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Monday, December 7, 2009

Price: $18299

That's the official price from Honda Canada. It's $2300 more than the price in the States, but importation and exchange at the current rates would cost about 2 grand, not counting all the hassles and time invested.

So I will continue as planned and buy the VFR1200 from Rocky Honda here in Calgary.

The price is still "TBA" on the DCT version but rumors peg the premium at $1500-2000. If I could reconcile the additional cost, I might not be able to reconcile the delay; the DCT version will come to market a few months later than the standard version. I don't think I'll be patient enough. I also wonder about the reason for the delay. Will it not be ready for production in time? That concerns me a bit.

So I'm 99% sure I'll end up with the 6-speed, and I can have it in whatever colour I want, as long as it's red. I love the white one... It's disappointing that it won't be offered here.

On an unrelated note: a forum commenter remarked that the VFR1200 reminded him of a buffalo. I've got to admit he has a point. Buffalo or not I still think it looks fantastic.

What is the VFR1200F?

What category does it fit in? I've read this complaint on some forums: It's too big and heavy to cut it as a sportbike, but it's range is too limited (and it doesn't have enough gadgets included) to be a touring bike.

Sport-touring bikes split the difference between full-on sport bikes (CBR, GSXR, etc) and full-on touring bikes. (Goldwing, Victory Vision, Harley geezer glide, etc) There are some machines that are barely sportier than the full touring bikes: ST1300, FJR1300, K1300GT. And there are machines that are barely "tourier" than pure sport bikes: Triumph Sprint ST, VFR800, etc. Then there is a huge middle ground where everything else seems to fall. Motorcycles that are fast and handle well but are capable of long rides.

Enthusiasts anticipating the VFR1200F have had trouble categorizing it. An easier way to look at it is to use a car analogy. The VFR1200F is a Grand Touring motorcycle. A comfortable sportbike tipping the see-saw just a bit more towards sport.

The VFR1200F is the Porsche Carrera 4S of motorcycles. Like the Porsche it is fast, high-tech, luxurious and relatively comfortable. If the Ferrari F430 Scuderia is a CBR1000RR, the Nissan GTR is a Hayabusa, the FJR1300 is a BMW 650 and the Goldwing is a Bentley, then the new VFR is a Porsche Carrera 4s.

I reserve the right to change this opinion without notice.

Fuel Range

I forgot to discuss (in my "shortcomings" post) what is probably the biggest gripe about the VFR1200F... the fuel range.

With an 18.5L tank and a big powerful motor the VFR is "only" expected to go 150-200 miles on a tank of fuel, depending how it's ridden. For riders who will cross large uninhabited areas with no gas stations, this is definitely a deal-breaker. Personally, I'm not expecting to ride across Siberia, or even up the Alaska highway with mine, so I'm sure the range will be adequate. Who knows, I may have to eat my words here in a future post, but I doubt it. I've toured on a CBR1000RR and never came close to running empty.

VFRs since 1998 have had a 22L tank, so why is this one only 18.5L? My guess it that it's mainly in the name of styling. The elegant lines of the tank and fenders would not flow together with the same fluidity with a larger tank. There is a somewhat practical consideration too: the sides of the tank are actually fairings. This is a design I appreciated on my last 2 CBRs.... Rather than having a painted gas tank exposed, it is hidded under plastic covers. On those bikes, which were used mainly at the race track, it allowed for easier repairs after a crash. This design also allows the stylists a more consistent paint finish (paint doesn't adhere to metal the same way it adheres to plastic) and it allows them more creativity in the design. Also, the ugly stamping seams at the bottom of the tank are hidden. Nevertheless, the tank is smaller. The airspace (and foam lining) between the tank cover and the tank is eating in to fuel capacity.

I'm not too worried about it.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Dual Clutch Transmission

DCT... Honda are offering the VFR1200 with a fantastic little piece of technology, a dual-clutch transmission. This is a first for a motorcycle. It's optional on the new Honda; the standard transmission is a conventional 6-speed manual.

I want the DCT, but I might not get one. I'm waiting to see what the option is priced at.

