So, I decided to unwind the VFR a bit…

…and here’s what happened.

It’s 6:30am, and I’m on an empty road outside of town, stopped at a light. Since there’s no traffic, I thought, "why not see what this baby can do?" So, I popped her into manual leaned forward, and peged the throttle as soon as the light turned green.

Nothing much happened. I mean, it pulled briskly off the light, as good or better than the FJR ever did, I guess, but it was just—I dunno. Boring. No excitement. Just smooth acceleration. "Well," I thought to myself, "for a bike that’s supposed to be capable of a sub 3-second 0-60, and a 10 second 1/4 mile, this isn’t very impressive."

Then the tach hit 4,000 RPM.

The VFR leapt forward as if a giant had smashed the back of the bike with a hammer, my arms jerked against my shoulder sockets, and the front wheel gently lofted off the ground.

I quickly decided that discretion was the better part of valor.

That was just…scary. In a split second, the VFR want from a tame little kitten to a rampaging beast. The FJR never did that.

I’ve gotten through the fist 600 miles, and I’ve been letting it unwind a bit. And I can tell that this is an extraordinary machine. It certainly has far more power than you could ever legally use on the street. It’s an absolute hoot.

It wants to take curves—even very sharp ones—far faster than the FJR did. It may not be quite as fast or sharp-handling as a 1000cc Gixxer on the track, but it’s pretty sporty for a middle-aged gentleman like myself. Or almost anyone else for that matter.

If you wanna rip, the VFR1200 will rip. If you want to take it slow and easy, the VFR will accommodate. The ergonomics, now that I’ve gotten used to them, aren’t uncomfortable at all, though more sporty than the other sport-tourers.

Handling is decently sharp, and turn-in is relatively easy, although it takes some conscious rider input. I blame the tires for that, and I’m still planning on getting rid of the EOM Dunlops at the earliest opportunity.

The more I ride the VFR1200, the more I like it. I love the DCT, and the ability to switch between manual and automatic modes. I like the size. I just like it. So far, I haven’t found a major negative aspect of the bike to complain about.

Settling in to the VFR1200F

I’ve now got slightly north of 400 miles on the new VFR. I’m really impressed with her—except for a couple of minor quibbles. In general, my overall rating for the VFR1200F is "Wheee!"

The DCT just…works.  In heavy city traffic, where I spent about 4 hours today running a whole bunch of errands, just putting that bad boy in "D" and letting the automatic tranny take care of everything is just sweet. There’s enough oomph that you can zip by cars when you need to with a twist of the wrist. At the same time, it’s perfectly controllable power at all times. You can just toddle around town without a care.

The paddle shifter works pretty well in Manual mode, too, but I have to say, with the automatic Sport mode I just don’t use manual too much. I don’t know how Honda worked out the algorithm to when it shifts, and what gear it picks, but it’s pretty amazing. About 99% of the time it picks just the right gear for whatever you’re doing at the moment. However it does it, it’s pretty sophisticated.

There is some vibration, but it’s not intrusive or bothersome. It’s nice V-4 vibration. I dunno how to explain it, except to say its part of the bike’s character. It lets you know you’re on a V-4 instead of an I-4. It doesn’t make your little hands sleepy or anything. It’s just…there. I like it. It kind of has the same feel as the BMW Boxer. It’s a good vibration.

vfrtail

Luggage is a problem. The VFR has a really wide tail light assembly. I’ve tried a couple of different sets of sport bags for the tail and they just don’t fit, without covering up most of the turn signals. I’m beginning to think this is an intentional design move by Honda to force people to buy the EOM luggage for $1000+.

Either way, I can’t seem to find saddlebags that fit, look nice, and don’t obscure the rear lights. So, I still have nothing but my Tourmaster top case to carry stuff with. I’d really like some other luggage options. I guess I’ll have to keep looking, because I really don’t want to have to pay Honda an outrageous price for what are essentially plastic boxes.

