2011 Honda Crossruner: VFR800 reborn for naked adventure

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Here’s the 2011 Honda Crossrunner, which uses a 100bhp 782cc V4, summed up in a single sentence: “Extensive customer research indicated that whilst buyers liked the appearance and the image of adventure bikes, for some the compromised stability caused by long travel suspension, taller seat heights and dual purpose tyres was a concern.” That’s right, it’s an adventure bike that won’t be scary.

Honda goes on to say, “The Crossrunner represents the best aspects of two separate biking genres: the flexibility and exciting attitude of a Naked performance machine with the upright riding position and rugged appearance of an adventure bike.”

To power this contraption, Honda has developed a new version of its VTEC-equipped 782cc, quad-cam V4 that develops 100bhp at 10,000rpm and 54lb/ft of torque at 9,500rpm. That powers a bike that weighs 240.4kg/530lbs (wet). It uses chain final drive and a single-sided swingarm.

That engine capacity and it’s 72mm bore and 48mm stroke, as well as the presence of VTEC, are identical to the old VFR800.

Rather than set out to create a massively dirt-capable adventure tourer or a high speed adventure bike, it sounds like Honda has instead focussed its massive R&D budget on less-exciting, but more practical things like aerodynamic stability and passenger comfort.

The Crossrunner was tested in wind tunnels 120 times during its development not to boost its top speed, but to perfect “stability-enhancing airflow.” That’s what’s allegedly responsible for the Crossrunner’s, we’re quoting Honda here, “trend-setting appearance.” That’s right, the multi-layered fairing isn’t just there to increase Honda’s parts profit when you drop it, but to help make things easy on the highway too.

Honda also says its research resulted in exceptionally wide handlebars which should make steering very light.

Pillion practicality and comfort were also a target, with their seat becoming low, flat and wide, which should also make it easier to climb on and off.

The aluminum beam frame also appears strikingly identical to the old VFR800’s and holds a 43mm right-way-up fork and rear Pro-Link shock, neither of which are fully adjustable. The non-radial ABS brakes? Those look like a VFR800’s too.

The Crossruner will be available with a range of accessories that includes taller screens, heated grips, hard luggage and other practicality-enhancing features.

So Honda’s basically taken a VFR800, uglified it and given it an upright riding position right? Yep. But why? Well, it kinda sorta makes sense even if we’re still upset that the honest, practical VFR800 was replaced by the overweight, expensive VFR1200. With the popularity of adventure bikes booming, adapting the VFR800 to this class will give an old platform a new lease on life with minimal development and re-tooling costs for Honda, all while avoiding direct competition with the high-margin VFR1200. Think of it as gaining a comfortable, upright VFR instead of losing sport touring’s oldest friend.

  • KeC

    Where the hell do they do their customer research? I mean, now even the bikes are going metrosexual, crossover and other nonsence. This sux!

  • RandyS

    I don’t doubt that Honda did a lot of customer research, and I’m not surprised by what they found.

    I think that customers really want a standard style bike, but standard style bikes look too boring and uncool.

    Customers want a comfortable motorcycle with an upright riding position, a low seat, wide handlebars, and a good sized passenger seat. But they don’t want it to look like an old-man’s BMW. That’s one of the reasons that Harleys and other cruiser style bikes are so popular.

    Adventure bikes are just another sort of poser bike. Research has shown that just about no one ever takes them off-road. But they offer the comfort that users prefer.

    A similar thing happened with bicycles. No one wanted a standard style bicycle because they looked like they were for old people. So road racing style bicycles were big for a long time. But customers really wanted an upright seating position. When mountain bikes came out, they were wildly popular, even though most riders never use them off-road. People purchase mountain bikes because they are a cool looking variation on a standard bike theme.

    • swfcpilot

      I’m with RandyS on this one. Look at the new Ninja 1000. I think it will outsell the Z1000 simply because of the fairing, and therefore better wind protection. Better wind protection is reason #1 that I replaced a Honda 599 naked bike with a VFR800. Better touring performance was reason #2.

      In today’s lean times, I think this is a good move by Honda. Being able to skip R&D on another engine design has to be a considerable cost savings. The VFR800 has not had a recall since the electrical problems on the 2005 and older models, so it’s a pretty sound design. However, the engine with its vtec is pretty peaky with lots of hills and valleys in the power delivery. I like it fine in my 2006 since it smooths out when on the power, but just for tooling around town it can be a little rough AND the think puts off a lot of heat with the rear cylinders between your knees. Still, when I’m simply commuting, I rarely exceed 7000 rpm, so the engine stays in 2 valve per cylinder mode and you don’t see the surge at the 4 valve cut-in. You only have to worry about the dip in power around 5500 rpm but it’s manageable. On the road with saddlebags and topcase, I normally get 47 mpg so range is pretty good and may be on this one too if the tank stays over 5 gallons capacity.

      This isn’t the prettiest motorcycle I’ve seen, but I think the tall KTM bikes are a little on the fugly side too.

      • swfcpilot

        Oh, and with the # of 2007-2009 VFR’s left in showrooms, I bet there were a lot of extra VFR engines and parts in the Honda warehouse!

      • http://www.twitter.com/beastincarnate Beast Incarnate

        I don’t see the comparison between this and the Ninja 1000. It doesn’t seem like this model offers any more wind protection than a naked bike with an aftermarket screen. In your comparison, this model seems like the Z1000.

