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Old 31st July 2016, 05:33   #1
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Default My '99 Honda VFR800 - Ownership experience

Learning to ride:

1990s, somewhere in a wood with my friends aged about 15. I know nothing about motorbikes. I know my Dad had them in the 1960s and my parents hate the idea of me having one. I am presented with a battered "chicken chaser", which is what we Brits call a step-through framed motorbike such as the Honda C90, and off I go. My first motorbike ride. A few rides on other bikes follow in fields and down farm tracks as many teenage boys do.

2008, on the Greek island of Crete with my fiance Faye. I'm sure you can ride a quad bike with a UK driving license and I'm determined to try. I notice the various 50-250cc Chinese made "sports quads" with their flashy chrome wheels. Not what I'm looking for. We go for a walk and I find a place with a proper quad - Japanese made, selectable hi/lo gears & 4wd, 380cc, knobbly tyres, luggage racks both ends. Perfect. We explore the local mountains and coast for the next couple of days before replacing the quad with a Suzuki Vitara for venturing further afield , but a fire has been lit in my mind.

June 2013, Ko Phagnan island, Thailand, with friends. "Let's get some peds guys!" I haven't ridden a motorcycle for at least 15 years. "OK let's do it!". Half an hour later we have 5 Honda Click 125i scooters lined up. This will be fine - I used to do a lot of mountain biking, the brakes are the same and there aren't any gears. It's an amazing feeling flying down the coast road at sunset with your friends and we are all laughing and smiling. Fuel has been added to the fire.

September 2013, work, England. "I'm selling 4 bikes if you're still looking for something Rob". I look through the pictures. A Kawasaki sports tourer- ugly. A big 660cc single cylinder enduro bike - not my thing. A Ducati 900ss - beautiful but fragile. Then I see the XBR500, a 1989 single cylinder 500 in excellent order. "That's kind of cool, how much?"... "make me an offer"... I do a bit of research, I go to view, 1.5 lac changes hands and it's mine - the only issue is, no license! So in the garage it goes.

October 2013, England, sat on a Kawasaki 125cc trail bike in the rain. What am I doing here man? It's cold and water is running down my collar and into a gap between my legs. Oh well, my compulsory basic training is passed. Now I can ride a 125cc with L plates. Lucky me. I return the following week for my big bike acclimatisation - a day riding a big bike on the road & the first step in learning to ride something powerful. The bike is a Ducati Monster 696. I love it.

November 2013, Marrakesh, Morocco, alone. I'm on a quad again, on top of a hill in the foothills of the Atlas mountains in the sunshine. Maybe I'm having an early midlife crisis, but I must finish the license.

December 2013, England - motorcycle theory test passed, but the weather is awful, it's no time to be attempting the practical tests. Work is not much fun. I've been there 9 years and it's time for a change. I resign 3 months later, register my own company, and land a contract in London.

October 2014. England - big bike training and tests. The bike is a Yamaha XJ6, a 600cc 4 cylinder naked. It lacks the character of the Ducati, but the engine is more tractable at low rpm and the steering lock is better. First test - this is the difficult one, low speed handling moves followed by a higher speed swerve and emergency stop. Put a foot down, you fail. Lock a brake, you fail. Don't achieve at least 50kph through the speed trap for the higher speed tests, you fail. I pass, no exception points. The next test the following week is a road ride. I pass, no exception points. Finally, I'm a biker.

Choosing & buying:

October 2014: I realise straight away that the XBR has its limitations as a practical bike on UK roads, and I decide to get something else to complement it, nothing expensive I will worry about breaking. Something comfortable with a bit of weather protection. In general, when somebody over 25 comes straight into bikes at the top of the license chain, they buy a 600cc naked bike with about 60-70bhp. Bikes like the smaller Monsters, Bandit 600, Hornet 600 etc... This is the advice from all the magazines. An experienced rider I know said to me "those bikes are what everybody is told to buy, so they are expensive for what you get, and they were built to a price too. A bike only goes as fast as you twist your right hand, you're a big strong guy and sensible - you'd be fine with a larger bike and you'd get more for your money". He convinced me quite easily...

