Honda CB 900F
Honda CB 900F Hornet
Liquid cooled, four stroke, Transverse four
cylinder, DOHC, 4 valve per cylinder.
Bore x Stroke
71 x 58 mm
Electronic fuel injection
Computer-controlled digital transistorized,
81 kW @ 9000 rpm
92 Nm @ 6500 rpm
6 Speed / chain
telescopic fork, 120mm wheel travel
with 7-step adjustable preload, 128mm wheel travel
2X 296mm discs 4 piston calipers
Single 240mm disc 1 piston caliper
A larger version of the CB600F
Hornet was predicted almost as soon as the smaller bike first appeared. But
it took Honda until 2002 to finally launch the CB900F Hornet. Visually
almost identical to the 600 Hornet, the 900 follows the tried and tested
path of the smaller bike, using an older sportsbike engine in a cheap,
simple steel-tube frame with of f-the shelf chassis components.
The major visual difference is
the exhaust system: the 900 has two underseat silencers with the header
pipes tucked gracefully away beneath the engine, rising up through a hole in
the swingarm. This centre-up design is shared with the 2002-model VFR800
VTEC, and lends a clean, uncluttered air to the Hornet's tail unit.
The Hornet 900's engine is a
version of the 1998 FireBlade's powerplant which has been retuned for lower
peak power and stronger low-down power. Valve timing and lift has been
altered, and the compression ratio is lowered from 11.1:1 to 10.8:1, thanks
to reshaped combustion chambers.
The biggest change is in the intake system,
where the FireBlade's carburettors have been replaced by 36mm (1.4in)
fuel-injection throttle bodies. This PGM-FI system gives smooth power
delivery and improved fuel economy, but its main function is to reduce
exhaust emissions to comply with future legislation.
The steel-tube spine frame uses a
similar design to the Hornet 600, but the square-section tubing uses thicker
walls, up from 1.6mm (0.06in) to 2.3mm
(o.90in), and the steering head
has been strengthened. In addition, the suspension and brakes are also
upgraded compared with the smaller Hornet. Thicker, stiffer 43mm (1.7in)
forks replace the 600's 41mm (1.6in) items, and the Hornet 900's front
brakes use four-piston calipers, again borrowed from the earlier CBR900RR
The 900 doesn't have a fairing
option, so is best kept away from motorways and long trips. But around town,
and on twisty country roads, its compact dimensions, fast steering and
torquey power delivery provide satisfying performance
By Dirck Edge
We provided an extensive preview of the 2002 Honda 919 naked bike when it was
first introduced to the press in early October, 2001. Take a look at that
article for studio photos, some technical details, and for notes regarding
chassis and frame construction.
Less than a decade ago, a large contingent of American riders was longing for a
standard-style motorcycle with a large, modern engine, together with a modern
chassis, suspension and brakes. When Suzuki announced the Bandit 1200, many of
these riders rejoiced, and imagined this new "super standard" would create the
same sensations they felt when they were younger, and riding the Japanese
standards available in the late 70s and early 80s -- enhanced by modern
The "naked bike" category caught on quickly in Europe, and the fever is catching
on here in the United States, as well. Kawasaki followed Suzuki's lead and
introduced the ZRX1100 a couple of years later (now beefed up to the ZRX1200 --
the model currently available from Kawasaki), while Yamaha brought along its
thoroughly modern R1-engined FZ1 last year. All of a sudden, the naked bike
category in the United States was alive and thriving with new model choices.
If anything was missing from these bikes, it was the simplicity, light weight
and small size of the standards of the past. Only the Bandit was available
without any fairing, whatsoever. All of these bikes were quite heavy (the
lightest being Yamaha's FZ1 at 458 pounds). The Kawasaki has a relatively low
seat height, and feels relatively compact, but it is the heaviest of all the
machines at a claimed 492 pounds dry.
Honda may have come to the modern, naked bike party here in the United States
rather late, but it has plenty of history and experience in the category.
Honda Hornet 600 (Europe Only)
Voted Bike of the 20th Century by our readers, rather overwhelmingly, the 1969
Honda CB750K changed the course of motorcycle design and remains, for many
enthusiasts, the most significant "standard" motorcycle ever introduced. Take a
look at our Bike of the Century - Part Two article for further thoughts on this
ground breaking machine.
Honda didn't stop there, of course, developing other significant naked machines
over the years. Development did stop in the United States, for a time, while
Europe received the modern Hornet 600 and X11.
Along comes the 2002 Honda 919 (the Hornet 900 in Europe). With a fuel injected
version of Honda's last-generation CBR900RR engine, a square tube, steel
backbone frame (see our preview article for a picture), no fairing, and a
claimed dry weight of just 427 pounds, Honda has delivered a naked bike that, on
paper, takes a different approach to performance than its Japanese competition.
Sitting on the 919 for the first time, you notice how small it seems. The seat
height isn't all that short (shorter than sportbikes, probably), but the bike
just seems small. The lack of a fairing creates this sensation, but the front
end of the bike seems even closer than it does on Suzuki's SV650, for example.
