Riding around Australia – Touring on the VFR1200F in 2010 – Part Two
I was very glad to be leaving NSW behind me. Australia’s most populous state has always suffered with the nation’s worst roads, and they have worsened markedly in recent years. NSW country roads are absolutely appalling. Gravel roads can generally better maintained and offer a smoother ride than the pockmarked and bouncy poor excuse for tarmac motorcyclists have to suffer in NSW! No wonder the NSW road toll continues to worsen. And no wonder track days are so popular in NSW!
After crossing the border in to Queensland I continued with a run up the coast to Noosa before tackling back roads through to Gympie for the night. That last stretch was undertaken in more pouring rain, and the enforced throttle restraint required in the conditions saw the VFR1200F return 284km from 16 litres, with only the final 50km of that sojourn riding specifically for economy. With more right wrist restraint I am sure I can improve on that much further.
Rockhampton was the next port of call for an overnight stop before continuing through to Townsville the next day. Over 4000km in pouring rain during the week was enough of an excuse for some rest and relaxation in North Queensland’s largest city.
A trip over to Magnetic Island proved a relaxing interlude. Snorkeling the reef, hand feeding batfish and throwing pilchards to the wild eagles while circumnavigating the Island, and actually seeing the sun for the first time since leaving Phillip Island was a welcome change to pouring rain and speed traps.
Cornering clearance on the VFR1200F is proving great as I have touched nothing down in the bends. Fully loaded with luggage and two-up though the VFR did scrape its centre-stand when upright and using full suspension travel over large bumps, of which NSW had plenty.
The layered fairing design of the VFR1200F is something Honda claim stems from MotoGP development. They claim it helps to exhaust engine heat away from the rider and the layered screen helps reduce turbulence. It succeeds on both counts but particularly the screen.
I have never ridden a bike with so little helmet buffeting. Our test machine is fitted with the optional secondary screen that is three-position adjustable and the extra deflectors either side of the top cowl. I can’t comment on the standard set-up but can say that with the optional extra protection the cockpit is a very nice place to be. The extra screen costs an extra $357.72. Curiously enough the set of two fairing deflectors cost an identical amount of money.
The test machine also sports heated grips. The grips remain quite slim and the heating element is designed to deliver more heat in the areas you need it. As in, the side of the grip you wrap your fingers around receives much more heat than the palm area.
Three different heat levels are user selectable from a button situated next to the left grip. I used these extensively during the first day of the trip, a very wet and sometimes cold 1150km run from Phillip Island to Rothbury in NSW’s Hunter Valley. At $745 the heated grips don’t come cheap but they do work very well. Side panniers, rear hugger and 12 volt outlet kit round out the optional extras on our VFR1200F.
Nicely integrated with the styling of the machine, and ridiculously easy to mount or remove, the 29-litre panniers command another $1669 of your hard earned money but if touring are worth their weight in gold. The hugger is a very close fit to the rear tyre and helps protect the shock from debris. It requires another $333 and the 12 volt kit accessory kit costs nearly $250.
Add all those optional extras to the $24,990 sticker price of the VFR1200F plus some on road costs and you won’t see much change out of 30k.
For that money you do get 1237cc of Honda’s most powerful road going V4 engine delivering over 165hp @ 10,000rpm and 129Nm of torque at 8750rpm in a chassis more sporting than most expect.
It is not an ST1300 replacement either. The VFR1200F is much more sporting, but in no way comes close to the ST1300 for outright touring comfort. While the rider is almost as well looked after, and the pillion accommodations are much more amenable than a sportsbike, the VFR1200F is somewhat between the two classes. It is more CBR1100XX than VFR800 or ST1300.
It is a sport-touring machine and probably splits those two classes more evenly than most comparable machines. Excellent hard luggage, a fairly relaxed riding position and good weather protection are some highlights of the touring credentials.
A very slim feel between the knees, agile steering through the pegs and bars, responsive suspension and a very willing motor are some of the more sporting highlights.
The VFR1200F is an excellent all-rounder, particularly when travelling solo. However, the limits of the rear suspension travel and spring rates are felt when two-up and fully loaded with luggage. In fact, the performance of the rear shock is perhaps the biggest weak link of the bike, and something I would be going the aftermarket route to sort via an Ohlins or the like.
Thus for riders that enjoy long distance riding with a partner and the kitchen sink the VFR1200F will not fill the role in the style of a dedicated tourer. For riders that enjoy open road touring by themselves the VFR1200F does tick all the boxes.
The story will continue with more touring tidbits and reflections on the VFR1200F after I cross North Queensland and into the Northern Territory.
I am on the road somewhere between Townsville and Darwin. I had planned to head up to Cairns for the Rex Range and Captain Cook Highway but with the forecast for Cairns predicting between 20 and 40mm rain I am going to cut straight across towards Mt Isa and then up to Darwin.
That little sojourn is around 2500km, thus all going well I should arrive in Darwin sometime late on Friday.