2010 Honda VFR1200F Update

To shift or not to shift?

Those who read Motorcyclist on any quasi-regular basis probably remember how much our Aaron P. Frank loved the automatic dual-clutch transmission version of Honda’s steamy, 1237cc V-4 in Japan. But the basic manual-shift six-speed didn’t exactly hit one out of the old road test ballpark a few months later. Extra weight, sticky shifting and excess driveline lash held it to a standup double. After spending a few hundred miles with production versions of both bikes, the VFR is still heavy, but that nasty lash is gone. Digital shifting is even more impressive in person, and those who prefer to shift for themselves will be glad to hear that the analog six-speed is now as obliging and precise as the rest of the package. I’d still rather have a pristine 1986 750 Interceptor with reworked suspension, but more rational carbon-based sport tourists should live happily ever after with either 1200.

Submitting to full computer control around town is like trading an electric typewriter for a word processor. It feels weird after five minutes, but after five more you won't want to trade back. The hardest part is training your left hand and foot to stop lunging at levers that aren't there. Wicking it up a bit beyond the city limits is different. Banging three quick downshifts with my left thumb before the first tight right is counter intuitive at first, but those dual clutches take care of business with predictably digital precision. The process isn't entirely seamless, but it's close.

Focusing all my neural circuitry on throttle, (excellent) brakes and corner trajectory while trusting the VFR to take care of the rest takes time. I miss that reassuring analog feedback and the whole process feels a bit disconnected, but pretty soon I’m going quicker than I was on the straight six-speed. But expediency isn’t everything in my world. Handlebar paddles don’t automatically trump clutch and shift levers out in the twisty bits. Not yet.