 12 months and this is largely due to the beautifully mapped fuel injection system – and when matched to the DCT it results in a sublime riding experience.

Riding a motorcycle with no clutch lever takes a while to get used to, and I will admit to reaching for it on more than one occasion when thinking it was time to downshift, but when the system is switched to semi-auto, it’s an absolute hoot to ride when you’re shifting up and down on the paddleshifter. 

As you would expect from a bike designed primarily for the open road, comfort is excellent. The seat shape is slightly different to a Triumph Sprint ST or a BMW K1300R/S, but it keeps the rider nice and centred. And with the fairly high-mounted (for clip-ons) ’bars, there’s hardly any weight on your wrists, which is perfect for those long-distance rides with the loaded panniers and topbox.

Pillions are not forgotten either, with plenty of space for the loved-one with large grab-handles, which also do double duty as extra tie down points if you’re really loading up for the trip. The shape of the handles sometimes makes grip for the passenger a little tricky, mind you. 

Style-wise, the VFR is part of the new generation of Honda motorcycles and you can easily see the link between this and the CBR1000RR Fireblade. The crimson-red paint is deep and quality of finish is beautiful.

The VFR1200 is indeed an excellent machine and with the extra incentive of the above-mentioned goodies thrown in, it’s a better value-for-money proposition.

Configuration 76° V4
Cylinder head DOHC, four-valves per cylinder
Capacity 1237cc
Bore 81mm
Stroke 60mm
Compression ratio 12:1
Cooling Liquid
Ignition Transistorised
Fueling PGM-FI, 4 x 44mm Keihin throttle Bodies
and 12-hole injectors
Oil capacity 3.2L
Type Six-speed
Primary drive Gear
Clutch Wet, slipper
Final drive Shaft
Frame material Aluminium alloy
Frame layout Twin-spar
Rake 25.5°
Trail 101mm
Wheelbase 1545mm
Suspension KYB
Front: 43mm USD, adjustable preload and
rebound, 120mm travel
Rear: Monoshock, adjustable preload and
rebound, 130mm travel
Wheels Five/seven-spoke, cast aluminium
Front: 17 x 3.5 Rear:17 x 6.0
Tyres Dunlop Sportmax Roadsmart
Front: 120/70ZR17 (58W)
Rear: 190/55ZR17 (75W)
Brakes Nissin
Front: Twin 320mm discs, six-piston
calipers, CBS
Rear: 276mm disc, two-piston caliper, CBS
Control ABS
Weight 277kg (kerb, claimed)
Seat height 815mm
Max width 755mm
Max height 1220mm
Fuel capacity 18.5L
Power 127kW @ 10,000rpm (claimed)
Torque 129Nm @ 8750 (claimed)
Fuel consumption 7.4L/100km
Top speed 260km/h (est)
Ride position
That engine
Standard screen height
Pillion grab handles
Muffler appearance