Monday, 4 March 2013

Bike of the week - Honda VFR750

Back in the day - before 1986 in fact - Honda’s VF750 was considered to be an unreliable motorcycle bedevilled with camshaft and bearing problems which gave it a pretty negative image. So Honda decided to once and for all put paid to this problem reputation and developed the new Honda VFR 750, a Sportsbike which was so state of the art and so over-engineered that it would never have to cope with the same abuse as its predecessor. The VFR turned out to be such a masterpiece that its reputation still stands today and the VFR is now considered to be one of the most reliable machines ever built.

A superb sportsbike


Reliable?  Don't make the mistake of thinking that reliable means plodding or boring, the VFR was such a superb sportsbike that it was used as a race bike by Ron Haslam in 1986 and he took third place in the Transatlantic Challenge race at a damp Donington Park on one.

Here's how it evolved..

The first Honda VFR 750 made its press debut at Jerez in 1986.  It was launched as a complete redesign of the VF700/750F models, in an attempt to do away with the faults and poor reputation of the previous bike.

1986 Honda VFR 750

The new VFR750 had greatly improved power output (105 hp- up from 83 hp) than its predecessor the VF750.  It was also much lighter and with a lower centre of gravity, wider tyres, gear driven cams and six rather than five gears.

Here are a few technical specs for the Honda VFR750:

The Engine: 

The VFR750 comes equipped with a silky-smooth 750cc liquid-cooled DOHC V4 four-stroke engine. The intact carburettor is air/petrol based with a diameter of 70.0 x 48.6mm which remained the same throughout all Honda VFR750 models. One obvious major difference in the VFR750 is that it had a 180 degree crank while other models such as the VFR750R used a 360 degree crank.

The VFR also boasts reliable gear-driven cams which give it its characteristic whistle of meshing teeth. However, the pre-1990 VFRs still suffered a camshaft related recall due to a lack of oil pressure. Honda switched back to chain operation in 2002 on the VFR800 VTEC.

The Chassis:

The VFR750F had the first one of a kind aluminium twin spar frame giving it a chassis which weighed in at just 14Kg taking it miles beyond the competition at the time.

The Suspension:

When the first VFR750s arrived they came complete with an anti-dive within the damping-rod front. The size it was first introduced with was just 37mm but was expanded to 41mm in 1988. The suspension had a dual-sided aluminium swing-arm with a hydraulic adjustment in the rear. In later years the VFR750 came equipped with a no altering wheel alignment.

These features make it a comfortable bike to ride both for driver and pillion, great in town with the impact of a pillion negligible, and with plenty of torque and power out of town.

Early models

The early models saw the bike masquerading as a sportsbike which came in a choice of three possible colours: navy blue, black and a diamond white but none seemed to capture the 1980s biking worlds imagination and bizarrely the VFR750 did not seem to leap into the hearts of sportsbike fans.

The VFR, perhaps not wild enough for the Sportsbike afficionado, languished in the sales charts trailing behind the Suzuki GSX-R750 in popularity.  The early models are light, neat, comfortable and really easy to ride and therefore popular with commuters although the brakes can be a bit weedy compared to what we are used to today.

The early 1990's



In the early nineties the VFR 750 got a makeover with a new Pro-Arm added which was a spin off from the RC30 racing version of the bike so gave it a racy angle although the bike had gained weight and got more curvaceous with a new rounded design and an additional 30lbs of dry weight.  It's engine had got quieter and gained an additional 15bhp with bigger 36mm carbs.  This extra weight, and the less streamlined body shape, did somewhat counteract some of the potential additional speed though.

The chassis was redesigned in the 90s as well.  The forks also got 2mm fatter and the steering head angle sharper but still remained at 26 degrees.

The frame was made of a new aluminium alloy which was necessary to cope with the additional stress placed on the frame by the addition of the huge Pro-Arm on the back.


The front brakes were improved with disc sizes going from 276mm to 296mm and better quality ceramic backed pads in the calipers.  These changes made the handling entirely different, easier and more comfy to ride but not as quick as their forebears the early VFRs.

By the early 1990's the VFR750 had taken its place as the market leader and the top selling 750 bike in the UK and Honda was determined to keep it so!  The bike was popular with older riders already so Honda decided to compete for the younger market and try to attract in the younger generation with cool (for the 90's!) features like louvre door slats in the fairing and pillion seat cowl creating a racy image.

Improvements just kept coming in the FR-FV models which included another new frame, tweaked monoshock and lighter wheels which took the dry weight down to 460lbs, only still this heavy because of the weight of the outsized Pr-Arm rear.

The Mark three VFR750 was maybe the nicest handling most beautifully balanced bike of the mid 1990s and really set the benchmark for other manufacturers to beat.  It offered a really comfortable ride coupled with touring and sports ability so it was a real all-rounder with excellent build quality.

1998 - Fuel injection

This year saw the birth of the VFR800i or fuel injection version.  Fuel injection totally changed the bike's characteristics making it smoother and revvier.  This, coupled with a new fairing, not only gave the bike a sharp angular profile but made it more streamlined as well and with the addition of the CBS brake linking system the bike changed its characteristics coming out with a much punchier feel.

Honda had got the mix of chassis and engine to the best yet and it was more economical to boot.  The revised frame still had the engine hanging from twin alloy spars, but had the single sided swinging arm attached directly to the back of the engine rather than the frame itself. This was very new and innovative for the time and gave the bike greater stability and improved rideability so owners absolutely loved it.

This has always been a truly great bike and every motorcyclist should own one at some point just so that they can experience the pleasure and ease of riding it.  Because it is such a durable well made and engineered bike as well, it is still possible to pick up a good one second hand and, as long as you make all the obvious checks when buying second had, you won't regret it.

Here's one of our staff's VFR750 on holiday at the Stella Alpina Rally last year - lost in the Alps!

One of our staff also has an RC45 and is looking for an RC30 if anyone out there has one let us know or send us a picture of yours - cheers!


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