A dual clutch transmission is one of those devices that makes you wonder why "they" didn't think of it sooner. It's made possible by computer control, as a human operator would have a lot of difficulty operating one manually. It's brilliantly simple in the way it works: There are 2 input shafts, one with the even gears, one with the odd. In the Honda, they are arranged coaxially, with one inside the other. Each shaft has its own clutch, and the first gear (odd gear) clutch is used for starting the motorcycle from a standstill. During operation, one clutch is always open while the other is always closed. The computer predicts if the operator needs an upshift or downshift, and pre-selects the next gear in advance. Because the "next" gear is on a shaft with a disengaged clutch it can be selected simultaneously. When the gearchange happens it is seamless and instantaneous, with no interruption in the power delivery. Honda's DCT in the VFR offers 3 modes of operation: Auto, whereby the shifts are slow and conservative, for maximum smoothness and fuel efficiency. Sport, which is still fully automatic but intended for more aggressive riding, and manual, where the rider can upshift and downshift using "paddle" buttons on the left handlebar. Downshifts are rev-matched with a throttle blip in all modes for maximum smoothness. Journalists who rode the DCT version of the bike were all dubiously impressed, and dipped deep into their wells of hyperbole to offer suitable praise.

I want the DCT for the added high-tech and performance but I have another much simpler reason: When riding 2-up I can select the creamy-smooth automatic mode and make the experience more enjoyable for my wife, with no helmets bonking together.

A lot of ignorant luddite twats on internet forums have already dismissed the technology because apparently "automatics" are for pussies and real men with lots of riding skill shift gears themselves. How much skill is really required for a gearchange? I suppose that when downshifting under hard braking and trying to blip to match revs the rider needs a lot of coordination... but it's a moot point. The technology now available with DCTs improves performance in every way. That's probably why the World's fastest race cars (F1) and top supercars (Ferraris, Porsches, Bugatti Veyron) all use this technology.

I have a suggestion for those manly men that are so proud of shifting all by themselves: Why not come out with a manually-controlled DCT? You get all the performance benefits, and after a steep learning curve you'll be proud to know that you can operate the machine almost as good as the computer. You'll be the saltiest manly man on your street.

The only drawbacks to the DCT on the VFR1200FA: added cost (still unknown) and added weight (only 20lbs, BFD). I told the salesman that if the price is within $1000 of the base model I'll take the DCT. I'm excited for the technology but for any more than a grand I'll shift gears myself. It'll probablycost more, but I hope I'm wrong.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Percieved Shortcomings

Honda built up to the launch of the VFR1200F with a lot of hype. VFR sites were buzzing with anticipation... they had waited 8 years for it. When the photos and specs hit the web, they were met with derision and disappointment for some who had often unreasonable expectations.

Though the initial ride reports and reviews from the press unversally heaped praise on the new bike, the armchair experts and keyboard gladiators still seem to harbor 3 main objections:

1. Weight

Honda list the "curb weight" of the VFR1200FA as 591lbs. In Honda vernacular, curb weight means "full of fuel and all required fluids, ready to ride". In years past, motorcycle manufacturers have listed "dry weights" for their machines. Dry weights included no fuel, no oil, no coolant, no fork or shock oil, no brake fluid, no battery and sometimes no spark plugs, tires, or brake pads. It was a completely unrealistic representation of the weight of a motorcycle. And because different manufacturers had different interpretations of "dry weight" there was no consistency and no reasonable way to compare. It was a useless figure. Honda swam against the tide a couple of years ago when they announced their new curb weight spec. Other manufacturers appear to be following their lead but buyers may still have dry weight figures stuck in their heads. For example, when the CBR954RR was introduced in 2002, Honda listed the dry weight as 370 lbs. When the revolutionary 2008 CBR1000RR was released, Honda listed the curb weight as 439 lbs. Does the 1000rr weigh 69 lbs more than the 954? No, it weighs about 4 lbs more. The 954 weighed 435lbs full of fuel and ready to ride. My point is that I think a lot of armchair experts expect sporty motorcycles to weigh around 440 lbs full of fuel. It isn't realistic for anything but a no-compromise supersports bike like a CBR. GIven the comfort, size, features and capabilities of the VFR1200, the 150 lbs it has on the CBR is not unreasonable. It will weigh a bit more than a K1300s (which should be expected with the added bulk and complexity of a V4 VS an inline) but it will weigh a lot less than other bikes that it will be shopped against. It's about 100lbs lighter than the ST1300, Concours, K1300GT or FJR1300. And it only weighs about 40lbs more than the VFR800ABS that it replaces, while adding shaft drive, better wind protection, better passenger accomodations, better suspension, better brakes and about 65% more power.

BTW, I'm 170lbs and I'll bet a lot of the guys whinging about the weight are 250+ lb lardos.

2. Styling

It looks like an alien, it looks like a cylon (whatever the fuck that is) it looks like a whale...