The options in the UK market in the Ŗ2500 (2.5 lac) budget are endless. I consider a big upright bike first.
I look at a Triumph Tiger 955i but decide it is simply too large.
I look at the Honda Transalp but decide it is too slow
I consider a sportbike such as the CBR919rr, but decide I want more comfort and less crazy power.
I spot a VFR for sale locally and go to view. It seems perfect, I immediately gel with the bike, but this one is too expensive.

A week later I'm at a house 50 miles away with 2 lacs in my pocket. The seller bought the bike to ride with his sons. Now he's 65 he doesn't want to ride any more. The bike hasn't been used for a few years and has only done 19,000 miles (about 30,000km) but has been run regularly. Once he decided to sell it, he had it serviced and tested, and rode it a little for old times sake. Money changes hands, a quick call to the insurance company, and I'm off.

The 1998-2002 VFR800 is seen by many as the definitive sports tourer. Honda still sell VFR800s today for around 10 lacs. They look almost the same as the 98-02 model, and have almost identical weight and power, people still buy them, and journalists still praise them.

The 98-02 engine is based on the all conquering RC45 superbike racer - a 782cc V4 with gear driven cams and injection. After this model, the engines adopted Vtec instead of the geared cams, and lost a certain something - a bit like the Bullet going to UCE but without any of the benefits! In the 98-99 VFR, before cat pipes, the engine makes 108bhp at 10,800rpm. Everything on this bike is high spec and well made. The brakes are linked, the forks are fully adjustable, and it has a digital dash and an alloy single sided swingarm.

First ride:

After the XJ6 it feels big and solid. I ride home carefully. The hydraulic clutch is light and the gear shifts are precise. The engine throbs away - it pulls cleanly from about 2500rpm with the V4 rumbling away as only V engines can. At 4500rpm it wakes up and starts to snarl. I stop at 6000rpm for the first couple of hours. Eventually on a quiet road I decide it's time to see what it will do. I drop it into 2nd and open the throttle. 6000rpm arrives quickly and the acceleration gets urgent. At 7000rpm the engine note changes. A V4 has very good primary and secondary balance, and when it hits it's stride, it starts to sing like a straight 6. By 8500rpm the singing has become a soulful wail and the acceleration is vicious, the front wheel goes light and lifts a fraction. I am hanging on for dear life and my heart is racing, the 11,000rpm redline arrives and I hit 3rd. The rev drop is straight onto the peak of the torque curve and the wall of acceleration continues, I hit 4th and shut off. It's all over in a couple of seconds but I'm doing 175kph

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Impressions after nearly 2 years riding:

I've ridden faster bikes since, but the VFR is a fabulous and fast road bike - it has a flat torque curve and the gearing is perfect. On the road, quick riding mainly happens between 2nd and 4th. Outright sports bikes are much taller geared, and their engines often do everything at the top end. A guy posted a video on the Honda Owners forum showing how a VFR will out-accelerate a Fireblade in throttle-roll tests, and thats its strength, power is there everywhere above 4000rpm, no flat spots or bogging down. In the corners it is sure-footed but you can feel the weight. Ride an outright sports bike flat out and it is faster, but the VFR is flexible and composed ridden quickly. The real ace in the hole is the riding position. The seat is comfortable and can also take a passenger in comfort. The clip-on bars are high enough that you don't end up with sore wrists - this neutral riding position also makes it much easier to ride in heavy traffic, but you can get your toes on the pegs and your knee down on the fast roads too. I don't wear sliders so my knee stays off the floor, but I've had the peg feeler and my toe sliders down, so I know if I stuck my knee out I'd be dragging it! Mine has a touring screen fitted and is a relaxed high speed cruiser. I've covered 1600km in a weekend on it without any aches or pains. I don't think it would be a great bike on Indian roads as the engine and side pod radiators give off plenty of heat, and even with the fan running it can get a little warm.

