The road less travelled is the route an increasing number of bike riders want to take. The adventure market has exploded in Australia over the past 18 months and is still growing at 4 per cent a year. Honda wants a slice of that pie and has rolled out the VFR1200X to snare riders who are as happy inhaling dust as they are diesel fumes.
A $20,000 entry price puts the Honda in the thick of the action. It is bang on the money against the Yamaha SuperTenere and sits $1800 under the Triumph Explorer and $2200 below BMW’s R1200 GS. A VFR1200X with a dual-clutch automated manual transmission will be on sale in August at a $1000 premium.
Like its competitors, Honda has a huge list of accessories to personalise the bike for long-distance cruising. A set of panniers are $1485, the top box is $792, heated grips add $382 and LED foglights are $329.
The V4 engine is the key to the VFR’s effortless long-distance lope. Depending on the road and the mood, sixth gear will do the job if fuel economy is the priority. Drop it down into third gear and the torque surge becomes a tsunami. Either way, the ride-by-wire throttle response is gel-lube smooth. A traction control system helps avoid moments on the tarmac or dirt, but the ABS system can’t be switched off and doesn’t have a separate “dirt” mode.
The signature Honda headlight design dominates the front end, with the now-obligatory “adventure bike” duck bill mounted below. The bike looks slim from any angle _ even with the panniers fitted _ and you don’t feel the 275kg weight until you pick it up off the sidestand on a slope. The digital dash has a bar tachometer at the top, big speedo digits , a gear position indicator and fuel consumption readout.
The combined ABS links the front and rear brakes to maximise effectiveness. It works a treat on the road but the inability to turn it off earned some scowls. Put it down to Honda’s global insistence on safety.
The launch route took in everything from highway running to C-grade back roads and mountain twisties. Comfort was never an issue with the upright seating position and at 170cm, there was no need to reposition the adjustable screen. The V4 sounds superb _ it has more exhaust note than most Hondas and will be an absolute aural treat with an aftermarket pipe.
Unlike the BMW GS, the Honda is a more road-based bike, even if it doesn’t matter what type of road it is. Honda’s Glyn Griffiths says the design brief shifted from the concept bike shown at the 2010 EICMA to the production model.
"Honda decided to make the production Crosstourer a more versatile package, as effective in the city on the daily commute as it is on the open highway," he notes.
A great long-distance ride that is more than capable of matching any bike on the bitumen and should hold its own on gravel or sandy roads. The big test will be how it handles single-trail enduro tracks _ and that will have to wait for a full review.