Riding the Honda CB1100F

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Today, Honda announced its CB1100F retro standard will be going on-sale in the US priced at $9,999. A week or so ago, we got to ride it. The big inline-four promises to recapture the character of classic Hondas in a modern package.

43 years ago, Honda was the maker of motorcycles for the masses. It was the age of the Cub, of You Meet The Nicest People and of motorcycles as transportation. Then, in 1969, Honda introduced the CB750, beginning a line of Japanese superbikes that literally killed the European motorcycle industry and set in motion the chain of events that led to the ever more powerful, ever more expensive, ever more specialized motorcycles we have today.

Last year, Honda released the CBR250R. A bike for the (learning) masses. It was a big deal because it wasn’t fast and it wasn’t intimidating and it wasn’t expensive. It was just good fun, for anyone. That was followed up by the NC700X, CRF250L and now the 500 range. Suddenly, Honda’s making motorcycles for everyone again. And now we have a new CB too.

But don’t worry, this isn’t the start of yet another horsepower war. Instead, the CB1100F will be imported in limited numbers and is really about highlighting Honda’s history, brand and defining a character for its motorcycles.

That’s a good thing, because the big CB isn’t going to win many horsepower wars. At 87bhp, 68lb/ft and 540lbs (wet) it’s barely faster than that original 750. Nor is it a muscle bike in the vein of recent retros like Honda’s own CB1300, the Suzuki GSX1400 or Yamaha XJR1300. Instead, it’s just a nice, easy bike for getting around on. Something that’s about experience over performance.

Styling is sort of a pick and mix from the full CB lineage. The curvy downpipes are clearly a reference to the CB400/4 while the muscular tank was inspired by the CB750X. It’s a clean design that foregoes the en vogue focus on engine or edginess, instead delivering a cohesive package that simply says “motorcycle.” It does include contemporary influence in the emphasis on a forward slant to its lines, just here captured by the parallel lines of created by the shocks and frame tubes. Other up-to-date touches can be seen in components like the alloy wheels, which forego brake disc carriers in favor of mounting the discs directly to the spokes and the on-piece rearsets/pillion peg mounts.

Thumb the electric starter to fire up the 1,140cc air/oil cooled motor and you’re rewarded with an immediate and regular idle. No unbalanced stuttering and fuel-injection eliminates the need for a choke or a warm up period of elevated revs before you get going. That engine note at idle is quiet and subdued, but purposeful. Hinting at the rest of the bike’s character.

Typical Honda, the CB1100F couldn’t be easier to adapt to. It just feels right from the very first time you slip the clutch to pull away. It’s not immediately, overwhelmingly torque like you might expect of a relatively large motor. Instead that torque is just there to accomplish what you require of it. It’ll accelerate as hard as you need it to, but will never catch you out with its speed.

One refreshing retro touch are the relatively narrow, 18-inch wheels and radial tires. Free of any need to appear race-focused or to reign in enormous power, the 110 front and 140 rear instead make low speed handling something of a revelation. Know how 10mph, 90-degree city corners are a bit of a hassle on a modern superbike? You won’t realize how natural they can be until you hop back on something with narrow rubber.

On faster roads, the engine’s broad torque curve and the relatively large space between the five gears makes for easy, relaxed progress. Enough torque to pass cars starts at just 1,200 or so RPM and continues in a linear, smooth, fuss-free manner up to an easy 8,000. Handling remains reassuringly planted in faster sweepers and the brakes (ABS is an option) shed speed in a convincingly modern fashion.

One area where the CB excels is in comfort. My butt is still extremely tender post-wreck, so this is literally a sensitive area for me right now. The 30-inch seat height is tall enough to leave plenty of leg room without making the bike intimidating. You still sit on rather than in the bike, again a contemporary touch that’s the reverse of other retros like the Guzzi V7 and Triumph Bonneville. The seat is also domed, fitting naturally between your legs. Riding position is an archetypal sit-up-and-beg, with your arms extended easily at a natural height. The ride is positively cushy through the 41mm, preload-adjustable forks and preload-adjustable twin shocks. Even in my current state, I could ride this thing for hours.

Ridden enthusiastically on curvy roads, the high-quality suspension delivers great feel and the flexible motor makes for easy, fast progress. Ground clearance is fairly limited, the trade-off for the comfortably low pegs. It’s no superbike, but you’ll enjoy the hell out of riding it around some corners.

Pull over when you’re done, turn it off and listen to the engine ping and plink as it cools down. It’s hard not turn back for a second look when you walk away.