It was pretty warm today, and I can already see that the Honda is gonna be way more comfy in hot weather than the FJR was. You get more air, and better, smoother air than the FJR. And the VFR doesn’t seem to bake you at a stoplight by bathing you in engine heat like the FJR. Superior air management. Of course, in cold weather, like we had last week, I’ll admit I missed the wind protection of the FJR and the huge Cal-Sci windscreen I had on it. I knew that would be the case going into it, but I had to re-learn how to dress for winter Southern California weather, like I did before I got the FJR.

Layers. That’s the key. Layers are important.

It hot weather, though, it’s a blessing to get moving on the VFR.

The footpegs are a skoche too high for my comfort. It’s not bad, but lower pegs would make the bike a bit more comfy for me. I think that’s gonna have to go into the "Deal with it" category, though. It’s a sporting machine for fancy gentlemen like myself, and if I lower the pegs, it’s going to compromise the lean ability a bit. Based on my experience so far, I probably shouldn’t do that.

The other ergonomics are just fine for me. The bar risers make the reach to the controls a bit sport-biased, but not uncomfortably so. Mainly, the bike fits me rather well. I’m happy with the extra sportiness of it.

The seat…meh. It’s an EOM seat. The FJR seat was better. The shape of the Honda seat just catches the back of my legs in a place where I don’t like it. Fortunately, both Corbin and Sergeant make seats for fancy gentlemen like myself. Heated, too.

Handling is way better than the FJR. It’s only 50 lbs lighter, but the way it handles makes the FJR seem positively porky by comparison. The thing is, I think that the Dunlop OEM tires make the VFR seem porkier than it should be. I really, really, want to burn through these tires to get a set of Pilot Road III’s on this baby. As it is, though, the VFR is pretty flickable for a bike that weighs 600 lbs.

I was also a bit apprehensive about the range with a 5-gallon tank, as opposed to the 6.6-gallon tank on the FJR. Not really a problem. I’m getting better mileage on the VFR—though that me be because I’ve been limited in my ability to push it, but even so, my range is only about 30 miles less on the VFR than it was on the FJR. Since I’m mainly a daily rider and not planning on going on long tours with it, it’s not really an issue for me.

The VFR could be a little quicker off the line. Like I wrote previously, it appears Honda has tamed the initial throttle response—it’s all fly-by-wire on the VFR—in 1st and 2nd gears. This is undoubtedly to keep you from killing yourself. Because if you switch to manual mode, the jam the throttle all the way to the stops from a dead stop, it accelerates gently, right up until the tach hits 4000. At that point, your arms get jerked out of socket, and the front wheel gently lofts off the ground. Maybe it’s a good thing that initial throttle response is tamed the way it is. Somersaulting your bike over like a flapjack at a stoplight would be embarrasing.

So, it’s not a drag racer. But when you’re zipping along right in the meat of the powerband, some throttle discipline is mandatory. Anywhere from 4,000-10,000 RPM, the VFR cranks. Assuming the weather stays nice, I’ll burn through the remaining break-in miles in the next week or so, and then…we’ll see what we will see.

Getting used to her

Now that I’ve had a chance to get more acquainted with the VFR, I’m really starting to like it a lot. I’m not too happy with the OEM Dunlops. I’ve gotten really sold on the Michelin Pilot Road, so the current set of Dunlops will be the last.  The PR is just a far more responsive tire.

But, even with that said, I’m settling into how to ride the VFR, and sort of internalizing the new riding style it requires. As I do so, the bike seems lighter and more responsive. It certainly beats the FJR hands down in the handling department. As I get used to her, my confidence in what she can do continues to climb.

Yesterday, I took a huge gamble with the weather…and lost. It was 45° and just pouring rain. Storm cloud

But the VFR handled it with aplomb. It just motored right on through it with no drama at all.

