Polarizing By Definition
Miraculously, the DCT doesn't...
Miraculously, the DCT doesn't shift when leaned over. Honda claims the bike doesn't have a bank angle sensor, but through some investigative work we found a parts fiche that shows an "angle sensor, 40 degree" in the right crankcase cover. We suspect this notifies the DCT of the bike's lean angle and restricts shifting until back upright.
Honda is well aware that this machine won't appeal to everyone, and the dyed-in-the-wool purists surely won't like it no matter what's written here. But sport-touring is about enjoying the open road and taking the path less traveled. Typically these riders don't fit in with the norm. It's these very people that would benefit from giving the DCT a shot. And after living with it for some time we hardly missed the clutch lever. Aside from the small fuel tank, we actually applaud Honda for daring to push technology further, despite the Internet critics.
2010 Honda VFR1200FD
MSRP: $17,499/$20,648 (as tested)
Type: Liquid-cooled, SOHC, 4-stroke 76-degree V-four
Bore x stroke: 81 x 60mm
Compression ratio: 12.0:1
Induction: PGM-FI, 44mm throttle bodies, single injector/cyl.
Transmission: 2-plate, automatic constant mesh 6-speed
Rear suspension: Single rear shock absorber, 5.1 in. travel; adjustments for spring preload, rebound damping
Front brake: 2 radial-mount/six-piston calipers, 320mm discs
Rear brake: Two-piston caliper, 276mm disc
Front wheel: 3.50 x 17in., cast aluminum alloy
Rear wheel: 6.00 x 17in., cast aluminum alloy
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Dunlop Sportmax Roadsmart CQ K
Rear tire: 190/50ZR-17 Dunlop Sportmax Roadsmart K
Rake/trail: 25.5 deg./4.0 in. (101mm)
Wheelbase: 60.8 in. (1545mm)
Seat height: 32.1 in. (815mm)/31.3 in. as tested (795mm)
Fuel capacity: 4.9 gal. (18.5L)
Weight: 657 lb. (298 kg) wet; 627 lb. (284 kg) dry
Instruments: Analog tachometer, LCD panels for digital speedometer, fuel gauge, gear indicator, drive mode indicator. clock, ambient air temp, odometer, dual tripmeters, warning lights for EFI malfunction, turn signals, high beam, neutral, coolant temp, oil pressure
Quarter-mile: 11.67 sec. @ 130.4 mph (corrected)
Top speed: NA
Roll-ons: 60-80 mph/3.61 sec.; 80-100 mph/4.27 sec.
Fuel consumption: 24-41 mpg, 36 mpg avg.
I have to admit that I was pretty skeptical before I had the chance to ride the VFR DCT model. I couldn't see how it could possibly enhance the riding experience, as I was definitely underwhelmed by previous auto-clutch/transmission motorcycles. But true to form, Honda has put a lot of R&D into the DCT (although it is an adaptation of the similar DCT fitted to the firm's Fourtrax Rancher AT all-terrain four-wheeler that debuted last year) to make it as refined as possible, so that-while not necessarily enhancing the riding experience in my opinion-it doesn't intrude upon it, either. Once you get used to not subconsciously lunging for a clutch or shift lever every time you slow for a corner (as well as the slight lack of engine braking) and leave everything to the VFR's ECU, the rest of the Honda's polished sophistication really shines.
That said, I also have to admit that the shine started to lose its luster after a while. On a sport-touring bike at anything less than a 7/10ths pace, you're not that occupied with controlling the motorcycle anyway, and removing the physical act of gearshifting started to make the rides...well, boring. It was different story in the canyons in Sport mode, where the transmission definitely was fun to work with.
Nonetheless, I have to tip my hat to Honda for advancing technology in motorcycling. And we may be seeing a more refined (lighter, smaller) version on its sportbikes in the future.
I'll just come right out and say it - I'm a big fan of this VFR, especially with the DCT. This is the kind of motorcycle I could ride everyday and practically everywhere. I was genuinely puzzled when I attended the international press launch for this bike at the Sugo circuit in Japan-a track machine this definitely is not-but after coming away thoroughly impressed by what it could do outside of its element, I couldn't wait to try it in the right context. Fully loaded and with the better half on the back, both rider and passenger embarked on our weekend journey in total comfort. Even in Drive mode the flat torque curve of the V-4 didn't skip a beat and motored right along. Time will tell if this bike is a success for Honda, as I'm sure the tooling costs for this machine surely aren't cheap. Maybe, just maybe, Honda will develop this technology further and possibly into a package suitable for a sportbike application. That would be one way to amortize the cost. But for now we have the VFR and, I can't believe I'm saying this, it's a machine I'd actually like to keep in my garage.