A while back, Porsche ran an ad campaign for some five-door car they make (forgive me, I know I’ve mentioned this before — but another twist of the knife never hurts, if you know what I mean). It was headed “If you always wanted to date the bad sister …” The bad sister? Give me a break. It’s a car, for heaven’s sake. You want to date the bad sister, get a bike. Oh, and look: here it is …
The bloke on the BMW was having trouble. No matter how often he checked his mirrors, the chopper’s low headlight was still there. Not what you expect when you’ve taken your near-new K1300S out for a blast on the wonderfully twisty Carmel Valley Road just south of Laguna Seca.
He tried harder, although only to the point where I was scraping the Honda Fury’s pegs on most corners instead of merely on some. The bike steers beautifully, although the BMW would definitely handle better (after all …). Maybe my mate in front had just picked up the Beemer and was familiarising himself with it, or maybe he’d borrowed it from the shop. Whatever — at the first opportunity, when we came to a lollypop man holding up the traffic for some road works, after about a dozen miles, he abandoned the game and turned back.
He didn’t look at the Fury once while he was doing his three-point turn. That was what gave him away. Over the couple of days I’d had it, everyone had been looking at this bike, whether they were motorcyclists or not. And almost everybody who knew anything about bikes had been astonished.
“This is a stock Honda? You are seriously kiddin’ me, man,” said one rider in Santa Monica. “Whoo. That is a nice-lookin’ machine. I thought you musta built it.”
The first CHiPS motorcycle officer I encountered had obviously heard of the Fury, or had been reading up on them in the bike magazines. He had some advice straight up.
“First thing you gotta do is you gotta get some loud pipes for this,” he said. “Nice bike. How big’s the tank?” Then, having identified my accent, he told me that he was originally from Austria (is the Governator bringing in friends and relatives?) and they have “We have no kangaroos” t-shirts. They obviously have a killer sense of humour too.
That was less than two hours after I’d collected the bike from Honda America’s enormous white hangars in Torrance, Los Angeles. The reaction during the rest of the trip, some 1900 miles of it, was much the same. Those who had never heard of it were amazed that it came straight out of the factory — the Honda factory! — like that; those who had heard of it approved.
This is especially interesting considering that many of the chopper aficionados and press have already dismissed the bike as too late. Maybe they’ve moved on, but I think they’re missing the point. This is an affordable, beautifully styled chopper — the kind of bike you’d normally have to build yourself.
One of the US magazines compared it with a cruiser from another Japanese manufacturer, and the Fury lost partly because it doesn’t have metal mudguards and its engine is smaller. Yeah, well maybe, but there isn’t another bike I’ve ridden recently that’s attracted as much positive attention as the Fury — certainly no other Japanese cruiser has come anywhere near it.
The rider in the street just seems to love the Fury. More than a few of the ones I spoke to got all thoughtful when I told them that it cost just under $US13,000. “If it wasn’t for the damn economy …” I could hear them think. The economy is an ever-present concern because people wonder if they’ll have a job tomorrow, and that could well stop them buying a Fury. I doubt if the alternative of another Japanese cruiser could.
The consensus was that the bike’s not really cheap, but… “If you built something like this it would cost what, twice that? And you’d have no guarantee,” said a huge bloke at Panamint Springs in Death Valley. He looked a lot like my mental picture of Liver-eatin’ Johnson, managing to both have a full beard and look unshaven — at the same time. What he didn’t look like was someone who’d need to worry about a warranty. If he came into my bike shop I’d give him pretty much anything he wanted.
Face the Fury
But I guess I’d better introduce the bike that’s the subject of this story. Meet the Honda Fury. They say that success has many fathers, and this bike (which I suspect will be a success) certainly has several. First, there’s the Captain America bike from Easy Rider. It seems this was the basic inspiration behind the styling. Then there’s Honda’s VTX 1300, which donated the engine — but not before it had seen major surgery at the hands of the stylists and engineers. It no longer looks liquid-cooled (with a very discreet radiator) and it has acquired a lot more presence, due partly to its new covers (in plastic) and to the way the frame emphasises it.
