Honda VFR1200F

By Kevin Ash

Pictures: Ula Serra, Francesc Montero, Zep Gori, Félix Romero (click on images)

Honda_VFR1200F22.jpg

Honda`s new VFR1200F always had a huge amount to live up to, not least of which is its role as the latest bike to bear the iconic VFR moniker.

The VFR750 reversed the dreadful reputation for unreliability of Honda`s first big V-fours, the VF700 and 750 cruisers and VF750F of 1982, the VF500 as well, all notorious for their rapid-wearing camshafts, sagging camchains, breaking camchain tensioners and other issues. The VFR750 was designed to put that right, and even did away with camchains altogether by using a costly gear train to drive the camshafts. It was dependable, durable, lasted forever, and gained a huge fanbase for its combination of quality and all-round ability: this was the bike that the term sports-tourer was coined for.

We knew the VFR1200F was coming four years ago, and Honda started admitting as much officially two years ago when the V-four concept bike was shown. Since then more and information has been leaked, much of it deliberately, and Honda even set up a special VFR1200F website which not only let us know how soon VFR would be coming, it told us how it would take motorcycle engineering to a whole new level and be the new flagship of Honda`s motorcycle range.

Boy the VFR1200 needed to be good! And good it is... but not good enough to carry all that baggage. Sit astride the bike and several factors are immediately obvious. First is the size: compared with modern superbikes it`s a big machine, and for most people, all the better for that. But it`s a fair stretch to the bars, something of a surprise, then when you move the bike you notice it`s nowhere near as light as a sports bike. The kerb weight in fact is a hefty 589lb (267kg) which is some 100-130lb (50-60kg) heavier than a superbike, although the mass is carried low and centrally. The cockpit is quite spartan compared with some BMWs and Ducatis, with a central rev counter, digital speed on the left and other info on the right, You get ambient air temperature but no distance to empty, fuel consumption and so on.

Fire up the engine and the offbeat burble will be familiar to V-four owners, if deeper than a VFR800. Snick it into first, release the clutch and the bike pulls as strongly as you`d expect... the surprise is the way the growl changes dramatically to a blood-stirring snarl as 5,000rpm is reached, and another 1000rpm later the power surges in too. It`s easy to forget this is a 170bhp (173PS, 127kW) motor, almost as much output as a BMW K1300S , but then that`s because the Honda lacks the blast of speed that distinguishes the BMW. The Japanese bike has less torque in depth and carries more weight, I`d estimate as much as an additional 44lb (20kg) as BMW claims 560lb (254kg) with a full tank, where Honda`s higher kerb weight includes only 5 litres of fuel. The K 1300 is no lightweight either... The motor is impressive otherwise though, and while it doesn`t have that leave-it-in-top-gear thrust of the BMW K1300GT , where sixth is all you need, it is still strong enough to minimise cog swopping.

The transmission itself works well, although a couple of times I was reminded of an old Honda trait when during very hard acceleration the VFR dropped out of second gear into a false neutral as the revs closed in on the red line. And while that's a lot of power to unleash, it`s definitely dulled by the bike`s weight.

The upside of this mass is outstanding ride quality. The bike is unfazed by all kinds of surfaces including the very rough and bumpy, and in that respect comfort is very good. You feel a hint of the shaft drive`s mass in a thumping sensation when the suspension is working very hard, otherwise the back end is as unnoticed as any chain drive, with no hint of the vertical pitching with power on and off once associated with shaft drive. This is cited as a significant technological advance for the Honda, but in fact BMW and Moto Guzzi with its CARC system have been doing the same very effectively for some time, by the use of clever transmission and suspension geometry.

A shame though that the seat isn`t especially comfortable. It feels good at first, being very broad and supportive, but after an hour or so you find yourself shifting about a little to keep comfy. It`s not bad, and to be fair after a full day it didn`t feel any worse than that, but there are better seats out there, notably the K 1300 GT`s. But comfort`s further compromised by the vibration. This peaks at 4,500rpm where the tingles at the back of the fuel tank can buzz your sensitive parts in a most interesting way.

You might even consider this a bonus, but it`s distracting, and with some tingles coming through the bars too, really not becoming of a supposedly smooth V-four. In thicker clothing such as I was wearing on the mostly wet press launch it wasn`t such an issue, but in jeans or thin leathers it can be disconcerting. And after a full day, especially as this happens at a typical cruising speed of 85mph (135kph) or so, it starts to become irritating. At higher revs some of the vibes come through the footrests too.

No such annoyance from the screen though, which delivers the air flow to the rider in a creamy smooth flow with no hint of turbulence or buffeting, and this applies to tall or short riders. It`s very impressive and clearly a lot of time has been spent on the bike`s aerodynamics. The fairing in fact features additional outer skins which enhance stability and keep the airflow smooth, while the heat from the engine is very well managed with little of this reaching the rider.

Stability is the dominant feature of the bike. Even at very high speeds it feels absolutely rock solid, as reassuring as any motorcycle I`ve ridden in fact (and we`re talking about speeds approaching 160mph - 260kph). But that`s the upside of the weight and conservative chassis geometry, the penalty is lethargic direction changing. The VFR demands a lot of bar effort to change direction, and while it`s predictable and accurate too, no way is it sharp or a quick turner. If this is a sports-tourer, when you`re trying to hustle it down a sinuous back road you`ll be thinking the emphasis is definitely biased towards the tourer side of the spectrum.

The suspension itself copes very well with a sportier rider, soaking up bumps and keeping the wheel under control with panache, but after a good go at a demanding back road, you wouldn`t call this sporty even like the VFR800 was, it`s just too heavy.

Then the fuel warning light will come on anyway. The VFR has a 4.1 gallon (18.5 litre, 4.9 gallon US) capacity, and at the 40mpg (14.6km/l, 7.06l/100km, 33.3mpg US) we were achieving in mixed riding (with some pretty fast going), that`s a mere 164 miles (264km) to completely dry. In practice then you`ll be looking for a refill at 130 miles, or if you`re in a remote area with fuel stations 50 miles apart, at as little as 80 miles. This is a major handicap for any bike setting itself up as a tourer and I know very well that this one factor alone will turn potential customers towards other bikes such as BMW`s K 1300 series, older machines like the FJR1300 Yamaha or looking eagerly towards Ducati`s Multistrada with its claimed 250 miles (400km) and more range. I`m sure gentler riding on the VFR will reap rewards, and quite possibly many riders will see 150 miles pass before the warning light interrupts their enjoyment, but this kind of bike needs a good 200 mile range to be convincing as a tourer.

That`s even a reason why the VFR1200 won`t cut it as a Blackbird replacement. To be fair Honda is not pitching it as such, but with less weight and a better range it could easily have filled that gap in Honda`s line-up. But you can`t go as fast or as far as a Blackbird with the VFR, so those owners will be looking elsewhere.

The optional luggage compounds the problem. In some respects the design of the panniers and top box are very impressive, with their hidden hinges, lack of external lips and one-key operation. But only one pannier is big enough for some (and not all) helmets, while the top box looks more like a scooter box than a big sports-tourer one: it holds one helmet but not a lot else. There`s some 30 litres less total storage in these than the official Honda luggage for the Blackbird, so two-up touring will mean very careful packing indeed, or leaving the passenger at home.

The passenger is at least well accommodated, with plenty of room and nothing interfering with leg room, although I didn`t try long distance comfort so no comment on that.

There might be some unwanted rider-pillion helmet bumping though, as the brakes can be a little grabby. The feel is typical of six-piston callipers - the VFR has a pair up front, with front-rear brake linking - in that the initial application can feel sharp, with the front of the bike dipping. There`s plenty of power and a more progressive action after that, but conventional four-piston callipers feel better.

The looks of course are entirely subjective, but there`s no doubt the bike has considerable presence. I happen to really like the VFR's appearance, I think it`s a handsome, cleverly styled machine with great simplicity which pushes forward motorcycle design just as the Fireblade has. The swimming pool deep gloss of the paint helps too, but the overall effect is that this is a bike people are going to notice, and most I think will admire too.

It`s beautifully made then and clever in many respects too, but the sports side of its character suffers for the weight, while the touring angle is hit by the seat comfort and the fuel range. VFR owners will find it a better bike than the machines they trade in, but the canny ones will be looking at different tank badges, and maybe for the first time in their lives, risking Italian when the Multistrada appears in showrooms in March.

After all, at £11,600 the VFR1200F is slightly more costly than the base model Multistrada and up there too with BMW`s K 1300 S and K 1300 GT, as well as several older but very competent touring or sports-touring bikes. Or how about a fabulous Triumph Sprint ST at £8,849 with ABS? It`s got a 4.4 gallon (20 litre, 5.3 gallon US) tank too, with better economy, and it`s nearly 60lb (26kg) lighter too.

