Monday, May 30, 2011

The Bike


Figures first:

The VFR1200FD is a 1237cc water cooled 4-stroke 76° V4 motorcycle that delivers 127kW and 129Nm of torque. This is almost 3 times more than my TransAlp and only 4 kW less than the CBR1000RR Fireblade, but with 17Nm more torque. The extra torque should come in handy with my extra weight. This bike is revolutionary in that it has an auto gearbox, the first bike of this kind to feature this.

According to the Honda website the dual clutch transmission configuration employs independent clutches for the odd-numbered gears (1st, 3rd, 5th) and the even-numbered gears (2nd, 4th, 6th), respectively. The two clutches operate alternately to effect gear changes. For example, when changing from 1st to 2nd gear, the computer detects the up-shift and engages 2nd gear, then releases the 1st-gear clutch while engaging the 2nd gear clutch to achieve a seamless gear change. It’s a fast, smooth and efficient transition that delivers extremely quick shifts.

It looks "funny" when you look at the bike and there's literally no gear lever or clutch. Somehow it puts you on the back foot. It just doesn't seem right. How do I ride this thing? How am I going to stop? Well, that's what I thought last year. Luckily this year I knew what I was doing so I could hop on and ride off like I know everything about bikes.

The auto box (in "Drive" mode) is an absolute pleasure in traffic. It's literally "point and shoot" with this bike. You can concentrate on the traffic around you while the bike is seamlessly keeping you in the optimal gear and rev range. Unlike you might think you never get the impulse to reach for the clutch or gear lever. The bike is so progressive that the gears change before you get the impulse to do it yourself. Same thing when you slow down on approach to a stop sign / traffic light - the bike runs down through the gears effectively "braking" even before you get the impulse to do so. Amazing.

Leaving the city traffic behind I rode up Sir Lowry's pass and I couldn't help but to smile as I realized that I have 400km of open road ahead and a state-of-the-art 1200cc road bike to do it with.

I had to stop at the top for a pic of where this adventure started:

Now this is quite a different animal from a Dual Sport bike (obviously). The focus is different, the performance is much more pronounced and of course all of that means that the seating position is not upright. You sit forward, not as much as on a "supabike", but not upright by any stretch of the imagination. Surprisingly it's not uncomfortable. Comfort is not the first thing on my mind anyway. The adrenalin is making sure of that!

While the "Drive" mode is more sedate and "civilized", Sport mode is where it's at! In "Drive" mode (don't you ride a bike? Who "drives" a bike? Especially a bike like this! ) the bike gears up quickly and the revs is kept low. In sport mode the revs is kept between 7000 - 11 000rpm so you have instant power on tap all the time. No worrying about gears, touch the throttle and maximum power is at your disposal in an instant!

The bike has a tiptronic mode as well where you can change the gears yourself (semi automatic) but you run into the rev limiter quickly / easily and then you have to fiddle about again. At first I thought I'd be using this feature most as I prefer to be in control, but in the end I hardly ever used it. Sport mode - that's the one.

This bike is fast! Especially in my frame of reference. Having a helmet with a peak didn't help much either. The screen is higher and bigger than that of a Supabike but still no touring screen so I "had" to go fast in order to get the wind thrown over my head. The VFR comes into it's own at high speed. The fairing is designed to optimize engine cooling, to channel hot air away from the rider and to keep the bike stable. She starts getting comfortable at speeds where my TransAlp would have been hitting the rev limiter in top gear already... Funnily enough those are the speeds where my helmet also didn't bother me as much. The sweet spot.

I was really making good time despite the fact that I had to stop every 100km's or so (around 35mins) to stretch my legs. The bike is not uncomfortable, but you can't really change your seating position so you need to stretch every so often. Before I knew it I was at Mossel Bay and had George in my sights.

Rolling into my home town I had to fill up - again. On my trip here (just over 400km) I managed to burn two tanks of fuel. The VFR's tank is too small taking only 18.5 liters. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

What a thing of beauty. It's great to be alive. It's amazing I made it here alive.


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