Fuel:

The tank range is OK but not superb. I typically achieve around 250-300km between filling, this can fall to 180km in exceptional circumstances of hard use. The km/l is around 15 in general use. When riding at only max 100kph with my fiance on her 125cc with no hard acceleration it can rise to 20

My '99 Honda VFR800 - Ownership experience-fb_img_1469964552656.jpg

Lurking on the driveway waiting for a ride

My '99 Honda VFR800 - Ownership experience-fb_img_1469964515884.jpg

The XBR is cosseted. It only comes out in the sunshine. The VFR is used and abused. This picture was taken after a full day of polishing both bikes. I machine polished the wheels on the VFR which took ages.

My '99 Honda VFR800 - Ownership experience-fb_img_1469964488458.jpg

At the top of Kirkstone Pass in the English Lake District - clouds and rain did not dull the day. The VFR is heavily loaded with a weeks worth of clothing and a spare jacket. I use a large sports bag with the clothes inside a plastic sack for waterproofing, held to the bike with bungees and a luggage net. I'd like some colour coded Honda panniers but I haven't found any for sale yet.

I have put about 11,000km on the bike since buying it. I've used it for getting to work, touring, sports bike ride outs, and days out with Faye on the back - the VFR can do it all.

Maintenance & repairs:

From a maintenance perspective it has required brake pads, fork seals, and a clutch kit on top of the usual service. I have also replaced the chain & sprockets and fitted a set of Michelin Pilot Road 4 tyres, which are excellent. This one's a keeper for the time being and I don't mind spending a bit on her. The exhaust broke early in my ownership so I welded it up. This winter I hope to get the wheels powder coated, overhaul the suspension and change the exhaust system.

Thoughts on the bike in summary...

Good:
Build quality is second to none
Centre stand is a very good thing to have in practical terms, you are not afraid to park the bike in public bays as it would be very hard to knock over
The gearbox is fantastic - no false neutrals, perfect ratios and a slick shift. I can up shift without the clutch at the redline with only a tiny lift of the throttle
The engine sounds amazing and has a very usable power band
The ergonomics are perfect for me, I can ride all day
It can play sports bike, tourer, or commuter with aplomb
It is a proper 2 seat bike with comfort for the passenger
The mirrors are excellent & so is the headlight - small bonuses that make a big difference to a bike that gets used in heavy traffic and at night.

Bad:
The rear shock is the bit Honda scrimped on - it is only adjustable for pre-load, and this must be done with a C-spanner which is awkward
I cannot find any colour matched luggage
I would be even happier if the engine just had a little bit more go at the top end now... There is no 'redline rush' like a 750 sport bike. You can rebuild these engines to about 830cc with 130bhp but that is an expensive exercise and defeats the object of a cheap bike.
There is no gear indicator - this would be useful in heavy traffic

Last edited by Rob UK : 31st July 2016 at 17:26. Reason: Mod request
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Old 1st August 2016, 10:03   #2
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Default Re: My '99 Honda VFR800 - Ownership experience

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Superbikes Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 1st August 2016, 10:45   #3
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Default Re: My '99 Honda VFR800 - Ownership experience

Ah a thread on a viffer- Well written.

The VFR is an amazing bike that can be ridden through the day without much fatigue. Like you, I wished it had more power for that fast highway run. These motors along with the 90's fireblades are literally bullet proof.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob UK View Post
I consider a sportbike such as the CBR919rr, but decide I want more comfort and less crazy power.
If you are in the market for another bike in the near future, I would suggest giving a 900/919 a chance. Its an amazing bike that is full of character. I have one that I tour on in india(both on good as well as bad road) and its extremely comfortable. Just swap the front 16" wheel for a 17" one and you are set! Its a bike you can commute, tour and track on comfortably! Great project bike, simple to fix and parts are quite easily available.


