Honda VTR1000 SP-Y

The bike that Honda built to beat Ducati at their own game.....and succeeded. Thats pretty much all you need to know, but I'll tell you a bit more. I'll tell you what its like to live with for 4 years.

The highs and the lows, touring, modifying and repairing. The only thing I didn't do was track it, but I rode like an idiot on the roads, so that will have to be good enough.

I have had a thing for this bike for a very long time, even drawing up and measuring my VFR400 NC30 to take a SP-1 seat. Fate eventually knocked on my door in the form of writing off my 2002 R6 and this bike being for sale less than 5 miles from my Mothers house. Some quick convincing to myself that I had been a good boy, and I owned my second dream bike, the first being the Ducati 888 that hung on my wall as a kid.

Firstly, the looks. I love it. Race bike, with road parts being an afterthought. The rear lights are ugly as sin and just stuck on, and the indicators make the bike noticeably wider, but it all adds to the effect. Soon as you turn the bike on, and the digital dash sweeps up and down, you know you're in for fun. 

I have always had a thing for endurance racing, and the bikes in particular. Full on race bikes, but with lights. A few minor modifications and they can be road legal. Everything is there for a purpose, and thats where the front fender/mudguard came in. Found online from a guy in America, it is a cut down, pre-preg carbon endurance mudguard, so is wider and stubby to allow the front wheel to just roll out. I love it, and added to the carbon clutch cover and exhaust hangers, and a Tyga SP-2 hugger, it adds just enough of the black stuff to set it off. Add a Fabbri high screen and my noticeable mass could get well into the bubble.

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Next up was the exhaust. Very muffled and huge stock cans gave way to a cheap can and link pipe combo from, at the time, small Italian firm GPR. Different again to the normal, but I loves the look of the Titanium with 'carbon' look tip.

Sadly, the quality didn't last. 2 years into ownership, and the black ceramic covering on the leading edge started to flake and just looked tatty. The noise though.....amazing. A friend actually described it as sounding angry when following through a tunnel, and it may have set off a few car alarms on a quiet Cambridge back street.

The fairings can be a pain, as lovely as they are to look at. The seat unit will almost defiantly crack if you remove it too often thanks to the positioning of various electrical components, and the lower part of the front is an absolute pain to remove/install. Every time I did either, I thought I was going to snap it the connecting bolts down the middle. A race fairing is almost a definite for me, splitting the huge 1 piece lower into a mid and race belly pan, easing stress when removing and saving the original, of which its hard to find a complete one these days, for any resale or pictures.

Performance wise, this is where it shows its age. When I first got the bike, it was my first 1000cc, and first twin, so the torque just astounded me. How can something munch through the gears so quick and keep pulling the entire time? Add the exhaust on acceleration and the pops on over-run, it was addictive to just rev.

The chassis needs attention. Being a 16 year old bike at the time of writing this, it defiantly started to feel tired. Now don't get me wrong, given a decent stretch of tarmac, it felt fantastic, and I have no doubt that on track it would be a great, if a little slow, bike. But the state of our roads it was way too hard and focused. The riding position is very wrist focused, and for someone with a less than fixed back, it just becomes painful after a very short time, which makes me grateful for the 85-100 mile tank range.

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Suspension wise, new oil and a refreshed rear shock helped, but I think a whole new unit on the back and rebuilt forks would really help the feel and handling, as well as the comfort of the bike. I managed to dial in good enough settings with the use of the helpful people of the VTR forums, but it still wasn't completely right.

I ended up swapping out the stock clip-ons for some Harris QR ones after the bike rattled one of its bar-ends loose in the middle of Germany. £100 seemed like too good a price to pass up and gave me a chance to reposition them to a slightly more comfortable place. I tend to ride with my bars quite wide, so as odd as it may have looked, it worked for me!

The brakes are brilliant, after a rebuild. 'HRC' rear reservoir(its a green tube) and braided lines all round add to feel, but its not aggressive. It just bites and stops you, which has gotten me out of a few iffy situations where a newer bike might have locked up and spat me off.

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I had a few issues with fueling, anything below 15mph in first the throttle is basically a switch. On or off. The first set of tyres I had flat out sucked on this. Bridgestone of some variety, but as soon as I got the Continental ContiAttack Race Endurance on, it transformed the grip. One of the best tyres I have been on, period. A few small electrical gremlins from where the previous owner had done some frankly worrying stuff with the loom, and that was it. Plenty of trouble free riding.

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Looking back at these images, I do miss the bike, but I think I remember the good much more than the bad. The noise, especially through any tight town roads or tunnel. Touring with mates through France, when the rain finally stopped and the bike choice finally made sense (apart from the tank range). Even the little things like sitting down 'Sunny Hunny' on a Sunday and watching people stop at my bike and chat about how they have always wanted one, or regret selling theirs, and the looks I got when children shat themselves as it started with an almighty bark.

Do I miss it despite the faults? Yes. Would I have another one? Probably not. For me, its just too focused. My body can't handle certain positions anymore through years of abuse, and even with new clip-ons and rear sets, the SP-Y is one of those positions. 

It is, though, still one of the best looking bikes I have ever gotten the opportunity to see and photograph. Disagree? Just check out the image below, and I'll accept your apologies in the comments below.

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