Compared to the nasty bikes on the other pages, the Super Hawk comes off as, well, nice. It’s well built, rider-friendly and it’s a Honda, which is enough for some people.
Honda VTR1000 Super Hawk – V-Twin Grunt
The VTR1000 arrived on the scene in 1997 as one of the first sporting Japanese big V-Twins, but it was eclipsed by Suzuki’s more powerful TL1000S that came out at the same time. The TL-S has morphed into the SV-S while the VTR remains largely unchanged in Honda’s lineup, forced into the shadows by its race-bred cousin, the RC51.
Although the VTR is refined to Honda’s high standards, it becomes apparent those standards are now eight years old. Instead of a precise electronic fuel-injection system, the Super Hawk comes with mammoth 48mm flat-slide carbs. So, instead of a cold start requiring just switching on of the key and a dab of the starter button as with most contemporary bikes, a rider must. horrors!, reach down to the old-school choke knob mounted along the left side of the engine. It’s fiddlesome compared to the more modern injected units that we’ve been spoiled by, such as the Speed Triple lurking on the other side of the garage, or even the Kawi-Z that requires a slide of its enrichener lever (mounted conveniently on the left handlebar) on cold mornings.
The “primitive” fuel mixers actually provide good throttle response at all revs. In practice, the VTR’s bountiful low-end and midrange power is just about perfect in all street-riding conditions. Laying into the power on corner exits is very satisfying, as a rider can feel the rear rubber dig in during acceleration power pulses, just like a good Twin should.
The Super Hawk’s suspension does a fine job of soaking up the daily grind of bumps and holes thanks to softish springs in the wimpy little 41mm cartridge fork and single shock. Though both ends are adjustable for preload and rebound damping, there are no provisions for compression damping. Still, the stock setup can be tweaked to provide a workable solution for most riders, and we appreciated the VTR shock’s ramped collar that allows roadside preload adjustments without resorting to a hammer and punch like the other bikes in this group.
There’s enough of a beast lurking beneath the side-mounted radiators of the VTR to get into trouble, if that’s what you’re looking for. Check out the Trans-Am-style gold wheels.
With a substantial 24.9 degrees of rake and a wheelbase slightly longer than the others (56.3-inches), the slower-steering VTR gets left behind in the cut and thrust of tight canyon surfing. While the multis have a wide, high-mounted handlebar, the Super Hawk has its clip-ons mounted lower and narrower, which provides less leverage in a quick-flick environment. Although VTR’s bars are mounted above the triple-clamp, we think they are too low and too far forward for a bike of this mission. On the other hand, the RC51-lite is more stable and composed in higher-speed sweepers where the multis start to feel a bit nervous.
Honda upgraded the VTR’s instruments in 2001, but we think they could do better. People bitch and moan about the hard-to-read gauges on Kawi’s Z1000 and ZX series of sportbikes because the LCD analog tach is nearly illegible in bright sunlight. But at least the large numerals on its LCD speedo are plain to see, a far cry from the crammed numbers on the VTR’s 180-mph speedo. Does Honda really think this thing will go 180? More like 150-and-change. Also, the hydraulic clutch line that snakes its way behind the upper triple clamp partially blocks the 50-mph section of the speedo’s face that is located down and to the left of center-mounted tach. The nicely shaped mirrors are easy to adjust on their aluminum stalks, but a clear view to the rear is possible only by tucking in your elbows. These small things taint what is otherwise a pleasing cockpit environment.
The VTR has surprisingly good wind protection from its half fairing, and it would make a good sport tourer if not for the small capacity of its modest 4.2-gallon tank. The fuel light from its teeny 0.7-gallon reserve invariably comes on every time the tripmeter passed 100 miles on each tankful, and with its average fuel consumption of just 35 mpg, the VTR’s maximum range falls well short of 150 miles.
While the Super Hawk’s 4-piston Nissin calipers and 296mm rotors have enough power for street-riding conditions, we weren’t pleased with their mushy feel. The lever comes back too far unless it’s adjusted all the way out, negating the benefit of having an adjustable lever in the first place. Shift effort is admirably light, but the gearbox has long throws and imprecise action, especially during the 1-2 shift where a sloppy toe can ring up an inadvertent neutral. The action from the hydraulic clutch is light and smooth, but high-rpm launches uncover a grabbier side.
Opinions were mixed over the VTR’s appearance. It’s definitely the wallflower among this group of attention hounds, as its dated styling allows it to almost fade into the background. Yet, its conservative design also had its share of fans that appreciated its more subdued look.