"With the right ears you can hear it. Every decade or so the Great Cosmic Tumblers line up and click, opening the door to a Streetbike Named Desire that does everything the sporting rider could conceivably ask of it. It is quick. It is comfortable, shockingly practical and financially accessible to most any proletarian line of credit. It is a single motorcycle that acts like a garage full."
That's how we described Honda's first 800 Interceptor back in September of '98, inducting it as our 1998 Motorcycle of the Year. And though much has changed since then, the first VFR800 still lives up to those words. Some here would argue it does a better job than the fifth-generation Interceptor that replaced it in 2002.
The fourth-generation version, you see, strikes that elusive balance between comfort, civility and genuinely astounding backroad speed. Bred from the same DNA that created Miguel Duhamel's RC45, the 781cc V-four's 97-horse peak is less important than the power spread between 5000 and 10,000 rpm. If you have a pulse, these four gear-driven cams pushing 16 valves at 10,500 rpm will quicken it.
The '98 VFR showcased a string of Honda firsts: programmed electronic fuel injection with separate fuel and spark maps for each cylinder, composite aluminum cylinder liners, plus a single-sided Pro-Arm cast-aluminum swingarm mounted directly to the V-four's crankcases. Pulling 200 miles out of the 5.5-gallon fuel tank is easy enough when the travel bug bites. Honda's linked braking system still draws flak from purists, but it's brilliant on the VFR. Few motorcycles on earth make going fast as enjoyable or as easy.
Most examples of the breed have been fundamentally trouble-free; Honda published no recalls or even a service bulletin on the VFR800F. The brand-new PGM injection wasn't as sharp on early '98 models as it was by '99 or '00. Mirrors were improved in '00. Pearl Shining Yellow paint replaced Italian red that year as well, while the fast-idle lever disappeared.
Some bikes did develop voltage regulator/rectifier issues. Check any used 800's wiring for signs of heat damage. And have a look at charging system connectors. Any corrosion there is often the root of persistent regulator/rectifier woes. Make sure the battery is strong as well, because a weak one can put hurtful strain on the system as well. Otherwise, your biggest problem may be finding someone with a clean, original example who's willing to sell.
Broad, flat power in a comfortable all-purpose package that rips
Imperfect fuel injection on early '98 models; some charging-system gremlins
Dirty or heat-damaged electrical connections, weak battery
It still does everything better than almost anything else
1998 - $4820
2000 - $5480
2001 - $5875