I love the way it looks. It looks like it came from about 20 years in the future. I've only seen photos but the paint looks exquisite, and the fit and finish sets a new standard. The fairings fit together seamlessly, with no visible screws, and "air spaces" that add visual lightness. (especially around the "chin" where the gorgeous stainless headers can be seen snaking around the oil cooler)

Everyone who has seen the bike in person has come around to it, and reported that it looks svelter and more pretty in person. I'm sure that a lot of the internet critics will come around to it just the same once they see one. I still haven't seen one but I love it already.

Love it or hate it, the styling is nothing if not controversial... and I enjoy controversy.

3. Price

UK: about 12.5K Pounds, Europe: about 15k euros. USA: 16 grand. Canada: ?????

It's priced right below the ST1300 in all markets, which is about what I would have expected. Honda is positioning it as a premium motorcycle. It won't be mass-marketed like your average CBR or Shadow. Of course there are cheaper bikes, even some really nice ones. But for the money you get a whole library of new patented technology, astonishing build quality and likely excellent performance in a unique and exclusive bike.

I've been told to expect a price just under 20 grand here in Canada. Centre stand, hard luggage and top trunk will probably tack on 2k more. The DCT transmission is rumored to cost about $2000 as an option. I love the technology and I'd like to buy one equipped with the DCT, but as of yet I'm not 100% decided. I'll elaborate in my next entry.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I said I wanted a powerful high-tech bike that handled well 2-up, looked good with or without luggage, and could do short Sunday blasts or long trips. ABS is nice, and shaft drive would be preferred. The VFR price still isn't released in Canada, but it will be likely upwards of 20 grand with puts it in competition with some very good alternatives:


This is the most obvious competitor, and clearly the bike whose market Honda were targeting when they planned the VFR1200. The K rocket has a bunch of obvious similarities... Big powerful motor, long wheelbase, shaft drive. It's horsepower and weight specs are very similar, though it does have a slight edge on paper. It also offers more value for the dollar in terms of comfort and convenience features. The $16990 base model comes standard with heated grips. For another $1665 you can add electronic suspension adjustment, an onboard computer, and a safety package with tire pressure monitors and skid control. To top that off, BMW Motorrad Canada are offering 3.95% financing for 60 months, and new BMWs come with a 3 year warranty, as opposed to Honda's 1 year warranty. (though it is rumored that the VFR will have 3 years of coverage)

The K1300 seems to have an obvious edge and meets all of my criteria but I just don't see myself being as happy with it as I would with the VFR. Its 1293cc inline 4 motor puts out a titanic amount of horsepower and torque, making the K bike one of the fastest motorcycles in the World; but inline-4 engines just can't offer the character of V4s. (with the possible exception of Yamaha's "cross-plane" inline motor in the R1) There are some reliability concerns with the BMW as well. Their final-drive mechanisms are known to fail and their fuel injection is glitchy, with a stalling problem that BMW refuses to acknowledge. And though I will do all of my own service, the cost of ownership would likely be higher on the BMW, with pricey parts that are harder to find. Though the K1300s can certainly be categorized as "high-tech" it doesn't occupy the "cutting edge" that the all-new VFR does. It's just not as cool, and it doesn't "move" me in the same way. And it's not a Honda. (hey I never said I wasn't biased)

Ducati Multistrada 1200

This bike was just announced for 2010 and appears to offer sport-touring riders a hell of a value. It's light-weight, (claimed 440lbs wet) has lots of power (with a de-tuned 1198 superbike motor) it has exclusivity, desirability and certainly plenty of character. The price (about on par with the VFR) is surprisingly affordable considering its pedigree. It meets most of my requirements... I'm still not sure on the "good looking" part. It looks... um... special. I like that it has its own unique appearance while being unmistakeably Ducati. But that fucking nose! It's got an olfactory unit like a basset hound. Looks aside, it's probably a fantastic motorcycle but I've got a couple of hangups... It's chain-driven. While this is a credit on the performance side of the ledger, I just don't want to maintain a chain on my fast road bike. Cost of ownership is also a concern. The Desmodromic valvetrain is maintenance-intensive and what maintenance I can't do myself will be spendy. All things considered, it is an exciting bike with plenty of character. The maintenance I could probably get used to and if it had a slick shaft drive like the VFR this might be the MTS1200 owners blog instead of the VFR1200FA owners blog. Even if it isn't a Honda.


Too slow.

Kawasaki Concours 1400

Lots of power, lots of gadgets for the money. Too big, too ugly, too Kawasaki.

Yamaha FJR1300

Too big. Old man bike that I wouldn't be excited to take out for a spin by myself. Overdue for a redesign... getting a bit obsolete.


