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Flying at low altitude

The VFR story

I know that a VFR might be a bit too new to be included on this site, but since the first version of the model was born in 1986, in this case I find enough excuse to include this "newer" model here . This even though the VFR can still be bought now in the 7th generation (8th if we count the VFR 1200).

The Honda VFR is in many ways the motorcycle world's answer to the BMW 3 series. Sporty without being extreme. It is precisely this fine mix of sport and comfort that makes the VFR special. The first generation was, compared to anything else it could be compared to from that time, a sports machine, a really good one of its kind, - with a fantastic engine. Immediately after its introduction, the model began to make a name for itself in motorsport. Several tough boys began to show what this new Honda could do on track and road, and when the VFR 750 R (RC30) saw the light of day in 1988, a new star was born. This model was "a work of art", a jewel of a motorcycle, a result of Honda's extensive experience in racing with a V4 engine. With the RC30, Honda began a period of victory after victory. This model won many prestigious races in Endurance Racing for motorcycles, whether it was the 24 hour race at the Bol d'Or, or road racing on the Isle of Man. This model was for a time the king of sports motorcycles. The merits of the RC30s spilled over to the regular VFR. Many who bought them expected to get a sports machine. They got that, and on top of the bargain they got a machine capable of everyday use that could be used on ordinary roads, and even with holiday packages across Europe. It is actually only in city driving that a VFR is not quite optimal, and this is mostly due to the sporty driving position. Clutch, gear and engine are in many ways in a class of their own. When studying this engine a little more closely, anyone with a little understanding of mechanics will just surrender in awe of how compelling this engine is. No chains in that engine, everything is with drive, crankcase and cylinders cast in one piece. Nothing has been compromised here.

The standard model got a big update in 1990 (RC36), it got single-sided swing arm (Pro-Arm) and a new frame with different geometry. This model had a lot in common with the RC30 and this gave the model a unique status among motorcyclists. You felt a bit like Joe Dunlop when you let the V4 engine stretch out.

My VFR favourite

Just 4 years later, the model got a facelift (RC36-II) and lost 17 kg in weight. Even though this model variant is 25 years old, in my eyes it is still an incredibly beautiful and attractive motorcycle, and my personal VFR favourite.

If you go a little deeper with this machine, you have no doubt that this was a machine intended as a "statement" from Honda. You wanted to drive the disaster with the VF 750 so emphatically into the ground. Honda wanted to show what was possible. Every detail is so beautifully done, from the deep varnish to the perfect joints and welds. That the quality is convincing can be seen, for example, from the fact that there are machines out there which have traveled a long way and which still work perfectly. A well-maintained VFR is a timeless machine among motorcycles. I know of a machine which has driven almost 300,000 km and which still works as it should with the original engine.

The constant development of this model with the VFR 800 (R46) already in 1998 was proof that this model was important to Honda. They wanted to keep it at the top because it sold well all over the world. Among VFR people, the discussion therefore often arises as to which model was the best? That says a bit about how good these models from the 90s were. As I said, my vote goes to the RC36-II.

The 90s were the decade of sports machines, and when the V-Tech model was introduced in 2002, there were more and more motorcyclists who began to look for more comfortable machines. The adventure trend won out and did to motorcycles what the SUV has done to cars. Up in height and more upright, the motorcycle people wanted to move forward, or down the road with a fat rear tire and wide handlebars. In my world, not the recipe for the driving pleasure I'm after. So my view is crystal clear, the fashion of the time regarding motorcycles does not change the fact that the Honda VFR, regardless of year and version, is one of the world's best motorcycles. How can I say that for sure? Yes, because you become more and more happy driving a VFR, the longer the road is - the more challenging and varied, the happier you become in the saddle of a VFR. A modern motorcycle icon. Too bad Honda never made a VFR 1000. Too bad I didn't discover the excellence of this bike until I was a grown man.

My VFR story

In September 2006 I bought a 10-year-old VFR 750 (RC36-2). I fell in love with this machine from the very first ride. We came a long way on this machine. When I say we, it is because the children were about to leave the nest and my wife wanted to join. The funny thing about a VFR is that it is good for most things, without being the best at anything. Although this model leans towards the sporty segment among motorcycles, it is surprisingly comfortable with passengers and luggage. Most sports machines are a pain to drive in the city or on uneven small roads. So not with VFR, it can be driven everywhere with driving pleasure intact. Here are a few examples of what a VFR can do:

Flying at low altitude

One Friday after work I was going to Rainheim a little south of Frankfurt. I hadn't booked the plane tickets in time, so the price had skyrocketed. The weather, on the other hand, was absolutely perfect, so I thought: "I'll take the motorbike". I packed the essentials and gave it a little gas down there. A little before midnight I arrived. Barely 110 km/h on average, including meal and fuel breaks. Not all that special you might say, but a VFR can do this in a surprisingly effortless way. I wasn't so wrecked by the trip that I had to go straight to bed. After arriving, I partied with the guys from Autodata, who thought I must be crazy to drive there from Denmark on a Friday night.

When you whip a motorcycle like this hour after hour on the highway, you will usually notice certain sounds in a motorcycle engine. The oil gets furiously hot. Not uncommon to reach well over 100 degrees. Then chains are heard and bearings rumble. Not on a VFR. If possible, it sounds better after a round of gas.

Why not just go for a walk?

Remember that it could be fun just to end the motorcycle season with a trip to the Harz. Even though the Friday weather down there was rainy for a large part of the way, thanks to the fairing I didn't get soaked like on a naked MC. Saturday was perfect motorcycle weather, exactly as the forecast had promised. The roads in the Harz consist of small winding roads, some with poorly patched asphalt, and wide 2-lane main roads with long gentle bends. A VFR can do both and everything occasionally. There is an engine, brakes and handling characteristics for all types of roads in that area. The journey home on Sunday started at the end of the day, motorway most of the way, had to get home quickly to the family, who had gathered at 9pm to say welcome home with a fire in the wood stove, a good tender steak and red wine to go with it. No problem to reach it all. Even though it was "only" a 750, I saw 235 km/h on the speedometer a couple of times that Sunday evening. Convincing? – Yes, I guess not!

That is why I still keep a VFR in my garage, ready for a fresh ride when the desire for air under the wings arises.

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