Honda VTX: The V-twin Performance Custom is Born

To motorcycle designers, a blank sheet of paper is a thing of beauty-and an all-too-rare opportunity. Designing a next- generation motorcycle from the ground up means being unfettered by past parameters; you are now free to create something fresh and new, the likes of which have never seen the light of day.

With the 2002 VTX™, Honda has taken full advantage of such an opportunity. Here is a whole new breed of cruiser, one whose aggressive styling shouts performance from top to bottom-and has the hardware to back it up. This innovative piece of rolling V-twin muscle was designed from the outset to be a sleek and stylish hot-rod, one that blends style and performance like no V-twin custom ever has.

Style & Substance

The VTX draws its inspiration from Honda's Zodia, a stunningly beautiful concept cruiser first displayed at the '95 Tokyo Motor Show. The Zodia evoked an image of hot-rod power and elemental styling that had heretofore been relegated to the shops of specialty bike builders. As the Zodia traveled the world show circuit, it became one of Honda's most popular concept motorcycles. The response from riders everywhere was immediate and enthusiastic: Build it and we will buy it. Inspired to push the boundaries of traditional V- twin custom design, Honda set about creating what would become the world's first production motorcycle to defy the oxymoron of the V-twin performance cruiser.

Honda enjoys a long and rich history of creating motorcycles that blow through conventional limits. And the new VTX establishes yet another milestone: It's the first true high-performance V-twin custom. One look at the engine tells you that. The VTX's massive 1795cc mill delivers more displacement-and adrenaline- pumping performance-than any other V-twin custom ever produced. And this awesome engine is only the beginning.

Take a look. A good look. The VTX is long, low and muscular. Stroll around this lusty beauty and your eyes linger on detail after detail. Everything has been tightly tucked in for a clean, sleek look. The shorty fenders hug the tires closely. The gracefully arching low-profile fuel tank snugs up tightly to the engine, like a T-shirt bulging over a 22-inch bicep.

The forward portion of the seat mates up precisely to the trailing edge of the tank, extending a graceful downward arc before climbing once again to meet the detachable passenger pillion. The hooded, chromed oval-section headlight echoes the tank's curved shape as it conveys a timeless sense of speed. The VTX evokes a bare- knuckled, non-nonsense appearance, thanks to the low-mounted speedometer attached integrally on the handlebar and the low-profile tank- mounted instrument panel.

Look closely, and you'll see evidence everywhere of style melding with function. Up front, a massive steering head and beefy triple-clamps carry a wide and sturdy 45mm inverted fork-a first for a Honda V-twin custom. Check out the brakes, dual-disc front brakes with floating rotors-another first for a Honda V-twin custom. And yes, those are Nissin triple-piston brake calipers. All of which adds up to a chassis that's as performance oriented as it is uniquely styled.

Naturally, the huge V-twin engine makes its own bold styling statement as it fills the eye with symmetry and detail. Many of the oil and coolant lines have been tucked neatly away and out of sight; there's no clutter to detract or distract. The unique head covers and massive clutch cover create a distinct signature look, and the angular, bevel-edge air cleaner again adds style and function. With the large external air filter element snuggled tightly between the engine's 52° Vee, less space is required under the fuel tank for the airbox. Result: more fuel tank and airbox capacity without compromising the tank's distinctive style.

As compelling as the VTX's styling is, owners will have the opportunity to customize their VTXs even more with a selection of more than 32 accessories. Featuring a custom windshield, saddlebags, and color-matched headlight cover and lower cowl, additional options include 13 chrome and 13 aluminum billet pieces to truly personalize each VTX.

Walking the Walk

As Honda's first high-performance V-twin custom, the VTX was targeted from its inception to deliver awe-inspiring power. In addition, since the engine designers also started with a clean slate, they were free to explore many options as they set out to answer the question, "How much is enough?" The end result-a whopping 106 bhp at 5000 rpm and an astounding 120 lb./ft. of torque at a mere 3500 rpm-are numbers that literally set the new VTX beyond comparison with other V-twin cruisers.

