Kevin Ash on Honda VFR1200F: Shamu's not as good as Sprint ST

Dailies -


Honda_VFR1200_Review_1.jpgKevin Ash is arguably England’s most respected motorcycle reviewer. Writing for The Telegraph, one of the country’s largest newspapers, he experiences a level of editorial freedom most American journalists don’t even know they’re missing and combines that with the kind of in-depth technical knowledge and meaningful insight that leaves us awestruck. So when he says something about a bike, we listen. And what he’s saying about the 2010 Honda VFR1200F isn’t good.

Update: MCN’s saying pretty much the same thing as Kevin.

Update 2: Failing to continue the Orca metaphors, Superbike calls the VFR “a bit of a lame duck.”
Heavier and less powerful than a BMW K1300S? Check. Less flexible than
a BMW K1300GT? Check. Too heavy to be a sportsbike? Check. Not
comfortable enough or equipped with enough fuel capacity to be a
tourer? You can see where this is going. American Honda has yet to
announce a price, but in England it’ll cost £11,500, slightly more than
the 2010 Ducati Multistrada 1200, which will start at $14,995 here in
the states, and much more than the $12,399 Sprint ST (US, before all the deals and
incentives) that Kev suggests you’re better off with.

Has a year of hype, all the crazy engine technology, the dual clutch gearbox and the controversial styling really only amounted to a mediocre bike?

Ash on Bikes

  • Ken

    It appears to take an ideological approach to a very pragmatic brief. It’ll be that old Honda “we know best” superiority they default to on occasion – the one that let’s Valentino Rossi walk out the door because he’s just another rider.

    VFR name aside, the comments about the great ride recall the CBR1000, a bike that makes Shamu look desperately overwrought.

    And I maintain it will be the most expensive bike in the world to crash.

  • stinky_finger

    Wow, a British journalists who says a triumph is better than “x” bike….. that never happens in any of their publications. I’ve owned a 2007 Sprint ST and it was great bike, but it will never be as reliable as my old VFR.

    • Grant Ray

      Stinky, he actually doesn’t compare the Sprint to an older VFR, just the new one.

    • powermatic

      “Wow, a British journalists who says a triumph is better than “x” bike….. that never happens in any of their publications.”

      To be fair, even within the context of this article alone, Ken also suggests German and Italian alternatives. I think you’re reading your own prejudices into Mr. Ash’s writing.

  • Mike J

    Hey Mr Sticky Finger, perhaps you should become more familiar with the man’s body of work before you write him off as a nationalistically motivated stooge… I’ve been reading Ash’s reviews for years. He knows bikes, he knows the industry and if it’s bad he says it’s bad, regardless of where it came from or who manufactured it. Apart from maybe Allan Cathcart I can’t think of another motorcycling journalist whose opinion I’d trust more.

  • r

    I certainly agree with Kevin. The VFR has the ugliest muffler that I have ever seen. I really do not known where to place this bike. I is not a sport tourer as it is outclassed by BMW and it is not a sport bike, so what is it? I really could care less about the dam transmission. Honda should put that on there Leadwing. Sport Touring bike? Small windscreen, small gas tank, uncomfortable riding position, no cruise control, no adjustable windscreen, no heated seat or grips, must I go on? Ugly bike with an ugly price.

  • Sloan

    Yeah, that tiny gas tank is a handicap. I have an ’06 VFR with honda bags and the European touring windshield and I get 45-48 mpg on the road at freeway speeds. I aim for 180 miles between fillups. Never less that 150 miles, and often going 200 miles before I stop. I like the looks of the new VFR but the range just isn’t here for the big distances we travel here in the US. Maybe the S model or whatever they call the ST1300 replacement will have a bigger tank, then we’ll take a look.

  • Doug

    The straight forward construction of the ST versus the bloated Rube-Goldbergesque construction of the new VFR is an interesting example of over engineering. The VFR seems to highlight the most complicated solution to an end. Also I do respect Mr. Ash’s opinion. The old KISS standard does apply here; Keep It Simple Stupid. I also owned a ’83 VFR, sixteen inch front wheel, and all.

  • geonerd

    I don’t think that Kevin’s review concluded that it’s a “mediocre” bike. Not great. Not even really good. Just good.