Unlike that original CB750, this new CB1100F isn’t something that’s going to change the world. It’s not going to redefine the motorcycle or inspire a new generation of rider. But, it would make a solid bike for getting around virtually anywhere. It’s slim and easy enough to bust traffic in the city, torquey and comfortable enough to eat highways and fun enough to make it worth riding a ways to find some good roads too.

TL;DR: A little heavy and a little pricey for the kids, the CB1100F will be a nice throwback for anyone left a little cold by modern Japanese bikes. It’s fun, not fast. A cool bike for getting around on.

Helmet: Icon Airmada Stack ($260)
Suit: Aerostich Roadcrafter Stealth ($997)
Gloves: Alpinestars GP-Plus ($190)
Boots: Alpinestars Supertech R ($450)

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  • je

    If its as reliable as the old then I think thats a fair price.. Not sure I would buy but it has a clean look and would get at least a test run.

  • paulo

    This has been out in Australia / NZ for sometime, I imagine they will sell quite well stateside to those that like the old CB750′s but want something newer and more reliable. I appreciate the simple design which could be a great basis for a little customization I hope they sell well as it’s encouraging to see new bikes that don’t look like transformers.

  • zero

    Looks nice and it’s great to have some standards back on the block, but for the life of me I can’t understand where the price is coming from.

    Sure, it’s got fuel injection. But between the air cooled motor, steel frame and the fact they weren’t breaking huge engineering ground here, I can’t see why this retails for ~$1500 more than the old 919 did. I know they serve different purposes, but I just don’t see where the cost is going.

    • NewOldSchool

      Exchange rates, new tooling to produce it, etc.

      • zero

        Exchange rates shouldn’t matter because I’m comparing it to another Honda. [EDIT] forgot about the obvious economic catastrophe over the last 5 years. Good point.

        I’ll buy the new tooling…to a point. I mean it’s been for sale in Japan/Australia for a few years now.

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          It’s a premium product produced in small numbers. All new motor + nice components + relatively small production = I’m surprised it’s not more money.

    • Mitch

      World economy completely imploded since the 919 was on sale. Plus the Hornet was amortized for a while.

      • Frosty_spl

        The Yen is much stronger than the Dollar.

      • http://www.TroyRank.com Troy R

        Bring back the 919 please. Still one of the all-time best motorcycles IMO.

    • http://bloodfalcons.blogspot.com motoguru

      80% more HP at the same price as the Guzzi V7 racer makes it’s MSRP totally ok to me. I pretty much can’t stand 99% of all asian bikes ever made, but this thing is pretty close to a prefect motorcycle in my book.

      • Bruce Steever

        I’m not surprised that they are finally bringing this to the States. I am surprised that it won’t cost $12k.

        • DavidMG

          That’s exactly what I expect it to sell for in Canada. Damn it! I like this bike.

      • http://bloodfalcons.blogspot.com motoguru

        And I spelled perfect wrong…

  • NewOldSchool

    Looks great! An honest motorcycle.

  • Frosty_spl

    I sat on a few of these in Japan. They look awesome!

  • rohorn

    They didn’t put 18″ rims on it for better real world handling, they put 18″ rims on it so fashion victims can install Firestone Deluxe Champion tires (not available in 17″ sizes) on them!

    Can’t wait to see one with said tires, rear fender deleted, plank seat, pipe wrap, fork springs removed, tiny headlight with electrical tape “X” on the lens, unspeakably dull hue PseudoPatinaPaint (R), etc… featured on CafeBobTrackerOfTheDay/EveryoneIsACustomBuilder.com

    Sorry if this is posted too closely to any given reader’s meal time…

    • paulo

      Why twist your panties about it? Nothing wrong with someone tweaking their bike to suit their own tastes. You’re sounding like JT. heh

    • NewOldSchool

      This is one thing I hate about “vintage” being so main stream and so many people being so pretentious about it.

      I have an old motorcycle which I keep in very good condition mechanically and cosmetically. I have had said motorcycle for years, I wear modern gear and a full face helmet, but still get written off as parading around on a hipstermobiel…

      /rant.

      • Scott-jay

        I have old motorcycles because I’m old.
        : )

  • RailRoad

    I’d totally want one of these…if I didn’t already own a Bonneville…. I’m still convinced nothing is better for getting around Los Angeles and Hollywood than a nice, upright standard with skinny tires and not too damn much power.

