With an experienced team and a lot of data.
Protect your 1985 Honda VF1000R from the unexpected.
Honda’s V-4 program of the 1980s had its share of hits and misses, but Freddie Spencer and Mike Baldwin dazzled the crowds at Daytona in 1982 on the FWS1000 and Baldwin won the AMA Formula 1 championship. That bike evolved into the RS850, on which Joey Dunlop won the first of six straight Formula 1 TT races at the Isle of Man in 1983.
Honda took the bike’s distinctive red, white and blue color scheme to the street in the VF1000R, first offered in Europe in 1984 and in the U.S. in 1985-86. Fully faired in fiberglass and carbon fiber, it was impressive in two ways, neither of which helped sales. The steel frame and Comstar wheels meant it weighed 603 lbs with a full 5.1 gallon tank, and it cost $5,698 – $2,200 more than the VF 750F. 1986 was even worse, with an increase to $6,298, though the bike gained the superb double headlights from the European model.
Dealers were discouraged, and the VF1000Rs became paperweights in showrooms, even though they were fast enough at 152 mph, and enjoyed an excellent aerodynamic fairing. The sales picture got worse still in 1985, when the alloy frame VF750F cost $1,000 less, and was 125 lbs lighter.
If you knew what you wanted, though, the VF1000R was seriously useful. It was stable, comfortable, and the handling was predictable, even with a 16-inch front wheel. The engine’s redline was a smooth 11,000 rpm and it could eat up Western American highways in 200-mile increments.
These were never bikes to be ridden around town, but a number of original survivors exist in the hands of collectors, or experienced older riders who enjoy long journeys. The engines have been reported in Europe to last 100,000 miles and seldom need attention beyond services, tune-ups and hoses.
Difficulties arise these days in finding fairings and detail trim pieces. The fairing lower is one-piece and a really good one can be painfully expensive, while the dual seat cap can often have broken locating tabs. Aftermarket mufflers can save about 40 lbs, but tend to be fragile.
The main issue is one of weight. If the bike leans past a certain point at low speed (and it is top heavy when full of gas) even the burliest rider will not stop it falling. Three people are required to lube the chain – two to lift it onto the side stand.
That said, the 1000R is comfortable, quiet, fast and with a striking color scheme that usually prompts other riders to wonder when they last saw another. A good original example is an excellent buy if you have travelling on your mind.