THE RC15, V45 INTERCEPTOR

a 1983 Road Test by Ian Smith information

The Interceptor was the strongest 750 built in its time, and the best-handling bike we've ever tested.

And even though you'd probably surrender versatility and comfort for all that, the good new is you don't have to. There's nothing like perfect teamwork. You see it most often in sports - an exquisitely timed pass completion good for 70 yards, a two-on-two fast break to a thunderous slam dunk, a doubles team that fires back tennis balls like a backboard. If you're lucky, you've been part of this kind of teamwork. Work long enough with a partner and you sometimes develop a sixth sense about each other; you make moves that coincide so perfectly you seem to be reading each others minds.

The Honda Interceptor is this kind of partner. As a sport bike it's nearly perfect - always there, more than ready, anticipating your every move. When it's time for hard charging the VF750F excels in every area: engine performance, steering, suspension action, ground clearance, brakes and tires. But this is not to say the Interceptor is a petulant, narrow-purpose machine demanding concession after concession from the rider. Rather, the Honda's riding position is one of the best available.

Engine vibration is supremely well controlled, and a wide range of suspension adjustability allows for a surprisingly comfortable freeway or sporting ride. The interceptor can do it all. All-day rides and extended trips are a pleasure, not an endurance test, And the VF makes a wonderful profilers platform' - pull up to your favorite Sunday haunt and you'll likely draw a crowd. Then use your weekend flash-bike as an honest workaday commuter; the V45 does yeoman labour willingly, boasting all the reliability and features we've come to expect of Honda machinery. Still, the Interceptor is at heart a sport bike-and, in this application, second to none.

The VF750F handles as well as any bike we've tried to date, and its superb steering is its greatest asset. The agility that the 16-inch front wheel gives successfully masks the interceptor's size. With a wheelbase of 58.9 inches and curb weight of 549 pound, the V45 is neither light nor small for a 750, but like the Suzuki XN85 Turbo, also shod with a 16-inch front wheel, the VF steers and feels like a light weight, while lacking the twitchiness and nervousness associated with small machines. Although the Honda's steering isn't quite as light or quick as the XN's, the Interceptor offers slightly more stability. Some staffers prefer the Suzuki's traits and some favour the VF's , but everyone enthusiastically endorses either bikes steering characteristics over those of any bike with a standard 18 or 19-inch front wheel. On tight, twisty mountain roads the Honda does everything you ask of it; flick it from side to side, up hills or down, with the brakes on or off; and it responds willingly, instantly and precisely, Want to change lines halfway through a corner? Go ahead; nothing upsets the V45.

The Honda inspires great rider confidence, confidence that is well founded. We loved the Suzuki XN85's steering trails, but it's limited ground clearance checked frisky riding. Moreover, we feared the problem might be common to all bikes with 16-inch wheels. The Interceptor allayed that fear. The VF750F offers more ground clearance than any other street bike commonly available, which is to say, a lot. We really had to work just to nick the footpegs and centrestand feet. We also scrapped the exhaust pipe on the right side, but only after getting both ends sliding, certainly not recommend practice for the street. Should you trespass the limits of prudence and traction, the tires won't let you down. Our VF750 wore new Bridgestone's, plenty wide and plenty sticky. Our Honda contact tells us that some interceptors will come shod with Dunlops, but we can't pass judgment on these tires till we ride the 750 with them. The Bridgestone's, however, are very good, the front end pushes a bit when you really press the bike, and the rear end eases out slightly if you crank in a handful of throttle while leaned over exiting a corner. But both ends slide in a readable, predictable manner, keeping the drama to a minimum. You'd be better off performing such stunts on a track, and in any case you'll pay for such heroics with extremely rapid tire wear. The wide tire also enhances the interceptor's considerable stopping ability. At the front, the dual-disc brake is excellent, it offers plenty of feel and power, requiring only modest lever pressure. The single disc rear also offers plenty of power, but some staffers would prefer greater feedback throughout the pedal.