£11,596 on the road, available from February 21

.

Honda VFR1200F review Honda VFR1200F test VFR 1200 F

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Paulvt1
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Excellent report Kev. Looks like you have saved me a considerable amount of cash. This bike seems to be as confused as most modern Honda's. A CBR 1000F from way on back would make a better tourer, and an old 954 blade would be a better sports machine.
I reckon this will be the last of the old school sports tourers as the class is served better by the new generation - KTM SMT and the new MTS12.
I was so looking forward to this bike, but it would appear to fall far short of the hype.

Navy Boy
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Thanks for the insight Kev. I, like many I suspect, have been looking forward to this machine for some time.

Having seen your report I can safely say that a Triumph Sprint ST will be my first choice if and when I want to buy myself a sports tourer. I can't help feeling that this is a wasted opportunity by Honda.

Poor tank range and smaller luggage... What are they doing?

kevash
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I keep wondering if I've been too harsh on the bike as it's enjoyable to ride and sounds fantastic. But there's no escaping that fuel range or the small luggage for tourers, while it's pretty hefty for when you want to get sporty - the K 1300 S is too heavy to be really sporty and the Honda's a fair bit heavier than that. That's a good point Paul about the new generation of sports tourers, they do make the traditional ones look old school.
I had a discussion once with someone at Honda about tank size - he's English but is one of the people who signs off final prototypes - and he also feels a better range is needed on many bikes, and said he'd even suggested offering a big tank option on some bikes, but they didn't think it was needed. I reckon if there was an option of a 5.3 gallon (24 litre) tank instead of the 4.1 gallon (18.5 litre) standard one, a lot of riders would go for it. Even at, say, £400 extra it would be worth it, and the bike's resale value would be better too.
European bikes in this category have lots more electronic toys and options to play with too, the VFR feels a bit bare in comparison.

Paulvt1
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i do a lot of riding around Wales and i have noticed how many petrol stations are now closed. Say you have a day out planned, work out your fuel stops and when you are getting to about 150 miles on the VFR you pull in to a known fuel stop - and it's closed. It's just better to have that little extra just in case.
Since the overwhelming sales success of the GS, i have felt that the conventional ST bikes days are numbered. We will probably be looking at a 50 mph limit soon, so i would rather have something with more visibility to spot the revenue raisers from afar than something that weighs a ton and only feels as though it's only waking up at very fast speeds. and now we see sports bikes on stilts like the MTS 1200 which could quite happily be the best road bike to be released in recent years.
When will you be testing the MTS Kev?

kevash
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The trouble with this whole fuel range thing is that the designers don't seem to ride bikes enough themselves. They say things like 180 miles (Honda's claimed range) is enough as you'll be wanting to stop by then anyway, but first, no one rides to completely empty (or if they do that's when they start to push...), and secondly, very often you don't set off with a full tank to start with. There are plenty of places like some parts of Wales where there aren't many fuel stations anyway, or perhaps in remoter parts of Spain, France and Italy they're not only thin on the ground, maybe 50 miles apart, but they're closed for two hours during the day anyway! There are even stretches of motorway in England where fuel stations might be 50 miles apart or more, meaning you could need to fill up after 80 miles, or less than an hour. That's ridiculous.

That upright riding position on the GS and similar is more comfortable for long distances and better around town, and like you say the better visibility is useful too, for anything from spotting cameras to seeing the scenery over tall hedgerows. What you also get is a level of off-road ability, and while most riders don't use it, or not much, it still adds to the bike's portfolio.

I'm riding the Multistrada at the end of February, it's due in UK showrooms in the beginning of March, so there's still quite a wait. But not quite a weight... The Ducati has a wet weight of around 440lb (200kg) with 5 litres of fuel, which is a pert pillion less than the Honda, plenty of compensation you'd expect for the 20bhp power deficit.

Paulvt1
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The most impressive spec i have seen recently is the new BMW R12RT. Wet weight of 259 KG and that's with 27 lt of fuel!! Won't be a exciting as the MTS - but i do have fond memories of my R12RT that i got rid of. Regret it to this day!

kevash
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I've always liked the RT, it steers really nicely and carries its weight well, and isn't too heavy anyway. The new DOHC GS will be another good 'un, that engine is a lot smoother than the current high cam boxer twins, turns out the buzzy vibes at high revs are due to the valve gear, and the new valve gear is much smoother, the HP2 Sport which already has it doesn't tingle anywhere near as much.

Back to the fuel tank thing, I wasn't on the Z1000 presentation as it clashed with some others but a journalist I saw recently who was said he asked the Kawasaki team why the Z1000 only has a 15 litre (3.3 gallon) tank, and they said that helps give it a more aggressive image!

Maybe they mean when you start kicking it at the side of the road because it's run out of fuel... So are they thinking some people wouldn't buy the bike if it had a 20 litre tank because that's too soft? It gets more and more bizarre!

This needs revisiting in my MCN column I think...

DFH
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Thanks for the great site Kevin. The ability for members of the great unwashed to enter into dialogue with the top end of the bike press is unique, and welcome.
As for the VFR1200 review being harsh? Not at all. Quite often the bike press reads like an extension of a manufacturers media arm but in this case all you have done is gently hold up the mirror to the Emperor.
Honda have had over 8 years to consider their next move after the VFR800VTEC, a bike that whilst stylish was hardly a great improvement over its predecessor and fitted with an engine that was a step backwards. Now the name that once was synonymous with sport touring is fixed to the fairing of a bike that is too heavy to run with its predecessor in the hills, offers less fuel capacity, diminished comfort (more vibration, compromised ergonomics) and fails to match the sheer performance and technology than its closest competitor has already brought to the market.
A flagship bike should be more than just expensive. It should set the tone for a companies efforts. If this is the best Honda can come up with then old man Honda must be spinning in his grave.

DiscoTim
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Never mind the bike, Kevin. What was the hotel lift like?!

kevash
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What hotel lift? No, you mean...? We didn't!

kevash
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Not sure about being at the top end of the bike press DFH, but I'm always happy to chat and so should other journos be, keeps us on our toes if we have to stand by what we say so directly.

As for reading like an extension of the manufacturers' media arm, at least one well known UK site simply reproduced the VFR press pack when the details were first released! That's taking what you're saying rather too literally I think...

You're right about the VTEC, it simply made the VFR worse. Things improved when they revised it but you'd still struggle to say it was significantly better than the pre-VTEC model.

Bertie Simmonds
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Having had an 1150RT I love 'em... and my 12-year-old Blackbird still does the business and I've had up to 264 miles before the reserve light comes on. Personally, I think Honda has some serious aesthetic issues with their latest bikes and the VFR among them. As great as the '08-on Blade is, it's still not as nice to look at as any of its peers.

kevash
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The Blackbird's a key comparison I reckon. Honda don't make them anymore so there's a gap in the range there, and while they don't claim the VFR is a Blackbird replacement, it's the only bike they have which could be likely to tempt Blackbird owners to stay with Honda. But you'd be losing out on range, speed and luggage capacity, though the VFR has more low and medium torque.
Funny enough I like the look of the VFR, though I can see why others don't.

wadham
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Kevin, my first post here and thanks for this site.

I think you like the look of it because as a design exercise it succeeds much the same way as a piece of modern art can be appreciated by some. As a look that an average rider would like it is not to my taste at all, even looking a bit like the old BMW K1200RS from one angle.

I wonder like you do, who the bike is aimed at. Its expensive, heavy, short ranged, small luggage, very modern sporty styling, perhaps a K1200RS replacement.

Honda seems to have a great skill at fitting appalling suspension and awful seats to their bikes (apart from a Fireblade). Perhaps the seat on this VFR is designed to replace the fuel gauge.

kevash
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You might find your opinion of the VFR changes when you see one for real, it looks a lot better than in pictures, I wasn't sure until I was next to one. But then again you might not!
You're not the first to see hints of BMW in the design though, a few people on the launch were saying the same.

The suspension was fine in fact, although I didn't get a chance to really push it hard as the roads were damp or wet most of the time, as you can see in the pics (the sunny dry ones are Honda press shots, the miserable soaking ones are me!). But the ride quality is very good, stability at speed is excellent and in a short reasonably dry patch where I tried a bit harder there were no suspension problems. The seat isn't awful either, just not as good as it should be. But I agree, Honda's record with both is certainly patchy.

shuggiemac
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It's so nice to see a load of posts on the site in response to articles recently and quite understandably the VFR report is prompting the same. It has perhaps been one of the most anticipated in recent months.

The report makes very interesting reading and I think I am like many others here in being a little surprised at the initial feedback. Perhaps Honda have simply had too much time to think about this and have been shut away from the world while they worked on this bike. I am sure it is a fine machine in so many ways but I wonder if it also the case that other manufacturers, especially the European ones, have simply risen the bar pretty damn high while the Honda team were locked away and not looking. I guess if I was in the market for one I would wait a couple more years and get the inevitible improved version that they will surely have to launch in response.

