Honda VFR750 RC36 (1990 - 1997) review

A long acknowledged benchmark in the all rounder category, this sports tourer owes much to its sporting heritage and remains a good bet for reliability.

Ben Cope's picture
By Visordown on Wed, 15 Dec 2004 - 12:12

Details
Manufacturer:
Honda
Category:
Sports Tourers
Price:
£ 8200
Overall
3
Need Insurance?
the VFR slotted into its ‘all-rounder’ role and has been regarded as one of the best do-it-all bikes
Excellent build quality and reliability, a relatively safe second-hand buy.
Are you really ready for a tourer?

Honda’s VF750 was dogged with reliability problems back in ‘86, so Honda created a bike so over-engineered it need never suffer the terrible taunting its predecessor had; the VFR750. To this day, VFRs are still regarded as some of the most dependable bikes on the planet.

But dependable needn’t mean boring. In fact, back in ’86 the VFR was a sportsbike so fine that Ron Haslam stuck one on the podium in that year’s Transatlantic Match Races.

As time went by and sportsbikes got better, the VFR slotted into its ‘all-rounder’ role and has been regarded as one of the best do-it-all bikes around ever since.

It’s comfortable enough to ride all day, perfectly okay in town, pillions barely upset the thing and the V-four motor blends easy, torquey power with plenty of shove and a dose of character and it’s all just about guaranteed to run forever.

Camshafts
Honda fitted dependable gear-driven cams to the VFR, hence the characteristic whistle of meshing teeth. However, the pre-1990 VFRs still suffered a camshaft related recall due to a lack of oil pressure. Honda switched back to chain operation in 2002 on the VFR800 VTEC.

Tyre Choice
Original 1986 bikes came with 16-inch front and 18-inch rear wheels. From ’88-on they became 17-inchers, but all pre-1990 bikes have narrow rims (2.5'' front 3.5'' rear) which limits tyre choice. Later models have wider rims that accept more desirable radial tyres.

Front Brakes
Despite a slight improvement in the 1990 bike, the front brakes remained a little weak on all VFR750s. Braided hoses are a useful mod. We recommend replacing the brake pads with Honda’s OE pads – they work best with the standard discs.

Service Intervals
Minor service intervals (oil and filter) are every 4000 miles or six months, with a more comprehensive service every 8000 miles and a major seeing-to at 16,000. The latter includes valve clearances and will set you back around £325 including parts, labour and VAT. The VFR750 is getting on a bit, so check for excessive wear in the consumables – chain and sprockets, fork seals, tyres, brake pad and disc wear. Check the bike’s service history to be certain it has been looked after properly.

Gearbox
At very high mileage (around 60,000 miles, depending on use) the gearbox output shaft can get sloppy: it ends up with too much play in it and gear selection can become difficult. There’s not much you can do – in theory you need a gearbox re-build, but taking account of the age of the bike you’re probably better off fitting a second-hand engine in better nick. Or you can bodge it by putting a bracket on the gear lever output shaft to hold it in.

Front Sprocket Bolt
The bolt holding the front sprocket on can work loose. If you remove it make sure you clean the threads, use a thread locking compound and tighten to the correct torque. Buying a new bolt with each chain and sprocket set is a good idea.

Chassis
The VFR750 always handled well enough to keep up with sportier machines, but at high motorway speeds the steering had a tendency to become rather vague. Don’t get unduly worried. Honda’s engineers reworked the chassis on the later VTEC model to sort it.

Suspension
The suspension is unadjustable, so the only way to improve the set-up is to replace or rework the standard components. The rear shock tends to get saggy at around 18,000 miles and will need a rebuild. Knock a few quid off the asking price if the rear seems soggy.

Exhaust
The collector box is mild steel and rots from the inside out before anything else. Check for this problem if you’re buying second hand – if the collector box has started to rot you’ll have to replace it, at which point you’re better off replacing the whole system. Motad do a full stainless system for the VFR750 for £570, (01922) 728404.

