Mixing naked and classic Honda
style with thoroughly modern and engaging performance, the exquisitely built
four-cylinder CB1100 has a presence, and personality, all of its own.
The Honda CB1100 mixes originality
with a timeless sense of design, and substantial character. It represents a
finely balanced blend of performance, with broad capacity, ability and
Unmistakably Honda, the CB1100's
clean lines elegantly echo the past. The large round headlight, scalloped fuel
tank (proudly detailed with the Honda Wing) and silver painted sidepanels add
style and substance, while familiar analog dials, slim seat, side-swept 4-2-1
exhaust pipe and chromed front and rear mudguards provide the finishing touches,
gently stirring memories of how motorcycles used to look and, as importantly,
Perhaps it's what you don't see that
matters more with the CB1100; this is the motorcycle at its most elemental. A
steel double cradle frame houses the engine, with 41mm conventional telescopic
forks and twin rear shocks providing compliant and finely tuned suspension. The
CB1100's riding position is upright and relaxed, a perfect platform from which
to watch the world slide by.
From the outset of the project, the
CB1100's development engineers decided to use the word 'design' rather than
'styling' for their new bike. Utilising the characteristics of many materials -
metal, plastic, leather and rubber - they created individual parts that are both
beautiful and functional, and bought them together to stunning effect.
Honda, as a company, looks to the
future; yet always with one eye on, and great respect, for the past. To that
end, the Honda CB1100 mixes originality with a timeless sense of design, and
substantial character. It represents a finely balanced blend of performance,
with broad capacity, ability and adaptability.
But it also has something else,
almost an intangible - a small part of the soul of a true original: the Honda
The CB750 Four has cast a long and
influential shadow over motorcycling since its debut in 1969. Soichiro Honda,
ever the engineer, leading an engineering company, wanted to prove that there
was more to the two-wheeled formula than small and medium capacity twin-cylinder
motorcycles, and did just that with the ground-breaking 749cc, 67bhp air-cooled,
SOHC four-cylinder four-stroke power unit.
A competent chassis - with another first, a
single disc brake up front - provided handling and stopping power to match the
engine, and the CB750 Four was an instant success. The mass-production superbike
had been born, the blueprint drawn for the future.
Motorcycling has changed a great
deal over the last 5 decades since the very first CB - the Benly CB92 - was
introduced. Motorcyclists themselves have changed too: while many still aspire
to the ultimate performance available, just as many today perhaps have other
reasons to own a motorcycle.
Some are looking back, at the bike
they wanted when they were young but simply couldn't afford. Others want
something that performs like a new machine, but with a certain, classic look
that lends retro-heritage to a contemporary lifestyle.
And some riders just want an
exquisitely engineered motorcycle that blends real-world usability with an
honest sense of history. The common factor is fun.
Honda believes motorcycles are very personal things, much more than mere
transport. And none more so than the CB1100, as the following insight from the
man that created it, shows:
Mr Mitsuyoshi Kohama, Chief
"It just had to be an air-cooled
Instant acceleration has its appeal, as does modern styling that conveys the
swiftness of the bike. But there's a lot more to the path of motorcycle
evolution. I found myself thinking along these lines for the first time when I
returned to Japan, after several years in Europe. It was also at this time that
I grabbed a pencil and quickly started sketching.
Tyres. Engine. Frame. Tank. Seat. I thought about how to craft all the necessary
elements beautifully and combine them in a perfect whole. I wanted to create a
beautiful motorcycle with artisan-level handiwork that's also approachable and
easy to ride.
"Why are you giving that new engine air-cooling when you know its performance
won't be as good? You had better have a pretty convincing explanation!"
That's the kind of thing people said when we began the development process. And
I could understand that thinking. Going with an air-cooled engine was bound to
seem 'retro' to people at Honda, which had long favored liquid-cooled systems in
the pursuit of maximum performance.
When asked to explain my choice, I could only say: "My only reason is that a lot
of customers like air-cooled engines." I like the metallic sound the engine
makes as it cools… A motorcycle's engine should have oil in it, not water… Just
looking at the cooling fins inspires me…
There is something about an
air-cooled engine - a feeling you simply can't get from the liquid-cooled engine
in a high-performance bike. To me, a bike rider and a bike fan, a future without
air-cooled engines just didn't seem right. And I was certain I wasn't the only
one who felt this way!
