The V-4 engine was Soichiro Honda’s favorite engine, and he wasn’t alone. Since 1983, Honda has built V-4 motorcycles that have been hugely popular among riders around the world. In the late 80s, the VFR even outsold the English and Italian bikes in their respective countries.
Now entering the next generation of new technologies from the Moto-GP world and other cutting-edge environments, the VFR, still true to its heritage and tradition, is for the experienced rider who rides long and often, and even hard. The all-new VFR1200F showcases an astonishing amount of revolutionary technology, from the world’s first dual clutch transmission (DCT) for a large displacement motorcycle, to the 28-degree-phase crankshaft, asymmetric cylinder layout, and throttle by wire.
The VFR1200F is powered by a light and compact 1237cc liquid-cooled, 76-degree V-4 engine. The unique cylinder layout with the rear two cylinders located innermost on the crankshaft, and the front cylinders located outboard plays a key role in the mass centralization. Due to the narrower rear cylinder, the rider can sit down into the motorcycle, as opposed to on top of. After long days in the saddle, your hips will also appreciate the narrower engine.
The powerplant features a symmetrically coupled phase-shift crankshaft, which features a 28-degree crankpin offset that works in concert with the 76-degree V-angle to essentially negate primary engine vibration for a smooth engine. Because of the perfect primary balance, the techies at Honda were able to omit a balance shaft, saving almost three pounds. The bike’s Unicam valve train, first debuted with the championship-winning CRF450R motocross, saves weight and space compared to a DOHC, but still boasts a redline of 10,200 rpm. The SOHC directly actuates two intake valves per cylinder, utilizing roller rocker arms with screw-type adjusters to actuate two exhaust valves per cylinder.
Another first by this Honda is the throttle-by-wire (TBW) system. The throttle is no longer connected via a conventional cable-operated system, but instead incorporates a computer to process input from the rider. This modern technology increases feel and response, and eliminates the need for an idle air control valve. The rider will not see the difference between old and new throttle setup, but surely will feel the accurateness of the throttle-by-wire.
The four-piece aluminum twin-spar diamond configuration frame is both lightweight and rigid. An offset driveshaft allows for a longer swingarm that enhances both handling and traction, but without extending the total wheelbase of 60.8 inches. The VFR1200F is outfitted with a remote spring preload adjuster, and the shock is also adjustable for rebound damping. The adjustability in the suspension gives the rider more comfort and safety while riding like a typical VFR-rider: sometimes sporty, sometimes casual around town, or sometimes two-up fully loaded long-distance.
As for braking, six-piston front calipers act on large 320mm floating discs, and the two piston rear caliper works against a 276mm disc, both with ABS.
Plenty of air reaches the engine and the rider thanks to the layer-concept aero fairing. Basically, air enters between the layers and through two oval-shaped spaces in the front of the fairing and is then directed to the engine and also around the rider’s legs.
Honda introduced the world’s first fully automatic motorcycle dual clutch transmission for large displacement sportbikes. Although, most riders would argue that shifting gears is one of the most enjoyable aspects of riding, the need for faster lap times and quicker shifting in the racing world has led to this innovation in the motorcycling world. The DCT features a light and compact design that allows it to be combined with existing engines without substantial layout modification. Compared to the manual transmission VFR1200F, on the DCT version the transmission case sticks out about 2 inches further.
Another obvious visual difference is the missing clutch lever and foot lever. The DCT offers three operating modes: “D” for regular riding, where the gears shift up rather quickly, “S” for sporty riding, where the gears rev up considerably higher, and a six-speed gear select mode for full rider control via the paddle shifters. The rider can change between the modes on the fly. Once the paddle shifter is used, the transmission stays in the rider control mode, unless the rider slows down and forgets to shift, in which case the DCT downshifts automatically.
The bike shifts up seamlessly, but doesn’t automatically downshift. Typically before entering a curve, the rider downshifts for engine braking and to access more power through the turn; but because no considerable slowing-down is detected on the DCT model, it won’t downshift. A simple solution is for the rider to use the paddle shifter to drop down through the gears. The most fun riding the DCT is playing with the shifters in turns. The changes are so smooth and quiet they’re difficult to hear, but thankfully a gear indicator is included on the instrument panel.
The DCT configuration employs independent clutches for the odd-numbered gears (1, 3, 5) and the even numbered gears (2, 4, 6), respectively. When changing from first to second gear, the computer detects the upshift and engages second gear, and then releases the first gear clutch while engaging the second gear clutch.
Ensuring the highest rider comfort, Honda offers plenty of accessories, including a 35-liter pannier saddlebag kit, a 33-liter top box with quick detach mounting system, a 13-liter tank bag, heated grips, a rear tire hugger, a centerstand, a sporty three-position adjustable windscreen that integrates with a standard one to extend wind protection, and a lower seat with narrow profile making it easier to reach the ground.
The VFR1200F carries on the V-4 tradition, but does so by making it a lot more modern. The DCT is a great innovation not just for faster lap times, but also for ease of riding. Hand cramps are a thing of the past when riding twisties with an automatic transmission. With so much new technology implemented on this bike, it will be interesting to see what makes it to the next level and what will be omitted in the future. Although the DCT version costs $1,500 more than the base model, the mature touring and traveling motorcyclist will appreciate this sporty ride capable of hauling some luggage as well.