On the move: Honda VFR 750 R
The top of Mount Olympus
The Honda VFR 750 R has earned a special nimbus and a place high on the honor board of motorcycles not only with its unique sound.
M.ith the VFR 750 R, or RC 30 for short, Honda presented at the end of 1987 the most radical road-going sports motorcycle that the manufacturer had ever had in its model range. Racing technology all around enthusiastic ambitious sports drivers everywhere. The engine was configured in exactly the same way as the 90-degree V4 of the civilian sister VFR 750 F, but that ended the similarities. In contrast to the all-round sports tourer, the Honda engineers of the RC 30 wrote uncompromising racing in the catechism; after all, it served as a homologation model for the Superbike World Championship.
As a result, the R differed fundamentally from the F variant in terms of engine and chassis. The engine offered only the finest components, and the chassis also shone with exclusive ingredients for the racetrack: the fully adjustable Showa fork with quick-release axles, the massive bridge frame made of extruded aluminum profiles and the single-sided swing arm with a central wheel nut for quick wheel changes, all of which was documented by the noble descent from the Honda long-distance factory machines. The MOTORRAD test editors formulated accordingly: "No doubt, the RC 30 is the most uncompromising copy of current racing technology that is currently possible for the road", to refer to the everyday suitability of the motorcycle in the same breath: "It is equally suitable as a basic machine for racing as it is for walking on the road."
However, Honda set limits to a wide distribution not only with the small contingent of 200 units for Germany, but with the exclusive price of 25,000 marks, which could easily be increased with a whole package of tuning parts for the engine and chassis. The VFR 750 F cost a little more than half: 13,150 marks. Nevertheless, considering the design effort and the noble components, the developers called the purchase price a cheap offer. It should give sports riders something to dream about, but not be out of reach.
Not only dreamers, but also professional racing teams felt that they were addressed: If you wanted to be at the forefront in the new 750cc Superbike class, you couldn’t get past an RC 30 – regardless of whether it was a national competition or the world championship. Racing teams such as Honda-Eckert and Wellbrock dictated events in Germany; in the Superbike World Championship the Italian Rumi team set the tone. Fred Merkel and Andy Hofmann, as drivers with two World Championship and DM titles respectively, clearly demonstrated the potential of the superbikes in 1988 and 89.
In accordance with the voluntary self-restraint, Honda delivered the RC 30 throttled to 100 hp in most European countries. Unrestricted, the engine developed 112 hp at 11,000 rpm and was far from at the end of its potential. As consistently as Honda had created the RC 30 as the basis for the new Superbike class, the range of special parts with which the road-going series motorcycle could be upgraded to a racer was just as extensive.
Depending on what the regulations allowed, one of two racing kits increased the performance. The basic kit for 5,000 marks raised the power to 125 hp at 12,000 rpm with relatively simple means, namely a different exhaust system and a carburetor conversion kit. The TT F1 kit was much more extensive and included, in addition to other camshafts, pistons and a complete carburetor system, a larger upper radiator and a new control unit. It released 133 hp at 12500 rpm. Chassis parts such as fork legs and a spring strut with lever deflection drove the conversion costs to 15,000 marks. But that was far from over: A list of special accessories offered numerous engine and transmission components, especially chassis parts such as various magnesium wheels, fork bridges with different offsets and even a 15 millimeter shorter swing arm. This enabled almost any desired chassis geometry to be implemented over a wide range.
In the production version with 100 hp, the RC 30 in conjunction with the long first gear – it reached up to almost 130 km / h – could not fully exploit its potential on winding country roads. On the other hand, the unthrottled version was in its element on faster racetracks. The narrow gradation of the aisles always offered the right connection.
This is how the RC 30 drives
Polished to the end for sport: Honda VFR 750 R.
