2 Apr 2013

Tested - Honda CB1100 “Back To The Future”

@Dogknob1 reviews Honda's new retro bike, the CB1100.  And a fine steed it is

Retro - Adjective - Imitative of a style or fashion from the recent past.  Origin -  from French, rétro, abbreviation of rétrograde 'retrograde' 

The old is the new new apparently!

This seems odd coming from a company like Honda who strive to incorporate sensible well thought out technology in all that they make. So why is it that I stand here admiring a brand spanking new bike that looks like it’s just rolled out of the early 70s?

It’s all about the niche, about stirring a deep bedded emotion tucked away in an older biker or a potential biker longing for a time when everything was better. Better times though? Are todays bikes not better for modern tyres, subtle valved suspension, smooth powerful brakes and a drive train that keeps on going whatever the elements throw at it? Are we forgetting that the old bikes didn’t like to stop go or steer particularly well?

So have Honda cracked this retro niche or not? On paper it has all the right criteria to be a splendid bike:

Engine: 1140cc inline four cylinder DOHC 12V air and oil cooled engine.
Power: 84bhp @ 7,500rpm. Torque: 69b.ft @ 5,000rpm.
Economy: 51mpg giving a range of about 145mile.  (All claimed but seems feasible)
Driving a standard 5 speed box with final drive by chain (“how quaint” says the shaft drive convert) 

With everything housed in a steel tube frame

Seat height 31.3” this is a retro bike so you can poke your mm conversion up your bum!

Although weight and wheel base figures are available I’m not telling as I normally find these can get in the way of understanding how a bike rides? Some bikes are very good at disguising their bulk.

The Styling of the CB1100 is a concoction of classic Hondas - the seminal CB750, a dash of CB400/4 plus a certain amount of made-upness in a 70s styley.

I must say the overall look is fantastic. Marvel how they’ve got the narrow tank so as to expose the engine cam covers with their chrome-end caps sparkling in the sun (OK that’s a touch of creative journalism, there is no sun!) Also gaze upon how Honda have managed to get the engine cooling fins just so, a big chrome four into one exhaust, chunky analogue clocks, Comstar style wheels, massive chrome rear mudguard all capped off with a superb copy of Honda’s 70s tail light. Hopefully it’s going to survive some of our salty winters as with this much shiny metal it could look really scabby very quickly?

Right Ho its riding time!

First impressions of swinging a leg over and picking it up off the side stand (centre stand standard as well) is that’s it’s a weighty old beast - 248kg of weight! Still let’s not worry about that until later.

Reaching out to the bars everything seems to be in the right spot with my average build fitting just right (I’m 5'10” with a 32” leg) Levers are span adjustable, shiny chrome mirrors sit tall and clear, switch gear was logically laid out with all the basics including the Honda Click to them. Looking down on the clocks you get rev counter and speedo in analogue, including some digital info for gear fuel mileage and trip.

So far so good.

Turning the key and thumbing the button calls the 1140ccs into life with a grumble in the rumble of sound? Yes a grumble! Don’t panic though!!! Honda has engineered this grumble in to give a more authentic retro feel. Once rolling with the especially brilliant fuelling from the smallish 36mm throttle bodies (chosen to give better low down power). You can swap cogs very easily in the 5 speed box although not sure you really need to bother with anything else bar 5th so creamy smooth is the power delivery. It’s quite happy to roll on from 30mph in top.

The actual road test took place over pretty awful B and C roads.

With the state of roads the suspension got a real work out, I say got a work out but I only know this from the following test ride on the CB500F, which crashed and banged its way over the same route!

Front fork legs are 41mm Showas, while a pair of shocks takes care of the rear, both are preload adjustable only. 18” wheels adorn each end running on what would be considered slightly skinny 140 and 110 Bridgestones. These are grabbed by linked three pot ABS callipers onto Hondas first hubless disks (cough cough just like my BMW's had forever cough) All this running gear added up to a quite superb ride with the CB1100 doing pretty much nothing wrong at all! 

Earlier I mentioned it weighed quite a lot but this doesn’t transpire on the move with the bars feeling light to the touch and a keenness to change direction (think the skinny 140 rear tyre helps here) making it an easy ride even down said “awful” B roads. Another figure that belies this bike is the paltry 88bhp! Trust me when I say it’s not even a consideration, this CB1100 will do all that you ask of it as long as you remember it’s a big, old style bike.

So Is the CB1100 blast from the past? Err no?

It’s a very cleverly engineered bike to look like its straight out of the late 60s but, by using lots of modern tech and Honda’s ethos to build quality, it really is a true retro bike. The desired look you want with all the ease of a new modern bike.

£8950 makes it quite a bit dearer than its obvious Triumph rival; however I think you’d be able to see where the extra money has been spent in making such a great bike.

Would I recommend it as a buy? Yes it’s a damn fine bike