Honda VFR-750 Modifications

I tried, really I did.  I kept this '97 nearly stock for seven years.  Then I got The Itch.

But the itch didn't take me in the direction of performance bits or bling.  Not me.  Not yet, anyway.  No noisy pipes, no polished aluminum, no anodized bolts.  Instead, mostly I go for gadgets...

Maybe it started when I bought that Corbin "Gunfighter + Lady" aftermarket seat several years ago.  The first one I ever bought was for my Yamaha RZ-350, back in the late eighties.  It came with a great gadget - an easily detachable backrest.  It is enormously comforting to know your passenger is secure.  The seat looked good, performed well and offered me a very "planted" feeling like I was in the bike instead of on it.  Too bad they're so heavy.  And too bad the fit on the VFR's Corbin seat is so sloppy.  And too bad I'm 3000 miles from Corbin - too far to bring the seat back to them with my bike and have them re-manufacture it correctly.  If they even could.  This Corbin seat rattles over bumps, rubs the paint off the bike's bodywork and gas tank, and causes the seat latch to loosen and eventually break.  To make things worse, the backrest mounting post eventually rusted, and now the bolt that holds it in place rusted, froze, and broke off in a way that I am no longer able to remove the backrest.  I went back to the stock seat, emailed Corbin about their seat's terrible fit and sent pictures of the damage it was causing.  Their reply warned I could end up paying for them to re-cover the seat when they supposedly "fix" it, dismissed the obvious design shortcomings and tried to downplay fhe fit problems as being due to worn bumpers.  And they recommended using Loctite for their "removable" backrest!  Fuck Corbin.  They do have competitors, all of whom are less expensive and more friendly.

Does the E-Z Pass toll transponder count as a gadget?  I've been using one on the bike since it became available.  These automated toll transponders are the best thing to happen to motorcyclists since the invention of the electronic ignition.  Gone are the days of gloved hands clumsily fumbling for money in an oil-slicked toll collection lane while choking on exhaust fumes with uppity motorists lined up behind.  Sure, the silly looking pale plastic blob doesn't have nearly the coolness points of a rattly, overpriced aftermarket seat, but the practicality and safety it offers is truly invaluable.  Motorcycles are about freedom, and what better way to enjoy that freedom than to go whizzing through bridge and highway toll plazas at discounted rates while the paranoid transponder -less cage dwellers stew in queue to pay full price.

When you get your automated toll transponder, just make sure it's securely mounted and pointed in the correct direction.  In my case, I had to fashion some wedges onto the E-Z Pass using a plastic epoxy (I used QuikPlastik®).  I waited about ten minutes to cut off the excess with a sharp knife, then filed and sanded them to suit in about thirty minutes, to make the angles of the fasteners more friendly to the curvature of the VFR's windscreen.  The picture above shows the finished product.  Don't forget to ask for an extra set of those 3M Dual Lock(tm) self-adhesive fasteners when you get your transponder!

When Garmin introduced the diminuitive Garmin Quest GPS receiver, I just had to have it.  The 128MB of RAM and a North America base map made it suitable for day-tripping (the more recent Quest 2 features a full North America detail map built-in), it has full routing capablity, is small enough not to block the bike's instrumentation too much, sports an integral Li-Ion battery so it can be used off the bike, fits in a pocket, and Garmin offers a variety of specialized mounts for motorcycles, bicycles, etc. instead of leaving that task entirely up to third parties.

Garmin's motorcycle mounts still leave to the prospective owner the task of affixing the mount to the machine.  I wasn't particularly happy with the positioning offered by the predominant third-party fixtures, so I designed my own and had it made from aircraft aluminum by a New Jersey -based online machine shop,  A web page with the whole story can be found here.  The GPS receiver has been a tremendous help on trips of every length, on errands, on travel to clients, and it helps soothe nerves when the gas gauge's needle dips toward 'E' on unfamiliar roads, or when trying to find hotels and food.  Although the GPS receiver in no way replaces maps, particularly when you need the Big Picture, it still has become an indispensible tool both for getting around and for finding the way back, and saving gobs of time in the process.

Next, I got tired of freezing my butt off every winter.  I'm getting too old for this crap.  The days of me being out there on a UJM in denim pants, a 3/4 helmet and ski goggles in 10F weather (and getting to my destination with my jaws too frozen to speak) are long gone.  I ordered up a Powerlet kit, which allowed me to install a power hookup right in the motorcycle's steering stem.  The Powerlet kit produces a very low-key, OEM or "factory" looking neat installation with a spring -loaded cover to keep the weather out when not in use.  The connector is the same type as used on BMW motorcycles and John Deere farm equipment.  Yes, really.  It's a more reliable design both electrically and mechanically than the traditional cigarette lighter sockets, and I don't smoke anyway.

In the winter months the Powerlet supplies electricity to a Gerbing jacket liner and gloves (replacing a Widder System 2 setup whose glove wires tended to break too easily), and can just as easily power radios or cellphone chargers too.  And for those rare winters when it snows too much to ride for a few weeks, or when your VFR inevitably suffers a charging system failure, it also makes a handy hookup for a battery charger such as the Battery Tender.  Frankly I didn't think this was the most remarkable accessory I've ever installed, but in this year's travels a Wichita Kansas Honda motorcycle dealer (and VFR enthusiast) seemed so impressed with it that he didn't think to criticize me for the horrible key-fob marks on my upper triple clamp.

