Thursday, 3 April 2014

My thoughts on 'new' Honda...

Honda is the largest motorcycle manufacturer in Japan. In 1969 the legendary CB750 was born; a 120mph inline four with a front disc brake - way ahead of anything else at it's time. It made an impact on English bike manufacturers, stealing sales and (along with the Kawasaki Z1) was the beginning of an end to British motorcycles.

21 years later (in England anyway) the Vfr750r Rc30 was released. This homologation model of the already brilliant Vfr750 was put on the road to allow Honda to race it in the world superbike championship. This bike could reach 82mph in first gear and weighed just 180kg dry. Once again, Honda had developed a class leading bike.

Iconic machine: Vfr750r Rc30
In 1992 the original FireBlade was released. The Honda four injected the idea of saving weight and improving aerodynamics as opposed to just ramming as much horsepower into big, heavy slogs - it weighed 34kg less than the lightest rival, Yamaha Fzr1000. It was an amazing bike.

All three of those bikes have reached a 'classic' status along with many other Hondas (Nr750, Rvf 750 etc...) and are worth a fortune. They broke barriers down, they came up with new and original ideas. Their engine reliability is legendary (despite a small dodgy patch... Vf750 era). Their bikes have won Moto Gps, TT races and world superbike championships...

... So what on earth has happened?

The 2014 Honda range looks a bit... dull.

Perhaps it's just me but I'm getting pretty tired of every new Honda bike being released with that weird, triangular, 'Y' shaped headlight - it makes every bike look the same and the face of the bike look like a donkey. It's also pretty easy to guess at what colours their new bikes will be released in, you'll have a choice of; 'bland reddish pink' or 'old man grey'.
Anyone else sick of it?
Forgive me if I'm wrong but they have 9 different engines (above 450cc) which have been shared around a whopping 22 different bikes. They haven't even bothered to retune some of them despite putting them in different variations of bike, for instance the Cbr500r has the exact same power delivery, gearing etc... as a Cb500x. As I said before, they all share the same style headlight  and dull colouring and I'm not sure about you, but I think it's nice to stand out from the crowd and have people interested in the bike you're riding. Imagine a world where everyone rode a grey Cross runner... So why do they insist on everything looking like one?

Can you actually tell the difference at a glance...?
But quite possibly, the worst thing about Honda's 2014 range is definitely the new Vfr800f. The last Vfr 800 Vtec had divided opinions due to it's quirky engine character. However, after ten years without any changes, it still didn't look too outdated and was still a damn good bike - although on the expensive side.

However the new Vfr800f has dissapointed me. I was really excited when I heard about a new Vfr, as they're bikes I've always admired, but what a let down, I couldn't actually work out why Honda had done such a thing. It actually looks like a chinese rip off 125. The gorgeous twin underseat exhausts from the previous Vfr have been ditched for a boring silencer that looks as mean as my Nan's hairdryer, totally blocking that iconic single sided swingarm (which is the only part of the bike that still looks decent).

Do the words 'bland' and 'cheap' come to mind?
They've also added 'self-cancelling indicators' - Wow Honda! How did we all manage before? I mean come on, if they're cutting costs so much then why invest in such pointless technology? ABS, traction control, heated grips and an adjustable seat height are all included in the standard price which, I think, is similar to the previous model's. This sounds pretty good, although if it were down to me I'd ditch the heated grips and traction control to make way for the decent sportsbike image that this bike deserves, not the Chinese look. It may be a sports tourer now but the heritage is still there. Don't make it boring just yet.

Believe it or not, despite all of this ranting from me, I think that they are producing decent bikes. The new 500 range might be cheating by sharing the same engine and looks from other bikes but they are such great value for money. They produce 47bhp (ideal for A2 license holders), kick out 80mpg and are only £500 more expensive than a Yamaha Yzf R125. The Fireblade Sp looks amazing too and I guess hope can hold out for the new Vfr800f... Although it's never going to win me over. Reliability is amazing on all bikes and the finishes are brilliant, I'd put all of my faith in one of these bikes to take me everywhere, all year round.

So Honda might be good in building solid, real-world machines but I think that bright flare they once had has started to flicker.

Let's hope they burn bright again one day.