Honda CB1100EX ‘The harder you push the CB the better it gets’
A modern retro done right
The Honda CB1100EX is a bike that can be summed up in a single word – quality. Everything about this machine demonstrates what Honda does best, and that is produce a bike that exudes a real feeling of precision, detail and not a hint of penny-pinching. So deep is the chrome, so glossy the paint and so clean the overall look, you would be forgiven for thinking the 2017 CB1100 EX was an old 1970s CB that had been through a no-expense-spared restoration. It really is that well built (aside from the irritatingly glaringly obvious throttle position sensor).
Where the Bonnie disappoints once on the open road, the CB just keeps on getting better and better thanks mainly to a genuinely surprising chassis. It may have skinny retro size 18in wheels front and rear, but they suit the bike perfectly and give it a feeling of agility in the bends. Where the Bonnie is sluggish and unresponsive, the harder you push the CB the better it gets and the more impressive it becomes. However, while a well set up chassis certainly plays its part in this impression, I reckon the new Showa Dual Bending Valve forks deserve much of the credit as they combine with the Showa shocks to deliver a wonderful ride quality.
Where bumps will have you kicked out of the seat on the Bonnie and BMW, the Honda’s Showa suspension seems to be able to soak up everything without being too wallowy. You feel the bump being cushioned and then gently dissipated away with minimal fuss and maximum comfort. It’s very impressive and a massive improvement on the old EX model. But there are a few of the old bike’s foibles that remain.
The Honda’s air-cooled inline four is a strange engine as, while it does absolutely nothing wrong and delivers a smooth and refined ride with some lovely character traits such as a nice ping while cooling and off-beat exhaust note, it has to be said it lacks a bit of sparkle, especially when compared to the BMW’S naughty boxer. But in some ways that is exactly what it should do if it is being historically authentic.
The original CB arrived at a point when riders were crying out for a smooth, relaxed, reliable and gutsy inline four rather than an unreliable bone-shaking British single or twin and that was its major selling point. In a modern context, the 2017 CB1100 EX replicates this by offering a hasslefree and smooth motor in a beautifully balanced chassis and then wrapping it all up in a bike that looks and feels pure quality, which means it is fully in keeping with Honda’s history both in terms of styling and character.
The CB almost looks like a 70s survivor that’s had a makeover Properly refined but it eggs you on to push harder