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Honda VFR750. 15 years on, has she still got it?

Discussion in 'Bike Reviews, Questions and Suggestions' started by VFR750 IRYDE, Nov 26, 2008.

  1. 1994 Honda VFR750: 15 years on.



    Please note my 'environmentally friendly' non-washed bike... :) Just doing my bit for the water crisis! Oh, and see how small my chicken strips are? Those tyres have some SERIOUS curve on them, so I'm pretty proud of that!

    The Honda VFR750, first released in 1986 is responsible for more than you may realise. It is partially credited with being the reason Honda still make bikes today. It overcame the apallingly unreliable reputation of the V4 engine and became wildly popular, winning praise from almost every quarter.

    Reviewers said such things as: "If a salesman stops you in the street all you need to say is 'sorry guv, I ride a VFR...'"

    and: "Honda bet the house on it. They massively over engineered every component at huge expense, gambling that one great motorcycle would rescue the company's failing image."

    and: "It's still the standard by which all rounders are judged." (Written in Yr 2000, 5 years after the LAST update.)

    It won comparo's against much sportier machinery such as the Ducati ST2, Triumph Sprint, Suzuki RF900R, and Kwaka ZX-9R. Always being awarded points for it's immaculate road behaviour and usability, and thus outscoring its faster and rortier opponents.

    The Viffer was the subject of many 'five years on' articles that for the most part found they measured up remarkably well, and there is a legend (fairy tale?) that circulates saying that Ron Haslam during a transatlantic challenge race took a bog standard straight-out-of-the-crate VFR750 and made his way from last on the grid (no completed qualifying lap) to third by the end of the race. The story goes that this one feat guaranteed the VFR's sales success and kept Honda in the motorcycling game.

    Ref: http://beatallblogs.blogspot.com/2007/10/best-bike-ever-made-honda-vfr-750.html


    All of this was the reason why I decided that my first upgrade from a learners bike would be the now-venerable 94-97 model VFR750.

    Much scouring of classifieds revealed that $6K was considered a fair price, which struck me as a bit rich given what $6K could buy in the competitors camp...

    But then the VFR had BEATEN those competitors in head to head comparo's...

    I debated back and forward within myself until I came across a pre-scratched example with 64,000Ks for $4,300. The kilometres didn't bother me as this bike in known for running forever. The scratches didn't bother me because this was my first 'real' bike, so I'd probably only add to them anyway.

    I made the phone call and soon after I pulled up out the front to take a test ride.

    I swore I'd be Mr Cool. No racing pulse or quickenned breathing for me. Oh no, I'm calm, collected, smoo... "Holy Sh1t thats a good looking bike!"

    I broke a childish grin when I saw it. 14 years on the paint was still deep and glowing. The shapes still evocative and the intent still clear.

    The owner was a lovely bloke, we talked about bikes for a while and then came the moment. I handed over my licence for his safekeeping, and he handed over the keys for my... er... unsafe keeping.

    I neglected to tell him I hadn't ridden in nearly a year, since I'd sold my learner VTR250 due to some pesky bills. He didn't need to know that now did he?

    The tyres were shagged and she hadn't been ridden in months (He'd lost his licence on her) so this wasn't going to be a hardcore flog. All I wanted to do was check out her road manners. I would trust the pro's opinions that it is a good bike. I just needed to know that she was a good bike for ME, and that this EXAMPLE of the bike was not a dud.

    At a standstill the weight was intimidating. Much heavier than my VTR250 and heavier than the cb900 hornet I'd ridden for a while (shhhh). I balanced throttle against clutch and managed a smooth getaway, my heart leaping a little at the thrill and the sound (even through the stock exhaust).

    It quickly became apparent that the tyres were utterly shagged. Which did not help the ride or handling at all. But despite this I was able to establish that she was running on all cylanders and everything seemed to be functioning as it should.

    I soon decided to take the risk and buy her. If she cost me some money fixing silly things then (hopefully) I'd still be ahead.

    Some quick haggling saw us settle on $4,000 even. I put a deposit down, got a reciept off him and went my merry way.

    The next two weeks were agony.


    Total agony.

    Did I mention I had to wait two whole weeks?

    I made bookings to get her into a workshop, new tyres fitted and roadworthy checks etc while I was waiting, but I thought about her night and day. Yes she was in my creams... er... dreams.

    Well in hindsight I should probably have let her pass me by. All the bad signs were there.

    Previous owner lost his licence on her (thrashed?). The state of the tyres should have warned me that he hadn't taken especially good care of her (Neglected oil changes?), PLUS she'd been dropped...

    I picked her up, tenderly rode her home on her ultra slippery rubber and the next morning I took her into the workshop for new tyres and roadworthy checks.

