First, the 2002 Honda VFR800 Interceptor. The big news for this bike this year is the addition of VTEC. Honda was one of the first to add VTEC to its automobiles. Variable Valve Timing has become progressively advanced over the years. The version the Interceptor receives, however, is pretty rudimentary. Each cylinder in the V-4 has 4 valves. At lower RPMs, 2 of the valves (1 exhaust, 1 intake) are closed. At higher RPMs, they begin operating. Pretty simple. It makes the engine more flexible. Gives it a dual character--the engine can be tuned for two separate ranges. Gives it gruntier low end torque and a stronger top end horsepower rush. Better fuel economy, longer life, lower emissions, and a stronger engine all around.
The Interceptor has had trick bits for a while. Linked anti-lock brakes, state of the art fuel injection, single-sided swingarm, sophisticated dashboard, a highly developed drivetrain, and a good mix between sporty and toury. It's not a superbike, but it's not a huge cross-country touring bike either. It's a damn good compromise. For about the cost of the cheapest non-AC, non-radio economy car available, you can have one.
Also here, here, and here. Notice the optional luggage, the dual tailpipes, the integrated signal lights, the angular styling, and the in-between ergonomics. Parts of the styling I like, other parts I'm not yet sold on, but I'll have to see it in the shop.
Next up is the surprise of the year, the Harley-Davidson V-Rod. This isn't your father's Harley. First of all, the engine has nothing in common with the low power, air-cooled pushrod, oil-leaking paint-shakers of old. This engine is a 60 degree liquid cooled, double overhead cam, 8 valve, fuel injected monster with a redline of 9000 RPMs. No, it's not designed by Harley. Porsche built this high tech piece. It puts out 108 horsepower at the wheel in stock form, which makes the V-Rod WAAAy more powerful than any Harley to come before.
That isn't all that's new though. The chassis is very modern, the brakes are massive and stout, and the styling breaks new ground. Such an unexpected dream bike from a company which was always decades behind the rest of the world in technology and refinement. Of course, you have to credit Porsche for much of that. It's fast, too. How fast? Basically quicker than every production automobile ever sold in the USA.
Finally, there is the 2002 Yamaha R1. The first R1, which debuted in 1998, was a revelation. Super light, with a tremendously powerful liter-class engine, it was truly a race bike for the street. But by 2001, the competition had caught up: the GSX-R1000 (the bike that goes 0-150 mph in under 10 seconds bone stock off the showroom floor with just a twist of the wrist) outdid the R1 at its own 'replica-racer' game by being lighter, more powerful, and more stable.
The 2002 R1 still doesn't quite beat the Gixxer in the weight and power departments, but it might be more razor-sharp on the racetrack (or the backroads) anyway. The bodywork is new, the graphics are new, and fuel injection has been added. This might be the most focused track weapon ever available for the street.
Notice the contrast with the VFR (the first bike, above). The R1 weighs 90 pounds less, makes about 35 HP more, has much more radical steering geometry, has lower and further forward handlebars, has a larger rear tire, and doesn't bother with saddlebags or anti-lock brakes or comfortable pillion seating.