Nothing we heard, read or saw prepared us for this bike! Yea, we knew it was light, had good torque, and handled pretty well, but none of this even began to prepare us for what was to come. Starting the bike up and putting away leads you to believe, well, that it's a civil and sedate motorcycle. It's not until you finally get a chance to turn the throttle or throw it into a corner that you can comprehend the abilities and awesome competence of this bike. When you experience this, you'll be grinning ear to ear. If your not - immediately dismount and quit riding motorcycles.
When I finally exited the highway and sampled three fast sweepers, I had to slow down and ponder whether or not the Motorsports Network VFR750 was in need of immediate replacement by none other than the VTR. Now that the test bike is long gone, I'm still wondering if it might be the correct move. After all, the VTR 1000 is the most-fun-to-ride street bike I've ever ridden!
Honda started from scratch on this bike, appearing to create a bike as close to the red Ducati's as possible while retaining most of the traits you'd expect in a Honda. Things like exceptional fit and finish, a smooth running engine, and just an overall great package of a motorcycle.
Unlike most Hondas, which often try to be all things for all riders, Big Red focused more narrowly on the Super Hawk. The frame wraps around the narrow V-twin engine and the pegs, footrests and exhaust are all tucked in for maximum cornering clearance. Just take a look from behind and you'll see the oddly angled exhaust mufflers. All this says narrowly focused sport bike.
Honda even took things a step further and built character into the bike. The V-twin by the nature of it's design and pulsing produces a feel all it's own, yet somewhat subdued. The visible portion of the exhaust header running under the engine is single walled so it discolors almost immediately, and our bike occasionally coughed and spit through the carbs leaving you wondering just what bike you were ridding. We find it impossible to believe Honda built the latter into the machine, but the occasional spitting did add character and reminded us we were riding a V-twin.
Honda chose to leave off some features we sorely missed. They include a center stand, a conveniently located choke knob, and a clock which could have been included in the existing LED panel. Their design clearly called for a minimalist approach, but these items would make the bike nicer to live with.
On highways it's difficult to believe you're riding a twin. The engine runs so smooth, and possesses such a large displacement, you just select the speed and the bike complies - up to triple digit cruising. It really doesn't matter what gear you select either, as you can downshift the wonderful slick shifting six speed tranny to second while cruising the highway at 70 mph - no problem.
The chassis, seat and engine are great for sport touring, but the forward lean combined with the bar angle and substantial knee bend will get to you in a big way if attempt all day rides as we did. The bike is best suited to stints in the saddle about as long as it takes to burn through a tank of gas, which isn't very far with only 4.2 gallons aboard (.7 of which is reserve). At this point, you'll be ready for a short brake before continuing down the road.
A more serious problem with using the bike for long trips is the inability to mount a tail bag or saddle bags. With a little creativity a tail bag is possible, but forget saddle bags all together as the narrow tapered rear seat and very high exhaust canisters will prevent their attachment. The tank on the other hand, is flat and wide which is just perfect for a large tankbag.
All this said, the VTR is clearly about sport riding - and that's what it does best. There are faster bikes out there and there are even better handling bikes, but none we know of is more rideable by the average human on the street. The stout and precise handling chassis combined with an engine that begs to be motored out of corners is simply a blast to ride.
There are few liter class bikes you can actually use to their full capability, but the VTR is so rideable, tractable, and compliant that you can literally use everything it's got to offer - and with with little effort. The large engine will pull almost regardless of the gear, yet it's a blast to ride in the stronger area of the power curve beginning at 5,000 rpm and hitting hard above 6,000 rpm.
When riding the VTR you'll shift and brake less than on most bikes. One reason for this is that the V-twin actually slows down when you let off the throttle, rather than freewheeling like an inline four. Add to this a powerplant which requires less shifting, roll it on in any gear, you can concentrate more on the other aspects of your riding - it's a bit like cheating. The overall package will leave you with more time to concentrate on other areas of your riding, like selecting entry and exit lines through corners.
Although the bike is easy to ride it's important to understand this bike is fast, and not for beginners or the faint of heart. Sure it's so civil that it can be ridden by anybody, but wick it up and you'd better be ready. It rolls on so fast and effortlessly that you better be ready to handle the speed or situations that arise.
If you have riding buddies you can't quite keep up with on back roads - you need a VTR for the unfair advantage it provides for street riding. Your buddies will then be clearly in view just ahead, or perhaps in your mirrors.
We headed to California's Pacific Coast Highway (pre-El Niņo by a few days) as we felt this was the best place to test the bikes capabilities. Covering the entire length of the state, we encountered sun, rain, sweepers, hairpins and sudden and substantial road irregularities from shifting roadbeds and sudden drop offs of two or three inches.
The VTR just yawned at everything thrown at it. It was stable, relatively comfortable and a blast in corners. The chassis was taught and retained complete composure avoiding rocks and mud ( it changes lines very quickly) handling sudden drop-offs or rises in the pavement admirably. The only thing you'll find the Hawk can't handle is being thrown into a corner at the last second. Try this, and you'll find yourself entering the corner very late. The Hawk likes to be setup before entering corners.
One remarkable thing about the 1000 is that it doesn't feel like a liter class bike. Heading out of San Francisco we stumbled upon a road so tight it could have passed as a switchback trail for midget hikers. The VTR just loved it, rocketing out of the turns in first gear with the front wheel lifted.
Carrying the front wheel is something the Hawk loves to do. The front end is light, the power strong. If you crack the throttle in first, the front will loft even at times when you'd rather it didn't. In second, just slip the clutch and you have instant wheelie, a bit like riding a two-stroke motocrosser. We took full advantage of this on PCH. If there was a road irregularity or rise coming out of a corner you can bet we took advantage of the light front end.
At first we didn't appreciate the hard pull necessary to get optimum performance out of the brakes (with sintered metal pads), but as we put some hard miles on the bike things got better, and required less pull and worked much better. The few time I needed everything the brakes could offer, I was glad they worked as they did. An easier pull might have caused me some trouble; the brakes work best at speed.
Over the course of traversing the California coast, and all the additional riding we did, the VTR never got out of hand or didn't handle the situation with complete competence. The stock Dunlop D204 tires are exceptional and wear well. The chain, after all of our abuse, only needed to be adjusted once at the end of our testing.
There are very few bikes I miss when their returned, I will always miss the VTR1000. Anyone out there looking for a used VFR750?
|Honda: 1998 VTR1000F Super Hawk|
|Average Range: 160 miles||Acceleration||9|
|Drive: O-ring chain||Carburetion||7|
|Fuel Capacity: 4.2 gal.(incl. .7 reserve)||Comfort (overall)||7|
|Fuel Mileage: 35 - 42 mpg||Comfort (touring)||5|
|Suspension Front: 41mm cartridge fork||Finish (quality)||9|
|Suspension Back: Pro-Link, single shock||Handling (overall)||9|
|Tire Front: 120/70ZR-17 radial||Stability (handling)||9|
|Tire Back: 180/55ZR-17 radial||Suspension (overall)||9|
|Weight: 423.3 lbs.||
|Retail (US): $8,999||
|Abundant, useable power||Mirrors, They're Terrible! (can't see behind)|
|Precise, controlled handling||Brakes require somewhat hard pull|
|Unflappable suspension, chassis||Occasionally coughed & spit back through carbs. Even stalled out sometimes.|
|As water tight as a submarine in the rain||Small fuel capacity|
|Did we say it's fun?|
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