Ah yes, that plastic.
Honda’s press man, Jon Seidel, winces, but only a little.
“We knew we were going to get some static about that,” he says, “but we did lots of focus groups and all in all the reaction was favourable.” It saved a lot of weight.
But back to the ancestry of the Fury.
While the styling does owe something to the Captain America bike, it is clearly far more modern. You’d probably get more laughs than admiring glances today if you came up with something that had the weird, tall sissy bar and over-the-top fishtail exhausts of the original. The various weird excrescences perpetrated by Orange County Choppers and their ilk to the contrary, modern chopper design like the Fury’s is far more balanced and harmonious. So the bike was also fathered by any number of the classier West Coast chop shops.
And whoever styled that fuel tank is an eventual contender for that cosy corner of that rather exclusive section of the afterlife which holds the likes of Ing Taglioni and Edward Turner. The treatment of the shaft drive is exceptional, as well, maintaining the hard tail look.
Yes, yes, that’s all very well, Bear, I hear you say, but here you are on the West Coast of the US, among some of the greatest bike roads known to humanity, and you’re riding it, for heaven’s sake — not looking at it. How’s it go?
Well, let’s see. Here I am heading north along California Highway 23, from US 1 on the coast near Santa Barbara up towards US 101. This is the quintessential Californian canyon road, not far from the Rock Store. The Fury is flipping effortlessly from side to side, taking the corners a little wider than I’d like (it has the longest wheelbase of any Honda ever built) but still taking them tidily. A notable achievement is that there’s no real tendency to drop into corners like some bikes with raked-out front ends and fat rear tyres. Actually, I compared the bike with a stock VTX a few days later, and in fact the rake is not all that much greater. Honda has managed to get the look primarily by raising the steering head, not by an enormous increase in rake. Honda has also been relatively conservative with the rear tyre; it’s “only” a 200 and it works well.
The riding position is remarkably comfortable, even for an old duffer like me. And the low seat means the tank and small instrument pod are quite high, where they protect you from the wind. No problem taking the Fury up to and above freeway speeds; it’s only above about 80mph (done on a closed test track, of course) that your helmet begins to tug at your neck. Gearbox is the usual high Honda standard, although the clutch is a little heavier than I’m used to.
Get on the gas a touch early and the front wheel gives a little hop. That’s fun. But here I am on the stub road down to Arroyo Seco, up above Big Sur, and I’ve just hit a … ripple, I suppose, a bump of the same height as my wrist, in the shade and therefore near invisible. The bike shakes its head in no uncertain fashion, although it hardly leaves its line. Oddly, potholes don’t seem to affect it the same way.
And here I am, again held up at road works. I accuse the lollypop man of stopping me just to get a look at the bike, and he grins. He’s got the power, in his fluorescent yellow vest, and he knows it. An elderly Sikorsky, typically for the West Coast hotted up with a seriously modded engine, lays wire nets over the rock face above us and then there’s a break and I’m away. The Fury carves the Big Sur Highway with assurance and aplomb, no sign of shimmying or wallowing in corners as with so many cruisers. I am very pleased that CHiPS seems to be taking a day off, until …
But more of that when I write in detail about this wonderful road. In the meantime, note that the Fury is no slouch. Honda has done well in choosing the smooth and sophisticated 1300 engine rather than the more brutal 1800. There is no shortage of either top speed or punch out of corners, and it’s all so sweet. Nobody passed me along the Big Sur Highway. Well, nobody except the postman. But he knows the road.
And here, Gomer Pyle is filling in the potholes in the driveway of the Big Sur service station. This kind of really rough surface, with the front and rear wheel being kicked in different directions, is not something the Fury likes. It’s the same with gravel; I try to get out to a view point on the way down into Death Valley, on a pretty poor surface with biggish rocks, and turn around halfway there. The bike, she’s-a no like.
The bike loves it when you give it stick on any reasonably smooth surface, however. But not perhaps all the time, witness …
Me on my way down to Muir Woods, north of San Francisco, and here are some cute and terminally stupid little deer, on the road in bright daylight. Actually, they’re not so little though they are very stupid — made that way by humans who have fed them. Front brake works well, and there will be an ABS version of the Fury soon. Back brake is somewhat wooden, which is probably not such a bad thing on this bike. You would not want all that rubber on the back to suddenly bite.
