Honda's enthusiasm for the V4
engine I layout in the early 1980s was such that by 1984 the VF range
comprised six models with capacities ranging from 400 to 1000cc. The fastest
and most glamorous was the VF1000R: a limited-edition super-sports machine
that was created, with little expense spared, to dominate production racing
in the way that the straight-four CB1100R had done three years earlier.
With its full fairing and racy red. white and blue paintwork, the VF1000R
looked every bit the street-legal competition machine. Its specification
list was mouth-watering, based on a liquid-cooled, 90-degree V4 engine that
incorporated gear-driven overhead camshafts and produced no less than 122 hp
@ l0000 rpm.
That peak power output was 6bhp up on that of the
VF1000F, the standard 998cc, 16-valve V4 from which the R model was derived.
The I000F, also released in 1984. was an impressively fast and sophisticated
bike. Its styling was similar to that of the original VF750F sportster,
which had promised much before suffering widely publicized engine
reliability problems. The VF1000F handled well and its engine was flexible,
powerful and reliable. The exotic VF1000R cost roughly 50 per cent
more than the F. and oozed quality from every pore. Its fairing was
reinforced with carbon-fibre, its adjustable handlebars were made from
polished alloy, its streamlined seat hump fitted perfectly. Its engine's
gear-driven cams allowed more precise valve timing at high revs, which
accounted for some of the extra power.
Like the other VFs. the R had a
frame of square-section steel tubes, but its chassis specification was
decidedly upmarket. Big 41mm front forks incorporated air assistance,
adjustable damping and TRAC anti-dive. Hinged fork bottoms allowed easy
front wheel removal. The Pro-Link rear shock was easily adjustable: the
impressive front brakes comprised sturdy four-piston calipers and large,
Stability and power
For road riding the VF1000R was a
seductively fast and comfortable companion. Its fairing combined with the
racy riding position to give excellent wind protection. High-speed stability
was absolute, and the engine was superbly powerful and torquey. The I000R
cruised effortlessly at well over 100mph (161km/h). and surged smoothly to a
top speed of 150mph(241km/h).
The Honda's refined feel was
marred by a snatchy transmission that became annoying in town, where the
engine also had a tendency to heat up its carburettors, resulting in a
misfire. But such problems were forgotten when the rider found the open
road, and wound back the throttle to send the 1000R storming forward with a
free-flowing feel from 5000rpm or below.
Handling was good at high speed,
where the VF's stability counted for much. But at lower speeds the Honda
suffered from a weight problem. At 5241b (238kg) dry it was more than 501b
(23kg) heavier than Kawasaki's GPz900R, and its handling was ponderous
despite its 16-inch front wheel. That was a problem on the racetrack, in
particular. Even Honda star Wayne Gardner just failed to take a bike that he
described as a marshmallow to victory in the prestigious Castrol Six-Hour
production race in his native Australia.
Unlike its all-conquering CB1100R
predecessor, the VF1000R was rarely seen on a circuit, let alone in the
winner's circle. That hit sales, especially as the V4"s price put it on a
level with race-bred exotica from firms such as Bimota and Harris. It was
fortunate for Honda that ill intended to produce only a small number. The
VF1000R was fast, sophisticated and easy on the eye. but underneath that
sleek bodywork it hid too much weight to be a success.
Source of review: Fast Bikes by Roland Brown