dinsdag 8 mei 2012

She has arrived

So,

I finally got the bike this saturday. First impressions: well, this is done to death, but the bike has to be seen in the flesh to form an opinion. I only saw one other black one once and I forget how good it actually looks. The black/silver look really works on the bike. The black is (of course) not as deep as the red/blue but it's still a very deep metallic look.

The first miles went (of course) very careful. The weather wasn't too brilliant (as in the pictures), but it wasn't pouring out either and it was actually comfortably warm so I was out in my one-piece.

First things first, I went to the gassing station and took some quick phone snaps:



The display gives a lot of information, the fuel "status" being one of the handiest: when just out, it displays the fuel use (here we use L/100km), when going lower on fuel (at 50km), it switches to "range", and then when getting really low it gives a quite accurate "tank contents" in .1L. When getting from the dealer, my tank had dropped to 1.1L according to the display. I filled it up (about 16L in there), but didn't top it off.

As for the riding, well, I'm probably not the best person to comment on it as I've only been riding for a year and my only other bike was a CBF600 SA. So the only thing I can do is compare it to that. Also, bear in mind that I have had this bike for only four days, doing about 500km on it.


CBF600 SA vs 2012 VFR1200F

Position/Comfort

Well, obviously the VFR is sportier. When taking up some speed, laying down, it's really a position that works on the big viffer, while it doesn't on almost any naked I've ridden, it feels forced, looks silly and isn't very comfortable. On the VFR it's definitely an option.
When just riding around, the "upright" of course isn't that upright. It's really smack in between a sports bike and a touring/naked. So you have to watch out for your back, your wrists,... just mind your position. I'm getting used to it but it's a bit of an adjustment.
As for the foot pegs high up, well, I'm not very tall so I didn't really notice it, but when taking notice I can imagine it's not good for everybody. I do think they have some aftermarket kits by now that solve this.
The foam is definitely not as soft as on the cbf, but I think it provides excellent grip and decent comfort.

Pillion

Can't comment on this so I'm paraphrasing the OH. Just to denote: she's tall so your mileage may vary.
I could understand that at first it isn't a comfortable as the very generous pillion seat the CBF provides. She also said that it's pretty slippery (which I didn't notice). This could also be due to the VFR being a lot more powerful than the CBF, so more acceleration/braking than on the CBF.
She said she could get used to it and isn't opposed to taking it on a long(ish) trip sometime. When it comes to that, I do think I'm going to get the big Givi (E55?) topbox with backrest though.
As for the riding with a pillion, well, I hardly notice her when accelerating, which is a big difference from the CBF (felt very gutless two-up).

Handling/Riding

Well, this could be pretty brief: it's in a different league. I know that going from a bike with little over 70bhp to a 170bhp shaft drive monster doesn't really offer a good comparison, and it really doesn't. First of all, the steering is much more "direct", it handles actually noticeable better than the CBF, combined with higher stability at high speed, it's quite a surprise, I wouldn't expect that as the numbers (wheel base, weight) are not in the big girl's favour. The brakes/grip are also not comparable, but I'm going to compare them anyway. I've read some "complaints" that the brakes have a serious "bite", but I found that mine are actually very incremental and easy to apply. The back brake does takes some getting used to. The back brake on the CBF was next to useless, while I'm pretty sure the one the viffer the back brake has more stopping power than the back & front combined on the CBF. I'm trying to force myself to use the back brake more often, but for now it's really forced.
Last but not least: speed. I do think they should give the beast other initials as VFR don't really do it justice. I'll dub it ICBM from now on (if you don't know what it means, look it up on wikipedia). The first time I took it on the motorway at a regular comfortable pace, I was thinking "weird, this has almost as much wind noise than the CBF". Well, the truth is, I was doing about 40km/h faster than I would on the CBF. The bike is comfortable, pretty quiet, very stable and very able. The ability to launch itself from almost any speed to speeds in excess of twice the national speed limits is something that has to be experienced. Tbh, I do think a lot of bikers have felt that kind of power, but if you haven't, you should. Another thing about the power is that it's pretty effortless and linear. You'll be hitting the rev limiter from time to time without even noticing, the power is always there so there's no real peak. Even when opening the throttle at 3000 rpm in sixth, you'll feel the bike pulling itself forward.

Equipment/options

Well, I've listed the options I've got her before, but I'll do the most important ones again:

Centre stand

First think I noticed when putting it on the stand at the dealer was how effortless it was compared to the CBF. To be fair, I do think that the CBF wasn't 100% right with that centre stand. You really had to put some force in it to get the bike up on it. So much that, even with the right technique, I doubt that the OH or the average woman would manage. The VFR, I expected to be even worse (as it's a lot heavier), but the reality was different. It went on the centre stand pretty effortless. The reason for this is probably geometry, and the fact that it doesn't lift the bike as much. I noticed this when stopping at a friend's house and had to put the bike in (hard) sand, the regular stand sank to much for my liking so I put it on the centre stand, only to notice that actually both wheels were touching the ground when I came back (not good!).

Touring screen

So, as you can see in the picture, I've got the "double screen" for more wind protection. With the weather we have now (about 10° C, often drizzle), I'll keep it on. This summer I'll give it a go to take it off and see what a difference it makes. In fact, I think I'll try and vary the height of the screen this/next week to see what it does. It has some settings but from what I could see they require a screwdriver, so no "on the fly" adjustments.

