Driving report Honda VTR 1000
Japan is eight hours ahead of Germany, Honda is four weeks behind Suzuki – at least when it comes to the first driving presentation of the new two-cylinder.
The Americans are again to blame for the delay. According to Honda, they wanted a super sports motorcycle with full fairing and technology suitable for racing.
In view of the unexpected Suzuki competition, the resulting almost one-year delay is all the more annoying, since the first, beautiful VR 980 prototype based on the Hawk 650 was successfully implemented as early as 1992 – when Suzuki was still working hard on the TL 1000 S specifications Turned laps at the Honda test site in Tochigi. And it is precisely on this test site, located around 100 kilometers north of Tokyo, that a delegation of European journalists has the opportunity to collect their first driving impressions with the new VTR 1000.
The technology that is hidden behind the tightly cut plastic casing of the first machines that officially left the assembly line is rather simple. No unnecessary frills, that was one of the development specifications. Like Suzuki, Honda builds on a 90-degree Vau with a 98 millimeter bore. However, this 110 hp twin is ventilated by two conventional carburetors with a passage of 48 millimeters. A ram-air system was not used.
In terms of chassis technology, apart from the extremely short aluminum frame, which leaves the task of guiding the swing arm to the engine housing, nothing exciting to discover. Only the two unusually placed coolers still attract some attention. Otherwise, the new VTR 1000 – compared to the TL 1000 S – looks rather simple and inconspicuous.
The first few meters on a tight, winding handling course are also shaped by this unspectacular impression. The ergonomics are excellent and allow a very relaxed posture. All of Honda, with the VTR too, apart from the choke button on the lower left frame strut, every lever and switch is exactly where it belongs. Everything goes by hand as a matter of course, and the brand new Vau-Zwei mumbles to himself like an old English butler who has never done anything else.
If a Suzuki TL 1000 only pushes out of the basement smoothly from 2000 rpm, the Honda comes out at 1500 rpm. Almost vibration-free and with an almost harmless acoustic background, the tachometer needle then moves evenly over the white dial. The six gears slip into their detents, and the hydraulic clutch also works perfectly. Not much of the bite of a Ducati 916 can be felt, although internal measurements by the Honda engineers show the VTR unit has a clear advantage in terms of pulling power. But don’t worry, even without the last bite, the 996 cubic centimeter four-valve engine has enough thump to loosen the front wheel from the ground simply by accelerating in first gear. After a lot of tests, for handling reasons, the Honda engineers agreed on an installation position for the engine that distributes the total weight of the dry 192 kilograms VTR to only 47 percent on the front and 53 percent on the rear wheel.
On the other hand, the Vau-zwo does not react quite as confidently when it comes to fine gas metering in the long curves, almost all of which are driven in second gear. Here, the largest constant pressure carburettors ever built by Honda and equipped with special flat slide valves do not respond as gently as the Suzuki’s injection system did. The transition from push mode to load does not take place completely smoothly, which is particularly noticeable in extreme inclination. However, according to Honda, the new VTR is not made for such extreme situations. Because although the Dunlop D 204 tires only offer moderate grip at high speeds, the front bend can hit the right bend.
This annoyance is mainly due to the telescopic fork, which is much too soft. Unfortunately, there is no way of influencing the compression damping, and so the very sensitive front section collapses when you release the gas. A slight pull on the brake lever is enough to destroy the last reserve of spring travel and force the fork to its end stop.
This not only restricts the ground clearance, but also leads to problems when turning into the tight turns of Honda’s own handling course. The otherwise agile VTR can only be reluctantly forced into an inclined position on the likewise unspectacular working front brake and always gives the uncomfortable feeling as if it wanted to push over the front wheel to the outside of the curve. As soon as the load is back under tension, however, rapid changes in lean angle no longer cause any problems.
The hindquarters make a better impression, although here too the built-in shock absorber signals anything but high-tech. The cheap damper with steel housing works without an expansion tank and also lacks a compression setting. It is also very comfortably tuned without reaching its limits as early as the fork. But when the fiddly hump cover is removed and a passenger is packed, he too should be overwhelmed.
In order to convince yourself of the qualities of the VTR also in the high-speed range, an oval with elevated curves à la Daytona was available. Tacho 250 thunders the VTR accurately and without wobbling through the steep walls. Only with external excitation on the long straights does it wobble slightly, but then quickly stabilize on its own. In this merciless full throttle test at almost 9500 rpm, it is astonishing how low-vibration and mechanically quiet the engine does its work.
B.It remains to be seen that the new Honda is an asset to the two-cylinder class, but its first appearance is unfortunately overshadowed by the Suzuki TL 1000 S. So it will be interesting to see whether the Honda can stand up to a TL in a direct comparison despite its rather unspectacular manner.
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