Pulling up outside my hotel near the Embarcadero in SF to unload the bike. A couple of middle-aged Chinese chefs from the sweetly named Yank Sing (I didn’t hear him) restaurant across the road are having a smoke.
“Did you build it yourself?” After the usual explanation: “No way!”
Please be seated
Here I am getting off the bike after a 500-mile day, the last 50 or so stop-start in Los Angeles traffic. I can walk! It’s a miracle! Well, it’s not, actually, it’s a Mike Corbin aftermarket seat. When I arrived at the Corbin factory in Hollister (yep, the same place where the “riot” that spawned The Wild One happened) they were working on a prototype Fury seat. By the time I left, after Mike had taken my US ad manager Stacey and me for a look around the factory and lunch, they’d finished it off for me in Mercedes leather and snake skin and installed it on the bike.
“We’ll FedEx the original seat back to Honda,” said Mike. More of that meeting later, too. He’s retiring and wants to sell Corbin. Anybody keen on buying one of the world’s best seat makers, as well as the only company in the world that can design panniers for something like a Hayabusa that look as if they grew there?
Actually, the original seat is excellent as well. It’s low — so low! — and gives quite decent support. It also allowed my thighs to take up a really natural, relaxed position. The Corbin seat gave much more support but held my knees a little more apart. Don’t worry, in my new capacity as prototype-seat tester I have advised Mike of the problem. I suspect it will be very easy to sort.
Would I have one of these? I’d be very easy to tempt. It’s a lot of fun to ride and has very few bad habits. Be fun to personalise, too, with Honda’s small but well-selected range of accessories and a paint job.But there’s one question I really want to ask the bike’s designer when I track him down. Which of the Furies, or Erinyes (Angry Ones), is this? In Greek mythology they are three sisters: Alecto, the Unceasing; Megaera, the Grudging; and Tisiphone, the Avenging. You don’t mess with the Furies. They came into being when the blood produced by Cronus’s castration of his father Uranus splashed upon the earth, and they were the agents of revenge.
Revenge? Could the name be Honda’s none-too-subtle way of getting back at all those who have sneered at Japanese cruisers? It would be easy to call the bike Alecto, since it kept going so convincingly — from 10,000 feet in the Sierras to below sea level in Death Valley, and from below freezing to more than 45 degrees. But Alecto is also the bringer of grief … although not, in this case, for Honda, I would predict.
This bad sister is a terrific motorcycle, even though I can’t guarantee that all of its owners will be able to play with BMWs the way I did. I was just lucky. But what do you reckon about another go, sis?
Model: Honda Fury
Price in Australia looks like being $18,990 plus on-road costs
Warranty: Two years, unlimited distance
Power: 41.7kW @ 4300rpm
Torque: 97.4Nm @ 3300rpm
Engine: Liquid-cooled 52-degree vee-twin, three valves per cylinder, SOHC four-stroke, fuel injection and twin-spark digital ignition
Bore x stroke: 89.5 x 104.3mm
Compression ratio: 9.2:1
Transmission: five-speed, wet multi-plate clutch, shaft final drive
Suspension: Front: 45mm telescopic fork, 101mm travel. Rear: single shock, adjustable rebound damping and five-position preload adjustment, 94mm travel
Dimensions: Seat height 678mm, dry weight 296kg; fuel capacity 12.8 litres, wheelbase 1804mm
Tyres: Front: 90/90 21. Rear: 200/50 18
Frame: Mild tubular steel
Brakes: Front, single 336mm disc with 2-piston calipers. Rear, single 296 disc with single-piston caliper
Top speed: 160km/h
Fuel consumption: 4.9 litres per 100km, premium unleaded
Theoretical range: 261km
Colours: Dark Red Metallic; Metallic Silver; Ultra Blue Metallic; Black; Matte Silver Metallic
Verdict: Easy Rider reincarnation