Lieback’s Lounge: Beloved VFR800 Goes Classic

The Honda VFR800 during its touring days. This was taken at the popular Tail of the Dragon.
The Honda VFR800 during its touring days. This was taken at the popular Tail of the Dragon.

Lieback's Lounge: November 2018

Back in 2008, I was in a weird place.

I basically went crazy, awakening after blacking out for a few days from what the officials said was a nervous breakdown.

The reasons quoted were lack of sleep and too much “nightlife.”

Two things happened that saved me from the crazy lifestyle—meeting my future wife Pam at a content-marketing job I took, and returning to motorcycles.

The Honda VFR800 during its touring days. This was taken at the popular Tail of the Dragon.
The Honda VFR800 during its touring days. This was taken at the popular Tail of the Dragon.

Due to playing music in my mid-20s, I was out of the bike scene. I likely would have had one, but musicians are basically broke. I finally got away from all the madness, and I focused all my energy on becoming a moto-journalist—one from the East Coast, though, which I knew was possible.

After months of submissions I finally got my moto-boot in the proverbial door, and soon became the Website Editor for Ultimate Motorcycling.

Money was tough back then, but I managed to scrounge up $2500—my savings and some borrowed from my future wife—and purchased my then-dream motorcycle: a 1998 Honda VFR800.

I couldn’t afford a Ducati, and I wanted comfortable sport touring for the two-up rides—and, of course, a high-performance bike for sport riding.

The VFR answered that, and them some. I bought her with under 10K, and swore I’d never sell her. I knew she’d be a modern classic one-day, and that day has truly arrived.

After submitting it as a feature for the Martin Moto’s The Modern Classic Motorbike Show, I got an email from the folks at Martin Moto, which is based in Boyertown, Penn.

“Congratulations! Your 1998 Honda VFR800 has been chosen by our selection committee for display at the 2019 Modern Classics Motorcycle Show, March 1-2, 2019.”

I was stoked. The motorcycle already has so much personal history, and this adds another storyline.

The bike was a personal guide to point me in the right direction. Pam and I rode the hell out of it, and basically fell in love during those rides when we were first dating.

I had also did some serious sport touring on the VFR800. I set it up with a trio of Givi Monokey bags, heated grips, Heli bars, revamped suspension, and a Sargent seat. It took me as far as the Mississippi and back to Pennsylvania multiple times, including some rips on the Tail of the Dragon and some of the coolest roads in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina. One trip that really sticks out is one down to Clarksdale, Miss., the home to the Delta Blues.

Beloved VFR800 Goes Classic
Honda VFR800 in her current state

The Viffer has over 44,000 miles, and the fairings are cleaner than any machine I own. I don’t know what Honda did to make this happen; they remain spotless even after all of those miles.

After a 10-year run, and a promise to never sell her, last year I decided to make it a collector. I continue to ride her once in a while, but she’s mostly dormant.

I took the touring equipment off, and its now back to nearly stock form. The 1998-2001 Honda VFR800s are getting super hard to find— especially in great shape. The V4 and its gear-driven cams make the sweetest noise ever, and it produces perfect torque for all types of riding situations.

As I get older I’m always looking for ways to give back. Sharing this “modern classic” with a large crowd definitely helps me solidify my giving back mission. And, besides its normal history in motorcycling, I have loads of personal stories that go along with that history.

If you’re on the East Coast and want to see a serious collection of modern classics, head to Boyertown in March. I’ll be sipping beers and telling bike stories, from tales of madness to sagas of moto love.