Rocking the bike side-to-side, it feels fairly light, as well.
At a claimed 427 pounds, the 919 is roughly 30 pounds lighter than the Yamaha
FZ1 (which, in turn, is significantly lighter than both the Bandit and the ZRX).
Once moving, the 919 is even more agile than you would expect. It feels as if it
is 50 to 100 pounds lighter than the other Japanese standards mentioned.
Indeed, initially, I felt as if the 919 changed directions too quickly, and
would be unstable at high speeds. I picked the bike up from Honda at the same
time I dropped off the 2002 Interceptor test bike. Pulling out onto a side
street behind Honda's headquarters, the 919 accelerated much harder than the
Interceptor at low and mid-range rpms. It pulled very strongly, but very
smoothly. I immediately sensed the fuel injection was carefully dialed, and that
the motor was almost "electric" -- strong, but no "hit" anywhere.
The wide bars and the relatively aggressive steering geometry made the bike seem
almost nervous by comparison with the Interceptor. Just a couple of miles later,
however, I was cruising on the freeway at a pretty good pace, and the bike was
rock solid. My concerns about nervous handling at higher speeds were completely
While on the freeway, it was fun to play with the throttle. The torquey engine
pull in top gear provided satisfying acceleration and passing power. At lower
speeds, in lower gears, the acceleration is very strong in the mid-range. Only
the ZRX1200 feels significantly stronger in the mid-range, and the big Kawasaki
is carrying an additional 70 pounds, or so.
Later, through the twisty stuff, the 919 really started to shine. The bike
definitely changes directions quickly and decisively, but holds its line well
through sweeping corners. Feedback from the front tire was quite good for this
category, and I found myself thinking about a Moto Guzzi V11 Sport I rode years
ago with a somewhat similar steel backbone frame design. That bike provided
excellent feedback from the road, as well. "Steel is real", as they say in the
bicycling world -- the resonance of a steel frame, and, consequently, road
feedback, is frequently better appreciated and understood by the rider.
The other Japanese standards have steel frames, as well, but the Honda 919 seems
to combine significantly lighter weight with significantly stiffer construction.
A stiffer frame can actually make a bike feel lighter, because its direction
changes can be quicker and more decisive. We discussed this concept to some
extent in the review of the 2002 Honda Interceptor. The Interceptor gained
weight this year, but has a significantly stiffer frame and, in many respects,
feels lighter than last year's machine (take a look at our Interceptor review
Part One and Part Two).
Front brake feel and power was also very good for this class. All of the
Japanese naked bikes have twin discs and multi-piston calipers up front, and the
Honda binders are not necessarily the best in the class (both the FZ1 and the
ZRX1200 have outstanding front brakes), but they are nevertheless very good and
stopping distances will reflect the lighter weight of the machine.
The performance of the rear brake did not really stand out one way or the other.
My riding style involves application of very light pedal pressure on the rear
brake when riding aggressively into turns or coming to a stop, relying primarily
on the front brake lever. The 919 rear brake performs just fine under these
Honda transmissions are not always the silkiest, but they tend to shift
positively. The 919 shares these traits. No missed shifts in several hundred
miles of riding. Gear spacing is good, with strong acceleration available
through the gears -- no overly large gaps.
Suspension is non-adjustable, except for spring preload in the rear. The fork
seems dialed in pretty well, however, and Honda has frequently struck a good
balance with non-adjustable forks (the Interceptor comes to mind). The shock, on
the other hand, is only adequate. The rear wheel tends to stay in contact with
the ground, but sharp bumps can cause some rear wheel hop (probably related to
rebound damping, more than compression). Nevertheless, for most riders, the
stock suspension is fine. Riders looking to push the bike hard might consider a
The ergomonics are excellent. The upright, almost dirt bike-style seating
position is comfortable and feels intuitive quickly. Clutch and brake lever
placing seems fine, and the tank narrows nicely where you place your knees.
Honda seems to have figured out that firmer seats provide more comfort over the
long hall (Corbin figured this out before anyone did). The 919 has a
well-shaped, firm seat that allows the rider to move around a bit. Longer rides
did not prove uncomfortable.
Discomfort comes from wind blast, as it will on any naked bike ridden at speed
over a significant distance. That wind blast, however, is what a naked bike is
all about. In any event, as it did with the X11 in Europe, Honda seems to have
made some effort to provide a bit of wind protection with the design of the
headlight and instrument cluster. A nice, fly screen (smaller than a bikini
fairing) would help tremendously, without taking away from the naked look.
The 919 has a remarkably bright single-beam headlight. This results, undoubtedly
from the size of the multi-reflector lens, and its perfectly round shape.
From our perspective, the 919 looks cool, too. The underseat mufflers, and the
totally uncluttered view of the engine, give the bike a simple, purposeful and
All in all, the Honda 919 just might be the spiritual successor to that 1969
CB750K. Of course, it is not nearly as important in the history of motorcycling,
nor does it make any great technological or performance leaps. It is, however, a
do-it-all motorcycle stripped to its elements-combining style, power and