Honda VFR800F Interceptor
Ringleader: Marty Estes
Msrp: $10,499 (2006)
Average Fuel Mileage: 36.3 mpg
Accessories & Modifications: Metzeler Sportec M-1 tires
It's time to bid farewell to my long-term Interceptor. Overall, I've found there's a pretty sizeable aftermarket for the VFR and it's a smart choice for riders looking for a versatile mount. In 16 months and 8000 miles of use here at the magazine, clearly the most interesting phenomenon was tire life-or the lack thereof. While the majority of my daily commute consists of mind-numbing lane-splitting, 20-plus minutes each way is twisty sickness. Twice a day, five days a week, I commute on some of L.A.'s finest canyon roads: Mulholland, Latigo, Piuma and others. While I don't pretend to be a fantastic street rider, the weight of the bike, combined with my steadily improving skills and a few thousand corners, added up to a stack of roasted front tires. Three different brands saw the same result; 2000 to 2500 miles is about all they're good for. The latest was perhaps the least logical: Metzeler's Sportec M-1s are built more for performance than long life. Predictably, these were the most confidence-inspiring early on, but their lifespan was the shortest thus far, worn bald halfway from the center to the edges where most sane canyon riding is done. One of Metzeler's sport-touring radials would have been a better choice. A fourth set of tires is on the bike now, but it will be back at Big Red before we can send them to that rubbery place in the sky.
At 8200 miles, I yanked the fairing off again-much easier the second time around-and put in fresh Honda HP4 oil and a Honda oil filter. At the same time, I swapped out the brake pads front and rear, again using Honda Genuine Parts. There was still a good amount of meat left, but somewhere along the line the rear pads were contaminated with errant chain lube and had taken to chattering when hot. New pads and clean rotors cured this annoyance. If I were keeping this bike, it'd be time to change the suspension fluids.
Impressively, during all of this use, the Viffer has not missed, coughed, sputtered or anything. Not once. The level of refinement is higher than on just about any other bike I've ridden. Which is good and bad-there's character to be had with a bike that needs a little attention every now and then. Still, it's hard to argue with Honda's logic: The VFR is so well engineered that you can forget about its inner workings and just ride the thing. Despite the fact that I haven't adjusted the chain once, it's only slightly loose and the sprockets still look great. And the valves aren't scheduled to be adjusted until 16,000 miles. That's pretty amazing.
Ringleader: Lon Rozelle
Average Fuel Mileage: Good, I hope
Accessories & Modifications: You'll see...
I'm anxiously awaiting the delivery truck bearing my new long-term testbike, BMW's ground-breaking F800S. A twin that doesn't stick out the sides, built by Rotax, and pumping out 85 ponies in stock trim? Park it right here, thank you very much.
What intrigues me about the F800 is it promises to be a viable alternative to Japanese and other European models-something that's relatively sporty, comfortable, easy on the eyes, works well for the day-to-day commuter grind and can easily be outfitted from BMW's typically generous aftermarket goody bag to make a viable sport-tourer.
According to the manufacturer, the F800 was designed to appeal to re-entry riders, but I'm betting anyone who wants one bike that can do it all will be interested to see how this one stacks up. Belt drive requires no more maintenance than BMW's traditional shaft drive, the front suspension is a standard telescopic fork instead of BMW's trademark Duolever or Telelever, and a steering damper and digital gear indicator are included gratis. It just might be the best-looking BMW ever built, too, especially in red.
I can't wait to throw a leg over it and head for the horizon. "Hey boss, I know I just started, but can I have two weeks off?"