Honda VTR1000 FireStorm, Sweet & Comfort !!

My earliest memory of a Honda VTR1000 FireStorm came in early 1998, when a copper pulled me up on one for going a bit sharpish.

Honda VTR1000 FireStorm

I’d love to tell you the story of how said officer of the law passionately threatened to seriously adjust my licence, but then suddenly (and thankfully) had a change of heart, but that one's best recalled down the pub. What is worth noting was his enquiry about how good I thought the Honda was before letting me go on my merry way. “It’s not a Ducati,” I replied. My assessment was a bit more detailed and elaborate than that, though in essence that was the crux of the matter.

Honda VTR1000 FireStorm : Detail

Nigh-on two decades later, after another blat on a VTR, that’s still pretty much how I feel. Now, not being a Ducati works both for and against the Honda. Not being built in Bologna means having a lot less character and personality and somewhat reduces its endearment as a consequence. You’re just never likely to love a Honda VTR1000 FireStorm as much as a Duke. In saying that, you’re probably not going to feel some of the other more negative emotions sometimes associated with running a 90s Ducati either.

Keep a Honda VTR1000 FireStorm in your garage and though you might not be as thrilled every time you open the door, there's a good chance its reliability and dependence will make ownership feel just as rewarding – just in a different way. Living with a VTR can be a whole lot easier. Only one key thing is wrong with the Honda in my book, but we’ll come to that later. It might have been a very long time since my last spin on the Japanese V-twin, but this one didn’t take too much time to win me over. Slim and light, with a fairly simple and elegant style, the Honda has a purposeful feel to it. Its build quality and finish is of a robust nature too. This 2000 model is in very good order for its vintage, which is no surprise perhaps, as it’s been pretty well cared for and comes from an era when Hondas were noted for their durability.

Get it fired up and the sound it makes is just as appealing. Again the traditional deep note from the Honda VTR1000 FireStorm twin pipes can’t quite match the magical music of a Duke, but the cans still play a very pleasant tune. With eyes and ears satisfied by nice sights and sounds, the engine then gives plenty of stimuli to the heart. I’m well aware that not everyone likes the way V-twins make their power, but I’m a big fan. Just like the VTR, they generate speed so easily. A claimed 100 and odd bhp isn’t much to shout about these days, but because what power the Honda does have can be accessed so easily, that relatively low figure is pretty academic anyway.

Honda VTR1000 FireStorm : Performance

Twist the grip and there’s always something to drive you forward meaningfully. You certainly don’t have to wait like you sometimes do on most fours. There’s no requirement for the crank to get up to speed before the cumulative effort of its attached pistons is delivered. Instead, just feed the big bores with unleaded/fresh air mix and the VTR1000 FireStorm big pair of alloy slugs instantly pump the bike forward.

The Honda VTR1000 FireStorm punch feels strong and prompt at all revs, making speed gains simple enough to make it feel like you’re cheating. The obedience does have a bit of a trade-off with very low rpm in the big gears and chugging through town needs a bit of technique to maintain smooth, snatch-free progress. Having sampled these motors for years now, it’s not a chore for me to juggle gears and rpm, and sometimes use a bit of clutch to refine matters further, but I do always bear that need in mind whenever running through the urban zone. However, out in the sticks the keen throttle response and the motor’s relaxed feel offer plenty of compensation.

Also allowing the speed to feel nicely controlled is the Honda VTR1000 FireStorm chassis. Not necessarily what you’d call super sharp, you can still hurry the fairly agile, sweet-steering Honda along at a swift pace when the roads deviate in differing directions. To be honest, I reckon I’d probably spend a few quid and get the suspension upgraded a bit if I wanted to get the absolute best from the bike down backroads.

In standard trim, Honda VTR1000 FireStorm damping of both the forks and rear shock can feel a bit dead and wooden when you’re trying really hard, especially over some rougher routes. Chucking some money at the brakes wouldn’t be a bad plan either. They’re certainly not what you’d call lacking, though I’m sure with better pads and some braided hoses they'd have a fair bit more bite and feedback.

What’s more than OK without any need to open your wallet is the Honda’s comfort. Stick a bit of luggage on it and the VTR can happily cope with longer runs thanks to its typical Honda riding position with its famed one-size-fits-all, roomy and relaxed feel to it. That plus point is handicapped by the VTR1000 FireStorm one main weakness though – its poor tank range. It’s a sad oversight and the only issue that spoils a generally very positive appraisal of the Honda. If you’re lucky and just taking things easy, then you might get around 110 miles before the fuel light comes on.

More likely, especially if you’re giving it some, is the ‘get some fuel pronto mate’ bulb will come on at around just 80-90 miles. That really does limit the extent of the bike’s pleasure. This bike was slightly better as it had a larger 19-litre tank bolted on from a later model, the owner having become too cheesed off with visiting the pumps too often.

Verdict :

Not everyone will find this issue spoils what is fundamentally a solid bike though. On the whole, the Honda VTR1000 FireStorm performs well and even has a bit of rarity value to it these days. And though it might not be able to match a Ducati for sheer sex appeal, real world virtues mean it’s still got a lot going for it – as long as you’re prepared to keep filling the bugger up anyway!