Personally - the new Multistrada is still in pole position.

wadham
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I have owned a good number of Honda bikes and I think in the same way that their cars have become stale and perhaps insipid then their bikes are following down the same road. Their cars/bikes are OK but they just do not seem to fit enough niches in the market to have a model that I want and some are too old a design so that they are left behind in looks, performance and practicality.

They have not replaced their bike sports/touring models for a long time and this VFR is trying to be a 'one bike fits all' which will reduce their model range. The old VFR had a niche as did the Blackbird and it waits to be seen if those can be combined.

rocca
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Wadham, I couldn't agree more. In the past I've bought Honda more often than not. This year I bought two new bikes (T-Max and 660 Tenere). In both cases I didn't even bother stopping by the Honda dealer because, respectively, their alternative was as old as the hills or didn't exist. Beyond sports bikes (where the changes are incremental anyway) they just don't seem to be making much of an effort these days. Quite sad, really.

kevash
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I'm just working on the MCN Christmas Quiz at the moment and looking at last year's questions. One of them is, How many new bikes did Honda introduce for 2009? And the answer is 1. If I was to ask the same question for 2010, it would be two, the VFR and the Fury. So they're hardly fighting back...

Markyboyzx6r
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Blimey, between this and Phil West's opinion of the VFR on the MCN website, Honda should be worried.

When the specs came out and we saw the small tank, weight, looks (and all the other concerns highlighted above)the belief seemed to be 'wait till the first road test, it'll prove the doubters wrong'. But, from what we're reading, Honda appear to have dropped the ball. I don't think anyone can deny that this bike is neither fish nor foul, excelling at nothing in particular.

A quick look at the website for the bike says it all. All the focus seems to be on the engine, the aerodynamic flow, so on and so on - the V4 platform and technical spec being enough to satisfy customers on its own (in Honda's opinion). Whereas Ducati seem to have built a new bike in the Multistrada that will do all of the practical stuff of modern 'sports touring' like large intervals between fill-ups, automatic suspension adjustment et al. without needing to boast about the frontiers of technology being shifted or any other such marketing guff.

It isn't a massive leap forward. And why Honda think they can get away with not going to shows like NEC to promote it is beyond me. Everybody says it looks better in the flesh - but if Honda don't put some examples under our nose, we won't be able to form our own opinion.

The infamous 'V4' presentation of last year looks like it is going to come back to haunt Honda.

DFH
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From the comments here it looks like the biggest group test of 2010, if not the decade will be between the automatic transmission VFR, BMW K1300S with all the options and the Ducati MTS1200S in touring pack guise. Not only will this be a test of products at top end of the streetbike market, but also a test of the possible philosophies for the future of streetbike design.

kevash
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I'd throw the KTM SM-T into that fray and expect it to be a considered option, though the luggage capacity would let it down. And I still think the BMW K 1300 GT is a better bet than the 1300 S as it's more comfortable, but also more agile (really...) and with more low rev torque, making it quicker too in most real world riding. You'd definitely need a Triumph Sprint ST in there as well to show what can be done for two thirds of the Honda's price.

But the Ducati's electronics and the BMW's options make the Honda's spec look like there are tumbleweeds blowing through...

wadham
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I have just bought an SM-T and have owned a K1300GT and K1200S. I just sold a 1200GSA to get the KTM. I have owned numerous (way too many) other bikes in last few years. Each was good in some areas and bad in others. I decided at last that I have to have 2 bikes - a fun one for me and one for 2 up touring.

The SM-T is as good fun as your review suggests and it would be worth putting into a sports touring test. It is certainly a different option.
The soft luggage supplied is useful and can be secured but a large Givi box can be fitted on the rear. Capacity is then decent but not up to GT size. I would not use it for 2 up touring and intend to see the GTR1400 from Kawasaki before looking around. Would like to see you test that one.

Paulvt1
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The VFR has a UK price of £11600. I'm guessing that it'll be a lot cheaper by next September when dealers have to shift unsold stock. I think i'll still have a test ride and then wait for discounts, if it's any cop mind.

kevash
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Thanks Paul, my £11,500 guess wasn't too far off then... I've got the release from Honda UK about that and availability from February 21, I'll add the details to main feature shortly.

kevash
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Okay, offensive posts removed and I had to take out the responses too or they would have been a bit baffling.

Captain Scarlet
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Been reading the reviews and feedback forever, but at long last just had to register and reply:

Thank gawd somebody (Kev & Phil West), in hacks-land, have actually grown a pair and told it like it really is. My deepest respects to you both on your VFR reports!

I'm an ex: VFR800FI, R1200GS, Tiger 1050 & Multistrada 1100 rider, who currently rides a K13S, has demo'd the SMT and wants a Multistrada 1200S Tour!

I couldn't agree more with nearly all the comments above, especially those relating to tall-rounder / adventure bikes becoming the new sports-tourers. If bikes like the SMT and MS12 are more comfortable, with better tank ranges, suspension and seats; and also weigh less, handle better and are more fun to ride. Then why buy a lardy tourer, hyper-sports, or uncomfortable / unpractical streetbike to do-it-all?

A test of the VFR12, K13S, 990SMT and MS12 would be fabulously mouthwatering. Would the new order win? IMPO I reckon so.I'd sooner have an SMT than a VFR12 and I'd sooner have an MS12 than my current (highly efficient) K13S. In terms of commuting, scratching, taking pillions or laden touring, I'd still take the agile twins in each discipline.

I don't wantt to give up too much of the effortless poke of the K13S Beemer or the convenience of electronic suspension. But with the power to weight ration of the Ducati, the even more sophisticated Ohlins suspenders, I won't be losing much real world performance (if anything), but I would be gaining more comfort, agility whilst retaining equal practicality and cool looks.

With Ducati's late noughties advances in build quality, reliability and extended & simplified services, it's also a much more mitigated risk nowadays too. I guess, having had a sit (on the 'do not sit on') bike at the NEC Preview Day, I'm pretty smitten, that 'proto' looked well production to me.

The Triumph, Victory, KTM, Ducati & Norton stands were well busy at the NEC, whilst you could have sat on any Japanese machine, especially the race reps, all day long. If I were from Milwaukee or the East, I'd be worried. Very.

Time for the Japanese factories to stop take forever to produce several similar vanilla models of complete blandness, within their own ranges (thought Vauxhall had the monopoly?), and start quick turnarounds of fit for purpose models (MK1 Fazer, or VFR come to that, springs to mind?). Oh, and stop second guessing what we 'might' want, and like Triumph 'just ask us' please.

Right, thanks for listening, I'm off to dream about leggy Bologna bullets now...

kevash
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...and thanks for spending your time posting, I think that's a fine summary of where a lot of us are going with our thinking, and from that presumably our bike buying. Power-to-weight ratios of the Ducati and Honda are around 0.73bhp/kg and 0.64bhp/kg respectively so the Bologna bike will be usefully quicker too, assuming its spread of torque is reasonably healthy. The Honda will have the higher top speed, and no one will care.

chipper
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I have read with interest the replies good and bad about the vfr 12 and its place in the market. I think the limited tank range is no good for a tourer but will suit people who don`t really tour but like to look the part on a day trip to Wales or the lakes. Very similar to gs riders who don`t go off road but use the bike as a similar tourer. I think Honda are trying to fill a gap in the market which has shrunk considerably since the popularity of trailies and or trying to create a niche with the new v4. Without trying to be disrespectful of others views or riding habits I can`t possibly see the smt as a touring bike or for that matter the ducati either.Having been outclassed on a recent trip abroad on the Moto guzzi Stelvio by a Bmw k1300gt which just about done everything it was asked to do superbly well I just can`t see these competing with it overall. I am speaking unbiasedly as I have owned 2 bmws but ride a guzzi and will possibly buy a gtr 1400 next year as good as the k1300gt is I would prefer the improved Kawasaki. Out of interest I find the sweeping lines of the vfr quite thought provoking as it is different to most on the market and makes me wonder why but if styling makes you think it is doing something and once you become more accustomed to it you might appreciate it more. Chipper

Paulvt1
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Joined: 07/03/2009

Good move by Kev. Let's keep this forum civil and intelligent.

playlord
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Some superb reading here for a relative newbie like me; there might not be thousands of posters on this forum but the quality and balance of the writing shines through (I did not see the offensive posts that were mentioned - the good ones have certainly been left in) Thanks to all

shuggiemac
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I'd would quite liked to have seen the other responses to the initial offensive post. I let the guy have it with both barrels without trying to fall into the same trap and be directly offensive to the original poster.

