Honda CB 900F Hornet


Make Model

Honda CB 900F Hornet




Four stroke, Transverse four cylinder, DOHC, 4 valve per cylinder.


919 cc / 56.0 cu-in
Bore x Stroke 71 x 58 mm
  Liquid cooled
Compression Ratio 10.8:1


Electronic fuel injection


Computer-controlled digital transistorized, 
Starting Electric

Max Power

81 kW / 108.6 hp @ 9000 rpm

Max Torque

92 Nm / 67.1 lb-ft @ 6500 rpm
Clutch Wet, multiplate with coil springs


6 Speed
Final Drive Chain
Frame Diamond, steel tube

Front Suspension

43mm cartridge-type telescopic fork
Front Wheel Travel 120 mm / 4.7 in
Rear Suspension Monoshock damper with 7-step adjustable preload
Rear Wheel Travel 128 mm / 5.0 in
Front Brakes 2X 296mm discs 4 piston calipers

Rear Brakes

Single 240mm disc 1 piston caliper
Front Rim 17 x  3.50 hollow-section triple-spoke cast aluminium
Rear Rim 17 x 5.50 hollow-section triple-spoke cast aluminium

Front Tyre

120/70 ZR17

Rear Tyre

180/55 ZR17
Dimensions Length 2125 mm / 83.6  in
Width   750 mm / 29.5 in
Height  1085 mm / 42.7 in
Wheelbase 1460 mm / 57.5 in
Seat Height 795 mm / 31.3 in
Ground Clearance 145 mm / 5.7 in

Dry Weight

194 kg / 427.6 lbs

Fuel Capacity 

19 Liters / 5.0 US gal

Consumption Average

18.1 km/lit

Standing ¼ Mile  

11.1 sec

Top Speed

235.3 km/h

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The biggest change is in the intake system, where the FireBlade's carburettors have been replaced by 36mm (1.4in) fuel-injection throttle bodies.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 FireBlade.


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


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 technology.

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 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  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 unfounded.

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

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 circumstances.

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 replacement shock.

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 powerful look.

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 nimbleness