    • jonoabq

      …there is no such thing as too much power…better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. It is a fairly clean looking standard though if thats your cup-o-tea. And it doesn’t have fake FI/Carb just for looks.

      • http://bloodfalcons.blogspot.com motoguru

        Something about riding a slow bike fast is a lot more fun than fast bike slow…

      • http://rider49er.blogspot.com Mark D [EX500]

        Yadda yadda fuel economy cheap tires blah blah

      • RailRoad

        Of course there is such a thing as too much power… If you’re on the drag strip, sure, more power… Just about no one needs a Hayabusa for commuting around cities. And there’s plenty of new riders who decided that GSXR 1000 was the perfect first bike and found out the hard way that, yes, you can have too much power….

  • pplassm

    It’s nice to see Honda finally getting a clue.

    • Gene

      Hell yeah, a thousand times over.

      Now where can I find a Windjammer fairing for it? :-)

  • Bruce Steever

    It just looks right. Will i buy one? No, because i want a bit more performance for that price.

    But if style is your thing, this should be an easy buy. I see a lot of people buying this, from Gen-Y cafe-racer-hipsters to old folks reliving their youth.

  • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben W

    Hmm. Great looking and nearly guaranteed to be bulletproof.

    But there’s still that Griso 8V SE calling out.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Griso’s faster and a better handler. Looks great in that new black/silver too.

      • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben W

        I’m still in love with the Green/brown that you tested. It’s the only bike, other than the Streetfighter 848, that grips me. Given that 90% of my riding is commuting, and shame on me for that, the 848 is a terrible idea.

        Is Moto Guzzi revamping the Griso in the next year or two with the Piaggio cash injection?

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          It was already wholely updated when it went 8V.

          • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben W

            Good to know, Wes. It sucks to buy a bike only to have a major overhaul soon after.

            Of course, if I really cared about the commuting I do – which involves 80 mph freeways – I would look for something with a fairing. Damn shame that most all of those are fat and/or ugly.

            • http://rideapart.com Wes Siler

              You, sir, need a flyscreen.

      • MV ROB

        Bought me a Teni green one…..couldn’t be happier! I like where Honda is going. I would seriously consider this one if I didn’t already have my eyes set on a mid to late 90′s air cooled Ducati 900

  • barryg

    I reckon this might take a few sales from Bonneville-land. It sounds like it’ll be a little bit quicker, tho’ may not handle quite as well. Just like the old days, in a way.
    Good to see big H getting back to basics.

  • Deltablues

    If it is being imported in limited numbers, that price won’t last. I can see these being snapped up pretty quick and back on the market at inflated prices. I know it is not a ‘collectors’ bike, but the styling and stance hit a sweet spot for those of us who grew up in the early 80′s dreaming about UJMs such as the CB900F or the Katana.

    • http://www.cdavisdesigns.com Chris Davis

      I’m sure it’s limited to the amount they can sell. It’s marketing speak for “we think we’re on to something but we’re not confident this bike can sell just yet” to keep expectations low. Still, I would love to see a ~750cc version, not for a direct heritage connection but simply to subtract weight and add fun.

  • Your_Mom

    It is ‘pretty.’ But 560 lbs is not attractive in my world. Would I take one? Perhaps. But I honestly would prefer the agility and lightness of the KTM 390. But – damn – it is good lookin’ as a retro bike can be.

    • http://respectthetrade.tumblr.com/ KR Tong

      With those specs, save some money and just buy an ’82 CB900F. It’s the same damn bike.

      • http://slum.net cdeforrest

        Not sure if you’re trolling, but here we go..
        That CB900′s got 30 years of wear and/or neglect on it, doesn’t have fuel injection or a warranty, and nobody but that one weird old guy in town will work on it.

        Yeah, the same damn bike.

        • http://respectthetrade.tumblr.com/ KR Tong

          You’re talking to a guy who commutes on one. Lets see here, I bought mine for $1800. You’ll pay $10k before taxes. Worst case scenario I blow the top end and have to spend, at most, $500 on a new flippin motor. You’re still out $7k more for a bike with the same specs as mine, same weight, same performance, same mpg, same oversized wheels, same everything. The CB900 was the most unreliable CB honda ever made and yet this things still rolling, like you said, thirty years later.

  • http://www.tony-starr.com tony starr

    i love mine and it looks (and sounds) a little better with a custom seat and exhaust.

    http://instagram.com/p/QWBBIxN_xU

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Ooh, I like that exhaust.