I hope the guy who made the original comments still visits and posts to be honest as I think all points of view are valid and of interest. I just don't want every single place that I read bike stuff on the net to degenerate into a constant foul mouth tirade. I am far from being a prude and cuss and swear as well as anyone on a constant basis but there is a time and a place and to my mind here is not it. I like Ashonbikes because it is primarily about bikes involving some decent debate and all in a friendly, casual, at times funny but always fairly intelligent vein.

shuggiemac
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Chipper - excellent comments and thoughts. I would like to respond to the one about the notion of the SM-T and new Multistrada being held up as touring bikes. I am very smitten with the new Multistrada and if finances can accomodate, then I shall buy one next year. I completely agree that neither the Ducati or KTM are touring bikes per say and I think if anyone bought them purely for that reason then they would be disappointed. I do however think that they will both be pretty damn good at the touring game, incredibly enjoyable rides for a biking holiday and a whole lot of fun with the luggage off. It is this Multi part of the Multistrada that appeals to me. I could tour on my 999 and indeed have done some pretty good weekends on it but it is far from being a touring bike and nor would I wish to do it again. On the flip side I am sure I could take a BMW GS on to a track day but I would not particularly enjoy that event to it's maximum, though I am sure it would still be a laugh in it's own right. I guess though the appeal od these other is that whilst they may not be the best at everything they are a whole lot more than just a jack of all trades.

kevash
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Hi shuggiemac, I left the offensive stuff there for a while but it just stood out so much compared with the rest of the posts I think it was stopping anyone else from posting on this thread and threatened to turn into some irrelevant discussion about what is or isn't offensive, which no one was going to win anyway. And with that removed the responses had to go too, but like you no one descended to that level. I then got some worse stuff so he's now blocked.

BitScribbler
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Kev, I see you asked in MCN for specific feedback regarding the fuel tank. I run a 2008 K1200GT which is close enough in functionality to the K1300GT to have restrained me in upgrading so far. I was of course also waiting for the release of the VFR as it appeared to be a real candidate.

I used to have an R1200ST (the slightly sportier RT, if there is such a thing) which I liked for its relative lightness, but wanted a bit more power, hence the GT. I thought the VFR would be the perfect combination of these two bikes, ST-like in size and and weight, GT-like in power and performance.

Alas! Apparently it's more lardy than my GT (and it's bad enough pushing the GT around the garage) which is a bit off-putting, but that fuel tank is a complete killer for me. I can honestly say that the fuel tank size on its own will stop me from being interested in this bike, regardless of any other features. It would be a complete pain in the backside on a touring holiday.

Just my 2p...

kevash
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Your 2p along with all the others I'm hearing is adding up to just under £12,000 worth of VFR not being sold... I've always thought that no matter how brilliant any bike is, if there's a single factor that riders find unacceptable, then it's simple, they won't accept it... and won't buy the bike! Fuel range is one of those fundamentals for a bike with any touring pretensions, if it's not good enough then a bike could otherwise be the perfect tourer and still people won't buy it. They'll live with other imperfections, maybe a bit of wind noise or average ride quality or something, but not filling up all the time, like you say it's a complete pain

There's been so much response and general chat about this I'm writing about it in next week's MCN, rather than waiting for any more, as almost everyone is saying the same thing, and you've summed it up exactly.

So how can Honda (and some others) be so terribly out of touch with their customers?

Out of interest, would you consider one of the tall-rounders as Captain Scarlet called them (I might have to borrow that, thanks!), like the Multistrada or even KTM? Or a GS of course.

rocca
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You know, I'm starting to feel a bit sorry for the VFR12 now (just read the MCN first test). All the ventured criticisms seem perfectly reasonable...and yet something tells me I'm actually going to like this bike in the flesh. Call it sympathy for the underdog, or maybe just a latent weakness for the glossy well-made craft of a flagship Honda in the showroom. You can be almost certain it'll cover intergalactic distances at Warp factor 8 without missing a beat. And the reported 8,000 mile service intervals/ 3 year warranty combination is definitely a step in the right direction. Now if they could throw in a 3 year service plan and the luggage for £12k...and maybe tweak the fuel range/ consumption just a bit...then..well, you never know. I must confess that I actually quite liked the look of the DN-01 too (please don't tell anyone I said that).

Navy Boy
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It's interesting that Honda are continuing to make the VFR800 into 2010. I wonder if that's to try and catch some of the customers who are being put off the 1200 version?

BitScribbler
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I must admit the tall-rounders don't really attract me. Being a BMW man for a good few years, of course I've ridden GS's, but they just don't "do it" for me. Too damn big, I think!

My non-negotiable requirements for a bike suitable for long tours two-up with luggage are:

1. Decent range (obviously, given the topic!)
2. Decent, properly integrated luggage
3. No chain

It's surprising how few bikes can tick those boxes, but hey, it simplifies decisions.

I'll still take a good look at the Multistrada, because it is very interesting. More likely I'll end up keeping my current bike or upgrading to a K1300GT though. The GT is just perfect for commuting/touring needs.

shuggiemac
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Mr Scribbler - doesn't a Goldwing tick all those boxes, or am I just being ridiculous ?

BitScribbler
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A Goldwing does tick all those boxes, but it fails test 4:

4. Must be smaller than a Light Truck!

:-)

My opinion only, Goldwing owners! Whatever floats your boat is what's right for you. Test 4 also knocks out the BMW LT, including the up-coming 6-cylinder model I suspect.

granitehead
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It's too easy to get hung up about fuel tank capacity. The trick is to make the bike so fuel efficient that tank size becomes less important. My late, great F800S only had a 17 litre tank but I regularly rode well over 200 miles before filling up because the bike did 60mpg without even trying. One of the reasons for this is that BMW employ knock sensors in their engines that allow them to run very lean and therefore efficiently. Honda also use this technology on some bikes at least, so if the VFR1200 has a knock sensor it is either not working or it's set up for some purpose other than the enhancement of fuel efficiency. Either way, Honda should be ashamed that they cannot produce a bike with touring pretensions that does no more than 40mpg in mixed riding conditions.

kevash
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I think this is more a question of semantics, people do generally mean range when they're talking about tank capacity. I agree, the capacity itself doesn't matter at all, in fact if you've got a good range and a small tank capacity, obviously that's a good thing!

When we're talking specifically about this bike, whose fuel consumption we know and is given, then capacity does become important because it's that alone which affects range. But of course if Honda could magically improve mpg to 60 then that would do the trick too. They'd need to start again with the whole bike though...

Having said that, the 40mpg was recorded on one 90 mile leg only, so there's some room for error and the particular conditions to affect it, but it's certainly going to be in the right ball park and not change the substance of the argument. And no, it's not good enough. The reason BMW achieves such good figures on many of its bikes - I've had more than 70mpg out of an F800 riding pretty normally - is that they employ a whole battery of fuel saving strategies more commonly used on cars in the engine management. Knock sensors are one of them and there are some subtle but effective ones in the mapping too. You get a slightly less crisp response on BMWs generally (not the 1000 RR though) but that's a side effect of these mapping strategies, and considering the benefits I think is well worth it.

Honda knows these strategies too of course as it has its own car division, but for some reason chooses not to employ them in its bikes.

DFH
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Kevash another factor that you missed regarding fuel range is weight. In any riding conditions other than steady state cruising a heavier bike will always demand more fuel to cover the same ground at the same rate regardless how clever the engine management system is. In the case of the F800ST and the VRF1200 there is a 80kg weight penalty, equal to an adult male pillion, to the Honda.

I know there are arguments regarding the less than invigorating engine feel of the F800 (as a TRX850 owner I know how good a parallel twin can feel if you get the crank timing right) but I have yet to see complaints regarding the ergonomics for rider or pillion for the F800ST. So that begs the question. What practical advantage is there to be found in designing a sports-tourer to such an immense scale? By your account it seems less comfortable for the rider than the model it replaces, has diminished sporting appeal in the twisties and has less touring range. Sure it has increased straight line performance over the VFR800 but if the things that really matter are V4 engine, straight-line shove, shaft drive with "exclusive" style & price point then the new V-Max wins hands down.

granitehead
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Hmm...I wouldn't have described the F800 engine as "less than invigorating" but then I haven't ridden a TRX850 (much as I'd like to) so I can't compare them.
Anyway, I thought Honda introduced a policy a while back of quoting weights of bikes ready to ride with a full tank of fuel. Now apparently, their official kerb weight includes only 5 litres of fuel. Is this a sign that even Honda are slightly embarrassed by the porcine dimensions of their new world-beating product?

jdtwoplus
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I have just created a new topic for the NEC Bike Show on the forum under 'general', which I believe to be directly connected to the 'Honda getting it wrong' issue that we are all discussing here. I felt it was important enough to start a new topic, but notice that it doesn't show along the left hand side postings summary. If Honda had turned up at the show, maybe they would know what their customers think!

