Shamu 2, the revenge of the whale

Assuming that Shamu was the biggest whale hiding in the ocean was our fatal mistake. Mock it and that’ll be the end of bloated bikes, right? Wrong, because Shamu has a mom and she’s pissed. This official teaser sketch shows a new “adventure” touring bike, presumably based around the 1200cc V4, that will first be shown in concept form at the EICMA show next month.

What’s our beef with the Honda VFR1200? Well, it’s super expensive, super heavy, terrifying to ride on a race track and only mediocre at riding on the road. It’s also overhyped and fawned over by sycophants. That’s not its real problem though, after all there’s plenty of other bad bikes out there. No, Shamu’s real problem is that it’s the physical embodiment of a general malaise at the once great Honda. That company captured the hearts of enthusiasts everywhere when it spent the first six decades of its existence producing light, fast, fun, well-engineered motorcycles. Then 2010 rolled around and it seemed like the focus shifted to something less tangible, something less Soichiro.

Want to read more about why we’re getting such a large crop of unusually large, unusually expensive, unusually underwhelming motorcycles? Check out Michael Uhlarik’s article, Bred Obsolescence.

So what does this teaser sketch show us? Well, like Shamu, this “adventure” touring bike will use a complicated layered fairing intended to make the bike look very upmarket to buyers more used to spending that kind of money on cars. Of course, that same setup, with very large panels all interconnected, should also make dropping it cost as much as crashing a car too. The sketch clearly shows a bike with adventure touring pretensions — the tall suspension and abbreviated front mudguard — but it also shows a bike that looks large in all the wrong ways. In profile in this sketch, the bike looks like an F650GS with chronic obesity.

Like the slow, painful unveiling of the VFR1200, it looks like this bike will be shown first in “concept” form at EICMA. Man, we’re using a lot of quotes around words to describe this bike.

In addition to being an “adventure” touring bike that likely won’t have any off-road ability, one that you’d never, ever, ever want to drop and presumably featuring a weight problem, this new bike has one other giant problem: the engine. The 1200cc V4 just isn’t very good. When we rode the VFR1200, we found it to have significant fueling problems, very little in the way of low down grunt and not much in the way of top end power. Sure, there’s some mid range, but less than you’d expect. The bike just doesn’t feel very fast, certainly not anywhere near rivals like the Hayabusa, ZX-14 and K1300S. Outright power won’t be such an issue in a tall, heavy “adventure” tourer, but that terrible fueling, if it hasn’t been fixed, will be. Can you imagine trying to negotiate an off-road obstacle at low speed on a bike that it’d cost a fortune to drop while the engine surges on constant throttle at low revs? Starting to understand why this new bike sends shivers down our spines?

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