What do Noordhoek, Fish Hoek and Franschhoek have in common? "Hoek" is a good guess but the correct answer is the new Honda VFR800X Crossrunner. Add Muizenberg, Paarl and Stellenbosch to the mix and you have some of the places I visited in just two days aboard Honda’s new steed – a bike that likes to go places…
Dual-purpose touring-bike sales have sky-rocketed in the last few years with a certain Bavarian brand doing very well. Lifestyle has become more important than absolute speed and more people want to escape the “rat race” and go camping somewhere remote (or visit a guesthouse if you feel posh). Honda took note but with one problem, though – how do to keep costs down and still be competitive on the technology front? Well, the solution was to use one of their all-time great bikes as platform for the new creation.
The previous incarnation of the VFR800 was a road-biased sportstourer which many journalists rated as the perfect bike. Honda then decided to retire this design and release a VFR1200 to the world which maybe did not need such a big and powerful (and dare we say expensive) machine… To throw away the “heart” of the old bike would have been a sin so well done to Honda for saving the legend – albeit in different cladding.
So, how different is the new Crossrunner to the original VFR800? A ride with a mate on such a machine (see pictures) proved the point that under the skin they are essentially the same bike. Engine, main frame, suspension, swingarm etc. look very similar, although, no doubt, there will be subtle changes.
Styling-wise, the bike looks fresh and purposeful. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but personally I do not think it will win any prizes for looks. It is functional though and the fitment of the Honda luggage set completes the tackle-all image.
Apart from the obvious styling the biggest change is the upright riding position. The low, comfortable seat combined with the wide, raised handlebars gives it armchair-rivalling comfort. Pillion riders are not neglected and will be very happy to accept another touring invitation.
The V4 engine is a jewel and provides more lowdown torque than an in-line four but adds a frenzy of revs and power once the VTEC system “kicks” in around 6 500 r/min. The evidence of the engine changing its breathing from two valves per cylinder to four is heard in the indecent snarl of the exhaust. I was never a fan of the VTEC system in the previous incarnation as it added a roughness to the power delivery that spoiled the ride. Honda has done a good job of calibrating the fuelling and valve timing at the change-over r/min point to be smoother and more acceptable to the rider in the Crossrunner.
Braking performance is very impressive with good power and feel with the added safety-net of ABS. Purists will frown upon the linked system but it makes the bike feel planted under deceleration. The handling feels surefooted although the seating position does not encourage MotoGP-style antics. Although very impressed with the bike overall, there are a few gripes:
• A taller screen is needed to deflect windblast at the national speed limit (and above…);
• The LCD display is very difficult to read – especially the rev counter. Ride by instinct springs to mind;
• Fuel range is quoted to be close to 400 km from a 21,5-litre tank but playing VTEC-VTEC reduced the fuel to low levels with only 200 km showing on the odo.
• Off-road ability is limited with street tyres and road biased suspension.
The best bit of the bike is the fact that it shows you new and wonderful places in absolute comfort. After a long ride, there are no aches or pains associated with sportsbike riding. Touring is now what it should be – effortless and fun.
Price: R109 999
Engine: 782 cm3, liquid-cooled, four-stroke, 16-valve, DOHC, V4
Power: 74,9 kW at 10 000 r/min
Torque: 72,8 Nm at 9 500 r/min
Suspension front: 43 mm telescopic forks with preload adjustment, 108 mm axle travel
Suspension rear: Pro-link with gas-charged damper, 119 mm axle travel
Fuel capacity: 21,5 litres
Weight: 238 kg