A big part of my life is motorbikes.
When I first got my licence I hadn’t actually planned to get a bike. I had gone for the learners test on a whim, booked only the day before. Once I had the licence I basically decided that I may as well use it. I quickly decided that I wanted a new bike with full fairings, my choices appeared limited to Kawasaki GPX250, ZZR250 and the Honda NSR150. There may have been others but a bit of research didn’t really uncover any. I eliminated the NSR immediately: a 150 two stroke. That left the GPX and ZZR. The same bike in different clothes. I choose the ZZR by appearance and it has larger brakes (my sole technical consideration!)
This was my first bike. And not a bad learners bike, since then I would probably recommend a Honda VTR250 if you have to stay on 250s. The rules in many states here have changed and there are far more options, and the ZZR isn’t too bad to look at. I say that as it’s one of the reasons I bought it. At the time I knew very little about bikes. I did know that I preferred new stuff and I liked the guarantee of support you get with a warranty.
It proved a good choice. The bike hasn’t changed in about 15 years by all accounts, so it’s rock solid. I enjoyed riding it and quickly built up my confidence. Two years and 47,000kms later I earned my full licence and traded it in.
A good bike, but nothing when compared to the bigger bikes.
My second bike is my Honda VFR800. Now I put a lot more effort into this choice. I read articles on various bikes for about a year. The VFR was quickly shortlisted, along with Kawasaki ZX6R, ZX9R, Honda CBR600RR and the Suzuki GSXR750.
So what was I looking for… firstly a commuter, that was bit more fun in the weekends but wouldn’t kill me on a long trip. I simply decided that I didn’t want to bust the 1L size, it was probably a lack of confidence on my first bigger bike. I preferred fuel injection and I’m a technology fan (can you see where I’m headed). I also wanted something less than $20K
The ’03 6R was uncomfortable even in the showroom. The 9R was the end of the line and had carbs. I actually went for a couple test rides to make this choice, unlike the first bike as partly I figured it’d be about the last bike I would ever buy (my wedding was imminent)! I rode the VFR800. This was my first time on anything bigger than my ZZR. I wobbled off down the street from the dealer but I settled in pretty quick. Later I rode the 600RR. This was a test case. If I had felt comfortable on the RR I would have looked more seriously at the GSXR. I rode it and the VFR back to back.
I bought the VFR. I find a great bike. It suits my bumbling along daily rider style, allows me to keep up with the hyper sports on the day fangs through the twisty stuff. Well it would if I could ride it to it’s potential! I also rode away for the weekend and found it a comfy trip. As they say it’s a great all rounder. My wife has actually been on it a few times. She’s enjoyed the rides but the hassle of all the gear bothers her (she’s a squid at heart) and it messes her makeup/hair whatever. It’s very competent when two up.But she’s happy to let me disappear for a day on a ride.
It’s about 5 years old now, done almost 97,000kms and is great. I sometimes consider getting a weekend fang bike (like the GSXR) but to be honest it would be wasted on me and would be more about the image. I certainly wouldn’t consider a replacement.
* My riding style at mostly 80s-90s km/h has an endurance of about 320-330kms on about 17L. It’s a 22L tank so that reserve must be pretty big or the display a little inaccurate. It actually increased as the bike passed 12,000km. Pretty usual for VFRs apparently.
* Don’t let sap drip on the plastic, that stuffs it right up.
* Fitting the top box for the first time – the trick is knowing when to switch from the bracket instructions to the box instructions. The next time, it’s a five minute job to swap the whole lot for the grabrails.
* The fact that there’s no sticking out indicators etc is great, I found out that when it falls over (bugger) there’s very little to break off. The mirror folds up, and the bike rests on the fairing (dammit) and the center stand. Only cosmetic damage.