Honda VTR 1000 test
Spring is all about the new two-cylinder. In the spotlight: Honda’s VTR 1000 F.
You didn’t like to read it, those responsible at the German Honda importer in Offenbach. The first driving report of their alleged child prodigy VTR 1000 in MOTORRAD 2/1997 was too sporty, they say.
So it’s high time to check the quality of the VTR where the developers see the main purpose of their two-cylinder: on the country road. Comfort is very important to moderate athletes. Both in the coordination of the spring elements and in terms of ergonomics. The tank is extremely slim, as is the bench, which means that a 165-centimeter person can still have both feet on the ground. Not too far away from the well-formed, firm upholstery, the handlebar halves are clamped at a comfortable height above the fork bridge. Only with their cranking, it doesn’t work at all. If it is too far out and too much downwards, this position has an unusually tiring and painful effect on the wrists after just a few kilometers.
Another small blemish is noticeable on the first try. The choke button on the lower left frame strut is not only positioned a little unfortunate, but also so stiff that even a well-trained finger operator would have trouble with it.
But that’s enough of the criticism for now. Now you can actually look forward to surprisingly carefree driving pleasure. Easy going is the order of the day. Glide easily, without stress and rush. Which of the six gears is currently in use? It doesn’t matter. Because even just above idle speed, this engine can do everything: Gentle acceleration or wild gas tearing – the aluminum swing arm mounted in the engine housing is never tormented by a whipping chain, and the huge, 48-millimeter constant pressure carburetors never swallow themselves. Controllable at any time, if necessary, the 115 horses of the unthrottled version determined on the MOTORRAD test stand will do their best. However, a little caution is required in the first two gears. Due to the extreme distribution of the wheel load (102 kg at the front, 114 kg at the rear), the VTR sometimes tends to raise its nose a little – not necessarily for everyone.
The unspectacular power delivery, however, should meet with broad approval: Up to 5500 rpm, the massive two-cylinder acts almost too good-naturedly, compared to the thundering model from Bologna. Mechanically very quietly and without annoying vibrations, it pushes the 216 kilograms of the VTR forward confidently at all times and noticeably increases in determination from 6000 rpm. However, this forward thrust is already lost around 1000 revolutions before the rev limiter has to fulfill its official duties at 9500 rpm. Except for the high fuel consumption, which is only marginally below that of a Suzuki TL 1000 S already outed as a drunkard, this drive can be described as quite successful. Because the points of criticism that were raised during the first presentation on the subject of load changes in extreme inclined positions are no longer noticeable in the case of brisk country road hunting.
In order to teach the 996 cc V2 engine such proper manners, the Honda engineers dug deep into their bag of tricks. In order to prevent annoying slide jerking, they not only integrated intake funnels of different lengths into the air filter box, but also selected different timing for the front and rear cylinders. The engine runs as smoothly under all operating conditions as if it had more than just two cylinders.
The chassis also does its job unspectacularly and no less confidently. Despite the 15 millimeter longer wheelbase, the Honda makes a much more agile impression on winding country roads than its direct competitor from Suzuki. In the style of a VFR 750 F, it can be driven through fast alternating curves without great effort, and even at a faster pace it does not simply become stubborn like a Ducati 916, for example. The VTR follows the targeted line precisely, it can even handle the worst waves and holes do not impress. And the dreaded beating of the handlebars, with which the TL 1000 S repeatedly surprised in the test (MOTORRAD 4/1997), seldom bothered the VTR. Thanks to the comfortable coordination of fork and shock absorber and the high proportion of negative suspension travel, the front wheel does not lose contact with the ground immediately after every wave – one of the main causes of the treacherous kickback. The Dunlop D 204 K, specially developed for VTR, contribute to this good-naturedness. Although not endowed with divine grip in extreme areas, they harmonize almost perfectly with the agile chassis in everyday life: hardly any set-up torque when braking in an inclined position and excellent directional stability.
The VTR front wheel quickly acknowledges hard braking maneuvers with a whistling tire, because the soft fork locks very early and especially when driving with a passenger. The simple shock absorber makes a surprisingly good impression under these difficult conditions. However, if you want to delay a lot with the VTR, you have to be able to grab it. The stoppers don’t exactly deserve to be called two-finger brakes. The four-piston calipers with the two 296 discs are easy to dose, but they don’t quite come close to the performance of a CBR 600 or CBR 900 sports brake.
R.On the other hand, the VTR driver has a lot of trouble with a considerate driving style. The mirrors are elegantly shaped, but otherwise almost unusable. There is not much to be seen in it other than one’s own arms. Also in terms of wind protection, which is not to be neglected at a top speed of at least 239 things, could be improved a bit. Possibly with a full fairing, which is already rumored in specialist circles. Let’s see, maybe this year there will not only be a refreshing spring, but also a hot autumn.
That’s right, the VTR 1000 is not a sports motorcycle, but an almost perfect everyday companion. Good-natured, powerful and easy to handle. Thanks to the tire width of 180 millimeters, which is moderate compared to the Suzuki TL 1000 S, and a comfortable chassis setting, it can become the queen of the country road. Except for the tiring position of the handlebars, the motto is once again: Typically Honda – sit on it and feel good.
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