P.S. Every time I look at a Viffer, the first person that comes to mind is the tbhpian Rtech aka Robin. He had a beautiful vfr about a decade ago. My wall paper since years has been a pic of that bike taken by Rudra.

Cheers!
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Old 1st August 2016, 14:43   #4
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Default Re: My '99 Honda VFR800 - Ownership experience

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Originally Posted by james View Post
Ah a thread on a viffer- Well written.

The VFR is an amazing bike that can be ridden through the day without much fatigue. Like you, I wished it had more power for that fast highway run. These motors along with the 90's fireblades are literally bullet proof.

If you are in the market for another bike in the near future, I would suggest giving a 900/919 a chance. Its an amazing bike that is full of character. I have one that I tour on in india(both on good as well as bad road) and its extremely comfortable. Just swap the front 16" wheel for a 17" one and you are set! Its a bike you can commute, tour and track on comfortably! Great project bike, simple to fix and parts are quite easily available.
To be honest, the idea of more power didn't really occur to me until I took a 165bhp BMW K1200S out for a ride. The BMW vs the VFR1200 would be a hard choice, and one I was considering, but I would only go up to a 1000+ bike if we decided to tour 2 up with full luggage. The cheaper option in that case would be a CBR1100xx Super Blackbird. A friend who has been riding fast bikes for 20+ years commuted on his 140km a day come rain or shine and swears it is the best bike ever made.

At the moment it looks more likely that my fiance will do her full license and move up to a bigger bike herself, so I'm more likely to be in the market for a bike for her to use than a hyper bike for us both.

If I bought a blade now, it would be one of the very first models. I love the look of the twin round headlights and they are already going up in value, I think they will become collectible in future. It must be an interesting experience riding one on India's roads

One interesting point I forgot to put about the VFR engine for those interested in such things... the 'big bang' cross-plane crank engine used in the Yamaha R1 mimics the power delivery of a Honda V4.
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Old 1st August 2016, 16:39   #5
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Default Re: My '99 Honda VFR800 - Ownership experience

That is a beautiful write up. I wish Honda would take matters seriously with India and bring in an exciting quarter litre bike. The present ones, though very capable of handling things, are painfully outdated.

Last edited by Vignesh_N/A : 1st August 2016 at 16:42.
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Old 1st August 2016, 17:26   #6
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Default Re: My '99 Honda VFR800 - Ownership experience

Honda has become slow to react to markets. The 1990s were the last glory days of Honda on the big bike scene, but I think there are some signs appearing that they are recovering from their complacency of the past 10 years.

From a big bike perspective the new Africa Twin is a stunning return to form in my view. Going in at 1000cc rather than 800 or 1200 was very clever. It has taken a lot of restraint to stop myself running to the dealers shouting "take my money now!" and I hardly ever feel like that about a new model.

Maybe they should build a smaller "India Twin" 500cc Adventure bike in the same vein? That could shake up the market. They produce the CBR500x already but that is not a proper off road capable bike, it is much more in the vein of the VFR800x and VFR1200x models.

I'm quite happy riding small bikes (I rented a 100cc Hero in India!) but they are not something I know much about from the Indian market perspective.

Honda do have a great looking 250cc model available in Japan and other Asia Pacific markets called the VTR250. It has a Ducati/KTM style trellis frame and an 8v fuel injected V-twin producing 32bhp. The bike comes as a naked model that looks just like a baby Monster 626, or a sportsbike style version. I have long admired the naked model.

These are premium bikes and with a twin cylinder motor, I doubt they could be produced and sold for less than a 390 Duke/RC, although I think they could be more rewarding than those bikes to own in some respects, India seems to be a very power-price conscious market so maybe would not work well there?

