Crossrunner – Honda’s bold launch of a new bike genre

By Lance Rothschild 29 September 2011

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 :

  • Liquid-cooled 782cm3, 4 cam, 90° V4 engine delivers a smooth curve of power with excellent torque throughout the rev range.
  • Low-slung 4-2-1 exhaust system leaves room for a lower, flatter pillion seat as well as allowing for an attractive exhaust design, excellent cornering clearance and a distinctive V4 engine note.
  • The natural, upright riding position of a “Naked” machine combined with the roominess, comfort and rugged appearance of an adventure bike.
  • The wide handlebar configuration contributes to quick, accurate response to steering input.
  • Low passenger seat for easy mounting and pillion at similar level to the rider.
  • The “floating” instrument binnacle positioned for maximum visibility at all times and includes a digital LCD speedometer, a tachometer, twin trip meters, a coolant temperature gauge, an ambient temperature indicator and clock.
  • Honda V-Tec system with refined fuelling and ignition maps combine for a smooth progressive power delivery, abundant torque and precise control.
  • Aluminium alloy twin-spar frame provides excellent rigidity.
  • 43mm cartridge-type front fork provides supreme front wheel control and excellent rider feedback.
  • Cast aluminium Pro-Arm swingarm, Pro-Link rising-rate linkage system and gas-charged HMAS damper with adjustable rebound damping combine for comfort and precise control.
  • High-performing combined brakes with standard-fit ABS create powerful, assured braking with optimised control and feedback.

A range of tailored optional accessories for the Crossrunner complement its styling, comfort and versatility. These include:

  • 29-litre pannier kit.
  • Sleek 31-litre top box featuring a locking, quick-detach mounting system.
  • Tough PVC inner bags for the top box and panniers.
  • Higher windscreen.
  • Pair of slim heated grips with an integrated controller for maximum comfort and compact design integration.
  • Set of two fairing deflectors for increased wind protection.
  • Mainstand that makes rear wheel maintenance easier and provides more secure parking on uneven surfaces.
  • 12V DC socket for powering additional electrical equipment.
  • An outdoor motorcycle cover that protects the paintwork from UV rays. The fabric is water-resistant and breathable, allowing the bike to dry while parked.
  • A U-lock and an Averto alarm kit. The alarm has an 118dB siren, a shock detector with 8 sensitivity settings and features a sleep mode to help prevent the battery from draining.

Technical Specifications


Type        Liquid-cooled 4-stroke 16-valve DOHC 90° V-4

Displacement        782cm3

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)

Starter        Electric

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)

Gear Ratios    

  • 1    2.846  (37/13)
  • 2    2.062  (33/16)
  • 3    1.578  (30/19)
  • 4    1.291  (31/24)
  • 5    1.111  (30/27)
  • 6    0.965  (28/29)

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

Wheelbase        1,464mm

Caster Angle        25° 45′

Trail        96mm

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



  • Front    6-spoke cast aluminium
  • Rear    5-spoke cast aluminium

Rim Size    

  • Front    17M/C × MT3.50
  • Rear    17M/C × MT5.50

Tyre Size    

  • Front    120/70 R17
  • Rear    180/55 R17

Tyre Pressure    

  • Front    225kPa
  • Rear    250kPa



  • Front    296mm dual floating hydraulic disc with 3-piston callipers, C-ABS and sintered metal pads
  • Rear    256mm hydraulic disc with 2-piston calliper, C-ABS and sintered metal pads




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