Coming from the electronic clutch on the FJR to the VFR’s Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) automatic transmission, I can say I don’t have a single complaint. In Drive mode, it just puts along, as gentle as a lamb. In Sport mode, hitting the twisties, you can really just ignore it, and power on through the corners. When it does shift gears, you hardly even notice that it’s done so. The transmission goes "click-clack", the engine tone changes slightly, the chassis does nothing, and you keep riding.

In manual mode, when you downshift aggressively…nothing much happens, either. RPMs go up a lot, more engine braking is felt, and you just…keep riding. The amazing thing about the DCT is that once you turn on the automatic mode, it’s completely ignorable. All you have to do is concentrate on diving into the corner, holding a line, and powering out. It’s a pretty amazing piece of technology.

It has a couple of less than perfect things, though they’re pretty minor. The black paint on the spine of the fuel tank scratches really easily. A tank protector is a must. The bike has a notable tendency to stand up straight under braking, so some discipline in corner entry speed is required. Finally, it seems Honda has been "helpful", and tamed the initial throttle response in first gear, so it doesn’t pull really hard right off the line. Then at about 4,000rpm—Boom!—instant power. I’d like a little less help in that area. I’d like to launch without the "helpful" nannying.

Those are pretty minor deals, though. In the main, this thing is as fun as a barrel of monkeys. I’ve just got 450 more miles of break-in before I can let her hair down more aggressively.

I can’t wait!

Finally, I’ve applied the very first customization on the VFR.

mlbsticker

I guess I’m a VFR guy now

Yeah, I haven’t posted for 6 months. Mainly it’s because I’ve been really busy with other things. That seems to be my standard MO with this site. Post a lot for 6 months, then sort of move on to other things. Then, eventually, come back.

Well, I have a reason to come back, now.

Yesterday, on my ride home from work, I decided to go by North County House of motorcycles. While there, I saw a brand new 2010 VFR1200F with the DCT automatic transmission on sale. They’d marked it down from $17,499 to $11,999. So, I traded my FJR1300AE for it on the spot.

DalesNewVFR

This is the only picture I have of it, a crappy cell phone pic the sales guy took just before I geared up and rode off on it. I didn’t get bags with it, but I put my tailbag on it as soon as I got home.

I had a lots of work to do today, so I only got a chance to ride it to the store and back. So I’ve only got 20 miles on it. I can already tell that there’s a bit of a learning curve for it.  I’ll keep updating my experiences with it as I break it in and get used to it.

The main difference is that, unlike the FJR AE model, you don’t have to hit 2,500RPM on the tach before it starts to move. Touck the throttle and it goes. And I mean goes. The performance simply outclasses the FJR in every way…if you want it to.

It’s got lots less wind protection and general cushy comfort than the FJR had, though I knew that going into it. I miss the heated grips, too.

But it’s a stonkin’ great engine. Which is what I was looking for in this case.

My cunning plan is to have both a fancy man’s sporty bike like a VFR or K1300S, and a fancy man’s touring bike, either the R1200RT or K1600GT. So, I guess I’m halfway there.

“Really, DCT is awesome”

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.

Is Honda’s DCT Tranny Obsolete?

The new Dual Clutch Transmission in the Honda VFR1200F may already be headed for the dustbin of history. So may manual transmissions on all motorcycles. A&R reports that British transmission gurus Xtrac have developed something called the Instantaneous Gearchange System (IGS).

IGS works by using a ratchet and pawl mechanism between the gear hubs, the main shaft is able to select and engage two gears simultaneously, with only one set of drive gears. With two years of racing on the Instantaneous Gearchange System already completed, Xtrac believes IGS is ready for prime time, and adoption in OEM automobile and motorcycle solutions.

So, there’s no need for a clutch lever. Simply pop the shifter button and the next set of gears seamlessly engage with no loss of power. As an added plus, it’s not only far less complex than the DCT system, it’s also far lighter.