With Hondas CBR1100XX Blackbird now officially out of production, and the venerable VFR800 largely unchanged since VTEC made its questionable motorcycle debut in 2002, there’s clearly something brewing in the sports-tourer segment at Honda, car detailers especially since bikes like Triumphs Sprint ST have knocked the VFR off its perch as top dog in the category.
Now it seems a series of interesting patents recently taken out by Honda and dug up by Spains Motocyclismo might be telling us whats in store just around the corner a 1000cc V5 VFR1000 that will put Honda back on top, while acting as a rolling showcase of some remarkable new technology.
Like the original VFR750 roadbikes, the new VFR1000s engine is heavily influenced by racing development – in this case, the 990cc RC211V which was widely accepted as the best of the 990cc MotoGP bikes despite Valentino Rossis annoying habit of making the Yamaha M1 go faster. Naturally, huge changes will be required to turn the highly-strung V5 race engine into a reliable, durable roadbike donk with long service intervals, but the 3 cylinders at the front, two at the back layout remains the same. While the MotoGP engine pumped out in excess of 240 horsepower, the roadbike is more likely to make around the 150hp mark that buyers found palatable in the Blackbird. No lack of power then.
It’ll be interesting to see what a V5 Honda feels like in terms of power delivery – there’s been nothing on the road in recent years using this engine format. Narrower than an inline four but longer, Hondas V5s tend to operate in a kind of big-bang firing configuration that blends the horsepower of a high-revving multicyclinder engine with the v-twins ability to let the tyre grip the road better in between power pulses, aiding traction.
In order to mount the new engine, Honda has come up with an innovative new barely-there frame technology in which the headstock and front frame unit bolts onto the engine from above, with three bolts on either side in an M configuration, and the rear frame unit and swingarm bolt directly to the rear engine casings. The patent documents go on to say how this helps the design cut out significant amounts of weight, while maintaining excellent chassis stiffness.
The VFR has been Hondas techno-showcase in recent years and it seems reasonable to expect this will continue with the VFR1000. The company will most likely fit its high-tech brake-by-wire Combined ABS brake system to the new model, and some of the patent drawings apparently indicate that a double-clutched automatic/sports-shift transmission as seen on the DN-01 and Yamaha FJR1300 might make its way onto the VFR1000.
While Honda is to be praised for its ingenuity and progressive approach on recent models, the company would do well to listen carefully to the customer feedback around its VTEC VFR800; great bike, shame about the unnecessary technology. Sports riders like powerful, exotic engine configurations, low weight and stiff frames – but we also like being in full control of our brakes, and we love our clutches. It would be great to see some of this stuff entering the market as optional extras.
Of course, there’s no official word yet from Honda on whether the VFR1000 exists, what its focus will be or what equipment levels we can expect. But these patents appear to be building towards a fairly compelling new model that should make a big splash when it hits the showrooms.