Wes Siler, of Hell For Leather, has already been pretty vocal about his unpleasant experience on the new Honda VFR1200F, so it’s a bit of a surprise to see him not only back one one, but liking it. What he likes, specifically, is the one thing I’ve been leery about, which is the new Dual-Clutch Transmission (DCT). Owning an AE-model FJR with the electronic clutch, I’ve found it convenient in city traffic, but a bit scary in parking lots, as I’ve mentioned many times before.
This new DCT, however, seems to be a different beast.
The thing that makes this transmission so brilliant is that it actually, honestly, really improves control over the bike at low speed. Yes, some hydraulic pumps, two clutches and an electronic brain are better than my left hand at smoothly, predictably modulating power. Tight u-turns become a cinch, barely requiring your concentration. Pulling away at a crawl is as easy as twisting your right wrist. Coming to a halt, you just stop, the transmission simply cuts the power unobtrusively and instantly.
And that is precisely the bit of information I wanted to know about. The FJR AE has a problem with slow speeds. Once that tach drops below 2500RPM in first, the clutch engages and you lose all power. This mainly happens inevitably when you’re leaned over a bit pulling into a parking space, making the FJR AE want to flop over on it’s side. The key is to give it some throttle, and stomp on the rear brake to slow down. This requires a fair amount of hand-foot-eye coordination. That seems to be completely unnecessary with the Honda.
Of course, it also comes at a steep price, bringing a DTC-equipped VFR to a sticker price of $17,499. That’s perilously close to BMW territory when it comes to pricing. But, without the BMW’s large-capacity bags, heated seat, grips, ESA, traction control, and usably large fuel tank.
With gas mileage in the 30s, and a 4-gallon tank, the VFR is hardly the best equipped “touring” model of the sports-touring category, unless “touring” to you means stopping every ton for gas. And the available luggage for the VFR is pretty small compared to the rest of the bikes in the sport-touring class.
It seems like a great, powerful bike with some great technology, but the high price and assorted drawbacks don’t impress–at least, not in a good way.
The rumor, of course, is that Honda already has a sport-tourer version of this bike in pre-release (as well as an adventure version). Perhaps they’ll rectify some of the current range and luggage issues with that bike. I suspect, however, that the drawback of high sticker price won’t be solved.