One for the open road

From the moment I woke up, I knew the day ahead was going to be fantastic, because I was to ride Honda’s cutting-edge sports tourer, the VFR1200F, at the Irungattukottai race track in Chennai.

autos Updated: Sep 22, 2010 13:13 IST

From the moment I woke up, I knew the day ahead was going to be fantastic, because I was to ride Honda’s cutting-edge sports tourer, the VFR1200F, at the Irungattukottai race track in Chennai.

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 foot-operated gear lever either.

Changing character
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 80 kph. 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 60 kph in top gear. One more lap in D, albeit faster than before, and I understand this is one smart system. The gearbox adapts to the rider’s inputs and will hold 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.

Comfortable with the gearbox and now more familiar on the circuit, I zero in on my favourite corners. I immediately find I can focus so much better on throttle and brake modulation, with DCT allowing me to leave gear changing and clutching chores to the VFR. I concentrated on braking hard into, then blasting out of corners, without having to think about sticking the bike in the right gear.

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 172 bhp on tap at 10000 rpm from the compact 1237 cc V4, the VFR maybe a sports tourer, but it’s quick enough to blow the fastest supercars into the weeds.

Great for touring
Mustering some spirit, I now tuck behind the large windscreen and accelerate hard on to the short main straight. The big V’s lazy drawl reverberates off the pit wall in an angry, bellowing shriek, with the speedo nudging 165 kph just before I clamp on the brakes.

Braking is taken care off by an ABS-enabled, Combined Braking System. As expected, stopping is confident, this 267 kg beast shedding speed without any drama.

Handling is really impressive for this heavy a motorcycle. 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 requires you to only lean mildly to the handlebars and is certain to stay comfortable over long rides.

While the unique design draws mixed responses, it’s clearly a modern motorcycle, which the eyes might take time getting 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 make the VFR stand out. The instruments include an analogue tacho, flanked on either side by wing-like digital screens relaying all the information required when touring. The VFR’s meaty 18.5-litre tank seamlessly blends into its fairing, and supremely comfortable riding saddle.

Price: Rs 17.5 lakh
(ex-showroom, Delhi)
On sale: Now
L/W/H: 2250/755/1220mm
Wheelbase: 1545mm
Ground clearance: 125mm
Fuel tank capacity:
18.5 litres
Kerb weight: 267 kg
Engine layout: Unicam, V-4, liquid-cooled, four-stroke
Displacement: 1237 cc
Power: 172 bhp @
10000 rpm
Torque: 13.1 kgm @
8750 rpm
Specific output: 139 bhp per litre
Gearbox: 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)
Wheels (f-r): 5-spoke alloy/
7-spoke alloy
Rim size (f-r): 17 inches
Tyre size (f-r): 120/70 x 17- 190/55 x 17 inches

First Published: Sep 22, 2010 13:11 IST