inREVIEW: Honda VFR1200X Crosstourer

Words: Francois Steyn | Photos: Courtesy of Honda SA

The adventure bike market has been growing steadily over the past couple of years, and this can be seen in the large number of German 1200s on the roads, as well as Yamaha, which joined the market in 2010. It's therefore about time that Honda - famous for the XRV750 Africa Twin - joins the party.

The Crosstourer is a large touring bike sporting the powerful (and awesome sounding!) 1 237 cc V4 engine from the VFR1200F, but it has a long travel suspension and an upright seating position. This is what makes it the ideal adventure sports bike to grab a slice of the growing market pie. The engine has been optimised for stronger low and midrange, and features ride-by-wire throttle technology. The delivery of the massive 95 kW power and 126 Nm torque is smooth all the way to the red line. Drive is delivered to the rear wheel via a slick six-speed gearbox through a drive shaft enclosed in the rear swing arm. The bike weighs nearly 270kg, which might sound porky but the V4 is mounted low in the aluminium twin-spar frame for reduced centre of gravity and the seat height is the lowest in this class at 850mm. The bike really feels 40 kg lighter when you get on.

The Crosstourer is easy to ride and features a Traction Control System (TCS) and combined ABS brakes. The TCS monitors wheel speeds and reduces engine speed when wheel spin is detected. This is extremely helpful in fast, dirt sections where a fist full of throttle might have you lose the rear. It also keeps the front wheel on the ground, only allowing a small wheelie before the power is cut. The combined ABS works well, even on gravel, as was demonstrated at the ADA Training Centre close to Lanseria Airport. On the gravel skidpan we first grabbed only the front, then only the rear and then both brakes to feel the ABS working. The TCS can be switched off on the fly to allow for power slides and big wheelies, but the ABS cannot. Rider aids are rounded off with a slipper clutch, so you can hook second at speed without locking the rear wheel.

After getting used to the bike at the training centre, we headed out towards Sun City. The day's ride included 200km fast tar roads and around 30 km dirt sections. The latter is where the Crosstourer surprised most. Even though Honda openly market it as a bike that will spend 90% of its time on the tar, the long travel suspension and large diameter spoked rims make a joke of the dirt. Racing along at silly speeds I never felt uneasy. Some of the dirt racers switched off the TCS, but I felt safer knowing it’s there if I needed it. The only place I switched it off was on a bumpy section where you had to lighten the front end over the ditches. Both the front 43 mm upside-down forks and rear shock are fully adjustable for pre-load and damping.

The standard screen offers good wind protection, with the optional touring screen even more so. A LCD display shows speed digitally and engine revs in a horizontal bar graph at the top. Average fuel consumption can be read in km/l or l/100 km and there are two trip meters. The instrument cluster is mounted high up for good visibility. The seating position is very neutral and I never tired on the ride. You can also ride standing on the pegs for kilometres on end. At R149 900 for the base model and R172 000 for the Adventure package, the Crosstourer is competitively priced. The Adventure model includes extras valued at R38 000, such as a centre stand, tall screen, top box and panniers to name just a few. I can’t wait to try out the test bike!

Engine: 1 237 cc V4
Power: 95 kW (7 750 r/min)
Torque: 126 Nm (6 500 r/min)
Fuel tank capacity: 21.5 litres
Transmission: 6-speed
Technology: TCS, ABS, slipper clutch, ride-by-wire
Price (base/Adventure): R149 900 / R172 000