JD

kevash
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Yes, we're working on that, it's only the comments at the ends of tests and features which appear in the left-side recent postings box and not the forum comments. I'm thinking of simply having all comments in the forum, probably with a link at the end of each test and feature, as the way it's set up at the moment people are missing new comments, as they only see them if they look at the feature they're posted under.

By having everything in the forum then it's all in one place and you don't have to look around the site for new comments.

littlebigal
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What's the fixation with tank range, 150 miles is ample for a Sports Tourer. It seems to be detracting from the rest of the bike.
I ride a BMW K1200R which has a similar range to the VFR1200 and it's enough for me.
The Honda seems to be singled out; for example MCN has a test on both the Kawasaki GTR1400 and BMW K1200GT and they face no criticism of their 179 and 184 mile range. They are out and out Tourers!

kevash
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The 1300 GT (the 1200 GT was discontinued last year) has a range of just under 200 miles, and that's to the point where you need to fill up rather than running dry. The GTR's range is much less and for me that's enough reason to avoid it - I would have placed a much stronger emphasis on this than MCN. It depends on the kind of riding you do, and how often. For me and a lot of other riders a range of 130 miles to fill up urgency is simply inadequate, especially in more remote areas like southern Europe where fuel stations might be 60 or 70 miles apart, and often are closed for a couple of hours during the day to. My UK trips are often to places 80 or 90 miles away and filling up in both directions is a major chore. Remember that a range of 150 miles is to completely empty, not to the point where you're starting to look for a garage, and for the majority of sports tourer riders, that's inadequate.

Navy Boy
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The problem for Honda is simple. This bike has a VFR badge on it.

That immediately creates an impression/expectation in people's minds of touring ability as well as being sporty and agile to ride. Thereby meaning a touring tank range as well as being fairly easy to manhandle etc.

I am looking forward to seeing the VFR 1200 in the flesh as I think that, like the current Fireblade, it'll be a 'Grower'. Having said that I can't see myself ever buying one as there are too many little drawbacks for my liking.

blindboylank
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Kev
Great test report. I previously owned a Blackbird and loved it but it was a stretch for my ageing, podgy, vertically challenged body. Early this year she was swapped for a K1300GT. Like many out there in Hondaland I have waited with bated breath for the release of the new VFR 1200 thinking my dalliance with BM would be short lived. 10 months down the line I knew the VFR would have to be very special to tempt me back. I love all the gizmo's and techy stuff on the BM, it's comfort and great range, cracking riding position and superb luggage. The Honda appears to have none of these unique selling points!! I was gutted. Yes I will go and see it in the flesh, yes I will test ride it when available but, sadly, I can't see me returning to Honda with this bike. Maybe the rumoured Pan replacement - yawn - will tick the boxes.
Chris

avoman
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I am hoping this might the first of a wide range of bikes all based on this one shaft drive V4 engine, to replace VFR, Blackbird and Pan European ranges and with some street versions too. It seems a good base to build on. IMHO every bike manufacturer needs to rationalise their ranges. I would love to see some of the economies of scale that car manufacturers have supplied to their customers for years. If I am even part correct this is praiseworthy for Honda.

kevash
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The engine could be used in a Pan replacement, though it would need a capacity hike as touring riders would demand quite a lot more torque than it delivers. It lacks the power and is too heavy to replace the Blackbird, but again a capacity increase might sort that out, though I think Honda isn't looking at replacing the Blackbird directly anyway. There was some hope that the VFR would win over Blackbird owners, but after riding it I don't think it will, not many at least.

There's quite a lot of engine rationalisation from many manufacturers, Ducati for example has only two basic engines which it keeps evolving rather than replacing, Harley-Davidson uses three while BMW used only four basic engines until the S 1000 RR came along, and that motor will be appearing in more models. The Japanese do tend to produce new engines for new bikes more readily, although often these are existing ones disguised as new.

The difficulty for bike manufacturers is that engines are much more central to a bike's character than with cars, and often much more visible too, so the need to keep refreshing the motor is more compelling. It can also need so much work to turn a sports bike engine for example into a touring motor that you might as well design a new one - it's not just a case of changing cam profiles, compression ratio and fuelling but bore and stroke, conrod length, crank mass and so on, which is pretty much a new motor anyway.

It'll be interesting to see if Honda does do anything else with the V4 - while early VFR engines also appeared in cruisers the later ones were exclusive to the VFR, so it's not something they're in the habit of.

j_csquare
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Thanks for your excellent report. I also used to ride a Blackbird and Honda has always been my favourite brand. When the time came to replace my beloved Blackbird two years ago, I was tempted to get one of the last new-in-box Blackbirds offered at a heavily discounted price here in Oz. Instead, I opted for a ZX-14. While I love the power of the Kawasaki and also find it surprisingly comfortable, I still miss the Blackbird. It was smoother, more refined, more fuel efficient and I have yet to own a bike which has better build quality.

Like so many others, I was confident that the new VFR1200 would be the answer. After reading your report, I realise that it is not what I am looking for.

It seems that Honda has dropped the ball here. Their design objective should have been far simpler: an in-line 4 CBR1200RR with 10-15% more power and 10-15% less weight that a CBR1100RR, adjustable suspension with a remote preload adjuster, chain-driven and de-linked brakes with ABS as an option. Now that would have been PERFECT. I would perhaps also have been tempted by a sportier version of the VFR800: no Vtec, 1000 cc V4, modernised suspension, similar dimensions to the 800 and perhaps a few weight saving measures thrown in. Either of these is easily attainable, would have required less development and could thus be offered at a cheaper price, and would ultimately have sold in far greater numbers.

kevash
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I can see good Blackbirds really holding their prices now...

The main issues with the VFR come down to weight and fuel range, and the higher spec one we're getting next year will have a twin clutch auto box no one's that bothered about, which will make it heavier, and a variable cylinder management which switches off cylinders at low revs and throttle - this improves economy and therefore range by just 5.5 per cent.

rocca
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If it's true as per today's MCN that a VFR-T is on the cards, then maybe Honda are paying the price for their own timidity so far as concerns negative reaction to the VFR-F. The bike would have made more sense if launched simultaneously alongside a touring version with all the toys, bigger tank, etc. It would have been better differentiated as a sportier alternative, with clear trade-offs against the T version. Can't imagine that a V4 running on 3 cylinders would ever feel good, but I'll bet the twin clutch auto is a lot of fun if it delivers "perfect" paddle-change type shifts in addition to a full auto mode.

RedBikeFever
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As the owner of a '99 VFR800i, I have been waiting to see which direction Honda would take with the long awaited VFR. How disappointing then, to see this arrive. Modern chains certainly make the shaft not so needed, more weight is never welcome and a strange engine is typically Honda.
Since the '99 is paid for, and I love it, I will keep my imaginary dollars for the MTS 1200 when it arrives. I had and loved a MTS1000S and flt it was the best bike I had owned.

Great test, Kevin,.

kevash
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I've not seen MCN today - postie seems to be struggling because of the Christmas cards - but if Honda is coming up with a touring version of the VFR that would be a very last minute change as there's been no sign of it up to now. I wonder if the alarm bells were being rung by a few people late in the development stage. That would explain not bringing it out at the same time as the current one, which would make much more sense.

The paddle-change gear shifting does sound like it could be fun, but I've never found the argument for autos, semi autos or anything else as compelling with bikes as it is for cars, as existing bike gear changing is so easy and intuitous anyway. A lot of modern bikes will even downchange without the clutch without too much trouble, while they'll all upchange clutch-free, so all you have to do is wiggle your toes and use the clutch for pulling away, it's not much effort.

Ironically Ducati is already doing that with the Multistrada, offering the higher spec version in two forms, Sport or Touring.

