Honda VTR1000F FireStorm 1997-2005
When looking back to the late 1990s, we can now see that there was a big fashion for V-twin motorcycles.
It was understandable that with a resurgent Ducati having cool road bikes like the 900SS and Monster family and amazing sports bikes like the 916, that ‘imitation would become the sincerest form of flattery’ especially from the Far East…
This came at first with Yamaha’s TRX850 – a parallel twin from 1995 that ‘looked’ like a Vee and even had a Ducati-esque trellis frame – but the real deals came from Honda and Suzuki. The mighty Suzuki seemed to aim for crazy with the TL1000S which – thanks to rotary rear suspension damper and some well-publicised accidents) was marked out as a bit of an animal. Honda’s VTR1000F FireStorm was different. It was more easy-going, softer, milder and much more forgiving – hence the ‘F’ designation and not ‘RR’.
With 23 years of hindsight many feel the Suzuki is the modern classic, while the Honda is merely a best-forgotten also-ran. But they’d be missing the point. OK, so while the finish wasn’t Honda’s best and while the bike was bloody thirsty if ridden hard, it was still a good road machine.
Sure it was about 25bhp down on the TL, but it was still good for around 100-105bhp, it was lithe thanks to the side-mounted radiators and the chassis parts were all proven stuff like Nissin brakes and a Showa rising-rate shock, rather than the TL’s rotary damper.
Thanks to the Suzuki’s reputation and recalls, the Honda outsold the TL two-to-one in launch year of 1997, but within a year the four-cylinder machines had caught up and passed the lust for a twin when Yamaha launched the YZF-R1. Soon fours would have the power and the torque to see off the twins: for a while, at least.
Today the VTR is still somewhat unloved, but that means good value. Rough ones can still be found for around a grand or less, but we’d suggest finding a well-loved, post 2001 (bigger tank) model for around £1500-£2500. That’s a lot of bike for the money, it’s just a shame the machine never got a full revamp and new clothes in its eight-year lifetime.
WHAT GOES WRONG?
The front-end’s four-pot Nissins can quickly lose feel and power when the calipers get dirty. Keep them clean with a strip and invest in any good braided hose and softer pads. You can use different master cylinders including that from the VTR1000SP-1/2 for more power.
The first models had a tiny 16-litre tank, while the 2001-on machines had a 19-litre one. VTRs gulp down fuel, so you’ll only get around 90-120 miles tops to a tank. Reserve isn’t generous either (2.5 litres) with only 20 or so miles before you have to push. Later tanks can be fitted on the bike and Harris Performance once made a 24-litre tank – but these are rare!
Tough and with no major issues: mile tunes of cans/filter/re-jet can see rear-wheel power head to around 110-115bhp. High-mile machines with more than 40k on the clocks are worth asking if the cam-chain and tensioner have been replaced.
Many people will put louder pipes on as it’s whisper quiet with the standard, bulky cans –you do really want the originals for MoT time or bung the tester a fiver to put earplugs in…
2001-on dashes benefit from an LCD cluster which includes a clock and fuel gauge, but the layout is quite muddled.
Can suffer from the typical Honda 1990s issue of the time, so ask if this has been changed and when.
Starter motor bolts can corrode. You can strip the motor down and replace corroded bolts rather than buy a replacement.
Even at launch these Showa 41mm right-way-up forks were too soft. Today upgrades include a re-valve with new springs and heavier oil or swopping to any pre-2000 FireBlade fork.
Same as the forks, so check for issues. Replacement road shocks start at around £250-£300. Shims can be fitted at the shock-mount to raise the rear, for quicker turning.
Good, but as good as a VFR or Blade. Fork legs pit easily and down-pipes cop a lot of road crap and can corrode quickly. Fender extenders work here…
Honda VTR1000F FireStorm (1997-2000 2001-2005)
Price New: £7995 (1997) £6795 (1999)
Price now: £750-£3000
Engine: 996cc, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke V-twin.
Power: 110bhp @ 9000rpm
Comments: The original FireStorm (or SuperHawk in the USA) was a simple V-twin sportsbike. In the UK/Europe the bike was updated in 2001 with a larger fuel tank (up three litres to 19) a new LCD dash layout, Honda’s anti-theft HISS (Honda Ignition Security System) and mildly easier going ergonomics thanks to changes to the bars. Also some suspension tweaks and carburation/ignition mods.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Still cheap, that V-twin bellow on open pipes!
WHY WE DON’T: Fuel economy and lack of visual excitement!