Honda has launched a whole new biking genre with the VFR 800X Crossrunner. When the bike was announced a year ago, I anticipated an adventure bike – something to fit into the yawning chasm Honda created when they discontinued the iconic Africa Twin. When I saw pics of the Crossrunner, I was disappointed. This clearly wasn’t an adventure bike. By LANCE ROTHSCHILD.
Ideas changed on testing the machine. The Crossrunner doesn’t fit into any typical category. Honda positions it as an excellent touring bike, taking design cues from adventure and performance machines. And yet, the Crossrunner will define its own category this is one bike that is going to make a lot of friends in the SA market.
It looks really good and has a style of its own. Available in black, red and white it is an aesthetically-attractive bike. It’s easy enough to mount and the seating position is comfortable. The bike is easy to sit on with both feet flat on the ground.
Turn the ignition key on and the digital rev-counter fires across the screen and back. A light touch of the starter button and the bike purrs away. Honda’s renowned PGM-FI electronic fuel injection manages the idling speed, irrespective of the outside air temperature and obviates the need for a choke.
There’s something about riding a bike slowly that tells you loads and my early concerns about the Crossrunner’s weight were rapidly dispelled by its balance. Riding slowly, it handles very sure-footedly, giving me confidence that this will be an awesome commuter.
The Crossrunner demonstrated its smooth torque band and ability to pull from way down in the rev range. It’s perfect for a friend who is not very experienced biker and wants a bike that will commute easily yet enable him to go on the odd longer ride, occasionally carrying a pillion.
Once out on the highway, I was able to “grab a handful” of throttle and was rewarded with the sweetest exhaust note and loads of speed. Sure, the Crossrunner doesn’t accelerate like a superbike, but it doesn’t stand that far back from one either. The gearbox is smooth and it’s easy to exceed the speed limit in third – or get just north of 200km/h in sixth gear.
After a short highway burst, we took the traditional “Harties” Breakfast Run route. With the weekday traffic, the dynamics of the bike, its acceleration and excellent braking performed well, but what really impressed me was the way it cornered at speed. With the long sweeping turns on the road, I was amazed to take a quick glimpse at the well-located speedometer and see speeds in excess of 160km/h, with no fear of overstressing either the bike or myself. The suspension easily soaked up any irregularities in the road surface, without making the bike twitchy.
Once on the N1, the Crossrunner sat comfortably at all speeds. But being a responsible group of motorcycling journalists who obey the speed limit, (Who are you trying to kid – Editor) we settled into a comfortable group cruising pattern while eating up the kilometres.
After more than 200kms , I didn’t feel at all fatigued. The only thing that I would have liked on the Crossrunner is an extended windscreen (available through Honda as an after-market accessory) for better wind. Thanks to the upright position, my wrists and my neck were not sore.
The dirt road section is severely corrugated, with some soft sand patches, and this made for tricky riding, particularly on road-orientated tyres and with a 17-inch front wheel.
On the ride back to Gauteng, we charged down the N1 back to Honda’s offices in Midrand. Once again, the Crossrunner reaffirmed how good it is at eating up the kilometres. A mobile altercation with a brainless member of the SAPS almost spoiled our trip though. Somewhere between the Carousel toll plaza and the Phumulani Plaza, the road narrows to one lane for “roadworks”. We filed into the operating lane and were behind said SAPS idiot sitting at a really slow speed due to a heavy vehicle ahead. The SAPS idiot then decided to swing into the construction lane to pass the truck, but because he is such a useless driver, he clipped a cone, knocking it directly into the path of one of the journalists. Thankfully Mark Rex managed to avoid the obstacle, but it did give us all a fright.
The bike’s ability to change lanes rapidly, accelerate and to slow down on the odd occasion when the ABS brakes were called into action was pleasing, confirming the Crossrunner as a great commuter.
I could easily see myself owning one. Having said that, I would easily recommend the Crossrunner to a newbie biker, as it is relatively uncomplicated, extremely forgiving, and confidence inspiring. Priced at R 109 999 (Sports) or R 114 999 (Touring) it is a very well-priced package and I would opt for the touring option as the extra value is substantial.
