It has been a long time coming. Practically from when the ’90 model VFR came off the production line, customers have been asking Honda for factory saddlebags for their sport- touring VFRs. It made sense, seeing as how the (then) VFR had taken on a softer edge after the ’86-’87 models, leaning more toward the touring side of the sport-touring category. Riders were left to explore possibilities in the aftermarket when Honda did nothing to address the cargo carrying capacity of the VFR.
Despite the model regaining the “Interceptor” title in ’98 and leaning back toward the “sport” side, it still showed itself well in long distance mode, but still lacked a factory saddlebag option.
Honda promised that the bags finally would be available as an option for the ’02 model year, partnering with Givi. Problems with design and production delayed the release of the bags several months after the release of the ’03 model, but now they are here.
The bags have a capacity of 35 liters each, and have no problem swallowing a full-face helmet. A pair of tethers keep the outer shell from opening too far and damaging the hinge. There is an elastic retaining strap on the inner half of the bag to help hold personal articles in place. Perhaps another retaining strap on the outer half would be useful as well. We did not have a chance to test the bags’ water-proof feature, having missed the rainy season of SoCal, which lasts about two weeks. A precise fit, coupled with a rubber seal, should ensure the contents remain dry, however hard it may be raining.
For mounting, a black, tubular frame bolts to the side of the bike at three points: footpeg bracket, rear grab rail and rear fender. It is about as unobtrusive as it can be while providing a solid mounting point. The bags form-fit to the bike very well, and have a metal heat shield to keep the backside of the bag from becoming a gooey mess while idling along in heavy traffic during the summer months. Since the Interceptor places its mufflers directly underneath the tail section, this form fit is necessary to keep the bags from being unacceptably wide, but somewhat limits the bag’s capability to hold larger, less flexible items.
The bags add quite a bit to the Interceptor’s overall width, and this was a worry for me because I split traffic and use the mirrors to gauge the width of the space I’m about to enter. The bag on either side is a good 4 inches wider than the mirror. I could easily imagine one of the bags clipping a rear quarter panel of a car or truck and creating a plastic-shattering mess. After a few days of commuting in the worst of SoCal’s holiday traffic, I can say that while there are times you won’t want to “shoot the gap” with the bags in place, those situations don’t happen often enough to be an inconvenience. And for those readers outside of California’s borders, it is a non-issue since there is no lane-sharing provision in your DMV handbook – *ahem*……… Carrying passengers with the bags installed presented no problems, but I would recommend putting clear, protective plastic film on the corners, as the passenger’s foot will almost inevitably come in contact with it. Pilots of the bike will likely do the same thing, especially if you are not used to having to clear the additional width when swinging your leg over the seat to mount or dismount.
Installing and removing the bags from the bike is very quick and simple. Turn the key (different from the ignition key) a quarter turn clockwise and lift the handle to make the “lid” latch accessible to open the bag. Or simply lift the bag handle and then lift up and out to remove the bag from the bike. The bags have a flat base and so setting them on flat ground will not see them rolling onto the color-matched paint.
The bags’ capacity add greatly to the 800’s long distance capability and integrate well with the lines of the bike. Simple, solid mounting ensures that they will stay put and not bounce around. Typical of Honda products, fit and finish are outstanding. The “Interceptor” badge on each bag adds a little pizazz that completes the aesthetics package.
MSRP from Honda is $999, (plus installation fees).