It looks sporty enough. At least as sporty as a 775-pound motorcycle can. Relative to the original 2002 VTX1800-Honda's first salvo in the displacement race-the VTX1800F adds an assortment of racy-looking bits along with a significant bit of history. Once upon a time, the F-suffix meant broadband Super Sport in Honda parlance, as in 1975 CB500F, '79 CB750F and '87 CBR600F Hurricane.
As the first Honda cruiser affixed with said suffix, the F gets enough relatively racy parts to at least look the part. Spidery 10-spoke cast wheels wearing low-profile Dunlop radials live beneath abbreviated steel fenders. The suitably massive 1795cc, liquid-cooled V-twin arrays its cylinders at 52 degrees, assigning three valves to each along with a more menacing pair of mufflers. A flush-mount LCD instrument pod lives atop the seamless, 4.8-gallon fuel tank. Beyond that, it's a VTX in designer sweats, ready for a little jog in the park.
With PGM-FI fuel injection at one end and a five-speed gearbox at the other, the VTX powerplant has more urban gravitas than a Tokyo cab driver. Little evidence of internal combustion escapes those mufflers, but at least the neighbors are happy. Anchored by a low 27.6-inch seat height, the riding position is comfortably neutral by cruiser standards-though coaxing all that mass out of the garage takes some muscle.
Out on the street, fresh fuel mapping nets smoother throttle response. The F-spec twin comes in the same state of tune as its brethren, trundling willingly along like a Russian fishing trawler until you surpass 3000 rpm, where you'll find compelling forward motion. Offset crankpins, balance weights on the primary shaft and rubber mounts make freeway travel blissfully smooth. Determination and strong lower-back muscles are your only hope in a headwind, and the seat wears thin after 150 miles, which is when the low-fuel light winks on anyway. With a full tank of regular unleaded, it's 40 lbs. heavier than the base 1800.
That extra weight takes the edge off what happens when you open the throttle. Suzuki's more muscular M109R is pretty much out of its league, but the VTX is still plenty quick by cruiser standards. The 41 lbs. of flywheel spinning between your ankles explains why revs rise at a leisurely clip. Still, there's enough torque on tap from 3500 rpm to get down the road in a reasonable hurry. Honda's Linked Braking System makes rapid deceleration easy, if less than intuitive: Push the pedal and squeeze the lever to cue all six pistons in the Nissin front calipers along with the two in the rear.
The biggest impediment to rapid transit is a pair of shocks that deliver a disconcerting definition of the word over any significant square-edged flaw in the pavement. Replacing the '02 1800's rubber bushings with needle bearings improved compliance a bit, but an overdose of high-speed compression damping is the real culprit. A pair of shock absorbers worthy of the name would do wonders, even if they bump the $13,499 admission price even further above the $12,899 you'd pay for the somewhat less sporty VTX1800C. In this case, sporty is an adjective applied strictly to styling. But since the rest of the package is well behaved and practically bombproof, what's another $600?