According to Honda, stability and rider-flattering ease of use were the core design motivations for the Crossrunner. “The designers were focused on a performance-orientated machine, but the bike also had to be manageable across a wide range of rider capabilities,” says John Mitchell, motorcycle product manager of Honda Southern Africa. “With the wide handlebars and the upright riding position, the Crossrunner offers a great riding experience that magnifies the impressions of performance and versatility.”
In development, the Crossrunner went through more than 120 wind tunnel sessions with engineers and designers looking to maximise stability and enhancing airflow. This is borne out when riding by the Crossrunner’s tremendous stability at all speeds. The wind tunnel sessions were also responsible for the final design of the Crossrunner, its multi-layered fairing panels giving a distinctive appearance.
The Crossrunner is a very pillion-friendly machine. With the upright rider position and the level, low platform for the pillion, the pillion and the rider are very “connected” and the pillion benefits from improved wind protection. Mounting and dismounting is also an easy exercise and footpegs for the pillion are comfortably situated and conveniently located to ensure safety and comfort on all journeys.
The Crossrunner has moved away from the traditionally-selected in-line four cylinder engine and its smooth flexible and soulful 782cm3 V4 engine is specifically tuned for its type of riding. Power delivery was always smooth and linear and there is such a sexy sound when the engine is on song and being extended. To provide optimum low speed torque and peak power, a highly developed version of Honda’s revolutionary V-Tec system has been specially adjusted. This technology offers variable valve timing to optimise the degrees of valve opening – a unique proposition in the motorcycle market. Honda engineers have paid specific attention to the dynamics of this proven powerplant, particularly as there was some criticism of its “on” or “off” characteristics in the past.
There is abundant torque throughout the rev range and when the V-Tec is activated, one doesn’t feel any form of “turbo” effect. Engineers experimented with several inlet trumpet shapes and lengths before achieving the optimum settings and they got it right with an engine that runs smoothly and efficiently, and a range between of 350km and 400km from the 21.5-litre fuel tank.
The main features :
A range of tailored optional accessories for the Crossrunner complement its styling, comfort and versatility. These include:
Type Liquid-cooled 4-stroke 16-valve DOHC 90° V-4
Bore × Stroke 72 × 48mm
Compression Ratio 11.6 : 1
Max. Power Output 74.9kW/10,000min-1 (95/1/EC)
Max. Torque 72.8Nm/9,500min-1 (95/1/EC)
Idling Speed 1200min-1
Oil Capacity 3.8 litres
Carburetion PGM-FI electronic fuel injection
Throttle Bore 36mm
Aircleaner Oil-permeated, cartridge-type paper filter
Fuel Tank Capacity 21.5 litres
Ignition System Computer-controlled digital transistorised with electronic advance
Ignition Timing 8° BTDC (idle) ~ 50° BTDC (1200min-1)
Sparkplug Type IMR9D-9H (NGK); VNH27Z (DENSO)
Battery Capacity 12V/11AH (YTZ-12S)
ACG Output 386W
Headlights 12V; 55W × 1 (low) / 55W × 1 (high)
Clutch Wet, multiplate with coil springs
Clutch Operation Hydraulic
Transmission Type Constant mesh 6-speed
Primary Reduction 1.934 (64/33)
Final Reduction 2.687 (43/16)
Final Drive O-ring sealed chain
Type Diamond; aluminium twin-spar; pivotless
Dimensions (L×W×H) 2,130 × 799 × 1,243mm
Caster Angle 25° 45′
Turning Radius 2.8m
Seat Height 816mm
Ground Clearance 140mm
Kerb Weight 238kg
Type Front 43mm cartridge-type telescopic fork with stepless preload adjustment, 108mm axle travel
Rear Pro-Link with gas-charged HMAS damper, 7-step preload and stepless rebound damping adjustment, 119mm axle travel
"A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason." ~ Thomas Paine