I'd hang on to that '99 VFR too!

chipper
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I know you can`t believe everything you read in mcn and no disrespect to you Kevin as you write for them but I read this new v4 engine was to be used for a pan replacement , vfr 1200 and possibly an adventure bike or varadero replacement. I think the picture in mcn yesterday is one they printed months ago leading up to the press release of the vfr. I personally think the whole vfr 1200 thing has fallen flat on Hondas face as I don`t think they realise that the competition have upped their game and outdone Honda in areas where honda have no direct competition and taken the game to them. A few years ago Honda could do no wrong but Bmw seem to be more innovative and Ducati have realised the popularity of trailies and want to cash in. I am starting to like the look of the vfr it sort of grows on you but the riding position of that bike does not make an all round bike for me or the puny tank range a tourer either. Without being negative I can`t see the multistrada being a great tourer either, a fun bike yes and expensive at that but I don`t think I would have great confidence in an Italian touring motorcycle. A great bike for a sunday in Wales in my humble opinion. Chipper

kevash
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I'm curious, is it reliability worries that make you lack confidence in a Ducati for touring?

chipper
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Yes it would be reliability issues which would put me off buying the multistrada but issues concerning the bike when it is pushed a bit, long days in hot weather and general wear and tear from daily commuting and using a motorcycle as a means of transport. My experience with the Stelvio has dented my faith in Italian engineering and if Ducatis were the reliable workhorse ( adventure bike ) that they are pitching the bike at why is there not that many on the road of the the old multistrada. I think the bike looks beautiful but to me is a more upgraded benelli trek and will possibly perform the same. I would love it if I am proven wrong and only long term ownership will prove this but my gut instinct would put me off buying this bike. I hope you get one next year as a press bike so we can all keep tags. At the moment I am having difficulty getting a realistic price for my Stelvio as I have seen a great priced K1300 gt which if the deal can be done I will buy instead of the Gtr which Kawasaki have been slow to release the new price. Getting out of the Stelvio is not easy or cheap but hopefully Bmw can thrash a deal out with me if not plan b comes into play and if finances get worse plan c could be a Suzuki Gsf 1250 which would provide some no frills transport. I must say I am not speaking from ownership of Ducatis but from what I feel but if this produces discussion or even enlightenment so be it. Chipper

kevash
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I've run a few Ducatis in the past and mostly had no issues at all, aside from a Multistrada which had a few things go wrong. The finish has generally been excellent, better at withstanding winter than many Japanese bikes, and it's improved since then too. I still remember many years ago when I was running an ST2, someone at the Daily Telegraph borrowed it for two months in the middle of a vile winter to commute daily on. The bike was filthy and caked in salt by the end of February, but with one good wash it looked practically new again, we were hugely impressed. Servicing costs are reasonable now, that used to be a real sticking point. You don't see many Multistradas because they never sold many, just a handful in the UK mostly because people thought it was too ugly.

Ducati reliability these days is on a par with Suzuki's, according to warranty return figures, with just Yamaha, Honda and Kawasaki in front, while ironically seeing as you're looking at the GT, BMW's is well below average - I had some problems with mine, and I wasn't alone. BMW's durability and finish has been very poor in recent years too, though they're finally improving their corrosion resistance. BMW dealers are very good, although Ducati's aren't so bad now either.

I wouldn't buy a Benelli, they're far too unreliable and nowhere near as sophisticated as Ducatis.

I'm running a Bandit 1250 GT right now and it's a good workhorse, though the combination of fat luggage and highish motorway speeds has been dragging the fuel consumption down, which in turn means the range is suffering. I'll write about that on here in the next week or so, but it's a fine bike and great value.

It looks as if I'll be getting a Multistrada as a long term bike for 2010 although that's not confirmed yet... but I really hope so!

Captain Scarlet
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"...would you consider one of the tall-rounders as Captain Scarlet called them (I might have to borrow that, thanks!)"
... pre-release I used to refer to the R12GS as a pterodactyl on acid; since then I've seen that written more than once, so go for it! ;-D

p.s. I think the new VFR was really thunk up on a CATIA screen to actually satisfy an auto-tip Pan-Euro - as per its much rumoured next expected moto-sickle portal. In that suit of (more appropriatte?) clothes, assuming increased range (achieved by re-mapping, cam profiling and multi-cylinder switching / shut-down? Well it's more likely than a V5 variant innit?) and as Kev suggests (it needs) a slight capacity hike and decent re-tune for more torque (well it won't exactly be light will it?), then I think the hordes of Paramedics, RAC & Police men and gentle-ladies, who patrol our highways and byways, just might be clapping hands in a cyclic upwardly and outwardly motion - in some appreciation, of an attempt at least, of a genuinely 'fit-for-purpose' productisation.

If we're also now talking rationalisation of ranges, then maybe making the VFR1200 was a bad idea? A better one, might have been to make the new lump less powerful but much more torquey; then produced a much lighter and sportier / atheletic tall-rounder (the V4 Varadero in the wings, we keep hearing about?) to satisfy the moving trend towards this genre? I.e.replacing sports-tourers, as we'd currently define them.

And then also punt out the Pan, using the same mill, to obvious Lexus style reliability plaudits; especially if they could get it much nearer to the light-weight, by direct comparison, Beemer R1200RT SE (ESA, ABS, TCS, BBC, TMJ, RDC, UPS, ABC, yadder).

BTW: postings above are tops - keep it up chaps!

chipper
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Kevin I am see sawing between the K13 gt and the Gtr, both have good points and bad but the crux of the deal is finance. I know Kawasakis reliability is good from owning newer models without problems and had two minor faults on Bmws which could have been dangerous but thankfully were`nt.
Would the build quality of the ST2 have been better when Ducatis were building less as Bmw build quality was supposedly better before they got so popular and is Ducati build quality of old comparable to today.Apart from the monster are any of their models used day in and day out for a multitude of different trips as I would think the typical sports rider would possibly not ride as much as your average adventure rider or tourer and could the build quality of a lightly used sportsbike be comparable to a Gs or even a Cbf 1000 which has constant
use.
I ask these questions out of curiosity as I am keen to see how Ducati fare in a positve way as Ducati have rightly done their research and looked at a hole in their market.Chipper

playlord
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The more I look at the Multistrada, the more I like it. Kevin, I hope you get one on long term test so we can follow progress here.

shuggiemac
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Hi Chipper. Sorry i have not answered sooner but i am in hospital with pneumonia and access is not easy.

I can comment on the Ducati, especially the ST2 with some authority. I would actually challenge your statement of its build quality. I bought mine new in 1997 and still have it. It gets used all year round and has never let me down. It has taken all that Scottish and for the past seven years, Czech winters can throw at it and is looking in pretty good shape with all but zero corrosion. It has been all over Europe, some times just with me and at times with the missus too. I have replaced the usual consumables of course and the clutch slave piston wore out. I still use it regularly and do not think twice about doing so. I also bought a new 999 three years ago and admittedly it does not see as extreme use but it has twenty k kilometres on it and also has never missed a beat.
My next bike shall be a Ducati not through blind brand loyalty but beacuse they have never failed me in the past - having had three in total and because the Multistrada just ticks all the boxes.

chipper
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Hi Shuggiemac,
Sorry to hear of your illness and I hope you recover soon. It is with interest I read your reply and I knew a Ducati owner would correct me. Yes the multistrada is a lovely looking bike and I can see why you would go for it but personaly I am fed up with trailies/ tall rounders and I am going to make a tourer fit my needs/ usage for a motorcycle. I think it will take sales off the Gs for kudos values but will it prove itself I don`t know but it will be more than interesting to find out. By the way the see saw has dipped towards the Gtr today and it will be at least february before I change bikes. I am off work myself with a neck problem so one of the reasons for the comfort and refinement of a tourer is this. With snow on the ground and ice underneath there won`t be much riding.

Hope you get well soon
Chipper

Captain Scarlet
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"The more I look at the Multistrada, the more I like it. Kevin, I hope you get one on long term test so we can follow progress here"
... ditto :-D

roundincircles
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I agree that a tank range of less than 180 to dry is impractical but the VFR is a global product so Honda must be targeting city and urban riders ! I do not know how close petrol stations are in Japan but they are not many in Morroco, France on Sundays, and the Mountains in Europe etc. Honda have made a mistake so the test for them is do they make a change.Anyway I will not purchase a VFR because my interest is in lighter bikes.

I have an order placed with Ducati for the MTS12 BUT wonder why we all presume it will be OK. WILL the big twin be smooth and docile at slow speed, say in traffic, or my wife will be on my case as a pillion rider? Will the 11 degree valve overlap do the trick on smoothness at low revs?

After 6 years on Mk1 and 2 1200 GS'S I have had good fun, depite countless recalls, but now want something different. What the GS has taught me is less weight ( versus a traditional tourer ) plus low rev torque combined with sit up comfort equals good fun for distance and in the twisties. I have been also corrupted on low weight by my 08 Blade.

The Duke on paper fits the Bill. They talk a story that meets todays customer needs

Well Mr Ash the challenge for you is an objective test report ASAP on the Duke. We will be relying on you!

Keep the good work up thru Feb, I'm shure Ducati will be inviting you to warmer territory for the 'chore' of riding the MTS12

Navy Boy
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After owning my 2004-model 12GS I too feel that excessive weight is a big no-no.

I've found that my 1200RT gives me the touring capability without being excessively heavy. However it's a fine balance, between being substantial enough to make touring bearable and yet sufficiently lightweight to be fun in the twisties.

My other favourite for this is the current Triumph Sprint ST. If I didn't have the RT I'd seriously consider one of these as, for me at least, it gets this balance just about spot-on.

I guess that the MTS will take this balance to the next level. I'm looking forward to seeing Kev's report in due course.

