Honda’s CB1000R

Motorcycle Sport & Leisure - - Contents -

Quicker than a ’Blade (to a point). Looks ter­rific. Smells of av­o­cado.

Two fac­tors are cru­cial to a bike ei­ther suc­ceed­ing or fail­ing – looks and feel. You can build the best per­form­ing ma­chine on the mar­ket, but if its aes­thet­ics aren’t up to scratch it will bomb. And by the same to­ken, if its ride is lack­ing that cer­tain spark of ex­cite­ment, it is also al­most cer­tainly doomed to fail­ure. Sadly for Honda, the out­go­ing CB1000R model man­aged to fall flat on its face on both these counts.

On pa­per there was noth­ing that wrong with the CB; it was a Fire­blade-pow­ered naked that promised to pro­pel Honda into the emerg­ing full-on su­per naked class. But far from the rip-snort­ing ride that ev­ery­one ex­pected, the CB de­liv­ered tur­bine-like power that some­how made over 120bhp feel lack­lus­ter and mun­dane. And then there was the look, which was too ‘safe’ and failed to push the boundaries or ex­cite.

With this in mind, I have to be hon­est, I wasn’t ex­pect­ing a great deal from the up­dated CB1000R and ap­proached it rather ex­pect­ing to be dis­ap­pointed

– as it turned out I was very wrong in­deed…

AT­TEN­TION TO DE­TAIL

Up close and per­sonal, you have to hand it to Honda as a tremen­dous job has been done with the CB’s styling. The mar­ket­ing waf­fle says the look is based on a ‘neo sports café’ theme, but I’m just hugely im­pressed by the classy feel and up­mar­ket im­pres­sion the new CB de­liv­ers.

Ev­ery­where you look on the bike there are lovely styling touches and ex­ten­sive use of qual­ity com­po­nents – some­thing I have to say Honda’s mod­els have been lack­ing of late. Dur­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion the Honda man claimed only six parts of the bike were plas­tic (head­light ring, two key cov­ers, mud­guard, air cleaner cover and sprocket cover) so want­ing to pick fault I looked at the valve caps – they were metal. Fair play, one nil to Honda…

I love the sub­tle de­tails such as the ma­chined en­gine cases and brushed alu­minium cov­ers, but more­over I think the whole mod­ern café racer look is fan­tas­tic. Honda has man­aged to build a bike that isn’t ‘just an­other café racer’ and in­stead has pro­duced a ma­chine that is in­ter­est­ing, cool and yet still loaded with mod­ern tech­nol­ogy such as ra­dial brakes, a sin­gle-sided swingarm and LED lights.

But styling can only get you so far; would the new CB1000R also de­liver on feel­ing and per­for­mance?

Honda’s big naked gets a neo café racer makeover for 2018, in­ject­ing a whole heap of style not to men­tion a good dol­lop of ex­tra per­for­mance…

A CHANGE OF HEART

Within just a few yards of get­ting on the CB1000R you know this bike is chalk to the cheese of the out­go­ing model. It may share the same older gen­er­a­tion Fire­blade mo­tor, but far from lack­lus­ter and flat, the mod­i­fi­ca­tions Honda has made within its cases have trans­formed how it re­sponds. This is a CB1000R that now has some se­ri­ous balls.

But, and here is the best part, through clever use of tech­nol­ogy Honda has man­aged to in­ject this wild spirit with­out re­mov­ing the bike’s user-friendly na­ture.

Hav­ing lis­tened to crit­i­cism about the CB’s flat power de­liv­ery, Honda has re­sponded by not only in­creas­ing the new model’s peak power and torque but also by fo­cus­ing on giv­ing it a kick in power in its mid-range and bet­ter ac­cel­er­a­tion. The first three gears are shorter, giv­ing ex­cel­lent ini­tial drive, while a ‘ramp’ in power be­tween 6000 and 8000rpm has been in­tro­duced. Yep, Honda has ac­tu­ally cre­ated a mini power band and given the CB a de­lib­er­ately ag­gres­sive throt­tle re­sponse! But this is where it gets even smarter.

At low revs and small throt­tle open­ings, this ag­gres­sive re­sponse could have re­sulted in a ter­ri­bly snatchy throt­tle and un­ride­able bike, but by us­ing the ride-by-wire sys­tem, the CB’s de­sign­ers have smoothed out the low end of the rev range, ef­fec­tively giv­ing you two bikes in one. When you are pulling away and rid­ing be­low 6000rpm the CB is won­der­fully gen­tle and re­fined, which is ex­actly what you want in town or when you are just cruis­ing, but get that in­line four spin­ning and its char­ac­ter changes com­pletely…

JEKYLL AND HYDE CHAR­AC­TER

The first time I let the CB off the leash I was gen­uinely a bit taken aback.

Not only does it ac­cel­er­ate with real fe­roc­ity, the en­gine even has a lovely vi­bra­tion and naughty ex­haust note that is very un-Honda like. This is a CB that is now brim­ming with spirit and is a real hoot to ride.