    The looks of course are entirely subjective, but there’s no doubt the bike has considerable presence. I happen to really like the VFR’s appearance, I think it’s a handsome, cleverly styled machine with great simplicity which pushes forward motorcycle design just as the Fireblade has. The swimming pool deep gloss of the paint helps too, but the overall effect is that this is a bike people are going to notice, and most I think will admire too.

    It’s beautifully made then and clever in many respects too, but the sports side of its character suffers for the weight, while the touring angle is hit by the seat comfort and the fuel range. VFR owners will find it a better bike than the machines they trade in, but the canny ones will be looking at different tank badges, and maybe for the first time in their lives, risking Italian when the Multistrada appears in showrooms in March.

    It’s not my cup of tea. I knew that from the very first spy shots. Its porkiness makes for a good tourer, but I’m not interested in that kind of riding. I managed my expectations thus, and I’m not disappointed in the slightest. Maybe even moderately more interested.

    And that’s my point – the expectations that it would be revolutionary were unreasonable. But objectively speaking, it sounds like a good bike. Not as good as the BMW’s. But still a good bike.

  • geonerd

    Meant to have quotes around that middle section as it’s a direct copy from the article.

    • Wes Siler

      Italics do the same thing.

  • Kaleidoscope

    I respect Mr Ash’s write up but I TRUST Honda’s development and marketing. There must be something we’re missing here.

    • http://Http:// Ben

      I can’t tell you how many times the world has said that across countless companies and industries. Sometimes, what you’re hoping to find beneath the corporate logic just isn’t there.

    • Wes Siler

      Wait, you “TRUST” a marketing department? You realize their one and only goal (this is true of any marketing department, not just Honda’s) is to sell you stuff you don’t need, right?

  • TanMan

    I am really surprised at Honda. First we get the DN01 then the Fury and now the VFR1200. Overpriced and not clearly placed in the market. The VFR is not a looker, terrible terrible terrible looking muffler, small petrol tank, poor seating position, and questionable looks. I am going to start a company to make aftermarket mufflers for the VFR. I’ll make a fortune.

  • Mark Morrison

    You can tell by reading the spec sheet the Honda would be a disappointment. Too long, too heavy, too expensive. Who wants a double clutch gearbox on a motorcycle? Honda have once again provided an answer to a question that no-one asked and being a technological tour de force is no excuse. They have just built a new version of the VF1000 Bol D’Or. How well did that work our for your last time?

  • Chris

    Fancy bits aside if it can’t compete with the various BMW and Triumph models why even bother selling it in the US given Honda’s financial issues of the past 12 months? I could just buy a CBR1100XX for super cheap and do the same thing with it. Doesn’t make sense. Please try again Honda (and don’t wait the normal VFR upgrade cycle to do it).

  • Rider

    Honda has an automatic in the ill fated DNO1. Whatever this bike ends up to be (sport tour or sport) I do not think the majority of the buying public wants an automatic transmission. The bike just does not seem to look correct. Like they quit designing when they got to the rear 1/3 of the bike. The muffler is just awful looking. The seating position and windscreen does not look like they had sport touring in mind. The whole bike just does not look right. They will price it out of the market like they did the DNO1.

  • Cameron

    Shamu shouldn’t be given the VFR designation. Perhaps VFHeavy or VFUgly would be more appropriate.

    I’ve owned a VFR since the Gen1. I love the VFR. I know the VFR -this is no VFR.

  • Rider

    I have to agree with Cameron. Honda should have given this thing a different name. I sure hope they do not screw up the new ST1300. I hope this isn’t going to be the replacement for the ST1300. I am looking forward to the new ST1300. I hope Honda will finally put cruise control, heated seats etc on the new model. The new Kawasaki C14 looks real good to me but it still lacks cruise control and heated seats. If the new ST1300 is anything like the new VFR than I will buy a new C14 or BMW R1200RT. Actually the R1200RT has everything that I could want on a sport touring bike.

  • hjworton

    I hope someone from Honda is reading the comments posted here. It does seem like this is a bike that will disappoint a lot of people. Spec sheets don’t always tell the full story – I really want to like this bike – but so far it seems to be: Too heavy, not fast enough, not comfortable enough, too expensive, not a large enough fuel capacity, questionable looks-wise. I could go on.