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Old 1st August 2016, 22:04   #7
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Maybe they should build a smaller "India Twin" 500cc Adventure bike in the same vein...
"Īndian Twin" nice tag there . A 500cc Adventure bike, along side Versys 650 should be an interesting match.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob UK View Post
Honda do have a great looking 250cc model available in Japan and other Asia Pacific markets called the VTR250. It has a Ducati/KTM style trellis frame and an 8v fuel injected V-twin producing 32bhp. ...

...India seems to be a very power-price conscious market so maybe would not work well there?...
VTR250. A 250cc twin under 3 lakhs should be a killer. But if they indeed had to manage price-power strategy, CB250F should be a good one to start with.
When I wanted to buy a quarter litre, I was hardly left with any options. It is a big void back down there, between 1L to 2.5 L. The Benelli's were interesting, but they had just launched. So I was bit skeptical. Not a big fan of Royal Enfields. I was at the KTM showroom in the end. Since Duke 390 is hard to manage in city riding conditions, I had to settle for D200.
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Old 1st August 2016, 22:16   #8
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Default Re: My '99 Honda VFR800 - Ownership experience

At first I was like, wow there's a VFR 800 in India? This is the pre-Vtec model isn't it? Its what the purist VFR fans want even today.
The V-tec variants offer the best of both worlds though, better tank range at sedate riding and a bit of top end rush when you want it to. But its not what the old timers want though so Honda hasn't updated the lineup in the last few years.

Honda has stated that the 2016 VFR 800 might be the next bike to be assembled in India after they're done training the technicians on assembling the CRF1000L which is ongoing at the moment.
It would still be well over $20,000 though unfortunately.
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Old 1st August 2016, 23:25   #9
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"Īndian Twin" nice tag there . A 500cc Adventure bike, along side Versys 650 should be an interesting match.
The serious adventure riding market in the west is waiting for a proper lightweight adventure bike. The Versys is seen as a commuting or road touring bike here really. They are not so capable off road - neither is the CBR500x Honda already make.

Somebody is going to make a bike sub-170kg wet and suitable for smaller riders with a decent 2 cylinder engine making around 45bhp and off road ready. The market was expecting a sub-160kg 390 single in this vein from KTM but it hasn't appeared.

I suspect Honda, KTM and BMW will be eyeing the RE Himalayan sales in India with interest!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nithesh_M View Post
At first I was like, wow there's a VFR 800 in India? This is the pre-Vtec model isn't it? Its what the purist VFR fans want even today.
The V-tec variants offer the best of both worlds though, better tank range at sedate riding and a bit of top end rush when you want it to. But its not what the old timers want though so Honda hasn't updated the lineup in the last few years.

Honda has stated that the 2016 VFR 800 might be the next bike to be assembled in India after they're done training the technicians on assembling the CRF1000L which is ongoing at the moment.
It would still be well over $20,000 though unfortunately.
Yes, mine is a 'gen 5' gear driven cam model. Honda updated the bike a fair bit in 2014 but the basic engine design is unchanged. The 2002 onwards Vtec bikes look great, but you are right that in the owner groups the gear driven cam engine is widely acknowledged to be better. Some guys have gone as far as mounting tuned 1998-1999 engines into 2002+ frames and fairings.

What you are wrong about is the Vtec offering the best of both worlds.

There was more weight and slightly less power at slightly fewer revs. The 98-99 bikes make 108bhp with no cats and 47mm headers, the 00-01 bikes make 105bhp with cats and 45mm headers, the 2002 onwards Vtecs are 104bhp, so forget your extra 'top end rush'! Most owners also don't report any significantly better tank range until the 2014 model, which did improve a bit.

Talking to the older guys who have been buying these for many years, the 2002 Vtec bike was a great disappointment because it didn't do what they expected - they hoped the bike would run on 4 valves all the time and the Vtec would flip the cam profile up at about 9500rpm to take the bike on to a higher redline and maybe 125bhp, not open 2 more valves at 6500rpm to deliver the same performance.

