Honda VFR1200F vs. the World

Which one wins depends on the way you play

The old boundaries between sport and touring are getting harder to see. Throw Honda's VFR1200F into the mix and this Über GT game just got harder to win. How it stacks up against BMW's K1300S and Suzuki's GSX1300R Hayabusa depends on how far and how fast you want to play.

If all you really want to do is play hard and fast, it's not much of a game at all, especially when '09 'Busas can be had for $13,199. Assuming you can live with chain final drive, relatively hard-nosed ergonomics and less wind protection, the 172-horse Suzook flattens its urbane challengers right out of the gate, covering a quarter-mile in 10.14 seconds at 142.5 mph. The latest version is something less than light at 592 pounds fully fueled, but that hardly puts a dent in its ability to play fast and loose with the space/time continuum. The VFR comes closer than you might think, clocking a 10.23-second/136.8-mph best. It's easier to ride, more technologically advanced and luxuriously appointed as well. Meanwhile, the BMW is hardly off the pace with a 10.6-second/133-mph timing slip.

Roomier and more sumptuously appointed, with a list of options rivaling some of the Bavarian manufacturer's automobiles, the recently fortified BMW K1300S is the obvious choice for transcontinental sorties. Wind protection is marginally better than the Honda's and well ahead of the 'Busa's. Plus, at 569 lbs. topped off with 5 gallons of super-unleaded, it's the surprise lightweight of the bunch. Even the $15,550 base price is a little lighter. Add a little more lunge in just the right place and it rolls from 60 to 80 mph quicker than the Honda in top gear.

On the downside, BMW's 1293cc inline lump isn't as flexible or cooperative or refined as Honda's latest 1237cc V4. Throttle response and fueling are less precise. Neither bike shifts as well as a $16,000 motorcycle should. And both have a bit too much driveline lash. Still, the Honda is noticeably better sorted on both counts. BMW's Duolever front suspension tells you less about how the tire and tarmac are getting along, and takes a bit more getting used to than its telescopic peers. The Hayabusa is better than both of them on that count. But the Suzuki's brakes lack the Honda's feel or the BMW's sheer power, and ABS isn't an option yet.

So? For short, high-speed hauls, the Hayabusa is a slam-dunk. If you're ready to cultivate a long-distance relationship, willing to overlook a few driveline foibles and able to pay something more than that $15,500 base price for a representative K1300S, talk to your local BMW dealer. Those of us who'd rather do a little of each on any given day will go with the VFR.

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I am in the process of buying a new motorcycle and I have recently test rode a Honda VFR, BMW K1300S, and Harley VROD (diff class I know).  I am going to test ride a Ducati Multistrada 1200 and Diavel next week.  I liked the Honda, it was a nice ride but I felt like I was sliding all over the seat because the brakes were better than I'm used to and the throttle/shaft drive was 'jumpy'. I liked the Harley because its cool looking and sounds great but I felt like I was trying to weild a truck and go around turns in an unnatural forward control 'clamshell' position.   When I rode the BMW though, I was in heaven, linear throttle response, excellent brakes, maneuverable, and solid seating position. Ducati will have its work cut out for it.
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