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2000 Honda VFR800 Interceptor vs. 1998 Yamaha R1: A Strange Shoot Out

If this article has a strange title, it’s because it’s a strange article. It’s all about my afternoon visit to the local motorcycle shop, and what happened next. Being Friday, I was in the mood to play hookey, particularly after I visited Temecula Motorsports during my lunch hour. I was fortunate enough to be riding a yellow 2000 Honda VFR 800 Interceptor (I had ridden it for a couple of days already). A great bike (more about that below).

Anyway, Jeff Whitmer, who works at the dealership, was leaving early to go on a streetbike ride up a local mountain road to a place called Idyllwild. Although I had driven a car up that road a couple of times, I had never ridden a motorcycle on that route. I was invited to go along with Jeff and his friend George (whose last name I have forgotten — sorry George). In any event, George was riding a mid-90’s Honda CBR900RR.

On our trip to the base of the mountain, I learned a couple of things. First of all, the Honda Interceptor is a very fast bike. Second, a Yamaha R1 is faster — a lot faster! Much of the trip to the base of the mountain was on a two lane road, which gave us plenty of opportunity to test the passing power of our motorcycles. Despite the elite company I was keeping (I’m referring to the motorcycles, not the riders), the Interceptor held its own in passing traffic.

Although the Interceptor has pretty decent mid-range for around-town riding, it really comes to life up above 7500 rpm. Actually, it pulls very hard from about 7500 rpm to 10,000 rpm. In fact, in first gear, the bike will pull the front wheel up off the throttle quite easily.

We had a blast passing cars on the way to the base of the mountain. Up the mountain was a different story. Although fun, I was seriously humbled by these younger, faster guys. Although I had plenty of excuses (I’m a tired old man on a borrowed bike — to mention two), basically I got spanked. At the top, I was pleasantly surprised when Jeff offered to let me ride his 1998 Yamaha R1. I took the R1 back down the mountain a short ways, and then back up to the top. A fabulous bike, indeed.

As reported so many times elsewhere, the R1 has fantastic low end and mid-range for a sport bike. In fact, as far as I could tell, the powerband is perfectly linear from bottom to top (it pulls very hard everywhere).

As also reported elsewhere, the seating position on the R1 is quite severe — placing a lot of weight on your wrists and requiring a long stretch to the bars (particularly for someone built like me). Around the mountain turns, the R1 just felt solidly planted. Although it flicked from side to side easily (reflecting its low weight), it actually felt like a heavier bike once it was tracking in a corner. It tracked so solidly it felt like nothing could knock it off line. A very interesting and pleasurable experience.

Just so you don’t get too jealous, I need to tell you that, although I do leave work early on Fridays as frequently as I can, I am far more likely to spend those afternoons picking up dog feces in my backyard than racing up a mountain on a brand new motorcycle. Needless to say, this Friday afternoon was a lot more fun.