If it had delivered a bit more top end with no loss of low down torque, they'd have welcomed it. As it was, the new bikes were heavier and less reliable without any more power.


Why would a VFR800 / CRF1000 be 20lacs if built in India? They are 10-11 lac bikes in the UK
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Old 2nd August 2016, 09:48   #10
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Thats a beautiful and well maintained VFR 800 you got there. As you rightly said, 80's and 90's was the time when Honda were on top of their game. I am a two stroke guy and I always go weak in my knees when I see a video of the V twin NSR 250R or the insane three cylinder NS 400R on youtube as they are very rare in India. And some people who do own them, unfortunately don't know how to respect them. There was one guy who had some engine issues on his NSR and got an RD 350 engine fitted on it and ended up ruining two beautiful bikes.

My only experience on a VFR series is when I rode a VFR 1200 which is available in India. It was very awkward riding a motorcycle without a clutch lever. But on the other hand if you don't want to be noticed riding a SBK in India then its the perfect bike as most people over here mistake it for the much popular CBR 250.

All the best and wish you many happy miles with your ride.
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Old 2nd August 2016, 10:12   #11
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Great stuff! Thanks for sharing. The '99 VRF is has a special place in my heart. It is the first multi cylinder bike i ever rode (as a scrawny lil college kid.) And i have wanted one ever since. Pity these old ones are very rare and the newer ones are not sold here in India. I would love to get my hands on one.
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Old 2nd August 2016, 15:25   #12
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My only experience on a VFR series is when I rode a VFR 1200 which is available in India. It was very awkward riding a motorcycle without a clutch lever.
When I first saw the VFR1200 in photos I thought it was ugly as hell. When I saw a candy red one in the metal though, it looked stunning.

I've ridden the ordinary manual, but haven't tried the DCT version - what were your impressions?
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Old 2nd August 2016, 16:49   #13
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When I first saw the VFR1200 in photos I thought it was ugly as hell. When I saw a candy red one in the metal though, it looked stunning.

I've ridden the ordinary manual, but haven't tried the DCT version - what were your impressions?
I actually didn't get an opportunity to familiarize myself with the bike as it was just a 15 minute ride and that too in evening Mumbai traffic. I got a small stretch of open road where I tried opening the throttle up a bit, but the power delivery to the back wheel was not to my liking. Also, one of my worst nightmare, when I do on this bike came true, when it surprisingly stalled in traffic I did not know what to do as it was in gear and no clutch lever to pull in and push it to the side. I tried the paddle shifters but no luck, and there were cars lining up behind me as I was blocking a good amount of the road. It was really getting embarrassing. Later, I just calmed down a bit and just turned the ignition key on and off and it was all back to normal.

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Old 2nd August 2016, 19:45   #14
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Wonderful thread Rob! Great to have you here!

The VFR (VFourRace is one hell of a beautiful looking bike - like most superbikes of the 90's. I believe on of the first superbikes to have an integrated turn indicators (front within the fairing and rear within the tail light unit). A lot of manufacturers (HH including) tried to mimic this look - HH Karizma and ZMA.

I don't know if you have noticed but the VFR is one of those bikes which is devoid of any Honda graphics (mostly the Honda wings design like the CBR's). But it still manages to look lovely without it - just like the Ducati's and MV Agusta's. And I cant think of any other color than red for the VFR.

As James mentioned above, the VFR reminds me of Robin and his VFR. Check out his threads here :

His Ownership thread
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/superb...fr-better.html (Getting to know the VFR better.)

His 1000 kms ride from Bangalore to Mumbai after buying it
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...g-special.html (1000 kilometers, 781cc, 12 hours, 1 rider. The beginning of something special.)
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Old 2nd August 2016, 20:47   #15
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Thanks for the links v12, I'll check them out.

My bike had aftermarket Honda vinyl graphics on the fairing when I bought it, but I took them off so the only Honda logo is on the tank
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