    Two days later I got the dreaded call. How much would I be up for? Would I regret trying to get a bike on the cheap? After the initial pleasantries we got down to business.
    "Well," he began, my heart was beating even faster than it had on the test ride, "We've had to tighten the head..."

    I heard the word 'head' and panicked. VFR heads are supposed to be bulletproof, but are notoriously expensive to work on should they need some attention. I'd blown it. I'd opened up the black hole that is a 'project bike' and was about to tip my life savings down it.

    "...stem bearing and had to straighten one of your foot pegs. So on top of the tyres that comes to $138."


    "Yeah mate just a head stem tightenning and a tweak of your footpeg. A bit of labour and the cost of the roadworthy, that comes to $138 on top of the tyres."

    I don't think I touched the ground all the way there to pick my beautiful little baby up.

    All went well that day and the next. It's amazing what a difference tyres actually make! Suddenly she was every bit as smooth and agile as I'd hoped she would be.

    Then it happened.

    Mid throttle, second gear pulling away from lights in an 80 zone...

    The tone of the engine changed and suddenly my power dropped off dramatically. I was a fair way from home on a warm day (out enjoying the weather on a day off work) so I couldn't afford a breakdown.

    Power returned and I headed for home. For a few minutes at a time she would run perfectly, making me think I had imagined it, but then on part throttle it would return. Hesitating, then going back to full power and then hesitating again.

    I posted a 'help me' thread on NR and began pulling the bike to bits. I adjusted things, played with things, sprayed carb cleaner down the intake bells, (did you know you can keep a bike running indefinately with no fuel line attached if you just keep the carb cleaner up to it? Probably not recommended tho...) and generally tinkered.

    Time and again I thought I had it licked, only to find that once I was a fair way away from home it would return. It was ruining my riding as it was impossible to commit to a corner when you didn't know what your throttle was going to be doing... Cue scary moment!

    In frustration I checked it in for a service. Full oil change, spark plugs and FIND THAT BLASTED PROBLEM!

    I walked away in disgust, wondering once again if I'd blown my money on a dud.

    Want to know what it was?

    Fouled spark plugs.

    Thats it. In all my tinkering I hadn't thought to change or check the plugs. Ohh I'd played with the leads and pulled the rest of the electricals to bits! But no, a problem like that wouldn't be the plugs... surely!

    It had sat in the garage for too long before I got it and the carbon had collected on the spark plugs. Once the engine was warm and the clearances changed due to expanding metal, the spark would sometimes fail.

    So I handed over some small amount of money for the service and rode away, once again happy as larry. (Note to self: ALWAYS get a second hand bike serviced as soon as you get it.)

    I've now completed 11,000km on her, and she had NEVER let me down. NEVER failed to start, NEVER failed to bring a smile to my face at SOME point of my day. The styling is still fresh with me, and I catch myself just looking at her in the garage after I come back from a fang.

    Most of my kilometres have been commuting too and from work, with a once-a-monthish bash up through the hills around King Lake. However last week I spent some quality time on the GOR, and that has prompted me to write this review.

    How does a bike THIS old stack up TODAY? With all its history and abuse, considering that it has NO modifications, is running touring tyres and nothing, not even the exhaust or suspension has been touched since it left the factory...

    Can she still hold her head high? Do those shameless accollades showered upon her 15 years ago still ring true? Is she 'The greatest bike ever made', as some people would have you believe...

    Well as a besotted owner and ardent fan of the bike I would have to say...


    OF COURSE more modern bikes run rings around her. Her 65ish HP is a JOKE among modern midsized bikes. And her 210kg is positively obese! A CB600 will match or beat her in a drag race, and use less fuel while it's at it!

    So why do I love her so much?

    Because she was never lauded for her speed...

    Nor for her flickability...

    The VFR750 (Ima, as mine is called) has always been about something more. She's about the package being greater than the sum of her parts. She's about a combination of sound, sweeping grace and forgiving demeanour which when combined seem to somehow lift her beyond the frenetic buzzing of naked 600s, or wrist braking focus of the super sports.

    I went with six other riders down the GOR last week. My bike was the oldest and least powerful there, with the exception of one cruiser.

    Ima proved to be such a delightful and confident companion that I soon left all bar one other bike behind. He and I carved out way out of the Otways and into Lorne in glorious style, him in the lead, me close behind.

    You need to be firm with the VFR. Use your weight on the footpegs to leave her in no doubt about exactly what you are wanting and expecting. But if you give her the inputs she will give you the results. Always stable, always confident, and in the right gear, still quick.

    I hope to keep Ima till death parts us. And then, money permitting, I might turn her into one of those money guzzling projects...