The left fork leg holds Honda's TRAC ant-dive valving system, offering four levels of anti-dive effect; we set ours on the number four stiffest positions. As a whole, the V45's braking system is nearly the best setup (except for the Bimota KB2) this side of a road racer. The front binder is so powerful that under full tilt braking you can get the rear end light and start the rear wheel hopping. Mean while, the TRAC system works to keep the VF's steering attitude and ground clearance relatively consistent, thus eliminating a few more handling variables. The right fork leg houses a three way adjustable rebound damping system' - set on number two, the system offers twice as much damping force as on the number one setting, while number three is three times stiffer. The compression-damping rate in the left leg is almost twice as heavy as the right side's, and an interconnecting air system provides adjustable springing. To keep all these various forces working in harmony, Honda tied the fork tubes together with a sturdy brace integrated into the front fender. This, along with 39mm fork tubes (two millimeters larger than the V45 Sabre/Magna units) ensures a rigid front end with state of the art adjustability.

The Interceptor's Pro-Link suspension is similar but not identical to the Sabre's rear end. Like the Sabre, the VF750F uses air-assisted shock springing. The Interceptor's shock, however, offers four rebound damping settings instead of three. The new cast aluminum swing arm and Pro-Link linkage produce a more pronounced rising rate effect, which improves freeway comfort without hurting sport performance. For freeway cruising we set the fork and shock on the lightest damping position. Let all the air out of the front end, and keep 10 psi in the shock. This combination yields a supple ride, especially good in light of the Interceptor's go for it intent and abilities. The VF effectively damps out a variety of road irregularities, from expansion joint seams to big holes and bumps - not the case with the shaft drive Sabre. For hard riding we bumped the fork up the 10 psi with the damper on the number two or three position and we liked the rear end set to number four with 35 pound of air. Here the fork action is excellent, and the rear end is just a cut below. We wanted a bit more damping over the initial portion of the shock's rebound stroke, and a stiffer setting corresponding to a number five spot would be more useful than the existing number one setting. The bit of criticism borders on nit-picking, though; as is, the F-model's rear suspension stands far above the norm.

The Interceptor's frame and engine are new items designed to work together in another light too; since new Superbike racing regulations impose strict limitations frame alterations, the Interceptor had to be ready for the track even in street trim. The frame made of rectangular-section tube, increases chassis rigidity considerably, and the F-bikes frame dimensions are competition oriented. Its wheelbase is much shorter than the Sabre's (58.9 inches versus 61.5), and its steering head angle dropped from 29.5 degrees to a moderately steep 28.2 degrees. To accomplish these changes, Honda rotated the engine up and backward relative to the engine centerline, letting the ruck-in front wheel clear the front cylinders. This engine shift, along with the move to chain drive, dictated a redesign of the engine case. Most of the engine internals, however, remain unchanged, the crank, CMS, valves and compression ratio are all identical to the Sabre's. The only performance additions are a slight change in cam timing, a larger airbox and a freer-flowing exhaust system. From these seemingly insignificant changes comes a surprising power increase. Our Interceptor pumped out a whopping 77.36 peak horsepower, making it far and away the most powerful street 750 we've ever strapped to the dyno. Last year's Sabre 750 and GPZ750 both topped out at 65 horsepower, and the one-litre Kawasaki Eddie Lawson Replica barely edges out the Honda at 79.01. Though last year's V45 engines were wonderful, the VF750 sets completely new standards for the three-quarter-litre class. Like last years V-fours, the Interceptor gains revs with a deceptive quickness, willingness and smoothness; it's easy to violate the 10,500-rpm redline inadvertently because the VF doesn't give the usual warnings - noise, vibration, high-rpm straining.

But the interceptor holds an edge over other 750s in more measurable terms. We conducted roll-on comparisons against the new Suzuki GS750E and 83 Kawasaki GPZ750 with dramatic results. The Honda outputs the other two bikes in high-rpm contest and absolutely devastates the GS and GPZ in low-end and mid-range duels. This brawny low-end grunt is what makes the VF750F so exceptional; its ferocious mid-rage punch makes it feel more like a 900cc or a full-litre bike than a 750. So the Interceptor erases the traditional 750 class weak spot: big-bike size and weight but big-bike acceleration only when you really spin the engine and dance on the shifter. And as good as this low-rpm power is, the Honda's top-end charge is not to be discounted. As the double-humped torque curve suggests, the Interceptor comes on with a strong, cammy rush at about 7000 rpm. Since seven grand works out to about 90mph in top gear, this surge is pretty darn impressive.

