Johannesburg - When Honda decided to use the iconic VRF800F’s motor in an adventure-style frame to create the VFR800X Crossrunner, they didn’t get it right the first time around.
The riding public found the looks odd and the ergonomics awkward, and the bike got a lukewarm reception on dealership floors.
Honda (eventually) took note, and revamped the ’Runner completely in 2015.
Riding the new VFR800X in SA
The “new” VFR800X is now available in South Africa and Honda SA invited us to test it.
Following what is becoming an increasing trend, Honda designed the Crossunner to have all the looks of an adventure bike but with a definite on-road bias.
Image gallery: 2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner
Despite the rugged looks and long-travel suspension, it rides on 17-inch mag wheels fitted with Pirelli Scorpion Trail tyres – not exactly suited to bundu bashing. Instead it offers comfortable seating, relaxed ergonomics and a flat torque curve – features that become seriously important when you’re stuck in rush-hour traffic.
Taking its cue from the VFR1200X’s appearance, the new Crossrunner has much more coherent styling with greater emphasis on ruggedness than its predecessor.
The X-shaped LED headlamp is joined by the typical adventure “beak” and (on the review bike) front protection bars to bring the Crossrunner visually closer to its bigger sibling.
In fact, the latest iteration is a downright handsome machine that needn’t stand back for any of its competitors.
The bike feels bigger and more solid than its predecessor, and its ergonomics have been vastly improved.
Seating position is relaxed and comfortable, and the rider is perched high enough to be able to clearly see over most of the surrounding traffic. Unusual on a bike in this category, the handlebars don’t feel too wide and as a result are less affected by wind buffeting.
Buttons and switches are reasonably easy to operate, although Honda’s habit of making the hooter button more prominent than the indicator switch is as annoying as ever.
Creature comforts include five-setting grip heaters and self-cancelling indicators. Although the fact that it is summer prevented me to test the former, I can report that the latter works extremely well: the indicators are cancelled within a reasonable time of going around a corner (a feat it accomplishes by using the ABS sensors to measure wheel speed differential.
In addition to the speedo and rev counter (the latter a bar graph), the redesigned LCD dash also includes a gear position indicator, fuel consumption and cruising range indicator, clock, ambient temperature gauge and twin trip meters.
The 782 cm3 V4 VTEC engine fires up with ease and emits a satisfying growl if you give it a handful of throttle.
In its current iteration, the engine serves up more low-to midrange power and torque. Peak power and torque have been increased to 78kW at 10 250 and 75Nm at 8500 rpm, respectively. During riding it is evident that a generous helping of tourque is available from low down in the rev range, making the bike feel very responsive in traffic.
The VTEC effect has been tamed in this application – although still noticable, it is a lot less intrusive.
However, things do get rather exciting closer to the red line when the Crossrunner begins to feel more like the sport tourer it originated from and less like the adventure sport it has become.
How practical is it?
On the subject of touring, the capacious topboxes and panniers Honda offfers as accessories, combined with the smooth engine and comfortable seating makes it a credible light tourer. The bike is heavy for its size, but the centre of gravity is low and the added weight doesn’t affect its handling negatively.
In it’s default setting I found the traction control system too intrusive, especially on wet roads. I would routinely put the TCS in its lower setting, but unfortunately it returns to default next time you switch the bike on.
This is another minor annoyance, one which the recently-launched Africa Twin also suffers from. On the upside, the bike’s gearbox is smooth and positive, resulting in very few miss-shifts during the review period.
With the second generation of the Crossrunner, Honda has addressed most of the ailments of their first attempt, and the bike has grown into its potential.
A comfortable commuter that’s equally at home on the open road, with sure-footed handling for the twisties – I don’t think one could wish for much more in a light adventure sport bike.
Model: VFR800X Crossrunner
Type: Liquid-cooled 4-stroke 16-valve DOHC 90° V-4
Maximum Power: 78kW @ 10,250rpm
Maximum Torque: 75Nm @ 8,500rpm
Fuel supply system: PGM-FI electronic fuel injection
Fuel type: Premium unleaded 95 octane RON
Fuel consumption: 5.6 L/100 km (actual)
Type: Constant mesh 6-speed
Final drive: Chain
Overall length x width x height (mm): 2190 x 870 x 1360
Kerb weight: 242 kg
Fuel tank: 20.8 litres
Front: 310mm x 4.5mm dual floating hydraulic disc with radial fit 4-piston calipers (*ABS) and sintered metal pads
Rear: 256mm x 6mm hydraulic disc with two-piston caliper (*ABS) and sintered metal pads
Front: 43mm HMAS cartridge-type telescopic fork with stepless preload and ten DF adjustment, 131mm axle travel, 145mm stroke
Rear: Pro-Link with gas-charged HMAS damper, 35-step (remote-controlled hydraulic) preload and stepless rebound damping adjustment, 148mm axle travel
WHEELS & TYRES
Wheel, front: 17M/C x MT3.5
Wheel, rear: 17M/C x MT5.5
Tyre, front: 120/70 R17
Tyre, rear: 180/55 R17
PRICE: R141 990