Then I got tired of having to dig for my keys or my garage opener remote every time I left and returned.  So I decided to equip my motorcycle with its own built-in garage opener.  The first idea that came to mind was to velcro a spare remote onto the bike somehow, but I wanted something more adaptable, more durable and more secure from theft.  Also, those remotes are usually leased and expensive to purchase.  Our apartment building's garage remote control operates on a somewhat unusual frequency - 295MHz - and as a result I couldn't find any inexpensive universal or learning remotes that were compatible.

Since the Homelink programmable remote control systems commonly found in automobiles now - such as my Honda Accord - work perfectly well with our garage door, I obtained a spare one by purchasing a Homelink -equipped overhead light console from an auto salvage dealer on eBay.  At the time this was the only way to obtain a Homelink transceiver.  I dug out the small Homelink circuit board from the overhead light console, installed it into a plastic housing made for small electronics projects, hid the housing inside the VFR's bodywork, and installed a weatherproof pushbutton into the  left "ear" of the upper cowl so that it was in a solid and easily reachable place, usable by an easy thumb squeeze with a gloved left hand.  It can be safely operated while rolling so I can drift into my garage a la Batman, and blends in like OEM equipment.  Click HERE for a more detailed description of how I did this.

I experimented with a few alarm systems after one of my VFRs was stolen in 1998.  I could tell you in detail about my current solution, but then I might have to kill you.  But with a pager and a full suite of sensor and backup options, I'm more than ready to confront anyone who might make an attempt on this one.

Another useful under the sheets upgrade was the installation of tapered steering stem bearings.  Half the battle is knowing what to order.  Here are the Honda part numbers and descriptions:  90506-425-830 Lock Washer, 53223-371-010 Grease Cup, 53214-KA4-701 Upper Dust Seal, 53214-371-010 Lower Dust Seal, 91016-371-000 Lower Bearing and 91015-425-832 Upper Bearing.  Steering is lighter and smoother now, and less likely to get notched.

I collided with an idiot-driven minivan in 2011, on NYC's infamous Boulevard of Death.  The fork tubes consequently required replacement so while we had everything open I decided to upgrade the front suspension with Race Tech Gold Valves.  Everyone I know raves about Race Tech's fork valving kits and their support.  It's a good thing they offer quality support because you will need it.

We foolishly began work on a weekend and discovered the printed instructions and its pictures are vague or completely inaccurate, their web-based Digital Valve Search service didn't supply all the necessary stacking parameters, and their kits come with all sorts of distracting bits that - like my bike - your bike may not need.  So don't do what we did and try installation on a weekend when Race Tech doesn't answer the phone. We scoured the web for folks in similar pickles but failed to find pictures or useful instructions relevant to my generation VFR.

Also, the instructions call for drilling the valves, but the required bits may be tough to come by and the hole needs to be drilled in a tight spot.  Without the right tools someone could easily destroy the valves.  We eventually found the correct gauge size bits at a hobby shop.  We did not know we could have asked Race Tech to send them pre-drilled.  The picture here shows how the assembly went together for my 4th generation VFR.  Spacers were chosen so the stack fits snugly.  The Race Tech -supplied cup washer and spring were not used.  Also note, the instructions call for 5-weight fork oil, which is not a very common weight for motorcycle shops to keep in stock.  Make sure you have enough before you start.  And make sure you have a micrometer handy to check washer thicknesses.  In our case we had to mix 'n match stock washers with what was supplied in the kit to get the correct stack heights.  And remember if you weigh more than about 160 pounds, you'll want to replace your stock springs too.  I had already installed the correct fork springs when I first got the bike.

We chose a set-up that was basically street oriented but a smidgen toward accomodating aggressive riding.  My initial impressions about the Gold Valves is that the overall feel was not much different from stock.  Better compliance over the little stuff, still firm overall.  I'll update this page once the weather warms up enough for a nice blast through the twisties and hammering a few bumpy corners.

More gadgetry coming soon, no doubt...  STAY TUNED!  Some of the ideas I have brewing are:

  • Ammeter/voltmeter/thermometer under the gauge cluster
  • Stebel Nautilus and/or Hella horns (mounting locations will be tricky)
    And I'll be writing a gripe paragraph or two about how the horn manufacturers blow smoke up our asses about sound levels.  Hint:  A Fiamm "high performance" horn is rated at 130 dB and their standard commercial disc is 108 dB.  What they don't make obvious as that the 130 dB is measured at 4" and the 108 dB is measured at 2m (78").  If you do some high-school physics calculations you will discover that their so-called high performance horn is 104 dB at 78", or 4 dB LESS than their standard commercial disc horn.  FYI, the Nautilus is 139 dB @ 4".  I don't think there's anything louder without going to huge truck/train horns.
  • Caliper mounted LED Moto Lights
  • Strips of white and/or amber high intensity LEDs on the fork legs for visibility


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