Saturday, November 06, 2010

Ron Haslam on the Honda VFR1200F: “I’m so impressed by the handling…”

'Rocket' Ron Haslam has ridden everything from two-stroke 500cc GP bikes to big four-strokes and even the rotary-engined Norton F1. His opinion of the VFR1200F should certainly count for something...

Younger readers of Faster and Faster, the ones who don’t remember a certain Grand Prix racer with the initials ‘RH’ on his helmet, might ask who exactly is Ron Haslam. Oh, well, he’s a British rider who used to race in 500cc GPs, right alongside the likes of men like Kevin Schwantz and Freddie Spencer. He’s raced everything from big four-strokes to 500cc two-strokes and even the rotary-engined Norton F1. And before his exploits in the GPs, Haslam also won the Formula 1 TT at the Isle of Man in 1982. So, yes, Rocket Ron knows a thing or two about going very, very fast on motorcycles.

Ron rode the original Honda VFR750 during the Transatlantic races in the mid-1980s. So for their November 2010 issue, the UK-based Bike magazine got him to ride a VFR1200F and asked for his opinion of the bike. Here are some brief excerpts from what The Rocket has to say about the new V4-engined Honda:

“I’m so impressed by the handling, the stability and the turning. Touring bikes tend to sit on the back end and just push the front, but the VFR doesn’t. You put this into a corner and it tracks around nicely, right where you put it. That was the first shock for me, that it steers more like a sportsbike than a tourer.”

“There’s loads of torque, loads of midrange and that gives a big wide rev counter to play with. I found I could power it up to where the back wheel spins, with my knee on the floor, through corners. And it was controllable – it wasn’t a touring bike that bounces and jumps about all over the place – it just kept its line and kept going. So that was the second surprise for me. I was, like, “Wow, this thing is really good!””

2011 Honda VFR1200F 2011 Honda VFR1200F 2011 Honda VFR1200F 2011 Honda VFR1200F

While Rocket Ron was impressed with the VFR1200, he did ultimately find it a bit soft, with the exhaust touching down when the bike was pushed really hard. The other thing he didn’t like very much was the VFR’s ABS-equipped brakes, saying that he liked the Fireblade’s C-ABS setup much better. “When I pulled the brake really hard, the ABS would come in early and release so hard, the forks would rebound. It’s more safety-type ABS than the CBR’s sportsbike stuff,” said Ron.

When asked what changes he’d want on his VFR1200F if he had to ride one on the track, Ron asks for more ground clearance, an exhaust system that doesn’t get in the way while cornering hard and a stiffer rear shock. That, and ditch the ABS.

So there you are, the legendary Rocket Ron is quite all right with the VFR1200’s engine and handling and would only ask for changes to be made to the bike when he’s riding it on the track, at the absolute limit. So how bad can the VFR be for the rest of us…?

These excerpts are from the November 2010 issue of Bike magazine. It is, in our opinion, the best motorcycle magazine in the world and you could subscribe to it here

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