Lieback’s Lounge: VFR Helps Reflect on Times of Less Grays

Lieback’s Lounge: VFR Helps Reflect on Times of Less Grays

Within two miles, I was transported to a decade ago, a time when I had fewer grays and less responsibility. No kid, no businesses, and only two bikes to maintain.

The bike I was piloting during this pivotal moment, a 1998 Honda VFR800, proves timelessness exists. The red machine delivered me to simpler times when I could travel wherever needed, without worries about anything but writing from a hotel room each evening.

This was the first ride on the bike since 2017. That year a friend rode it out to Laconia with me for bike week. I was on my Multistrada 1200 and, although I love my Multi and think it’s still the best bike ever built, I was jealous of my friend. That was its final long ride; after Laconia, the bike was stripped of its touring equipment and placed in a corner of the basement, where it remained until this summer.

Every summer, I kick my wife’s SUV out of the garage for some extra space for motorcycles. This keeps me focused on maintenance schedules and restorations, and the VFR was atop the list of projects—basically, refreshing the bike so I can once again enjoy it.

I wanted to reinitiate some of those timeless feelings that I had from the purchase of the bike in 2009 to touring repeatedly on the east side of the Mississippi to falling in love with my wife (yes, the VFR was part of that journey).

VFR 800 Touring with Lieback
The VFR back in 2012 on the Tail of the Dragon. This was when the bike was setup for touring.

That VFR has remained in my possession since 2009 and tops my list for a favorite collector. The purchase itself began the story. When I test rode the bike, the V4 was firing on only three cylinders.

I paid less than half of its then KBB value, which was around $5000. Once I ripped the fairings off to some maintenance, the issue was simply to diagnose. The spark plug wire was disconnected. One push down, and I was firing on all four cylinders.

Except for tires, over 50,000 miles later, the bike has not caused one headache. I always ran the recommended non-synthetic Honda GN4 oil and kept all fluids changed yearly.

When I rolled the bike into my garage from the basement earlier this summer, I had to take it for one ride. The bike fired up with one push of the starter, and the noise from the Erion Racing exhaust immediately delivered bliss (and brought back memories of Nicky Hayden’s AMA years). I know I had to change fluids and put some new rubber on it, but it begged to be taken out. I went for a short rip around the mountains, and the smiles were endless, even though the clutch was slipping under full throttle once the motor was up to temp.

The goal was to get the bike refreshed that week in May. Due to the domination of modern life—most notably growing businesses and family commitments—that didn’t happen. Instead, I got to work the final week of August—still better than not riding it at all this year. I thought I’d be replacing the clutch, but some new fluids and cleanup of the clutch lifting rod within the slave cylinder fixed the slipping. Again, this bike has always impressed.

And while cleaning it, I am still amazed at the condition of the fairings. I have no clue what Honda used to create them, but they are nearly flawless. Those fairings have been subjected to 55,000 miles worth of riding, and they still look new. I wish I can say the same about a few of my other favorite motorcycles with much fewer miles on them.

Although I missed out on most of the summer riding on the VFR, she’s now prepped for my all-time favorite riding season here on the East Coast—fall. Fresh fluids, a working clutch, and some new Bridgestone Battlax Sport Touring T32 tires that I’m testing. I may even re-equip the steed with the Givi touring setup and pilot her to Tennessee from Northeast Pennsylvania to visit some friends and business partners. I mean, those tires need proper testing, correct?

I know for sure I can trust the VFR to take me the distance without issue. What’s much better, though, is how the bike can transport me to a time when life was simpler.

I would never want to head back to those years because I truly love my life more and more every minute I’m breathing, regardless of the grays and the added responsibilities. Still, sometimes it’s invigorating to revisit those times.

The quickest way back through time is aboard a motorcycle—especially a pristine VFR that continuously went the distance for the growth of mental spirit. And I know the bike is ready for another 55,000 miles of reflecting on my youth.