Based on my sketch, this 'bike that
defies logic and just demands to be ridden' became a reality. We displayed the
CB Four concept model at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1999, and I was extremely
thankful for the enthusiastic response it received there. In 2007, aiming to
create a bike that fulfilled fans' vision even more fully, we displayed a new
concept model at the Tokyo Motor Show, the CB1100F. Eventually, this concept
model became the production model known as the CB1100.
That period from the late 1960s through the ’70s was
the golden age of motorcycling in America, an era characterized by simpler bikes
and a market far less fragmented and specialized. Modern motorcycles are
categorized into so many different niches—and have become so tailored to a
singular purpose—that it makes you wonder what happened to the good ol’
Universal Japanese Motorcycle, like Honda’s CB550-1100s of yesteryear.
Well, Honda’s new-to-the-U.S. CB1100 might just be that nostalgic new UJM we
need. True to the original, this retro CB was first shown at the Tokyo Motor
Show in 2007 as a concept, and then displayed in production form at the same
show two years later. Unfortunately, when I saw it there in 2009, I was told it
would be sold only in Japan, Australia and New Zealand due to the expense of
U.S. certification. End of story.
Or so I thought.
Secrets are harder to conceal these days thanks to the www. Nevertheless, when I
was invited to American Honda in October for a clandestine two-hour ride on an
undisclosed bike, it was a pleasant surprise to see the CB1100 roll out from
behind the locked doors of the press-fleet garage. I wasn’t totally shocked,
though, because the CB1100 does fall right in line with the direction Honda has
been pointed at lately.
Every ride is too short when the bike is really good, right? Well, I can’t
complain, because my small taste of the 1100 left me with a very positive first
impression. Very few bikes have felt as instantly familiar as the CB did after
just a couple of short blocks.
A perfectly neutral and upright seating position places hands on the bars right
where they naturally want to fall, and the footpegs keep knees (for my 5-foot-11
frame) at a relaxed yet not-too-lazy bend. The comfortable seat isn’t too high
(or too low) for my 30-inch inseam, allowing my boots to be firmly planted at
stops. The mirrors offer an excellent rear view, while the simple dash provides
just the pertinent information via a pair of analog gauges and a small LCD
2013 Honda CB1100
A few minutes into my 50-mile ride, I had already developed a great appreciation
for the CB’s air-cooled, 1140cc engine. The 16-valve dohc inline-Four is
extremely smooth yet tractable, with usable low-end grunt from as low as 2000
rpm—even in a tall gear at slower speeds. Power builds in a progressive,
step-free manner all the way up to the 8500-rpm redline, which gives the engine
great flexibility for any type of riding.
Modern touches include the excellent PGM-FI injection system with four 32mm
throttle bodies. Nowhere in the rev range did I find a hint of hesitation or
sign of a stumble, just precise fueling.
Another aspect worth mentioning is the wonderful five-speed gearbox. Not many
motorcycle transmissions make you want to shift simply for the sake of shifting,
but this is one of them. The light clutch and slick shift action had me
short-shifting around town just so I could downshift through all those gears
“Simplistic” describes the CB1100’s chassis to a T. The twin-cradle steel frame
is bookended by a conventional 41mm fork and a pair of chromed Showa shocks,
with adjustable preload front and rear. The 18-in. cast aluminum wheels, with
black spokes and contrast-polished outer rims, wear narrow Bridgestone radials
that have a period-correct look, size 110/80-18 front and 140/70-18 rear. Twin
296mm front brake discs are pinched by four-piston Nissin calipers.
Around town, the CB carries its claimed 545-pound curb weight well, providing
agile handling. Once the pace is picked up on a twisty road, the narrow tire
choices make sense. Turn-in is light and predictable, while midcorner stability
is good right up to the point when footpeg feelers start digging into asphalt.
The power of the front brakes, as well as the feel, is excellent for this
As we went to press, details were very limited. Honda’s press officer said he
was hopeful the MSRP would be under $10,000. That’s just about right for this
bike considering its high level of refinement, features and excellent fit and
Although our time together was short, I was impressed with the CB1100. When all
you want to do is go on a ride, what better bike than a fully modern but totally
authentic blast from the past? Honda has delivered. The classic UJM is back
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