A Heritage of Performance

Of course, Honda was already well versed in building high-performance customs. A roll call of past Honda power cruisers includes big-horsepower machines powered by V-four and flat- six engines. However, until the VTX, no one had ever set the bar so high in terms of V-twin custom performance. While Honda has designed innovative sporting V-twins-including the Super Hawk® and the RC51™, which won the 2000 FIM World Superbike championship in its first year-the goal for a performance custom V-twin required a completely different engineering focus.

In this respect, the VTX engine posed its own unique set of engineering challenges. To generate massive torque and horsepower at low rpm, the VTX's development team opted for huge 4-inch- diameter (101mm) pistons traveling through a cylinder stroke of 112mm- the longest stroke of any Honda engine ever built. Such an unprecedented move, however, would result in a tall engine and unacceptably lofty seat height if the engine were of ordinary configuration.

Innovative Means to a Classic Goal

To decrease the engine's overall height, the VTX team did something extraordinary. Taking a cue from the XR™ off-road models, they created a dry-sump system that reduces the engine's overall height, allowing it to sit lower in the frame, thereby preserving a low seat height. At a mere 27.3 inches, the VTX's seat height is lower than other cruisers that offer less than half the displacement. To preserve the bike's clean lines, the oil tank still resides within the engine cases, hidden away below the transmission output shaft. To further reduce overall engine height, simple and dependable screw-and-locknut valve adjusters were selected.

The Challenge of Combustion

The extraordinarily large bore of the VTX also created challenges concerning the combustion cycle. How to meter fuel efficiently? How to promote rapid flame propagation over such an expansive combustion chamber? How to get such a huge combustion chamber to burn cleanly? These were all legitimate questions, but they didn't become problems thanks to some elegant feats of engineering.

With such a large combustion chamber, flame propagation can become an issue, but this was solved with a time-honored fix-plus a new twist. The long-standing solution to help light off a wide combustion chamber is the use of twin-plug heads-a solution that harkens back to the big-piston fighter aircraft of World War II, and one that Honda has used in previous its V-twin custom engines. In the VTX, however, the dual spark plugs are hot-firing, long-lasting iridium-tipped plugs, just like those used in Honda's top-of-the-line sporting machines.

In order to meter fuel to the three-valve head (two intake, one exhaust) efficiently and precisely, electronic fuel injection was the obvious choice over carburetion. To achieve proper atomization with an extraordinarily large fuel flow to such huge cylinders, Honda engineers designed innovative 12-orifice injector bodies. In addition, the fuel injection program for the two cylinders is mapped independently according to each cylinder's individual needs. The net result is dramatically improved rideability, plus a 30 percent reduction in hydrocarbon emissions-good enough in California trim to meet the CARB Tier 1 emissions requirements for the year 2004!

Good Vibrations

With such a large V-twin engine, the issue of vibration had to be addressed. Honda handled this problem in a number of ways. First, for perfect primary balance, the 52° V twin engine incorporates the dual-offset-crankpin design pioneered by Honda in 1983. To eliminate what would otherwise be a substantial amount of rocking couple in a V-twin of this size, the VTX is equipped with two counterbalancer weights that spin on the primary shaft, a space-saving move that reduces secondary-source vibration by 60 percent.

Vibration management was an important part of the VTX equation. Design goals for the VTX always included subjective areas of the riding experience-specifically, the nature of the V-twin engine's feel, which would set it apart from previous power cruisers. From the project's inception, the appropriate V-twin feel was always just as important as quarter-mile times and dyno figures. Aficionados of the Vee persuasion will recognize the characteristic big-twin rumble in the VTX, but they'll never find it to be an annoyance on the open road.

The 2002 Honda VTX. Never before has the world seen a V- twin cruiser that offers the VTX's unique combination of style and performance. Simply put, there's nothing else like it. But then, what else would you expect from Honda?

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