Honda's expensive VFR 1200F is for mature, tech-hungry bikers, and is perfect for covering large distances.
From the moment I woke up, I knew the day ahead was going to be fantastic, for I was going to ride Honda's cutting-edge sports tourer, the VFR1200F at the Irungattukottai race track in Chennai.
The day began with a presentation on the VFR1200F and almost every sentence was peppered with terms such as DCT, CBS, ABS and UNICAM. It made us feel as if we were soon to pilot a spacecraft. What followed was a couple of laps on the CB Twister, which allowed track novices to familiarise with the 3.7-km circuit. We then repeated the same exercise on race-spec Honda CBF Stunners, followed by the CBR150 race bike. Even so, moving up to the VFR has to be a different ballgame all together.
Honda has launched the VFR1200F in India with an automatic Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT). As the name implies, there's a dual clutch system, one operating first, third and fifth gears, while the other takes charge of second, fourth and sixth. The VFR employs a shaft-drive, more commonly found on large-capacity touring motorcycles. There's no clutch lever, and no traditional foot-operated gear lever either.
Honda's technology allows this big bike to operate like a manual or a full automatic. Not entirely confident of my lines and braking points on the track, I start in automatic mode. A flick of the grey neutral button on the right switchgear, and the bike is ready to go.
Gently feeding in throttle, I head past the pits while the transmission intelligently shifts to second, then up to third. I take it easy on my out lap, speed never exceeding 80kph. The gearbox is in ‘D', drive mode for best fuel efficiency, so gearshifts happen at relatively low rpm. Back on the main straight, I hold only partial throttle, and am surprised to see the VFR moving along comfortably at 60kph in top gear.
One more lap in D, albeit faster, and I understand this is one smart system. The gearbox adapts to the rider's inputs, and holds gears longer if you ride harder. I switch to ‘S' or sport mode on my next lap, and feel the bike instantly change character. DCT now allows the big-bore engine to spin in the meat of the powerband, shifting down a gear or two, even three when needed.
Thoroughly impressed, I switch to manual transmission mode, tapping the AT/MT trigger on the right switches. Gear changes are now effected by pressing down on up or downshift buttons on the left switchgear.
Riders can also override the automatic transmission on-the-go by selecting either manual shift switches. The gears shifts are crisp, and you can rely on the security of a slipper clutch taking over, in case you shift down faster than necessary.
With 172bhp on tap at 10,000rpm from the compact 1237cc, V4, the VFR maybe a sports tourer, but it's quick enough to blow the fastest supercars into the weeds.
Braking is taken care off by an ABS-enabled, Combined Braking System, which balances the engagement of 320mm discs in front and the 276mm rear disc. As expected, stopping is confident, this 267-kg beast shedding speed without any drama.
Handling is really impressive for this heavy a motorcycle. No, it's never going to be as agile as a supersports bike, but the large VFR is easy to steer, and stays planted through the medium and high-speed corners at the track. The riding position calls for only a mild lean to the handlebars, and is certain to stay comfortable over long rides.
Suspension is a combination of preload adjustable telescopic forks in front, with an adjustable gas-charged Pro-Link damper at rear. Ride quality is plush, the VFR easily ironing out slight imperfections on the track surface.
It's only later in the day that I sit down, get up close and personal with the 1200F, and study the bike's styling. While the unique design draws mixed responses, it's clearly a modern motorcycle — one that can take some time for the eyes to get used to.
In profile, one can see this Honda has centralised mass, with a more bulky front section leading backwards to a light, athletic tail. The large beaky headlight and delicately contoured dual-tone fairing ensure VFR will never be confused with any other motorcycle. The instruments include an analogue tacho, flanked by wing-like digital screens relaying all the information required when touring.
Switchgear on the VFR is of the highest quality, and includes a useful hand-operated parking brake. The VFR's meaty 18.5-litre tank seamlessly blends into its fairing, and supremely comfortable riding saddle. Just below sits an arresting, chunky chrome silencer.
At Rs 17.5 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), the VFR1200F is certainly an expensive motorcycle. It, however, sits in a niche where we foresee mature, tech-hungry bikers digging deeper into their wallets for the convenience of DCT, a worthwhile system to have on an Indian bike.
The 1200F also sports a proud VFR touring family lineage, and makes for a comfortable, powerful bike, simply perfect for covering large distances in India. Of course, this experience makes us suggest owners book a track day to really enjoy their VFRs.
Rs. 17.5 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) On sale Now
Ground clearance 125mm
Kerb weight 267kg
Unicam, V-4, liquid-cooled, four-stroke
Power 172bhp at 10000rpm
Torque 13.1kgm at 8750rpm
Specific output 139bhp per litre
Power to weight644bhp per tonne
Automatic Dual Clutch Transmission
Front suspension Telescopic forks
Rear suspension Monoshock, single-side alloy swingarm
Front brake 320mm discs (ABS)
Rear brake 276mm disc (ABS)
(f-r) 5-spoke alloy/ 7-spoke alloy
Rim size (f-r) 17 inches
(f-r) 120/70 x 17- 190/55 x 17 inches