    • NewOldSchool

      NICE! It looks like a redux of the Yoshimura pipes for the CB750′s.

  • Devin

    Wow. This is basically exactly what I was looking for. Had this came out a year ago I likely would had chosen this over a Bonneville.

  • Patrick from Astoria

    Quiet wish for the same thing as a 550-650, although I know the pricing structure makes that pretty much impossible.

    Really, really happy to see Honda remembering what it is – both looking back like this and with the 250s and 500s. Saw a good number of CBR250Rs this year, hope this keeps succeeding and growing.

  • coredump

    I’m taken aback by the fact it only has a 5 speed transmission.

    • http://rideapart.com Wes Siler

      Why? It’s got a very flat torque curve and plenty of space between the ratios. What would an extra gear bring?

      Driven any of those new cars with their 7 or 8 speed transmissions? They spend more time shifting than they do accelerating. More does not equal better for a non-racing application like this one.

  • 10/10ths

    The return of the UJM. Ten years ago, every bike mag was asking where these type of machines went. Now, Honda brings one back, and people are “meh”.

  • John Ashman

    Eh. I’d rather have this CB1100F –

    http://www.motorcyclespecs.co.za/Gallery/Honda%20CB1100F%2083%20%203.jpg

    But it’s probably not a bad bike, nor a terrible bargain. But i’m not sure why, with so many good affordable classics. Doesn’t send a tingle up my leg and I could buy 3 used ZRXs for the same price.

  • http://twitter.com/amark01 Mark Moser

    I’m with John on this one. For the same price I can have 2 original 1100f’s

  • Justin Henry

    i really like this and would definitely consider buying it.

    • Justin Henry

      I bought one and it’s GREAT!

  • DoctorNine

    I’m getting one of these as soon as I can.
    Been waiting forever…

  • Strafer

    i have a Honda cb 650 from 1985 (picture attached)
    It seems pretty good to me (considering the price was under 2k)
    Things that i think could be improved on my 1985 cb are the brakes (heavy bike, can’t go too fast if i can’t stop fast as well), the gas mpg (i get only 26mpg in heavy city traffic), the suspension (i swerve around potholes and sewer manhole covers), the electrics (my 1985 bike seems to have a problem somewhere that causes battery to drain)
    If these things are all improved in the 2013 model it is tempting to try it – but 10K is still quite a premium

    • http://twitter.com/GeneCash Gene Cash

      Jesus christ, what a blast from the past. I learned to ride on the ’82 CB450SC version of that. And bulletproof. I must have crashed that thing a dozen times trying to gain some semblance of physical coordination, and all it ever needed was new signals and maybe a headlight shell.

      One with a modern 1100cc engine with fuel injection, modern brakes with ABS, and only $10K? It even has the Comstar-lookalike wheels!

      It’s a bit more than the $600 I originally paid, but that was 1986 dollars from a starving student.

      My ’82 had the most comfy seat on a bike EVER. My FJR is only the 2nd bike I’ve owned with a comfortable stock seat, and it doesn’t hold a candle to the Nighthawk.

      “Suddenly, Honda’s making motorcycles for everyone again”
      Actually, this has been a concept bike since 2009. That’s not very “suddenly”
      http://world.honda.com/news/2009/c090930Tokyo-Motor-Show-2009/

  • Murdoc82

    I wish they would have went with the 70′s look, rounder tank with spoked wheels, rather than the 80-90′s look, I would think that the 70′s bikes were and are more popular. It seems like the Triumph Bonnevilles and Kawasaki w800 got a bit closer with the nicer retro look.

  • Lee Barmakian

    I own an ’06 Ducati S2R, which I love, and will never sell/trade. But, I’ve always wanted a K0 or K1 cb750, but was put off by the price inflation, old technology, fear factor of repairing it, etc. Now, all that is not a factor anymore. I’m going to check one of these out in the spring. If I buy it, the first thing I’ll add are 4 into 4 pipes. I think Honda is spot-on with this bike. I’m 57, still in great shape, but have no interest in buying another CBR-600 or 1000RR (yes, I had one, they were great). I want a comfy, good looking and riding bike. The horsepower wars are over for me. I want an easy, reliable bike.

  • Scott Campbell

    I have owned this bike for 3 months and it is fantastic. It is fast enough and the fit and finish is outstanding. I receive many compliments where ever I go. It is a lot of bike for the money. Some people feel it should have more power. You do not see Harley riders complaining about their over priced underpowered bikes they just love the bike. The Honda brings out the same emotion to me.