20 years later, the rare collector’s item no longer has to prove anything; In the age of 180 hp superbikes, other qualities count, for example charisma: It is as impressive today as it was then. Crouched, compact, ready to jump, the RC 30 crouches on the assembly stand supplied as standard, basks in the deep, shiny blue-white-red in the pit lane of Hockenheim.
The technically interested eye is still fascinated by the details of all corners and ends. And the sound, when the V4 comes to life, massages the eardrums: With its gnarled sound, which thanks to the 360-degree crankshaft – the crank pins are on an (imaginary) axis – is also acoustically unmistakably different from that of the civilian VFR, The RC 30 barks hoarsely and aggressively from its 4-in-1 system with every burst of gas. That leaves no sports motorcycle fan indifferent and arouses irrepressible curiosity.
Seat rehearsal. Back then, the driver was huddled extremely compactly behind the short tank, as is standard today on racing motorcycles and super sports cars, but was not yet part of the agenda in the early 1990s. Here too, the RC 30 did pioneering work, moving away from the upper body stretched over the long tank and towards an active driving position. With legs that are sporty, but not extremely bent, a normal-sized Central European feels right at home on the Honda athlete.
When starting out of the pit lane, the unique sound experience electrifies the driver and spectator every time. The evil growling and throaty hissing from the air filter box is addicting, time and again the V4 climbs steadily up the speed ladder, without ups and downs, and aggressively strives towards the five-digit range. Not only is the phenomenal soundscape striking, but also the interplay of handiness and driving stability. Whether it be bumps on an incline or a light-footed change of incline: the RC 30 still shines with equal ease in both disciplines. The Showa spring elements respond sensitively, the suspension acts tightly, but not mercilessly. With crystal-clear feedback, the RC 30 takes tight corners, for example the Sachskurve, just as neutral and relaxed as fast, bumpy passages, especially the parabolic steroids. The RC 30 also reacts calmly to hard braking maneuvers thanks to braking torque support and an anti-hopping clutch. The Nissin four-piston calipers are still easy to dose and decelerate passably even with moderate hand strength.
So enjoyment without regrets? Almost, because two small blemishes tarnish the overall impression. The V4 not only heats itself up, but also the driver, which was a bit annoying from the start. Only the larger kit coolers remedied this problem. Another handicap is the standard 18-inch rear wheel: the unusual size severely restricts the choice of tires and allows only a few sporty tires, which limit the possibilities of the great chassis. This shortcoming is always in the back of your mind, especially on the racetrack: You don’t want to crumple any of the exclusive and rare pieces, especially since the spare parts for the RC 30 have always been exorbitantly expensive and most of them are no longer available today. The 17-inch magnesium rim, which Honda offered as an optional accessory, was quickly sold out.
The Honda had the stigma of the first tires when it appeared. In the first comparison test by MOTORRAD against potential opponents from the Superbike camp such as Bimota YB4, Suzuki GSX-R 750 and Yamaha FZR 750 R on the Italian Grand Prix circuit in Mugello, former Grand Prix greats such as Gianfranco Bonera, Walter Villa were judged and Dieter Braun the combination of Honda / Bridgestone as highly critical. Gianfranco Bonera even came back to the pits after a short time and refused to continue the test. His argument: "The tires are simply dangerous, inaccessible." This fact clouded the Honda performance enormously and enabled the competition to do the fastest laps.
History and Outlook
Clear lines, clear shapes. Can a sports motorcycle be drawn more cleanly than the Honda VFR 750 R.?
Nevertheless, the RC 30 received excellent grades from the renowned testers and a uniform assessment: Double world champion Dieter Braun summed up: “With a different rear tire you can start a superbike race without any major modifications." The four-time champion Walter Villa stated: "The Honda would be almost perfect if it just had a different rear tire."
But these were problems on the racetrack that play a subordinate role elsewhere. The Honda can also score points on country roads, where the RC 30 can tackle it quickly. Thanks to the perfect throttle response and the even performance characteristics, the speed can drop without the shift foot having to be hectic. Over a wide speed range, the engine offers a strong acceleration without any drops, even from low tours. With a forced pace, the actually sporty seating position is so moderate that fatigue is kept within limits, since the interaction of the furious V4 and the excellent chassis alone makes you forget the physical effort.