For me this is the new VFR's most significant failing. that is it's just too compromised (Read Hefty) to live up to the Blackbird and VFR 800 models' capabilities.

Paulvt1
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i have very fond memories of my old R12RT. So capable at most things. Looking forward to seeing the new bike in the metal.

kevash
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Tests of the GS and RT coming in the last week in January - I'll post the dates in the Coming Soon box shortly (then I'll try to stick to them...).

Paulvt1
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Cheers Kev. Hope BM have found somewhere warm for the test! I notice the basic (ABS) shod RT is £11775. The most impressive stat though is that ready to ride weight is quoted at 259kg - and that's with 27lts of fuel!!
One thing that really impressed when i had one was the fun you could have in the twisties.
I hope this new motor adds to the dynamic experience.
It would be a toss up for me between the RT and the MTS12...

Captain Scarlet
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"I agree that a tank range of less than 180 to dry is impractical"
... RIDE claim their bike ran dry at 143 miles, which means most will re-fuel at 120 miles - more Streetfighter or large Motard territory than Sports-Tourer.

"I do not know how close petrol stations are in Japan but they are not many in Morroco, France on Sundays, and the Mountains in Europe etc"
... I nearly ran out in Wales in September on my K1300S and the reserve on that doesn't illuminate the dash until after the point you'd be physically pushing the Viffer.

"Honda have made a mistake so the test for them is do they make a change"
... they've made a well constructed, smooth, torquey, technically and aethetically intersting machine; however when challenged in the press on aspects like: range (18.5 litres and not overly frugal), weight (267kg wet - 38kg more than a GS!), lack of traction-control (a crude 'on-off' Beemer ASC style ignition cut clearly too much to ask, never mind Ducati's linear control), old non-FireBlade generation low-tech ABS (more unsprung weight - flagship model?), small panniers (35 litres) and high price (no std tip-auto box saucy rrp) and so forth, the project personnel adopt the age old arrogance of 'we think it's just about the right balance'. Well if you're listening Mista H, the old British bike industry made those blinkered type mistakes and face-planted as a direct result (3-day week at Swindon Honda car plant should have been a generic wake-up call). As paying customers (and personally an owner of many previous Honda's inc VFR/CBR's) I think that we'll be the judge of whether you've knocked our socks off (or not!) thank you ;-D

"I have an order placed with Ducati for the MTS12 BUT wonder why we all presume it will be OK. WILL the big twin be smooth and docile at slow speed, say in traffic, or my wife will be on my case as a pillion rider? Will the 11 degree valve overlap do the trick on smoothness at low revs? - The Duke on paper fits the Bill. They talk a story that meets todays customer needs"
... in theory absolutely and you are a lucky boy, don't cancel that order! We'll let the oracle Kev be our initial judge pre-demo natch; but I'd say go for it. IMPO it could well be international bike of the year in 2010.

"I'm shure Ducati will be inviting you to warmer territory for the 'chore' of riding the MTS12"
... yes, just when 'is' the launch Kev? And could I be classed as hand luggage? :-D

"It would be a toss up for me between the RT and the MTS12"
... I've owned many boxers (S, GS's etc) and love them. But I think that the new MS12 is something genuinely special: 150 bhp / 191 kilo. Carbon snout, cam cover and hugger (Sport) or heated grips, tyre-pressure monitors, centre-stand and panniers (Tour), with Ohlins electronic suspension (S model: 48mm 3-way adjust), 4-mode mapping, incremented traction control, ABS, keyless ignition & steering lock (petrol lock option too), handguards, computer, adjustable touring screen (std), even an ST1100 style lift bar for easing onto the centre stand (apparently) and high economy/frugal claims too, so expect a useable 200 mile range. I think MCN claimed last week, that from a 12,000 user survey the new generation Ducati 1098 was the highest rated used bike, scoring maximum marks for build and reliability, which should bode well for the longevity of the new MS. Okay the MS12 isn't cheap; but heck, no half decent bike seems to be nowadays. And the MS appears to be so much more than merely half-decent; this tall-rounder threatens to be the new black. Erm, just in Bologna red, natch :-D

kevash
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...if Honda doesn't get the message after this lot, it deserves to go the way of BSA.

It doesn't seem to matter which angle people are coming from, the VFR is failing to fit.
I have some small reservations about the two bikes on the press launch that ran dry in less than 150 miles as only one was checked from the outset to have a brim-full tank, and mine in the same gentle riding conditions (it was wet and very slippery initially) looked like covering a fair few more miles, but even so, it does look like 160 miles to dry is a realistic expectation, and that's hardly acceptable for a bike like this.

To answer your direct question, I'm riding the Multi at the end of February, no exact date yet but the test should be on here by the end of Feb or very early March. No confirmation yet of getting one as a long term test bike for 2010, so I'm digging out the compromising photos, sending off the plain brown envelopes etc and keeping my fingers crossed. The bikes will become available in early March, prices are £10,995 for the base model, add £900 for ABS, while the Multistrada S (with all the buttons) will be £14,295 - that comes in Sport or Touring versions. And don't expect much discount, dealers are very busy taking orders already.

I mentioned in another thread I'll be posting the GS and RT reports in the last week in Jan, and very soon after, the revised Kawasaki Versys too, a sometimes overlooked tall-rounder.

granitehead
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Why is the Kawasaki Versys such an overlooked bike? Is it because it's 'only' a 650? In the old days a 650 was a proper man's bike but now most seasoned bikers seem to look down on them.

I test rode a Versys a few weeks ago and liked it so much I put a deposit on a 2010 model (which should be even better). On normal roads the Versys isn't particularly outgunned by a R1200GS, feels much lighter and more manageable in comparison and, of course, costs only about half as much. The idea of saving around £6000 and still getting a bike that does most things well (and with a tank range exceeding 200 miles!) has a certain attraction.

kevash
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I thought it was one of the best bikes of 2007, when it came out, and still really rate the Versys (aside from the silly name...). Like you say, in most circumstances, most of the time, it's just as good as a GS, at times it's better and it's a heck of a lot cheaper. It's more reliable too. I've asked Kawasaki for a long termer this year in case the Multi doesn't happen and I'd be very happy with the Versys instead, it does most things I want from a bike.
I did find the front brake of the non-ABS version was weak, I'm not sure if that's been corrected in the new model, but personally I'd go for the ABS option anyway which has sharper brakes in everyday use as well as the anti-lock.

The V-Strom 650 was the same though, an outstanding bike that never got much attention - it's easy to blame the press for being seduced by more powerful and sexier bikes, but Suzuki never really pushed it either. I was the only UK journalist on the press launch when it first came out, which is hardly a vote of confidence in a new machine - usually there'd be half a dozen or so. I had one of those for a year and loved it, and preferred it to the V-Strom 1000.

roundincircles
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Mr KA

Recently there has been a lot of press about the latest traction control systems as on the BMW S 1000 RR etc. Additionaly I read how Honda have poached two Italian digital tech heads from Yamaha or was it Ducati?

Their expertise is using two gyro's front and back to feed pitch,lean or attitude angles so the ECU can predict tyre patch size and then inter react with and set the digital throttle opening.

Thus power output and drive are capped BUT maximised. Brilliant at going as fast as possible without braking traction between tyre and road.

So it is not traction control, in the old way, but max performance traction control. I look forward to experiancing it in action on the MTS12.

One question. How does it feel, can you sense your throttle hand twisting more than the output - I guess that' a lag ? On my 1200 GS the power just dies when the traction control kicks in - some times leaving you in no mans land when overtaking. It's very severe.

PS I posted a topic on running in on the Forum. If you have the time I would be interested in your view. Thanks roundincircles

kevash
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The tech guys have come from Yamaha, Honda's sort of poached Livio Suppo from Ducati, except he'd already lost his job as team manager there.

The gyro in the S1000RR traction control system is only used to prevent power application beyond preset lean angles, eg more than 52 degrees in Slick mode, more than 45 degrees in Track mode etc. If the bike exceeds these angles then the system won't let you apply power as BMW reckons the tyre will slide pretty much regardless of grip levels. You can feel it in Rain mode as it works at about 30 degrees - switch to rain mode in the dry, lean the bike hard, open the throttle then pull the bike upright, and as it passes 30 degrees the power comes back in.

There's only one gyro in the Ducati system too (solid state gyros are used in the BMW and Ducati versions). This measures lean angle and the ECU uses the information to decide not on contact patch area but rolling diameter. The effective diameter of a bike wheel reduces as you lean over and the Ducati system factors this in when comparing front and rear wheel speeds and looking for wheel acceleration spikes.

The S1000RR system does also look at pitch, which is how it controls wheelies and stoppies. Ducati could do this but decided against it as they claim it interferes with track behaviour too much. In fact the system knows when the bike is wheelying and actually prevents the traction control from interfering when it sees the rear wheel speed increasing compared with the front.