    The bottom line for me is: I will reserve judgement until I get to ride one of these bikes.

  • Matthew

    The current issue of BIKE compares the concept model design to the production design and I was surprised how close they actually are. That being said you can sit there and point to the places where they compromised the design, and all of those compromises are what are adding up to the disappointment (even vitriol) people feel about the styling.

    But the technical handicaps are just stupid. To get so many things wrong on this one shows how bland Honda’s thinking has become. Where’s the imagination that gave us the current CBE1000rr? That bike is spectacular regardless of styling.

  • H Man

    It seems Honda wants to dazzle us with all the tech stuff like auto trans and super paint job. I could care less about an automatic transmission. That is the LAST thing that I want on a motorcycle. Save that crap for there Leadwing. This bike is too heavy, small fuel tank, UGLY muffler, poor seating position, funny looking headlight, must I go on? I will not wait to see this bike. The pictures are enough for me plus Honda will price this out of the market. Honda THINKS we will pay extra for the automatic transmission and the deluxe paint job. Yea – right!!!!!!

  • Skip

    Honda has this bike on there web site as a “Sport” bike. Wow, I would not consider this a sport bike. The BMW K1300S will blow this thing off the street not to mention the Yamaha R1.

  • Sasha Pave

    Too bad Honda blew it with this, it could have been their signature bike.

    What made the past 3 model VFR’s great:
    - Light-weight (relatively) sport tourer
    - Good MPG
    - Enough sportiness to keep things interesting.

    It seems Honda just went with the mainstream group-think of a 1000cc+ tank (Sprint, Concours, FJ).

    But then again Honda made some mistakes with the last model too, including VTEC (useless on a bike IMHO) and a very un-honda-like engineering oversight with the alternator.


    Im sure this guy is a dispassionate and credible reviwer but I know what stinky is talking about. The relentless crapping on by British journos about the “Triumph”ant return to decent bikes over the last few years to the exclusion of equal or better bikes gets a bit tiresome. The Street Triple is an ok bike, we get it, move on. My question is will the American market still need to call this an Interceptor or some other inane moniker or can they just deal with the normal model number like the rest of the world.

  • John Williams

    I just got back from the Long Beach show and I was able to sit on the VFR 1200, VFR800, Sprint ST (from a dealers booth) and K1300S all back to back. The VFR1200f may be heavier on paper than the K1300 and the older VFR 800, but it sure hides it’s weight well. It felt lighter to me than the others. The old VFR800 and Sprint ST felt top heavy and the K1300s felt over all too bulky. I don’t think the Shamu or Orca metaphor is very fair. Maybe someone from Hell for Leathers should actually sit on one.

    As for Mr. Ash recommending Sprint ST? Triumph makes nice bikes, but the fit and finish is nowhere near the fit and finish of the Honda or of the BMW. After actually sitting on the new VFR1200f and the other bikes Mr. Ash recommends as an alternative, I can’t possibly understand his complaints about weight?

    I have to agree with Stinky and OZVFR, it always seems that the Brits scrutinize the Japanese brands more. They seem to be a little easier on Triumph and Euro brand’s shortcomings. Is this because we expect the Japanese to deliver more?

    Let me just say before anyone’s vagina start to bleed, yes I am very familiar with Mr. Ashes work. Yes, I subscribe to several British and Euro Magazines too.

    • Wes Siler

      Unfortunately Honda hasn’t given us the chance to form our own opinions on the VFR, so we simply have to rely on those of other journalists that we trust.

      People started calling it “Shamu” long, long before the weight was known, it’s because it looks like an Orca. We like nicknames, so it’s sticking.

  • Axispowersmakethebestbikes

    I think that guy is talking about whether its going to be called an “Interceptor” or some other model name. “Shamu” is a nick name, kind of a dumb one in my opinion. Sure, whether or not it looks like a whale to some is a matter of (clearly flawed ) opinion. The other thing is that there are plenty of cruisers that weigh in far heavier and they wont have as good a motor or handle anywhere near what the new VFR will. Im looking at you Harley Davidson you portly boat anchor manufacturer.