    Yes I plan to have faster, 'Better' bikes as the years roll by. But if the world is kind to me, Ima will still be in my garage.

    Ima has been my companion for my 11,000km journey from nervous semi-learner to semi-competant corner carver.

    And honestly, I don't think I could have picked a sweeter companion.
  2. 64,000 kms on a '94 is pretty good!!!
  3. great report / story
    i know what you mean...mines a little younger but also a close, trustworthy companion...
    she waits for me patiently, always ready for any task at hand, then delivers beyond my expectations everytime...
    the comfort, performance, sound, fuel range, gearbox, the dash at night, the quad lights ...
    ahh i won't go on, but after 8 months and neally 5000 k's...i'm still finding things i like about this bike
  4. I recently re-homed a '93 with 11,800km on it. :LOL:

    They are a fantastic all rounder. Not many japanese bikes are still that relevant after 15 years.
  5. BTW, 65HP is awfully modest... Have you had it on a dyno?
  6. I know I'm probably under-quoting, but when they were new they could mono (if you clutched them in first gear) and now mine simply refuses. Possibly a symptom of the abuse it's suffered over the years.

    It's just a guestemate, and when I have money I'll be doing the whole intake / jetting / exhaust thing. :grin:
  7. I suspect that's technique. Some people can mono anything. I am not one of them, but they are out there.

    I'd be surprised if 1/3 of the ponies have bolted. They were good for around 100 when new.

    I've read the reviews you posted, and I find the power plenty exciting enough. My only problem is that I now have two bikes I bought with the intention of never selling them and only one arse. As much as the K is nice, the VFR wins in 9/10 of the scenarios.
  8. I had a very clean '97 model a few years ago. I think they are superb bikes and I still contemplate buying one again.

    The problem with having a VFR early in your riding career is that upgrading is now going to be very difficult.
  9. ^^^^ So true! This has been a vexing question for me. To upgrade or not to upgrade...

    And if upgrade, what to?

    I think I'm settled on a Blackbird, 2000 model. But the viffer is worth so little second hand that there's no real point trading / selling her!

    All going well I'll keep Ima for a long time yet. :grin:
  10. Tony (my other half) bought an 08 VFR 12 months ago & i don't think he'll ever sell her!
  11. I've seen a 750vfr in Sydney city quite often, lovely bike. As for my younger model, can't imagine selling her. Had her for a year and we had a brief moment but then reconciled and now I can't bear to think of life without her.

    My dad had a 98 Vfr and upgraded from that to a Blackbird, so it seems to be the natural progression as most seem to go that way. The only reasons he gave for the upgrade were "More power and a bit roomier" so everything else seems up to spec!

    Where's the Netrider VFR owners club then...
  12. well written
  13. +1.
  14. I had a ride on a Blackbird and didn't really like it. It felt too big and bulky to me, but it might suit you.

    Do you have the pillion seat cover for your VFR? I think I have one somewhere if you need it. It's blue, so it would need a paint.
  15. +1 with the smoking gorilla.

    Enjoyed reading about your initial purchase and the little dramas that unfolded and the result you got.
  16. Thanks for sharing the love

    Plenty of choices and I've read too many times "going to keep this bike forever" - you'll want something newer eventually - just depends when :wink:
  17. True, and in fact I've already started looking. The reason I expect to keep the Viffer forever is because it's worth so little second hand that I'm better off keeping her as a second bike for all my commuting K's, saving the depreciation on whatever newer bike I DO get...


    But then maybe I should spend some money on power / suspension upgrades and save myself the cost of a second bike for a while...

    Ahhh I just don't know anymore. :grin:
  18. Awesome write-up..... do you still have your VFR?

    I have a 94 and I still think it's the bees knees... 90,000 kms and still going strong!
    I have an after-market exhaust (Omrae - sounds awesome!) and the engines was dyno jetted

    It certainly isn't the quickest bike on Earth... but she just keeps on giving - no matter what I ask of her.

    I ride every work day - regardless of weather - always comfortable - always loud and grunty - I can't think of a bike I'd rather have... but for perhaps a newer VFR? Maybe the 1200 so I can have a shaft-drive?
  19. Holy thread revival batman.

    But a nice read anyway, surely you must be underquoting your power level though, my VFR400 is 6 years older and 250cc less and makes 55hp atw and sold with 65 at the crank when new.

    But yes, VFR's go on forever, 67,000 kays and my bike has never done me wrong, hell its probably been around the clock before.

    I remember when i went into mcas to buy some rain pants and a seat bag before i took it for a long trip to brisbane via every mountain road i could find. I told the shopkeep that i was worried we would make it the whole way, and he said "Mate its a honda VFR" he wasnt wrong.