Thursday, October 08, 2009

Honda VFR1200F: redefining the sports-tourer

The 2010 Honda VFR1200F - is this the new 'best' sports-touring bike in the world?

According to Honda, ‘The VFR1200F has been developed to deliver a combination of sports and touring capabilities using the latest technologies – it is a clean-sheet interpretation of the ultimate road-sport machine.’

The VFR1200F’s core design team included three designers (two Japanese and one European) – Kishi san (who has earlier also designed the CBR1100XX Super Blackbird), Hasegawa san and Teofilo Plaza. And it took Honda about 12 months to take the new VFR from the initial design sketches to its current production-ready stage.

Coming to the design brief, things get a bit confusing. According to Honda, the VFR1200 isn’t a Japanese motorcycle designed as Europeans would do it. Instead, ‘it’s a Japanese bike designed in Europe, with two threads of Japanese culture running through the design process.’ Hmmm…. we’re not too sure if we really understand what they mean by that.

But moving on to the more interesting bits, the new VFR1200 uses what Honda call ‘layered fairing technology,’ which has allowed designers and engineers to work together to create a shape that looks good and yet doesn’t compromise on air flow and heat management. ‘By effectively increasing the speed of the air by channelling it through smaller apertures before it reaches the radiators, engine cooling is optimised and the hot, exhausted air is channelled away from the rider and passenger for a cooler, more comfortable ride. The heat generated by the powerful, enclosed V4 engine is also channelled away to keep hot air away from the rider,’ says the Honda press release.

Coming to the engine, a unique cylinder layout was developed for the VFR1200F. Instead of the traditional V4 cylinder configuration, with the cylinders evenly spaced front-to-rear, the VFR1200F adopts a different approach – the rear cylinders are placed side by side but close together, while the front cylinders are more widely spaced. This layout allows for a slim, compact ‘waist’ that fits comfortably between the rider’s legs. It also supports mass centralisation, thus contributing to the bike’s balanced feel and ease of control. With no right-left couple imbalance, the need for a balancer is eliminated and friction is reduced.

The VFR1200F also utilises UNICAM single overhead camshaft cylinder head design, taken from Honda’s CRF motocross bikes! Also borrowed from the CRF range and the RC211V MotoGP bike is the sealed crankcase system, which has never been used on a road machine. This provides electrifying throttle response and improved fuel consumption, claim Honda. Also, the bike’s exhaust layout was carefully chosen – not just for optimised performance and cornering clearance, but also for ‘exhilarating sound.’

Finally, Honda are also making sure that a wide range of accessories are available for the VFR – quick-detach lockable panniers that can hold a full-face helmet, a luxurious Alcantara seat for extra comfort, three-position adjustable add-on screen, a replacement lower seat with a narrow profile (which provides easier reach to the ground for shorter riders, while maintaining the bike’s ergonomics), heated grips and a satellite navigation kit that can be operated without removing hands from the handlebars.

We must say the new Honda VFR1200F looks like an impressive piece of machinery. It may not inspire the kind of frenzied bursts of emotion that an RC30 or an RC45 would, but for riders looking for a powerful, high-tech, mature and supremely competent sports-tourer, the VFR may well be the new Gold Standard. We look forward to riding the bike in a few months and bringing your our real world impressions of the VFR1200F!

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