The Honda VF1000R

The bike America wanted, and got ... eventually


| January/February 2009



honda vf1000r 1

Phil Larsen's 1986 Honda VF1000R.

Photo by Robert Smith

Honda VF1000R
Years produced:
1985-1986 (U.S.)
Claimed power: 117hp @ 10,000rpm (92hp @ 10,000rpm as tested by Cycle)
Top speed: 149mph (period test)
Engine type: 998cc DOHC, liquid-cooled 90-degree V4
Weight: 277kg (610lb) w/ full tank
Price then: $5,698
Price now: $2,500-$5,000
MPG: 35-42 (period tests)

“Every year the hue and cry of frustrated American sporting riders rises anew, with fresh moaning and weeping and gnashing of teeth,” wrote Cycle Guide in July of 1985. “And always the piteous wail remains the same: ‘give us the good stuff.’”

What Cycle Guide was referring to was Honda’s 1984 decision to sell its full-on, race-based, liter-class sportbike, the Honda VF1000R, in Europe only, while bringing the more touring-oriented Honda VF1000F to the North American market. They might have added, “… but be careful what you ask for,” because in 1985 the Honda VF1000R finally appeared in U.S. Honda sales brochures — though perhaps not because of the clamoring of American consumers.

The Honda V4
It’s generally acknowledged that Honda’s range of liquid-cooled, 4-valve, overhead cam V4s was rushed to market in response to an aggressive strategy by Yamaha to usurp Big Red’s title as number one in U.S. cycle sales.

The first Honda V4 was the 1982 V45 Sabre for the U.S. market and VF750S sportbike in Europe. The “45” in V45 was for cubic inches. Both had (for the time) radically oversquare engines of 70mm x 43mm, 6-speed transmissions and shaft drive. They were initially acclaimed as a technological tour de force: the short stroke cranks, 4-valve heads and narrow included valve angles were all state-of-the-art, and buyers anticipated high-revving, high-power performance.

The V4 seemed to be Honda’s new golden boy. Between 1982 and 1984, Honda released a bewildering array of V4s in custom, street-standard and sportbike style in capacities of 400cc, 700cc, 750cc, 1,000cc and 1,100cc. Some had shaft drives, some chain; some came with 6-speed transmissions, some five. The 400s became 500s for the 1984 model year (in both V30 Magna custom and 500 Interceptor sport versions), while the 750cc V45 Magnas and street-standard Sabres became 700cc in the same year (to avoid new import tariffs on bikes over 700cc). Also in 1984, the 1,100cc V65 Sabre joined the V65 Magna, and the VF1000F Interceptor joined the VF750F in the sports range.

All of the V4 bikes, though, shared the same basic layout: a crankcase cast with the cylinders; cast iron cylinder liners; chain-driven double overhead camshafts; four valves per cylinder; and valves actuated by adjustable rockers rather than direct-acting shim-and-bucket. The chassis was equally revolutionary, using Honda’s Pro-Link rising-rate rear end and TRAC (Torque Reactive Anti-Dive Control) anti-dive front fork.

steve stancombe
1/15/2009 3:32:02 PM

I Just Purchased the Motorcycle Classic Magazine. I would like to see a Big Spread on the 1983-1986 Honda V65 Magna. I belong to the hondaabbs.com Motorcycle Club, and all would like to see a big spread on these bikes. Thanks. Steve






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