Sunday, January 16, 2011

The VFR story

One the most buzzed motorbikes last year certainly was new Honda VFR 1200. Some guys liked it, some hated it. Actually, I think most of journalists liked it, but while reading regular (non-journalists) people comments, I've noticed there were various reactions – and surprisingly lots of negative ones.

I must say I wasn’t pleasantly surprised when I saw new VFR for the first time. I wasn't happy when I checked out the technical specifications.

No, I don’t think it was because they made a bad motorcycle, I think it was because they made something that nobody wanted them to make, nobody asked for that, nobody expected that. I don't know what Honda's market researchers were thinking!
I believe most of  VFR 750-800 owners never wished for bike like that. I’m a great fan of VFR series, and I met many VFR owners.

Let’s see… I think VFRs in the past never tried to compete with any kind of hyperbikes, never claimed to be among the biggest ones, the heavy weight. And with the new VFR 1200 Honda it acted like they wanted to change that. OK, generally, it is not a bad thing to have big engine and bunch of ponies... but most previous VFR owners were like: "WTF is that thing?”

First… they added torque and power. But, also made it look like a truck, comparing to the old VFRs. They gave it shaft drive instead of chain... well, ok, it is great for touring, no maintenance, durable... but somehow, it is more for heavy tourers or heavy adventure bikes. It seems like they wanted to combine Blackbird and Pan European, with V4 engine, and I think that was a mistake. Instead of merging touring and sport capabilities, the bike seems not to have enough of any… especially with that tiny tank paired with such big (means thirsty) engine. And then… wtf... Automatic transmission? Damn... sounds like a big scooter, right ?

Now, to be honest - it is a good motorcycle, in general. Standing next to it makes it look much better than on the pictures. Finish is amazing. Quality is everywhere. It is powerful and comfy. But that’s it. It is not where most of previous VFR owner wanted to go.

VFR 750 was the bike to fall in love with. It looked really good at that time, it was powerful enough for anything, it was agile and nimble, not as ZXRs, but it was able to keep up. It became a classic, a legend. 800 was also very good, although many riders didn't like the linked brakes. They are safe, but the problem is that you can use to it too much, and you can get in trouble when you switch to a bike with regular brakes. They should make CBS optional. My opinion was that plain ABS brakes would be a better solution. Second 800cc generation brought improved CBS brakes and VTEC technology that really worked well, although, it made engine more complex (involving more thingies that can go wrong) and heavier. But it was still VFR everybody loved. If you don't trust me, just ask any 750-800 owner how does he feel about the bike - 99% were in love with it and many of them never wanted to sell it.
Those bikes were comfy, but they also let you play together with “R” bikes. You can take a real it to a long trip, and you could make it spit some fire whenever you want.

Now, let’s go back to 1200. With all the power and size, it reminds me on BMW K1300S, but it seems to be somehow calmer and lazier… sounds like more boring, doesn’t it? It also somehow comes close to Pan European and Yamaha’s FJR, but not that comfy and equipped. With that size it doesn't look that nimble and playful either.
Automatic transmission? Ugh, that reminds on scooters, bleahhh !!
That is not what VFRs should evolve into. I think it was a mistake.

Next generation VFR should be different than this. Smaller, more compact, more playful… but yes, with comfy seats, nice wind protection, and better equipped than “R “ bikes. No automatic transmission, because that’s not what we wanted.

It wasn’t that hard, Honda.

VFR 1200, if we ignore the fact that it has V-4 engine, is more like next generation of Blackbird, but somehow, I don't think they are very happy with the VFR 1200 as well.

For the end, I think VFR 1200 is not that bad (except the fuel tank, fix that please, Honda!), but it shoots to the different audience. And therefore it should be called differently. Honda’s engineers are capable, their work is wonderful. Manufacturing quality is wonderful as well. On the other hand, market research department and designers are a little bit confused… aren't you guys?

VFR 750 1994
VFR 750 1991
VFR 800 2003

VFR 800 1998

VFR 1200 2010
VFR 1200 2010

1 comment:

  1. Text is totaly unorganized, I can see that now!
    Sorry about that... hopefuly reader can get the point right.
    Also, I am checking if the comments work properly.
    Let's see - posting comment... Now! :)