Awesomely capable touring bike. Heated seat! Wife would probably love it. More money than VFR. Too big, too ugly. Fast but not sporty or exciting.

Have I missed any? The VFR1200F has not been universally well-received in the online motorcycle community. I'll address the common objections in my next entry.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

I'm not supposed to want this bike.

I don't think I fall into Honda's target demographic for the VFR1200.

The guy that they imagine will buy this bike is (paraphrasing here) an older experienced (probably European) rider who maybe used to ride sportbikes on a race track but has mellowed out a bit. He still likes to have some fun in the canyons but doesn't want to ride a race replica anymore. Honda say that the VFR1200 is for riders who will "ride far, ride hard, and ride often."

Well I suppose they've got me flagged on most accounts... everything except the "older" part. And though Honda won't publicly admit that they had Europeans in mind for the VFR1200, they did design it in Europe and will certainly sell a lot more of them on that side of the Atlantic. They're expecting to sell so few here that they've only allocated 200 units for the entire Canadian market.

At 27 I think I'm still supposed to be hooning around on a CBR or GSXR looking for trouble and showing off. But I haven't followed the natural progression of a sports motorcycle rider, at least not the way I observe it here in Canada.

I've written and closed the "squid" chapter of my motorcycle diary... It wasn't a very long chapter either. I wrecked my new 2003 CBR954, then got right back to riding irresponsibly on a new '04 CBR1000RR, crashed that, fixed it, rode like an idiot for a little while longer, then discovered the race track. I converted my 1000RR to a track bike and completely stopped riding on the street. With newfound skills, I learned to ride a sportbike the way it was meant to be ridden in a controlled and safe environment; assing around in the city no longer had any appeal to me. After a couple seasons of trackdays I sold the 1000RR, built a racebike out of a crashed 600RR and took the next step into roadracing with the local club. My racing career lasted 1 season... I had a lot of fun, made some great friends and further developed my skills. Then I got married.

My wife didn't push me to get rid of the racebike. In fact, she was very supportive of my racing, and watched every event. The problem was that with my career taking off, I just didn't have time for it. Roadracing requires quite a commitment, with a measure of planning and preparation for each event. Dirtbiking, on the other hand, can be much more spontaneous. I have a couple of good friends who ride their dirtbikes in the mountains all the time, and it's easier to sneak off for an off-road ride on a rare day off. So I sold the CBR600RR racebike and bought a 2008 CRF250X off-road bike.

I miss riding motorcycles on the road. I don't miss the squid stuff, I miss the trips into the mountains. Somewhat out of order, I did quite a bit of sport-touring before I hid my "squid" phase. In fact I had a 2000 VFR800 which I bought used and put a bunch of miles on over a season or 2. I miss that bike. It was plenty fast, but comfortable for longer rides, and that V4 engine had a "character" that you don't get with your typical inline 4 sportbike motor. V4s have their own sound, their own feel, and their own power delivery. I've had a weakness for V4 motorcycles (particularly fast Honda V4 motorcycles) since my dad used to take me for rides on his 1984 V65 Sabre. Dad bought a 2001 VFR800, at the time (and to this day) considered one of the finest all-round sports motorcycles ever made. I rode it quite a bit, loved it, and bought my own.

I miss those long rides.... I cherish the memories and I'm ready to make new ones. I want to get back into riding motorcycles on the road but with a newer more experienced approach. I want to bring my wife with me, and I want her to experience the same sense of adventure and freedom.

I want a bike with lots of power, that's comfortable for 1 or 2 people. I want a bike that looks good with or without the luggage attached. I want a bike that I can enjoy on a simple Sunday blast out west, or on a 5 day trip. I want high performance and high technology. I like the idea of a shaft drive which eliminates all the hassles of a chain without compromising performance. There are a couple of bikes that meet all of the requirements. In my next entry I'll discuss them, and explain why the VFR is still at the top of my list.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

First Entry November 26th 2009

Welcome to my site. I've opened this weblog to share my experience with my new motorcycle, the 2010 Honda VFR1200FA.

At this point, I don't have the motorcycle yet... In fact its availability has only recently been announced and all of the details are not yet available... particularly the pricing.

When it became clear that the rumours about this bike were true, I made my way to my local Honda Powerhouse and placed a deposit, reserving my first right of refusal on the first VFR1200 to come to Calgary. It isn't expected to be here until at least February of 2010. In the meantime I will explain why I am so eagerly anticipating this motorcycle, and I will justify my reasons for wanting one.

When the bike arrives, I will share all of the data and thoughts I have available based on my ownership experience.