Let’s get it all out of the way right off the top: the mirrors are atrocious, the fuel range horrible, it has a tendency to stall in hard stops, and the ergos are uncomfortable at anything slower than 120kph. Now throw all that out the window.
Why? Gobs of low rev torque for one. This bike pulls strong and torque’y from 3000-on and doesn’t let the joy fade ‘till just after 9000, providing you with a reported 65.6 lb-ft of the stuff, with 100 horses (for a stock bike) along the way. The throttle is fun and raw; delicate clutch and throttle finesse is required to keep from lurching off from a stop. Shifting demands the same attention to keep from surging forward like you were scalded. If I were the type I’d expect wheelies would be easy given the grunt this bike has.
The VTR is quick too. Off the line times, lap times, quarter miles… Who cares? Subjectively it is fast on the road with all that pull. You could downshift to pass, but the engine is never really short of power unless you’ve made a mess of it and are running in 6th gear at 2000 rpm. It also translates to a whack of usable power coming out of the apex with suspension that can take it.
The front end has a sharp rake to it so steering is quick, but not nerve wracking so. No real need for steering dampeners or the like, so put the money into a set of pipes and drown out the car alarms your thumping-vibing twin pistons are going to set off in the parade. Slow speed handling is good, and the bike feels light (at 481 lbs wet) both in and out of motion.
Given the amount of weight on your wrists you’ll want to slip out of town and get some speed going. A strong wind coming over the front fairing is your supportive friend (it will also push your helmet faceplate into your nose if you get a chance to really play with the loud handle). Luckily, this bike excels at acceleration. It devours straight-aways, passing lanes and traffic in fantastic pulsing, vibrating pulls. Revel in the surge of power and accept that pulling in after a pass is an act of faith; the mirrors give you an exceptionally good view of the crook of your arm – no matter how you adjust them in near defiance of the laws of physics.
Cornering is a cakewalk; the VTR takes well to a little counter-steer to shock the inertia of the flywheel, and a bit of weight shift to follow the corner through. After riding heavier sport-tourers, coming to this bike is a brilliant eye-opening shocker to the system – cornering doesn’t have to be an exhausting affair. But it could be. This bike has enough lean angles to put Escher out of his mind. The cramped ergonomics keep the pegs well away from the ground, but this is a road bike remember. You can superstar in the corners on the VTR and never scrape a peg (sigh, no bragging rights at the coffee shop), and the bike will do it all while feeling planted on the road. Its heritage shows here, the suspension is likely soft when examined against that of other more track bred bikes, but it soaks up the road noise and leaves a feeling of confidence. One could ask for a more planted feeling in the front, you may find yourself trail braking a little to settle the bike in corners. This may have to do with the weight distribution of the bike.
The VTR’s weight distribution is one of the subtlest and most devious world population control schemes history is likely to see. The bench hard seat slides you into the tank, as the evil Honda engineers intended, to make up for the fact that the front wheel is only taking 53% of the distribution. You as a rider are there to optimize the equation, mainly by being sat forward and crushing your nether region’s dangly bits (if you have them) on hard stops, medium stops, and well just about any stop other than gentle and rolling. This bike apparently prefers riders of the bumpy-chested variety.
Front braking felt soft and I found myself using the back brake to help out. Not the end of the world, but I’d probably be looking for a bit of an upgrade. Mind you, the test bike I took out had 34,000km on it and may not be a representative sample.
Is this a sensible bike? No. Not in the slightest. But it was never built to be. A group of very passionate (and possibly a little touched) people probably designed this as a “road bike” on a Honda test track. The legal department made them add the mirrors – which the rest of the world will probably take off for track days. Do I want one… oh yes! I wasn’t planning on children anyway.
Note – The test bike featured 2 Brother pipes and a jet kit amongst other upgrades and may not be representative of a stock configuration; no warranties expressed or implied… may also contain traces of nuts.