One trip to the drag strip distilled all these measurements and reactions into crystal clarity. Because our staff tester, high-Side Hochick, was still on the mend, we called on John Gleason one again. As before Gleason's times are not logged into the official Cycle records. Though Gleason is a bit quicker than Homchick, the two are close enough in a ability that Gleason's drag-strip time should reflect Homchick's and give an accurate impression of performance, fairly consistent with our past test. Last year the V45 Sabre's 12.23-second ET and the V45 Magna's 109.62 mph terminal speed set new standards. These bikes, as well as the other 750's, may not shatter the 11-second barrier, but they're beginning to knock at the door. The interceptor just kicked the door flat. Gleason's best pass covered the quarter mile in 11.42 seconds at 116.27 mph, and he backed that up with another run of 11.47 seconds at 116.42. Eleven Forty-two! Even discounting the Gleason Effect, the Interceptor is clearly the strongest 750 ever to hit the showroom floor, and it's easily one of the top 10 quarter-milers now available.

Besides being hell-for-strong, the Interceptor engine is also easy to live with. The VF starts readily on cold mornings, and the choke lever is mounted neatly and conveniently near the left hand-grip. The Keihin carburetors meter fuel precisely at all engine speeds, giving the VF crisp and immediate throttle response. The hydraulic clutch offers a broad actuation point and requires little lever pressure. This unit differs from lst year's version; it is basically the same as the Shadow 750's diaphragm-spring, anti-lockup unit, but with seven frictions and six steel clutch plates. The ani-locking clutch aids rapid downshifts during hard riding; and it's more appropriate in a sport bike like the Interceptor than in the Shadow.

The deletion of the shaft final drive forced Honda to alter the primary reduction gears and substitute a five-speed gearbox for the Sabre's six speed. The loss of sixth gear doesn't handicap the Interceptor; the F-version has more than enough extra power to span the broadened jumps between gears. At 60 mph the Interceptor turns 670rpm more than last year's Sabre, but the higher engine speed doesn't impair the VF750F's cruising abilities. Despite losing the rubber mounts used in lasts year's V45's, the Interceptor is very smooth. Some roughness arises at legal riding speeds, and the bars and pegs buzz lightly from 7000 rpm up to redline. The shaking never becomes uncomfortable though, even after all day in the saddle. Our only drive-train complaint concerns the irritating, though not unmanageable. Drive-line lash.

The Interceptor's racer-styled riding position orients the pilot toward active operation of the motorcycle. Since the small fairing deflects most of the wind, the rider finds himself leaning slightly forward. With the adjustable handlebars pulled all the way back. The seat/peg/bar relationship suited all our staffers well. Even though a couple of testers would prefer the bars set back just a pinch, the Interceptor's seating should please the vast majority. The seat itself is fairly narrow and a bit crowned, and uncomfortable after a few hours of riding. A little more lateral support would improve this one flaw, - the thickness, height and foam density are all just fine.

If you're determined to stay in the saddle. The VF will carry you a long way between gas stops; the racing style tank holds a generous 5.8 gallons. Our unimpressive 37.3 mph average reflects a high percentage of backroad thrashing. More sedate riding netted mileage figures in the high 40s, meaning the Interceptor will cover well over 250 miles - if you can restrain your throttle hand. That the factory concentrated on the Interceptor's detailing is obvious: it's a well though out, complete package. The large fuel petcock, mounted on the left side of the tank to resemble a race bike quick-fill, is surprisingly functional; it's easy to find and operate when you tap the tank's reserve capacity.

Two piece dogleg stems help the mirrors offer an unobstructed, vibration free rearward view. Switches and levers allow natural and convenient operation, and although the tacho and speedometer start reading from an unusual six o'clock position, it's easy to adjust to the layout. We didn't, however, care for the covering over the instruments; although it reduces glare, its light frosting is difficult to see through. Make no mistake: we love the Honda Interceptor and we heartily recommend it to any and all riders.

In the last 10years we've seen only a bagful of bikes that feel as well integrated and give the kind of confidence the Honda inspires. A rider doesn't simply operate the VF; rather, he works with it and it works with him in perfect harmony. Imagine, if you will, a magic mirror that takes your image, amplifies the good points, masks the shortcomings, and reflects back a larger-than-life portrait. That, in a nutshell, is what the VF750F does to a motorcyclist. The Interceptor may not really be magic, but it enhances and flatters your riding abilities so much you'll swear it is.