        I’m not suggesting that’s a bad thing, just that the VFR800 appears to be the more practical of the two.

        • swfcpilot

          Sorry. I didn’t mean it to sound like I was comparing the Z and this one. I was just comparing the idea development idea. Take a proven powertrain, put new clothes on it, rename it and BAM, “new” motorcycle.

          Still, what I think the VFR800 needed was just fully adjustable front forks. I tour and commute quite a bit on mine considering what little free time I have (over 12,000 miles so far this year), but I also like to tear up the backroads and it’s severely lacking in front end damping.

          • swfcpilot

            Typo. I got an extra “idea” in there.

          • http://www.twitter.com/beastincarnate Beast Incarnate

            My bad, I did not follow the appropriate bread crumbs.

            Feel the two-wheeled love.

            • swfcpilot

              Feeling it. :-)

  • http://kanai.net/weblog/ gkanai

    The Pontiac Aztek of motorcycles?

  • incon

    Honda has only disappointed me lately. Just another example. Why not just make a well needed update to the VFR800. Honda the VFR1200 was not the answer.

  • Ken D

    Two suppurating eyesores in as many days. Are these things sketched by insects with compound eyes? I’m losing my will to live. I’m going back to look at that MV again and I’m not coming back until someone designs something nice.

  • http://twowheelsplus.blogspot.com/ andehans

    My god, that’a a lot of plastic covers. Whats the difference in concept between this and the 15 year old Yamaha TDM? The emperor’s new clothes.

    • http://twowheelsplus.blogspot.com/ andehans

      Regarding market research, I think about Henry Ford’s famous quote: “If I asked my customers what they want, they simply would have said a faster horse.” You will get a lot of insights into problems and needs from market research, but not great and innovative solutions. Honda just doesn’t seem to have done a great job translating that insight into a great product (or maybe they have..)

      • Random

        That’s why some people praise Steve Jobs, creating a demand people didn’t know they needed. We need faster, safer bikes, but most of the motorcycle breakthroughs gave us things we didn’t knew we needed: FI, ABS, disc brakes, tubeless tires etc. The kind of thing you can’t be without when you discover how good is.

  • markbvt

    Holy crap, that thing is ugly!

    Also, the concept of an adventure bike that’s been dumbed down and made less scary is just insulting. Congratulations, Honda, you’ve just built the CRV of the motorcycle world.

    • ridingdirtymaui

      And look what a bust the CRV has been… Its ugly but probably super practical. I don’t want one but wouldn’t fault someone else for buying one.

  • stoolpigeon

    A good example of why you shouldn’t abdicate visionary leadership of your company to customer research. And yet Honda’s proud enough of it to mention it in its press flannel about the bike. ‘Don’t shoot us, you people told us to make it’. Come on, this is why I never hear back from Steve Jobs about my iX-rayspecs idea.

  • stratkat

    again thats why i like KTM. they are lean and athletic in appearance, AND hanldle as well. there is nothing on them that isnt necessary for function.

    • Pete

      Amen. I wish KTM would update the 640 Adventure. A perfect adventure bike in my mind.

      • stratkat

        now tht would be awesome, id love to get a hold of the duke III myself.

  • pplassm

    This thing eclipses the Suzuki Madura as the ugliest motorcycle ever produced.

  • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D

    It looks exactly like what it is; a motorcycle-by-committee.

  • John

    Without shaft drive, it completely lost its point. With shaft drive, it would be a heckuva a project bike when people start to crash them.

  • http://www.forrestmfg.com Steve781

    I need to go out to parking the lot and give my 01 VFR a supportive hug. Then I’ll break the news to him that his grandson is a 240 pound metro boi who wears a velour track suit and Bean duck boots and thinks the potholes in front of the local starbucks are justification for driving an orange Hummer H3.

    I keep seeing low mileage 01 and 02 CBR1100XX on ebay. Maybe a bike as old as my current one will be my “new” bike when the wheels come off the viffer?

  • tarun

    I have no idea what is going on over at Honda. Who would buy this? The VFR is now in the Goldwing family. The CBRs are losing out to Aprilia and BMW. They don’t have a real adventure bike.

    Here is a simple solution – take that V4 – stick it in a CBR chassis, and add lots of fancy electronics.

    • stratkat

      yessss, but lose the electronic stuff.
      sigh, thats never gonna happen

  • guerrila

    meant to put this here…oops.

    Once again, I would like to point out, Honda already has a real adventure bike in their stable that would have been perfect for North America…the Transalp:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2wsf7jlrI4

    I would have traded in my 650 V-strom in a heartbeat for a bike like this, with real off-road ability, low weight and simple reliability. Suzuki has sold a buttload of their similarly specked bike for years over here…notably, outselling the 1000 V-strom to near extinction. Do the Japanese really just think of this side of the Pacific as a dumping ground for overfed cruisers and sportbikes?

  • swfcpilot

    At least it does not appear to have inherited the VFR800′s linked brakes. I do see ABS so hopefully it would be the newer system that that they put on the CBR’s.

  • Ed

    I must be part of Honda’s research demographic, because I’d buy this thing. I like riding a standard and riding two-up. I like the engine. I don’t care about ugly. I’d kill for a Transalp, but I’d buy one of these if Honda doesn’t price it out of reach.