The superbike masters the brisk swing on winding country roads just as confidently as the wild rock’n roll on the racetrack. The latter is no wonder, as Honda created the RC 30 primarily for the racetrack; their suitability for everyday use can be seen as a surprising, but welcome bonus. This was also confirmed by Helmut Dahne: On the Nordschleife of the Nurburgring, the “King of the Ring” cut a record time into the asphalt of the Green Hell, which should last for a long time. Of course on a Honda RC 30, of course not on the original Bridgestone tires.
The RC 30 remains a great success, if not to say: the great success. The successor model RC 45 also won the Superbike World Championship under Aaron Slight, but never achieved the status of RC 30. Roland Eckert’s opinion, who dealt with the RC 30 more intensely than almost anyone else, can only be agreed: "The RC 30 was the first modern superbike in history."
It thus took and continues to occupy an outstanding position in the series of its predecessors and successors. Because the Honda CB 1100 R, VF 1000 R and RC 45 were also extraordinary constructions in themselves. However, they stood out neither from the Honda program nor from the range of the competition like the RC 30 with its exciting V4 engine. With all right, she claims one of the top places in the Olympus of sports motorcycles. Honda has obviously recognized this, too, if the manufacturer’s announcements at Intermot are to be believed: A visionary study prophesied a great future for the V4 athletes there. Not only Honda fans are now hoping for a motorcycle that continues the tradition of the RC 30 worthily.
Divided and mutually braced gears reduce the running noise of the RC 30 motor.
Similar at first glance, the engines of the VFR R and F from 1988 are fundamentally different. The crankshaft of the F has a 180 degree crank pin offset, that of the R 360. The light pistons of the RC 30 only have a compression ring and an oil control ring. Lightweight titanium connecting rods reduce the inertia forces. Although a gear cascade drives the camshafts in both engines, the RC 30 gears on the camshafts are much smaller and thus allow considerably more compact cylinder heads.
The camshafts rotate in roller bearings to minimize friction and operate the valves via bucket tappets with shims below. Despite identical dimensions for stroke and bore, larger valves work in the two heads of the R. Valve and housing covers made of a magnesium alloy reduce the weight. The Keihin constant pressure carburetors grew in diameter from 34 to 35.5 mm. The gearbox is closely graduated in terms of racing; an anti-hopping clutch prevents the rear wheel from stamping when downshifting.
Honda VFR 750 R (RC 30)
Engine: Water-cooled four-cylinder, four-stroke, 90-degree V-engine, two overhead, gear-driven camshafts, four valves per cylinder, bucket tappets, bore 70 mm, stroke 48.6 mm, displacement 748 cm³, compression 11.0: 1, 100 HP at 11000 / min, 67 Nm at 10500 / min, Keihin constant pressure carburetor, Ø 35.5 mm
Electrical system: E-starter, battery 12 V / 8 Ah, capacitor ignition, three-phase alternator 374 W.
Power transmission: Multi-disc oil bath clutch, claw-shifted six-speed gearbox, primary drive: gear wheels, secondary drive: O-ring chain
Landing gear: Bridge frame made of aluminum profiles, front fork, stanchion diameter 43 mm, rear single-sided swing arm, spring travel front / rear 120/130 mm, cast aluminum wheels, front tires 120/70 VR 17, rear 180/60 VR 18, front double disc brakes with four-piston fixed calipers, Ø 310 mm , rear disc brake with double piston caliper, Ø 220 mm
Measurements and weight: Wheelbase 1410 mm, caster 95 mm, weight 208 kg, tank capacity 18 liters
Driving performance: Top speed 240 km / h
Price: 25,000 marks (1988)
Manufacturer: Honda Motor Co. Ltd., Tokyo, Japan
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