Price
How much you pay for a VFR750 really depends on mileage and condition. You can find very early models in dubious condition for £1000 or less, or you can pay up to £3000 for a later VFR750 model in good nick.

Further info
The Honda VFR750 has an excellent owners’ website with plenty of information and forums. You’ll find it at www.vfr750.com

VFR750 Owner’s Views:

Mitch Buchanan
“I had a brand new VFR800 but didn’t like the fuel injection, so after I wrote it off I thought I’d try the older 750. It was every bit as good as people said – it handled just as well as the 800 but without the snatchy injection.

“I commuted for two years on the VFR and in the first year put 30,000 miles on it. It never needed its valves adjusting or used any oil. Apart from a sloppy gearbox (I bodged a bracket in the gear lever shaft), all I ever replaced were tyres. There aren’t many bikes you can do that with.”

Tim Stickland
“I bought my VFR750 in 1990, as I wanted comfort and touring ability as well as sports capabilities – and it didn’t disappoint.

“It was able to keep up with the more dedicated sports bikes of its time, and I covered more than 500 miles in a day in comfort. People say the suspension is soft, but I like the VFR’s ability to go from fast A-roads to bumpy lanes without drama.

“Build quality is a major benefit for long-term ownership. I took care of mine but rode it too much to pamper it. Even so, I had little trouble with the corrosion.

“As it approached the 100,000-mile mark fuel consumption and throttle response deteriorated. A compression test revealed it needed a top end rebuild, the cost of which would amount to around a third the bike’s value, so I ended up selling it to a friend.

“I owned this bike for a quarter of my life, and averaged a mile of riding every 45 minutes! I can’t imagine another bike which could have stood up to it for so long.”

Reviewed in TWO December 2004

Honda’s VF750 was dogged with reliability problems back in ‘86, so Honda created a bike so over-engineered it need never suffer the terrible taunting its predecessor had; the VFR750. To this day, VFRs are still regarded as some of the most dependable bikes on the planet.

But dependable needn’t mean boring. In fact, back in ’86 the VFR was a sportsbike so fine that Ron Haslam stuck one on the podium in that year’s Transatlantic Match Races.

As time went by and sportsbikes got better, the VFR slotted into its ‘all-rounder’ role and has been regarded as one of the best do-it-all bikes around ever since.

It’s comfortable enough to ride all day, perfectly okay in town, pillions barely upset the thing and the V-four motor blends easy, torquey power with plenty of shove and a dose of character and it’s all just about guaranteed to run forever.

Camshafts
Honda fitted dependable gear-driven cams to the VFR, hence the characteristic whistle of meshing teeth. However, the pre-1990 VFRs still suffered a camshaft related recall due to a lack of oil pressure. Honda switched back to chain operation in 2002 on the VFR800 VTEC.

Tyre Choice
Original 1986 bikes came with 16-inch front and 18-inch rear wheels. From ’88-on they became 17-inchers, but all pre-1990 bikes have narrow rims (2.5'' front 3.5'' rear) which limits tyre choice. Later models have wider rims that accept more desirable radial tyres.

Front Brakes
Despite a slight improvement in the 1990 bike, the front brakes remained a little weak on all VFR750s. Braided hoses are a useful mod. We recommend replacing the brake pads with Honda’s OE pads – they work best with the standard discs.

Service Intervals
Minor service intervals (oil and filter) are every 4000 miles or six months, with a more comprehensive service every 8000 miles and a major seeing-to at 16,000. The latter includes valve clearances and will set you back around £325 including parts, labour and VAT. The VFR750 is getting on a bit, so check for excessive wear in the consumables – chain and sprockets, fork seals, tyres, brake pad and disc wear. Check the bike’s service history to be certain it has been looked after properly.

Gearbox
At very high mileage (around 60,000 miles, depending on use) the gearbox output shaft can get sloppy: it ends up with too much play in it and gear selection can become difficult. There’s not much you can do – in theory you need a gearbox re-build, but taking account of the age of the bike you’re probably better off fitting a second-hand engine in better nick. Or you can bodge it by putting a bracket on the gear lever output shaft to hold it in.