Heated grips

Well, was out yesterday (260km trip to a customer), and I thought it was warm enough to wear the summer gloves. I was wrong. But the heated grips really helped. They have 3 settings as far as I can make out. In summer gloves, to me, anything higher than the lowest setting will burn your hands :).
The button is easy enough to operate with a summer glove, but I'm not to sure with winter gloves, which seems like a very odd design choice. The control is only one button: press it once, the red light starts flashing in bursts of 3 flashes, highest setting (3), press it again, two flashes, and again, 1 flash. At any time a long press will turn them off. I had to figure that out for myself as it's not in the owners manual and the dealer forgot to give me a heads-up :).

Luggage

So, like I said, I ordered the original panniers but they have yet to arrive (normally Friday). What I did get was the Givi tankbag with tankring I was talking about.
The black ring is pretty discreet, but it'll look even better on a non-black VFR, as the tank is black on those while it's silver on mine, so the ring would stand out a lot less on the black tank.
That said, the system is very very easy. You just drop the bag on it from any angle and it snaps in. Very solid, little movement at speed but I feel more and more confident every time I ride it. I bought this bag:

It looks like it was made for the VFR, I'll get some pictures up later, promised!
It's not obtrusive, but anything bigger would be. Of course, again, your mileage may vary.
The bag is big enough, this morning I put in a decent pair of shoes, a couple of gloves and the rain liner for both my textile pants and vest. And then you could extend it, although I wouldn't expect too much of it, it increases the size a little bit. It also has a handy GPS/cell phone holder, though it requires landscape mounting, so in case of a smartphone you should opt for nav software that can lock the screen in landscape, or have an android phone and get a rotation lock app (dozens out there, this one works very easy) (also available for jailbroken iPhones iirc).
I cut off the straps that are supposed to go 'round your steering bar (because they are useless on the vfr), besides, the bag is solid enough, I can't see why you'd give yourself the extra bother of having to detach/attach that strap everytime. As for getting the bag on and off. It takes one second. Literally.

Lights

Finally, light! The light has a very nice projector shape and a good range. Much, much, MUCH better than the CBF. I often contemplated to replace the default light on the old girl, but the amount of ultra bright blinding lights on motorcycles I've seen put me off. The light was dim, but not so dim I wanted to look like a d*ck (it can be done right too I suppose, but a lot of bikers don't seem to manage that). Anyway, I don't see the need to do this on the VFR anytime soon. I works well in badly-lit areas (of which we have very few in Flanders).

Controls

Well, there are some things to be said about them. I already explained the one on the heated grips but here are some of the other ones.
First off, the often-mooted switch of the indicators and horn. For me, I think I hit the horn twice in the very beginning instead of indicating. After that, I got used to it and I actually understand honda for doing it. The indicators are right at the thumb now and easier to control.
What is a bit worse imho is the "warning" indicator switch at the right thumb. On the cbf it was a slider instead of a big button, which was a more cumbersome desing, but it was easier to apply. On the VFR I find  that I almost have to release the throttle, so now I pull the clutch lever before applying the 4 indicators.
Other than that, some complain the clutch is heavy, well, I invite you to, as a newbie to biking, go pull the clutch lever on half a dozen of +1L bikes with a lot of torque and say the same. The clutch is heavier than most bike, but so is the bike. It's a big, heavy, powerful bike so it's understandable and not really an issue.

Display

Like I said, a lot of info, on the left "wing": Big digital readout for the speed, very easy to read. Below that in small fuel consumption/range/fuel left,... and on the right of that a fuel gauge with seven(?) blocks (I'll count them later :)). then you have the big centre tachometer, I love the fact that they kept that analog as I've been on a bike with a digital horizontal one and it's just not the same. On the right "wing", on the left there is the water temp which offsets the fuel gauge for symmetry, on the upper right the trip computer which displays the regular trip A, B and TOTAL (odo). Below that the time, always convenient, I've had a CBF600 (non-S) that didn't have a clock and it drove me mad even if I only had it for a day :). And bottom right the ambient temp.

Mileage/range

Well, this is a big one. Often discussed when talking about the VFR1200F. Bear in mind that my bike isn't even run in (500km by now), and that it'll get better. I also haven't been nurturing it, nor have I been dragging it's ass off. My average (real-world, not indicated, I have to look into that to see how accurate it is!) now is about 6,5L/100km or 1L to 15,3km. The book says it's a 19L tank, I filled it (almost to the brim), rode 260km, filled up 17L. This would give me another two litres, good for about 30km.
So a complete range of 290km. Given that it's not even run in, I'd say 300km is not only achievable, but even very attainable. Like I stated in the first post, if it does over 280km on a tank I'm very happy.

Conclusion

My expectations of this bike were very high. Even so high that I pretty much set it up for failure. But to be honest, for now, it lives up to the expectations and more, which is the highest praise it can get. It all feels right when sitting on the bike. I've got some gear from Richa which gives me the same impression from time to time: have they thought about everything? A bike like this will always be a compromise. It's not the last word in sporting, nor does it pretend to be, nor is it the last thing in comfort. It's a very good compromise. I'd say it's a niche market, but imho it's not more a niche than a big tourer or a supersport bike.

What I also like is the peoples reactions, everybody seems to love it in the flesh (or are polite enough not to tell me it doesn't look good ;)). Went to the bike shop and one of the employees who went out for a smoke came in to say to his colleagues "you've got to come out and see this bike, it looks phenomenal". :)
I'm also still impressed by it's rarity over here. I've never seen one on the road so far, but maybe this summer there'll be some around. I'm curious as for the amount of black ones though.

Anyway, I have hopes that this bike will stay with me for a long time, but time will tell!

PS: When I went to pick up the bike, there were 3 CrossTourers out for delivery, it's a bike that shares the engine with the VFR1200F, also called the VFR1200X. Looks brilliant tbh, same fit and finish of the VFR1200F: impeccable. I'm curious if it will steal some sales from BMW's well deserved success with the GS bikes.

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