A LESSON IN FAILURE: HONDA VFR1200F

Back the day, there was a place called “Heritage USA”.  It was, at the time, the #3 Tourist Destination in America, behind Disney Land at #2, and Disney World at #1.  Heritage USA was a huge theme park.

It had a water park, roller coasters, and old timey street kinda like at Disney Land… It even had a magic castle.
The getaway resort had a large hotel as well… a big brown monolithic tower that still remains today.  Most everything else is long gone.  Check out this video for some more info on the place.

You can see the crumbling tower there in the back ground.   I bring Heritage USA up because they really had something going on here… But Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker screwed it up royally.  It was destroyed practically overnight.   Honda did the same thing with the VFR series.   Since the beginning of the VFR line, the bikes were potent, fun, versatile, and every one of them were good solid bikes. They might not have been the fastest or the flashiest, but each one was a damn fine bike.  And then things changed with the 2012 model year.  The red bike there is a practically new VFR 1200 F.

At first glance, the VFR 1200 F doesn’t look all that bad.   Kind of a mix of a HALO Ghost vehicle, and something from Star Trek Next Generation.  Weird and futuristic… kinda cool when looked at from a distance.  But the closer you get, the stranger it becomes.

The color is nice… and I do like the two tone design that’s going on here.    Riding it, things are different.  Lets start with the Good.  The riding position feels more Sport than the VFR’s market target Sport-Touring.  So my knees are uncomfortably cramped, but that’s fine… The suspension is solid and I have no complaints about that.  The steering is much like my old ZX-11.  It’s agile enough for a full-bore cycle, and stable in the curves.  The brakes are quite good.  So those factors are Two Thumbs Up.

Unfortunately that’s where things start to go down hill.  The weird Trapezoidal Exhaust is just kinda… Ugly.  There.  I said it.  It’s ugly.  And being polished chrome where everything else gray is a brushed or matte finish… and that big angled thing is bright freaking chrome.

The exit ports at the rear of the pipe are… Most interesting.  It doesn’t make sense.  The tone is very Honda Accord-ish.  It’s quiet and the sound is just… Meh.  Bright Chrome Meh.  In photos it’s not too bad.  In person, that weird exhaust just sticks out and you can’t not look at it.  And I don’t know what’s going on with that tail light situation.  It’s kind of… Cat’s Ass.  But that’s not the worst bit.

Look carefully at the above photo here.  What’s missing?  I’ll give you a hint… Clutch.  There’s no clutch.  There’s also no shifter down by where your Left Toes live.   Now, look at that big red switch on the right… Below that switch is a gray switch with an S, D, and N labeled on it.  That’s right.  This bike is an Automatic.
When you put the bike in “D” mode, it goes into First Gear and it’s ready for you to roll on the throttle.  The Clutch wants to fully engage rather quickly, so the bike has a bit of a lurch going on when you start.  The bike pretty much accelerates like Honda Accord and very much unlike a 1200cc sport bike.  Supposedly, this 1200 cc engine is supposed to be delivering 145 horsepower.  It doesn’t feel like it…  acceleration is just as boring.  Now, roll on passing power?  Forget it.  It’s always in the wrong gear and takes too long to downshift… it’s just totally useless.  The Manual Mode is mostly a Vague Suggestion Mode.  The whole thing is terrible.  This is a terrible motorcycle.
Really, all the FAIL stems from the Automatic Transmission.  Give this bike a regular gear box, and it would be twice the bike, instead of feeling like a fancy Scooter.  If you want a motorcycle with an Automatic – You shouldn’t be riding, unless you have some physical disability where specifically you lost your left foot and/or a couple fingers off your left hand.  Because other than that reason – Automatic Transmissions have no place on a motorcycle.  They take away from the experience of Riding.  It destroys the connection between you and the Bike and the Road.  It isolates you… insulates you… it takes you out of the loop and it’s doing the thinking for you. (And by the way, it’s always wrong)  It waters down the experience.  You might as well just drive a car.
Honda keeps persisting with this Automatic thing.  It’s an option on the Africa Twin, which is otherwise a fine bike.  Put the automatic on it, and it’s ruined.  Just like Honda ruined this bike.

11 thoughts on “A LESSON IN FAILURE: HONDA VFR1200F”

  1. Looks like the old Pacific Coast thing they built back in the 90’s? Early 2000’s maybe.
    Honda. Strange company.

    1. I have an ’89 Pacific Coast sitting in my garage. Sure it’s all ‘Robo-Cop Future’ lookin’, but this red thing with the ugly and the wtf is faaaaaar uglier and much less useful.

      1. No offense meant, it’s just the first thing I thought of when I saw that VFR. I crashed an original 750 Interceptor back in the late 80’s. I locked up the 16″ front wheel and slid about 30 yards down the road into a wall. I was just congratulating mysel on being relatively unscathed when the bike clobbered me. That was the last Honda I’ve ever ridden.

        1. No offense, but that sounds like User Error and not a fault of the bike. Blaming the bike is like blaming the sights on a pistol when you keep missing. Very Rarely is that the problem.

          1. Oh, it was definitely user error. Didn’t mean to imply that was the reason I haven’t ridden a Honda since, my writing wasn’t the clearest.

  2. Yup, you nailed it. A good bike for the disabled, like the old Honda CB Automatic.

    It’s nice that they offered one, but I wouldn’t buy it unless I managed to lose my left foot.

  3. Is the bike still a V-4? I hated what Honda did to the last generation of VFR so much that I have not looked at new ones for the last 5 years or so. V Four Racing, IIRC is what the engine designation originally was. Now a bloated poofter- mobile.

  4. Heritage USA was definitely quite the story around here, even before it blew up. It would make a great “Fallout” setting now.

  5. There is a “normal” version of this motorcycle for those who might desire to remain tied to their old riding habits. Honda’s VFR1200F “commercial problem” has to do with the fact that it did not fit any hyper-specialized category (such as the fastest, the lightest, the roomier, the …) and this kept it from finding some very specific niche. Anyone really interested to know this bike should look online for the easily available real long term evaluations of this model.

    1. Having owned and ridden most other versions of the VFR, before 2012 when Honda went all Star Trek with the VFR’s looks.. I can easily say that Honda has taken the VFR in the wrong direction.

  6. This has to be for the American market only as the Japanese wouldn’t put up with crap like this. I bought my one and only VFR400R (1997 model) when I was living in Japan and was able to import it when I returned Stateside. It was a full on race bike (the RR version had a different exhaust & carburetor/jet setup) and looked & performed nothing like the abortion featured above. I have no idea what Honda USA was thinking or smoking when they thought this would be a great bike to unleash on the riding public.

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