A Big Ol’ Street-Oriented Fun Machine

Honda brought its VFR1200X — a.k.a. the ’CrossTourer’ in other markets — to the U.S. back in 2016, and it rolled as a direct carryover into the ’17 model year. Built as an adventure bike with a bias toward the blacktop, the “X” sports a powerful, 129-horsepower engine and a choice between a manual, six-speed gearbox and Honda’s Dual Clutch Transmission that provides seamless automatic gear changes sans clutch or toe shifter. The factory also sought to boost its tour-ability with its proprietary Selectable Torque Control, adjustable suspension components and a robust accessories lineup that boasts all manner of gadgets meant to expand capabilities and comfort alike. Around the world, the adventure-bike market is expanding like mad, and Honda is even taking some wind out of the X’s sails with its own Africa Twin model, so today I want to see if it has what it takes to compete in this rapidly evolving and expanding market.

Continue reading for my review of the Honda VFR1200X.

Design

2016 - 2017 Honda VFR1200X
- image 755046
It could really use some bags, but Honda hits all the requisite design points with adventuresome flylines and a genre-typical profile.

Generally speaking, I’ve never been a fan of the bird’s beak fairing, but the X makes it work for a narrow entry that is kept narrow by the over-under headlight arrangement and skinny windshield. The screen comes vented to reduce the head-buffet effect, and it can be adjusted — single-handed — through a range of three inches to allow you to tune in for your body type and preference.

Though the fairing has a decidedly-fine entry, it does widen up a bit toward the back side to form a protective pocket for the pilot’s legs. Tall risers push the handlebar back toward the rider, and the bar itself comes with a bit of rise of their own to place the rider’s hands in a comfortable position that delivers plenty of leverage while leaving room for standing maneuvers. Best of all, the other points of contact describe a rider’s triangle that encourage the upright riding position that works so well in light terrain and on long highway jaunts.

A smooth, bench-type seat comes with just enough scoop to cup and support the rider’s butt and a short rise to the wide pillion seat to further contain the pilot and give a little elevation boost to the passenger. Grab rails and fold-up footpegs complete the pillion gear.

Below the subframe, a combo mudguard/taillight/plateholder completes the package in typical fashion. I gotta say, this bike really screams for bags, and while there are some cargo boxes available, Honda still doesn’t quite understand what “touring” means to Americans. Overall, Honda hits all the requisite design points with adventuresome flylines and a genre-typical profile.

Chassis

2016 - 2017 Honda VFR1200X
- image 755030
Steering-head layout gives the VFR1200X a balance between straight-line stability and cornering agility.

Honda starts out on a twin-spar, diamond-type frame made up from aluminum stock in a bid to keep weight down with moderate success: 608-pounds for the manual-transmission model and 631-pounds for the DCT model. Steering-head layout gives the X 28 degrees of rake with 4.17 inches of trail for a balance between straight-line stability and cornering agility with a set of inverted KYB stems to support the front end.

The front forks come with 43 mm tubes in blackout struts, and they boast adjustable rebound damping and spring preload so you can dial in right where you want it — same as the KYB monoshock out back — and components at both ends provide a range of motion of 5.7 inches of travel to handle the backroads and rougher surfaces.

At 7.08-inches high, ground clearance is certainly sufficient for any sort of urban environment as well as light-terrain/trail riding, but with the stock tires you’d best stay on the black and leave the brown to the purpose-built machines. The brakes are fairly substantial with dual, 310 mm discs up front and a 276 mm disc out back. Best of all, they come with Honda’s Combined ABS feature that provides ABS protection along with balanced braking effort due to pressure sharing between front and rear, so you have a much better than average chance of keeping the thing dirty side down. Laced rims round out the rolling chassis with a 110/80-19 up front and 150/70-17 out back.

Rake: 28.0º
Trail: 4.17 inches (106 mm)
Front suspension/Travel: 43mm inverted telescopic fork w/ hydraulic damping, preload & rebound damping adjustment/5.7 inches
Rear suspension/Travel: Pro-Link® w/ gas-charged damper, preload & stepless rebound damping adjustment/5.7 inches
Front brake: dual 310mm discs; combined ABS
Rear brake: single 276mm disc; combined ABS
Front tire: 110/80-r19
Rear tire: 150/70-r17

Drivetrain

2016 - 2017 Honda VFR1200X
- image 755044
You'll have to spool it up to 7,750 rpm to get the full 127 horsepower from it, but the 93 pounds o' grunt comes on at an even six grand.

The V-4 powerplant is an interesting piece of engineering. In order to make the engine narrower in back so as to streamline the bike’s waist, the rear cylinder connecting rods occupy the center two journals on the crankshaft with the forward cylinders on the outboard journals. This clever little trick does the job quite nicely, and it prevents the X from feeling bulky around the middle.

The 1,237 cc liquid-cooled mill runs with an 81 mm bore and 60 mm stroke (times four) and a smokin’ hot 12-to-1 compression ratio, so yeah, you can forget about anything but the premium pump. That’s something to consider if you are planning to operate in less-developed areas. You’ll have to spool it up to 7,750 rpm to get the full 127 horsepower from it, but the 93 pounds o’ grunt comes on at an even six grand and that can be a lot of power to manage in inclement conditions.

