Mixing naked and classic Honda style with thoroughly modern and engaging performance
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 CB750 Four. 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 Designer, CB1100. “It just had to be an air-cooled engine…” 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.
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 side panels 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, feel. 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.
Centrepiece of the CB1100 is its handsome DOHC engine. Air (via 2mm fins) and oil-cooled (via a 335mm 9-tier, front-mounted oil cooler), the finning is the finest found on any bike within the Honda range, and new production methods had to be found for its manufacture. It revs to 8,500rpm and features a compression ratio of 9.5:1.
Maximum power output is 66Kw, with a peak torque figure of 93Nm @ 5,000rpm. Importantly, however outright horsepower figures on Dynograph paper was not the goal – if the engine proved fun to use, then it would be deemed a success.
Smooth, instantly accessible power and torque is what the CB1100’s motor’s all about, and plenty of it, anywhere in the rev range. No frantic thrashing to the redline; just dial in the throttle, and go. Four-stroke, four-cylinder motive thrust at its creamy, effortless best. Extremely efficient PGM-FI fuel injection, utilising one 36mm throttle body, gives excellent fuel consumption of 25.1km/l (70.9mpg) @ WMTC. Bore and stroke is set at 73.5mm x 67.2mm.
Drive for the twin camshafts is via central chain, and the valve included angle is 26.5° inlet and exhaust. Inlet valve diameter is 27mm, with a 2.5mm stem; exhaust 24mm with 2.5mm stem. A single, secondary balancer shaft ensures smooth running and drive is transmitted via wet clutch and five-speed gearbox. Final drive is by 530 chain.
It’s sporty, without being a sportsbike. It can tour, without being a touring bike. The CB1100’s capacities, thanks to its strong engine and well-balanced chassis, are broad and multi-faceted; it’s a bike to be ridden and enjoyed in a variety of situations. The CB1100’s classic, tubular steel double cradle frame grips the engine with four rigid and two rubber mounts; the swingarm is constructed from box-section steel. 41mm conventional telescopic forks are spring preload adjustable, as are the pair of Showa rear shocks.
Painted silver, cast aluminium 18-inch five-spoke wheels mount 110/80-18 and 140/70-18 tyres and the standard Combined ABS brakes feature twin, 296mm floating discs up front, with four-piston Nissin calipers, and 256mm disc and single-piston caliper at the rear. Overall dimensions are 2195mm (length) x 835mm (width) x 1130mm (height).
Wheelbase is 1490mm, ground clearance 125mm and the seat height is reasonably low at 795mm, making the CB1100 very manageable. Rake and trail is set at 27°/114mm. Kerb weight is 248kg; Fuel capacity is 14.6L with a 3.5L reserve.
The circular analog speedo and rev counter evoke memories of classic Hondas of old, and are easy to read. Equipment also includes a fuel gauge, clock, and a centre-stand, passenger grabrail are fitted as standard equipment.
The CB1100 will be available in three different colours:
– Pearl Milky White/Eternal Silver sidepanels
– Glory Red/Eternal Silver sidepanels
– Graphite Black/Graphite Black sidepanels
A comprehensive range of accessories are available including:
Colour coded top box with back pad
Front fork adjuster bolt (gold or red)
Chrome Meter cover
Meter panel (gold or red)
Headlight case (A chrome shroud for the distinctive single headlight reflecting the quality and individuality of a classic style re-imagined.)
Honda Genuine Accessories are developed alongside the model. They are all subject to Honda’s rigorous testing procedures and are offered with a two-year Honda warranty.
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