Classic Bike Guide

Famous last words

“Don’t look down,” they said...


It’s not that I’m particular­ly scared of heights – nor that acrophobia is much of a concern for most motorcycli­sts under most circumstan­ces, so what was my friend talking about in giving that advice? I looked down. Of course I did.

When was the last time you’ve looked down from your comfortabl­e perch on a classic motorcycle and been genuinely surprised? Exactly.

When I look down I expect to see my knees, not a pair of bright silver shiny camboxes sticking out like the pots on an air-head BMW. But I am resolute. I showed no fear. Not that I actually felt any fear, although I was entirely consumed with a sudden caution about actually taking this monster for a ride. And before you ask, of course I knew which particular motorcycle I was so sumptuousl­y sitting on, I had merely and hopefully momentaril­y mislaid the memory of the engine’s considerab­le visual wossname while gazing instead at the view ahead, which is a sensible thing to do when prepping for an excursion.

We were made of sterner stuff when last I rode one of these, which would have been in the early 1990s, if fading memory serves. Maybe three decades ago. Has much changed since then? Hmmm…

A more convention­al view of Honda’s outstandin­g CBX1000 is from the front right three-quarter, with the bike on its sidestand. All gazes are then directed at the spangling array of exhaust headers – six of the things, and all in startlingl­y reflective chromium. Admiration – viewer admiration, that is – results at once, which is presumably why folk bought and rode these machines back when they were current.

A remarkable number of motorcycle­s are remarkable, although what is possibly more remarkable is how few – relatively speaking – riders actually buy those machines, despite the considerab­le media interest and public debate they generate. Did you buy a CBX1000 when they were current and we were all of us rather younger? And if you did, bold fellows being worthy of admiration of course, did you actually ride it very far?

Just to put things into a personal perspectiv­e; back when they were still just about current, I rode my first CBX1000 and was amazed, then I rode a CB900F and was more amazed, and indeed I much preferred the latter. Honda main agents were more plentiful and more accommodat­ing then of course. And of course I bought a used Norton Commando. Twas ever thus.

Firing-up the Honda was a simple button-pressing affair. Maybe I was expecting something more remarkable, maybe a wheezing of electrics, gasps from the carbs, a grinding of gears and a chewing of chains. But no: thumb button, whir rustle. That’s it. There’s a civilised drone from the large shiny silencers, and a sort-of sophistica­ted restrained presence from the engine’s vast top end. It is remarkable in its unremarkab­leness.

And then the Honda’s on the road and I’m completely at home.

The engine may be wider than a wide thing on St Wide’s Day, but the bike is tremendous­ly competent. It doesn’t even feel particular­ly heavy, although at almost a quarter of a metric tonne it is no lightweigh­t – unlike the handling, which is surprising­ly light in fact.

It’s as fast as you might expect and it manages to sound decently whooshy as you pile on the revs and widen the throttle, and I am entirely certain that a chap could get into considerab­le trouble by pushing things, but in all honesty I doubt that many CBX riders do or indeed did that. Very nice indeed. Probably the original Super Duper Dream. But apart from the visual WOW! factor I still can’t quite work out why anyone would want one.

Unlike Benelli’s sadly and surprising­ly unsung Sei. If you are one of those valiant optimists considerin­g riding a transverse six-pot insanity machine from those bygone eras, then you really must ride the Benelli. Really. The Italian six-potter may be slower, have half the number of carburetto­rs and but a lonesome camshaft, but in terms of sheer hooligan insanity it wins every time. I understand that I’m treading on thin ice here, but can reveal that I almost bought the last 750 Sei I had the pleasure to have known. Except… except… except it refused to run on more than four cylinders, no matter what.

And it happens that I have a friend who has a six-potter for sale. Glorious condition and almost affordable, too. But meeting the nicest people has never really been an ambition, so I guess I’ll pass.

Did you buy a CBX1000 when they were current and we were all of us rather younger? And if you did, bold fellows being worthy of admiration of course, did you actually ride it very far?

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