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Honda RVF400

Quick Fang – Honda RVF400

(MT254 Feb 2012, revised June 2020)

by Guy 'Guido' Allen

Honda's jewel-like RVF400 repli-racer has the potential to be a sports gem and is now getting old enough to go on club plates!

When you’re looking for a used sports bike or a track toy, you might be tempted to head straight for the 600 class, which for years has featured the sharpest tools in the motorcycle pallete. And, most days, I’d be right there beside you.

However there are some really entertaining alternatives out there, none more so than Honda’s brilliant little RVF400.

Styled to look like Honda Racing Corporation’s premium RC45 superbike special, the RVF shares a V-four engine configuration, liquid cooled, running four valves per pot and boasting gear-driven cams. The latter gives the powerplant a very distinctive growl, shared by larger icons such as the RC45, its RC30 predecessor and VF1000R street bike. That growl becomes a shriek as it climbs towards the 14,500rpm redline.

Despite what you might fear, it doesn’t take a zillion revs to get off the line. There’s a decent midrange, something Honda tuned in specifically at cost of a couple of horsepower from the earlier VFR400.

Built 1994-96, the RVF featured a bank of 30mm carburetors and a single exhaust at the other end. Power was in the region of 53 horses, with velocity stacks, carbs and valve timing significantly altered from the VFR400 design.

The chassis also came in for serious modification, including frame, steering geometry, an upside-down front end (still 41mm and made by Showa), a revised swingarm (still single-sided), and new wheels. There’s a 17-inch item on the rear, which enables a much bigger tyre selection than the previous 18.

Really, the big news with an RVF, for those who haven’t ridden one, is how tiny it is. It’s low, narrow and weighs just 165 kilos dry. Perfect for anyone who finds a 600 a bit on the overwhelming side.

A brief spin on the bike shown here reminded me of just how good the RVF is. It’s a pukka sports bike with ample performance (top speed is a touch over 200km/h), decent quality suspension, pin-sharp steering and strong brakes.

The six-speed gearbox is a no-fuss affair with solid engagement, while the clutch is light and progressive.

Buy a good one, and you’ll be rewarded with a true sports motorcycle that should serve the owner well long after their learner permit has been swapped for a full riding ticket. Yes, they are learner legal in a number of states.

They were never an official Honda model in Australia, but grey imports are easily found and there seems to be good service knowledge out there for them.

As a used bike proposition, I’d be buying purely on condition. Strong engine, good body, with leak-free suspension would be a good start. Quite a lot of them made it across the docks and there’s a fair chance that a fair number fell into inexperienced and sometimes less than sympathetic hands.

We’re seeing owners ask over Au$10k for exceptional examples. Given the savage competition in the new bike market, that price level could be a tough sell. Typically they’ve sold for well under the $10k barrier with $6-7k being typical.

Early ones are starting to become eligible for club/classic reg in Victoria, where the cut-off is 25 years, and will be soon in other states. That should eventually help to prop up the values for sellers.

Thumbs up
Loads of character
Pin sharp

Thumbs down
Grey import

Honda RVF400 1994-96

Type: liquid-cooled v-four
Capacity: 399cc
Bore x stroke: 55 x 42mm
Compression ratio: 11.3:1
Fuel system: 4 x 30mm CV carbs

Type: Six-speed constant mesh, wet clutch
Final drive: chain

Frame type: twin spar aluminium
Front suspension: USD 41mm Showa fork
Rear suspension: Showa single shock
Front brakes: twin floating discs with four-piston calipers
Rear brake: single solid disc with two-piston caliper

Dry weight: 165kg
Fuel capacity: 15lt

Max power: 53hp @ 12,500rpm
Max speed: 200km/h-plus




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