Both systems are about maximising traction rather than merely preventing wheel spin: on each you open the throttle wide (once you can get your head round doing that...), then the traction control holds the tyre at the very edge of grip while applying as much power as possible. And on each system you can dial in the amount of tyre slip you want, although the Ducati's is more sophisticated in this respect.

There's no lag and yes, you do know your throttle hand is turning further than the output because you can wind it fully open against the stop! The BMW system is smoother but the Ducati's appears to be able to hold the tyre closer to the limit, although this would be difficult to measure.

Sometimes the only way you know anything is happening is when a light is flashing in the dash, but to be honest when you're firing one of these bikes out of a corner as fast as possible, the last thing you want to look at is the dashboard!

Your GS (and my last year's 1300GT) traction control systems, as you point out, are very different. They switch off the power dramatically and lurch, and generally feel crude. These are just safety nets to prevent excessive spin, not true traction control systems. Honda introduced this first in fact, on the Pan European ST1100 TCS, I think in 1992.

roundincircles
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Mr KA

Do you test ride with a pillion and full luggage when reviewing a bike? The reason I ask is that I have a Duke MTS12 on order subject to test ride. I will test the VFR.

On my GS1200 Mk2, without catalyst, I get close to tank slappers when riden enthusastically with my wife as piilion and 36 pairs of shoes in the top box - in other words we are probably overloaded like all long distance touring couples. The front goes very light and the bars waggle. I have ASA but all the BMW's I have owned have had soft rear shocks. The GS is a great handling bike and thus can encourage an enthusiastic attack.

Now, when I sat on the Duke MTS12 I was instantly comfortable with the bar, seat and peg relationship - a good start for a 6 foot 2 inch rider. But the pillion is positioned higher and close to the rear wheel and the top box will be cantelevered way out back sans 36 pairs of shoes.

Now add 150 bhp - how will it handle?

I know Ducati have lengthened the swing arm and have a map and suspension setting but..............there was no steering damper visable.

The bike was pre- production but many details were fully tooled and high spec.

One item stood out as typical of todays bikes. The front mud guard stopped at the forks so the front cylinder, spark plug and it's electrics are exposed to the crud from the wheel.

It would be fun to tease the proud Ducati team how they rationalise such design detail - their gross margins at 38%ish and net margins at 16%ish (remember after they apportion 10% of turnover to race activity) are probably the highest in the industry so it can't be a cost issue as their premium pricing drives margin not cost.

Given this is four bikes in one it would be reasonable to test it with full luggage and pillion but I bet Ducati will request/insist otherwise?

kevash
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On bikes where it's appropriate I'll test with a passenger - there's even a pic of me doing that in the VFR1200F test above - though it's not usually practical to load up the luggage as well, not on the first press test anyway where we only get a day's riding and have to spend a lot of that getting the pictures.

But Ducati certainly wouldn't try to stop me or persuade me not to, they're always very accommodating and do have a lot of confidence in their bikes too, and I know if I asked they'd go out of their way to help. I don't know the format of the MTS press launch yet but it's a good and valid aspect to test, riding it fully loaded with a passenger, so I'll certainly have a go at trying that out.

Obviously I'll be doing all that kind of thing when I get to ride one in the UK (hopefully my long term test bike!).

I've no doubt the front will go light under acceleration when fully loaded, as it would on just about any bike, and wheelying won't be too difficult like that, what matters really will be how controllable and predictable it is.

That short front mudguard will I'm sure be a trade-off between looks and practicality but I'll ask them about it. Maybe they'll consider an extension as an accessory. There aren't an particular issues with the spark plug or other electrics on existing Ducatis though because of this.

The MTS is allegedly the first modern Ducati to position the passenger in front of the rear wheel spindle, which should aid stability, but the proof will be in the riding.

kevash
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Would you mind re-posting this, or a shorter version, asking me to test with passenger and full luggage, and ask about the short front mudguard, in the new New Bike Questions section in the Forum? It'll help me to remember all the questions if they're together in the one place!
Thanks...

Captain Scarlet
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"would you consider one of the tall-rounders as Captain Scarlet called them (I might have to borrow that, thanks!)"
... nice to see it used in your MCN column this week - fame at last! ;-D

I totally agree with the whole of that paragraph, effectively saying the new sports-tourer is actually a tall-round-er.

The bikes, that you mention (V-Strom, Versys, R12GS, SM-T, Tiger..) especially the 'enormously anticipated Multistrada 1200' are the new do-it-all bikes, for sure.

I'v really enjoyed reading your web site viewers comments and in particular this thread. It's made me look at bikes that I wouldn't normally give a second glance to (and still probably wouldn't buy for my personal needs) such as the Versys in a lot more detail (YouTube, Online Reviews) and it's great to know that some bikes like this, that generally slip under most people's radar, are absolutely loved with a real genuine passionby their owners. That, in itself, must say something in terms of how 'much' fun/pleasure (call it what you will) people are 'actually' getting from their machines, rather than marketing images

Anyway cheers one and all, and keep the momentum of the phrase 'tall-rounder'; that descriptor, like the bikes themselves, seems to do exactly what it says on the tin!

kevash
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Yup, thanks for that, loved the term... well I did sort of ask first! I'll use it some more and see if it'll catch on. The rest of the column has proved a bit controversial though, haha... Everything from brilliant to idiotic and dangerous, according to the e-mails so far.

I tell you what, the comments on this website are really making me think more too, I now have some extra things I want to check out on the Multistrada test and generally it's proving a great way of keeping in touch with what people in the 'real' world are thinking about bikes. The bike journalist world after all is not exactly representative so you always have to make an effort to keep in touch with what's important to people who don't get free bikes and gear and all the rest.

There's a bottom line behind what you're saying about different bikes: people still buy with their hearts and not their heads, which sound silly but it's not, it's the best way as you get far more satisfaction that way.

Captain Scarlet
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Thanks for that.

"I now have some extra things I want to check out on the Multistrada test"
... I've added a few more, relating to toggling of riding modes, to the 'New Bike Questions section in the Forum' for you.

I'm so jealous of you going to the MS launch - even more so getting an MS long-termer! Just think how comprehensive the review would be, if you were to sneak me and roundincircles along for the launch - get Potter to pay! ;-D

Paulvt1
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There's one thing for sure - no bike this year will get as much attention as the VFR. Sadly most of it has been negative. I for one will be having a go on one next month. I still love that V4 sound.

Paulvt1
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Looks like Honda UK has spat the dummy with MCN. They have taken back the bike they were going to use this week on a comparison shoot out siting that MCN were inviting current VFR owners, and their opinions could "spoil" the launch weekend.
Looks like Honda UK were afraid that real world riders would concur with the test reports...

kevash
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It's a bit tense between MCN and Honda at the mo apparently, in fact MCN asked Honda to take the bike back because Honda said no to readers riding it and the story being published before the official dealer launch and the public test rides. MCN won't be dictated to on when stories are published so they said okay, the bike's no use to us then, you can take it away... Honda won't be dictated to about their marketing, so that was that.

I suspect though that on a shortish test ride the bike will come out better than in longer tests, as feels very sophisticated, comfortable at first and has a lot of presence, and of course that fuel range problem won't be an issue.

playlord
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Any data on the importance of bike reviews to sales?

Obviously good reviews must tempt people to take test rides but I'm often struck by the number of different bikes I see around (not literally, thankfully!) - they cannot all have had good reviews and many people must simply ignore these reviews and buy on brand loyalty or some other premise.

kevash
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Yes, when I was at MCN in the 90s one of the main bike importers told me that 65 per cent of new bike buyers make their decisions based entirely on bike press reports - no test rides, dealer loyalty or anything else. The most influential by quite a margin was Motor Cycle News, and the first test report in MCN would determine the entire sales life of a motorcycle. I don't imagine that's very different now, so the VFR is headed for a poor sales life, no question.

Not everyone into bikes reads the bike press, although a higher proportion of new bike buyers do than bike riders generally.

If a bike gets bad reviews you find that it starts to be discounted a lot with various other incentives like finance deals, free accessories and so on, which make it more attractive.

And lots of people simply don't believe the press, they reckon all we're interested in is high performance, think all new bikes are great and old ones are rubbish, aren't real world because we don't pay for them and so on. Other people simply decide they like a new bike and often subconsciously will focus on the good points in a bad review and either ignore the bad ones or decide they can live with those or they don't matter.

And yup, brand loyalty matters, and another important one is dealer loyalty - there'll be some people who have a really good relationship with their Honda dealer for example, and if they're in the market for a sports tourer will get the VFR because of that.

Bikes very often are emotional rather than rational purchases, so that's why you see so many different ones about. Even so, the influence of the press is very strong.