HONDA RE­VAMPS ITS ‘PROPER MO­TOR­BIKE’

The Herald Magazine - - DRIVE - GARRY SCOTT Loan bike from Vic­tor Devine, Hy­de­park Street, Glas­gow, 0141 225 8100. The CB1100RS is £11,139 and the EX is £10,765

‘NOW that’s a proper mo­tor­bike.’ It’s hard to ar­gue with my fa­ther-in­law’s ver­dict on Honda’s re­vamped CB1100RS. It has two wheels, a seat and han­dle­bars. That’s it. There’s no fair­ing, no ad­ven­ture-style beaks, no dig­i­tal dash with a bliz­zard of set­tings to con­fuse the un­wary rider. In short, the air-cooled four-cylin­der Honda looks like al­most ev­ery mo­tor­cy­cle did in the 1970s and into the 1980s. The dif­fer­ence is, of course, this retro, mus­cle bike, café racer-in­spired ma­chine prom­ises to han­dle and stop as well as it goes. And that’s what I’m aim­ing to find out.

But let’s go back to the start of the day when I pick up the bike at Vic­tor Devine. It’s rain­ing – well, it is Au­gust in Scot­land – and I have al­ready felt the rear wheel on my Tri­umph Day­tona slid­ing on a greasy Go­van round­about.

There are two ver­sions of the CB1100. The EX comes with spoked wheels, higher han­dle­bars and tra­di­tional Honda colours, in­clud­ing a ver­sion with a yel­low tank that re­minds me of the old 400x4. The top of the range RS has chunky up­side Showa forks and re­mote reser­voir twin rear shocks, ra­dial To­kico brakes and 17-inch wheels in place of the EX’s 18. There are twin ana­logue chrome di­als for the speedo and rev counter, with an un­der­stated LCD dis­play for fuel and the gear in­di­ca­tor.

Both are splen­did look­ing ma­chines. Honda has pushed out the boat and ev­ery­thing about them whis­pers class. The lus­trous paint and qual­ity fas­ten­ers look like they’d re­pel the worst of the Scot­tish weather and the welds on the swing arm are al­most works of art. The rear lights are chrome, with rub­ber seals – none of that plas­tic shiny junk that dis­fig­ures other some man­u­fac­tur­ers’ retro ma­chines.

Throw­ing a leg over the saddle, the first thing I no­tice is the seat height. At 795mm most peo­ple will be able to plant both feet firmly on the ground – which is just as well, as it’s not a light bike at 252kg.

I turn the key and the en­gine purrs into life with a pleas­ing rum­ble as I head off into the gloom, wary of Glas­gow’s wet, diesel-soaked roads and the pos­si­bil­ity of drop­ping this beauty. This is a Honda, how­ever, and it takes care of me in the way only a Honda can. The big CB cuts through the city with­out any fuss. The en­gine, the first big air-cooled power plant pro­duced by Honda in 20 years, is smooth and the fu­elling is per­fect. There are no nasty sur­prises or jerk­i­ness. I fil­ter through a traf­fic jam on the Ersk­ine Bridge, the bike has plenty of road pres­ence and the low seat height gives me confidence that I’ll be able to han­dle any sud­den dra­mas if or when a dozy driver pulls out on me.

The road starts to dry as I hug Loch Lomond and I wind it up a bit. The power is tur­bine-like and, although the 1140cc ‘only’ pro­duces 88bhp, it’s plenty for fast, safe over­takes. It has char­ac­ter, too, and is vibey around 4000rpm.

I take a right at Cri­an­larich and the road is mer­ci­fully free of tourist traf­fic and these sort of flow­ing A roads make the Honda happy. I want to try it out on a B road so take the B824 from Doune that runs past the statue to SAS founder David Stir­ling. It’s a twisty 10 miles or so and I’m sur­prised how easy to han­dle the big CB is there.

Then it’s on to the M9. I get a head and shoul­ders work­out but it’s per­fectly pleas­ant and it would be no hard­ship han­dling a few hours of this. Back in Glas­gow, a van driver gives me the thumbs up. I reckon he thinks it’s a proper mo­tor­bike, too.

The re­vamped CB1100RS looks, feels and be­haves like a Honda al­ways should

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