Bikes we love

What I Want: Honda VFR1200F

I think we get so caught up in the marketing hype that we forget that most of the time the only person enjoying the bike is you, and the wildlife doesn’t give a shit how cool you look.

          –– Jeremy, from Australia
I pulled the above quote from an email I received last week from someone who got in touch to say he’s a fan of the blog (a). It’s a sage bit of advice, without doubt, and when I first read it I immediately found myself thinking about the Honda VFR1200F.

I’ll admit I’m not terribly enamoured with the bike’s odd Tomorrowland front end. And when equipped with the panniers that I’d almost certainly want to add, it looks even less cool. I can’t imagine ladies swooning as I roll by. This is not the sort of bike my wife would excitedly tell others about.

But, oh my gosh, is it a fantastic machine. From everything I’ve read, from seeing it in person, and from getting a chance to sit on the thing, I’ve sort of fallen in love with it.

The catalyst for this, of course, were those cool Honda promo videos I watched back in December. Ever since then I’ve found a tiny bit more joy in riding my Honda CBF600SA around. The joy comes not in its sound or look but in the quiet knowledge that I can ride the hell out of the thing. I find myself thinking: “Hmm, how many miles can I put on this bike?”

It feels like a challenge.

And it’s a challenge that inevitably buys me time before my next motorcycle purchase. Perhaps even enough time that I could save up enough to buy a VFR1200F — a bike famous for its ability to rack up the miles.

Actually, in black, it’s kinda sexy.

Capable of churning out a whopping 173 horsepower (!), it has considerably more oomph than I can imagine myself ever using or even wanting to use, but that’s kind of the point of a VFR. It goes fast.

Fortunately, it has traction control to help regulate that speed, which is a feature so exotic to me I can’t properly imagine it. Living in a wet and slippery country, though, it is a feature that holds a definite appeal. Anti-lock brakes are, of course, also standard.

Equally exotic to me is the happy daydream of never having to fuss with a chain. Yes, I’ve gotten used to it, but there has never been a point when I’ve found myself crouching next to my bike in the cold, spraying it with various expensive and toxic liquids, befouling old toothbrushes, rags and paper towels, caking my hands in grease, squinting at a ruler, banging my knuckles on the swing arm, and thought to myself: “Golly, this is fun.”

Not once. Not one single time have I ever enjoyed cleaning, adjusting or oiling a chain. I tolerate it, but I don’t enjoy it. And if I never had to do it again I would be quite happy. This is the appeal of a shaft-driven bike like the VFR1200F: no more messing with a chain.

The dashboard has an equal “ooooh” factor for me, mixing an analogue tachometer with two digital readouts that display all kinds of fancy information that can only be guessed at when riding my CBF600SA (“How much fuel do I have left?” “How many more miles can I ride on that fuel?” “What gear am I in?” “What’s the ambient temperature?”).

I’ve long admired the VFR1200F’s features but had assumed I wouldn’t want anything to do with it because of its riding position. I’ve thrown a leg over the smaller VFR800 and hated it. The ergonomics squished my legs up too much, and pushed me forward too far. But when I recently got a chance to sit on this bigger VFR I was amazed at how comfortable it is. The ergonomics worked brilliantly for my 6-foot-1 frame.

Additionally, the VFR1200F has a huge, comfy seat that has plenty of room for an actual human-sized passenger. Too often manufacturers fail to consider how important is the opinion and comfort of a rider’s better half. It’s nice to see Honda has put in the effort on the VFR1200F.

Having said all that…

Costing £13,000 (or £14,000 if you want luggage, centre stand and heated grips), there’s a rather large chasm between the bike’s price tag and the amount of money in my savings account. I won’t say that the VFR1200F isn’t worth the money, but for several thousand pounds less you can buy a number of other bikes that would achieve many of the same aims.

The Yamaha MT-09 Tracer, for example, has traction control and more than 100 horsepower (which, really, is more than I’ll ever need) and all kinds of fancy bells and whistles for just £8,150. True, it’s uglier and lacks shaft drive, but those things can be suffered.

Also, £14,000 will get you an almost-new Victory Cross Country. That bike’s not nearly as fast, admittedly, but it’s a whole lot cooler.

Meanwhile, although I found the VFR1200F very comfortable on a showroom floor, one wonders if I’d still feel that way after 300 miles. The idea of being slumped forward for hours on end makes me fear for my lower back.

And if I’m going to contort myself in odd ways for the sake of being on a motorcycle, I think I’d rather do it on a Triumph Thruxton.


(a) Muchas gracias, by the way.