To that end, the Honda Selectable Torque Control provides three levels of intervention (plus Off) to help prevent spinning out in the wet. It works with the RbW throttle system and ignition to safely reduce power when a speed differential is detected between the front and rear wheels. Engine power flows through a six-speed transmission and down a shaft final drive to put the power to the pavement, regardless of whether you take the manual transmission or the DCT automatic.

Engine: 1,237 cc liquid-cooled 4-stroke unicam 16-valve 76º v4
Bore x stroke: 81mm x 60mm
Induction: PGM-FI electronic fuel injection
Ignition: Electric
Compression ratio: 12:1
Valve train: SOHC four valves per cylinder
Transmission: Manual 6-speed (DCT model w/ 6-speed DCT)
Final drive: Enclosed shaft

Pricing

2016 - 2017 Honda VFR1200X
- image 755029
MSRP for 2017 is just $400 over last year and with a Candy Red color offering.

So far, I don’t see any mention of an ’18 model, carryover or otherwise, but the base ’17 rolls for $15,999 and the DCT model creeps up to $16,399. Color selection is limited with only Candy Red on the menu this year.

Colors:
2016: Pearl Black
2017: Candy Red
Price:
2016: $15,599 (DCT: $15,999)
2017: $15,999 (DCT: $16,399)

Competitors

2016 - 2017 Honda VFR1200X
- image 755042
2016 - 2017 Triumph Tiger Explorer XR
- image 735986
The VFR gains a slight advantage with its combined-braking feature, but Triumph packs in TC, rider modes and a slipper clutch, so it actually gains a slight edge in the engine tech.

Looking at this Honda has me thinking about the Tiger 1200 line from Triumph, and I think the “XR” from that family will fit the bill nicely. Looks-wise, well, the Tiger certain shows its country of origin — there’s just no missing the “Britishness” about it. That’s fine if that’s your cup of tea (see what I did there?) but in this instance, I prefer the slightly softer angles of the VFR that lend it an almost feminine grace.

In profile, the two share that typical silhouette, and although I confess a preference for the looks of the Honda, I gotta’ say that the Tiger certainly looks like serious business. WP suspension products buoy the Brit with rebound- and compression-damping adjustments up front and variable rebound damping to go with the hydraulic preload out back for what is a sidegrade at best from what Honda brings to the table. Braking is similar all around with dual front brakes and ABS protection all around, but the VFR gains a slight advantage with its combined-braking feature.

Rather than going the V-4 route, Triumph opted for an in-line triple to drive its adventuresome creation. At 1,215 cc, the Tiger surrenders a few cubes to the VFR but the power numbers are a trade off. Triumph claims 139 horsepower for an edge on the Honda’s 127 ponies, but the Red Riders come back with 93 pound-feet of torque against the Tiger’s 90 pounds o’ grunt. Unsurprising given the inherent differences between inline- and V-configured engines. Triumph packs in TC, rider modes and a slipper clutch, so it actually gains a slight edge in the engine tech. At $16,500, the Tiger remains a threat all the way to the checkout against the $15,999 VFR1200X.

He Said

“It has always vexed me as to why Honda made the first Africa Twin such a street-centric machine when it had the VFR in the stable. I mean sure, it has half the cylinders, but this thing does everything the AT does only better, and it certainly is a viable alternative for someone who would like to tour, but ain’t feelin’ the whole Gold Thing scene.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “It doesn’t feel like a sportbike, but twist the throttle and you’re flying. It is a big, heavy bike, though, and you feel it at low speed. Unless you’re very tall, it might be a handful to wrestle, but once you get going it is manageable. Seating is comfortable and ergonomics are agreeable for touring. It’s a bit big for me size-wise, but adventure bikes usually are with the generous ground clearance.”

Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: 1,237 cc liquid-cooled 4-stroke unicam 16-valve 76º v4
Bore x stroke: 81mm x 60mm
Induction: PGM-FI electronic fuel injection
Ignition: Electric
Compression ratio: 12:1
Valve train: SOHC four valves per cylinder
Transmission: Manual 6-speed (DCT model w/ 6-speed DCT)
Final drive: Enclosed shaft
Chassis:
Rake: 28.0º
Trail: 4.17 inches (106 mm)
Front suspension/Travel: 43mm inverted telescopic fork w/ hydraulic damping, preload & rebound damping adjustment/5.7 inches
Rear suspension/Travel: Pro-Link® w/ gas-charged damper, preload & stepless rebound damping adjustment/5.7 inches
Front brake: dual 310mm discs; combined ABS
Rear brake: single 276mm disc; combined ABS
Front tire: 110/80-r19
Rear tire: 150/70-r17
Dimensions & Capacities:
Wheelbase: 62.8 in.
Seat height: 33.5 in.
Ground Clearance: 7.0 inches
Curb weight: 608 lbs (DCT model: 631 lbs)
Fuel capacity: 5.6 gal.
Details:
Colors:
2016: Pearl Black
2017: Candy Red
Price:
2016: $15,599 (DCT: $15,999)
2017: $15,999 (DCT: $16,399)

References

2016 - 2017 Triumph Tiger Explorer XR
- image 735967

See our review of the Triumph Tiger XR.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: powersports.honda.com, triumphmotorcycles.com

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