I’ve ridden a few bikes over the past couple of years including a Yamaha Fazer 600, a Honda CB 500 and a CBR 600 (a few times now). I was really looking forward to trying out the VFR as I thought it would offer a similar ride to the CBR 600 but with some extra power for a pillion passenger.
First impression was odd: the engine chugs away like a car that’s on the verge of misfiring, but open up the throttle from virtually any revs and away it goes! The linked brakes took no time at all to get used to: pull the brake, the bike stops. Easy.
On the open road the VFR is a very comfortable and very easy ride. The problem for me was it was a bit too easy to ride. The power band is fairly constant, although when all cylinders kick in above 7000rpm there is noticably more pull, but somehow, for me, that takes the fun out of riding a bike. I prefer the ride of the CBR 600 that will pull reasonably well at low-ish revs but really lets rip further up the band.
My other gripe with the VFR is the size and weight. It handles well once you’re up to speed but I never felt as confident in the front tyre as I have on other bikes. I think this may have something to do with the slightly more upright riding position and being seated slightly further back than on a CBR. Or it could just be me. I do know that I managed to lock up a front wheel when a pheasant ran out into the middle of the road and that’s never happened to me on any other bike.
In terms of the ‘technical’ aspects: torque was very impressive, speed was okay, but again I wasn’t impressed by the mileage. My main (possibly only) problem with the CBR 600 is the size of the tank, but I could only get a few more miles out of the VFR and it didn’t seem to provide any extra speed considering the petrol consumption.
From a pillion’s point of view (I was told) it doesn’t feel as solid. Again, I think that may be a combination of height and riding position, but pulling down a straight left my passenger feeling like they were going to tip off the back of the bike. This has never happened on a CBR 600 before and I’ve certainly never held back. Perhaps speed is all about perception and I’ve never managed to pull away as quickly on a CBR with a passenger before; the VFR certainly didn’t seem to notice the extra weight in the same way.
All in all: Honda’s VFR 800 is a good bike, but I don’t think it’s for me. I think my main problems are the size of the bike and slightly more upright riding position. Although the through-the-range power was good, I prefer something that you have to push a bit harder but rewards the effort with responsiveness and a nimble road poise.