3. Honda VFR800FI (1998-2001)

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Here’s a bike that was just too good and efficient for its own good, or born at the wrong time or cursed by its predecessor or who knows? But it’s always been a fantastic bike to ride and to listen to, thanks to its RC30/45-derived V-Four complete with gear-drive cams. “Inside every one of these there’s an RC30 screaming to get out,” Honda’s ad used to read for the 750 version. At the time, hard-edged sportbikes were all the rage, the VFR sort of got lost in the racetrack-shootout shuffle – and never mind that the VFR was always Freddie Spencer’s chosen mount at his riding school.

All the VFRs are great bikes, and the earliest ones are collectible – but the first fuel-injected 800s – produced from 1998 to 2001 – are the best looking, best sounding and easiest to live with. In 2002, Honda put VTEC variable valve timing on the bike, which most riders didn’t like and which made servicing more expensive. It also replaced the gear-driven cams with chains to save money and reduce noise. Sacrilege.

While the old VFR appears to be a little thick in the ankles by current standards, it’s still a great sportbike and a much better sports tourer than any GSX-R ever. You can pick up clean, low-mileage units anywhere in the country for around $3K and just ride till the cows come home. Or, bin a bunch of that plastic to expose that V-Four and bundle-of-snakes exhaust, Mr. Baba’s pivotless frame and single-sided swingarm. It’s a great mystery why there aren’t more VFR nakeds/ratbikes/customs.

  • Funguy

    Please, could you please put the top-10 content-stretcher articles on a single page?

    Thank you.

    • Ser Samsquamsh

      Is helping you favorite motorbike site milk some revenue off telemetry driven marketing hacks, at zero cost to yourself, such an inconvenience?

      John Burns, with both ambidextrous prose AND impeccable taste in motosicles [sic], can not be cheap.

  • JMDonald

    Damn those guys at SuperBike. Objectifying women. WTFO. It took me twenty minutes to get to the next bike. I hope you’re happy.

    • We don’t really even like that particular bike 🙂

  • curly

    Good article, good choices.
    I think I counted 7or 8 bikes, not counting the H2. Owned 4 or 5 of them.
    H2
    998
    RC51
    Vfr- well, no, rc30?
    1998 R1/several early R6’s

    H2’s command big money from collectors (in Japan), but H1’s are better bikes, and cost a lot less- get a 74 model and spend a little on a John Aylor reed kit, a set of good shocks and a front brake upgrade- go smokin!

    I would substitute 996 for 998(budget bike that hauls). 999’s may not have that look, but they are better bikes, and a bargain, IMHO

    Delete Either the aprilia or rc51, add 929 or 954

    And I would comment that if you could find a mint early R1, you’d be making a rare find. 98’s are all gone, and I would not chop one up to make a “street fighter”

    Not
    a Suzuki on the list? 2005 gs xr anything, 30 year anniversary color
    scheme bikes are nice, getting cheap, and of course they haul ass

    Where’s the Kaws? – ever ride a 05-06 636? Or a 04-05 zx10? Insane

    Zx12s aren’t well thought of , but see above

  • fastfreddie

    Personally would list 996 over the 998 as they are very similar and 996 could be got for less money.Also dissagree with your assessment of the VFR 800.Found it bland,but that was comming from a 929 blade,so may have influenced me negatively…