Front Sprocket Bolt
The bolt holding the front sprocket on can work loose. If you remove it make sure you clean the threads, use a thread locking compound and tighten to the correct torque. Buying a new bolt with each chain and sprocket set is a good idea.

Chassis
The VFR750 always handled well enough to keep up with sportier machines, but at high motorway speeds the steering had a tendency to become rather vague. Don’t get unduly worried. Honda’s engineers reworked the chassis on the later VTEC model to sort it.

Suspension
The suspension is unadjustable, so the only way to improve the set-up is to replace or rework the standard components. The rear shock tends to get saggy at around 18,000 miles and will need a rebuild. Knock a few quid off the asking price if the rear seems soggy.

Exhaust
The collector box is mild steel and rots from the inside out before anything else. Check for this problem if you’re buying second hand – if the collector box has started to rot you’ll have to replace it, at which point you’re better off replacing the whole system. Motad do a full stainless system for the VFR750 for £570, (01922) 728404.

Price
How much you pay for a VFR750 really depends on mileage and condition. You can find very early models in dubious condition for £1000 or less, or you can pay up to £3000 for a later VFR750 model in good nick.

Further info
The Honda VFR750 has an excellent owners’ website with plenty of information and forums. You’ll find it at www.vfr750.com

VFR750 Owner’s Views:

Mitch Buchanan
“I had a brand new VFR800 but didn’t like the fuel injection, so after I wrote it off I thought I’d try the older 750. It was every bit as good as people said – it handled just as well as the 800 but without the snatchy injection.

“I commuted for two years on the VFR and in the first year put 30,000 miles on it. It never needed its valves adjusting or used any oil. Apart from a sloppy gearbox (I bodged a bracket in the gear lever shaft), all I ever replaced were tyres. There aren’t many bikes you can do that with.”

Tim Stickland
“I bought my VFR750 in 1990, as I wanted comfort and touring ability as well as sports capabilities – and it didn’t disappoint.

“It was able to keep up with the more dedicated sports bikes of its time, and I covered more than 500 miles in a day in comfort. People say the suspension is soft, but I like the VFR’s ability to go from fast A-roads to bumpy lanes without drama.

“Build quality is a major benefit for long-term ownership. I took care of mine but rode it too much to pamper it. Even so, I had little trouble with the corrosion.

“As it approached the 100,000-mile mark fuel consumption and throttle response deteriorated. A compression test revealed it needed a top end rebuild, the cost of which would amount to around a third the bike’s value, so I ended up selling it to a friend.

“I owned this bike for a quarter of my life, and averaged a mile of riding every 45 minutes! I can’t imagine another bike which could have stood up to it for so long.”

Reviewed in TWO December 2004

Length (mm) 2100
Width (mm) 720
Height (mm) 1185
Seats 0
Suspension Front 41 mm cartridge fork
Suspension Rear Pro-Arm single-sided swingarm w/ Pro-Link-mounted single shock
Adjustability Front Preload
Adjustability Rear Preload and rebound damping
Tyres Front 120/70 ZR17
Tyres Rear 170/60 ZR17
Brakes Front Dual 296mm disc w/ twin-piston caliper
Brakes Rear 256mm disc w/ twin-piston caliper
Wheelbase (mm) 1470
Cubic Capacity (cc) 748
Max Power (bhp) 98
Max Power Peak (rpm) 9500
Torque (ft/lb) 53
Torque Peak (rpm) 9500
Bore (mm) 70
Stroke (mm) 48.6
Valve Gear DOHC
Compression Ratio 11.0
Ignition Digital transistorized w/ electronic advance
Valves Per Cylinder 4
Cooling Liquid cooling
Fuel Delivery Four 34mm slanted flat-slide VP type
Stroke Type Four Stroke
Drive Chain

Score Breakdown
Overall
3

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