If you want to get your pulse rac­ing, just cog it down and go search­ing for that thrilling power band and the CB will cer­tainly get your blood rush­ing. It’s se­ri­ously fast and will hap­pily wheelie off the throt­tle in its first two gears, which is ex­actly what you want on a naked bike. I have no in­ter­est if a naked bike does over 120mph, what I want is that buzz of ac­cel­er­a­tion and thrill of get­ting to not quite le­gal speeds be­fore the wind blast be­comes too much and my neck starts to hurt.

The CB1000R more than de­liv­ers this rush. But, con­versely, should you wish to chill out a lit­tle, all you have to do is short-shift it through to the top three gears and as the revs dip the bike’s char­ac­ter re­sponds beau­ti­fully by of­fer­ing a more re­laxed ride. It’s a neat char­ac­ter trick and as you would ex­pect on a Honda, there is also some clever elec­tronic trick­ery en­sur­ing noth­ing gets too way­ward.

MOD­ERN TECH

While the CB lacks an IMU, mean­ing it doesn’t have any an­gle-sen­si­tive tech, it does have some ex­cel­lent elec­tron­ics. The ABS sys­tem works very well on the road and I was also re­ally im­pressed by the trac­tion con­trol and power modes.

You have three dif­fer­ent pre-set modes to play with and within each one you can also al­ter the level of trac­tion con­trol, en­gine brak­ing and power when the bike is sta­tion­ary.

Not that you re­ally need to, but it’s nice to know you can.

The var­i­ous modes, which are easy to swap be­tween via the switchgear, make a no­tice­able dif­fer­ence to how the CB re­sponds be­cause they di­rectly af­fect that ‘ramp’ in power, tam­ing it in the lower modes such as ‘rain’ while giv­ing you the full kick in ‘sport.’ And sur­pris­ingly for a Honda, should you opt to turn off the trac­tion con­trol in the ‘user’ mode (which stores your own cus­tom set of cri­te­ria) you can ac­tu­ally turn the trac­tion con­trol on and off while on the move. This, on a closed road, al­lows you to pull mas­sive wheel­ies on the CB! But if wheel­ies aren’t your thing, with the trac­tion con­trol turned on they are gen­tly elec­tron­i­cally cur­tailed (af­ter a pleas­ing bit of lift) be­fore it all gets a lit­tle too ex­cit­ing…

TURNED A COR­NER

To be fair, there wasn’t much wrong with the old model’s chas­sis, but Honda has cer­tainly im­proved the CB’s agility by giv­ing it a bit of a diet. While it re­mains a big­ger and heav­ier beast than the likes of some of the lat­est su­per nakeds, on the road the CB’s ex­tra weight de­liv­ers a feel­ing of se­cu­rity in bends, which again suits its pur­pose in life. This isn’t re­ally a track bike (although we did test it on a cir­cuit), it is a stylish road cruiser that rel­ishes a set of bends, but isn’t ex­pect­ing you to be get­ting your knee down ev­ery­where. Or de­mand­ing it.

Through some lovely Span­ish road the CB was a de­light to ride with a strong brak­ing set-up and planted sus­pen­sion. It’s set slightly on the firm side as stan­dard, which I liked but won’t suit every­body, how­ever this feel­ing can eas­ily be di­alled out via the ad­justers if you want a more com­fort­able ride. And while some may look at the huge hero blobs and worry about them scrap­ing, you have to be pretty com­mit­ted to get them down on the road, so ground clear­ance isn’t an is­sue. Well, not un­less you are re­ally go­ing ba­nanas.

Over­all, the CB’s han­dling de­liv­ers ex­actly what you would ex­pect, no sur­prises, a good level of agility and a qual­ity feel from its sus­pen­sion. And it is all backed up by a lovely ini­tial throt­tle con­nec­tion that en­sures pow­er­ing out of bends is a case of rolling on the gas and gig­gling as the drive picks up and you surge for­ward.

CON­CLU­SION

With the CB1000R, Honda has been quite clever in of­fer­ing rid­ers a gen­uinely dif­fer­ent take on the retro theme. You get a ma­chine that is uniquely styled with a classy and up­mar­ket feel that you ex­pect from a Honda prod­uct, not to men­tion a good elec­tron­ics pack­age, solid han­dling and user-friendly mo­tor. But by the same to­ken, get the CB’s en­gine spin­ning and it sud­denly de­vel­ops a whole new char­ac­ter with a raw ex­haust note and gen­uine feel of spirit and char­ac­ter that was lack­ing on the older model. This split per­son­al­ity po­si­tions the CB some­where be­tween the su­per naked camp and the retro one, with a foot del­i­cately placed in each seg­ment but not fully com­mit­ting to ei­ther, which could well prove to be its main sell­ing point.

If you like the retro look, and want a bit of spirit in your naked, but aren’t pre­pared to give up too many of the mod­ern bike crea­ture com­forts, try the CB1000R out for size. Its spirit and char­ac­ter cer­tainly sur­prised and de­lighted me and I’m sure it will do the same to many other rid­ers.

WORDS: Jon Urry PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: Honda

ABOVE: The Honda’s look is im­pres­sive – and al­most ev­ery part is made of metal, not plas­tic.

BE­LOW: Rid­ing po­si­tion is more re­laxed than be­fore.

ABOVE: The CB re­sponds well when push­ing on but smooths out beau­ti­fully when you’d rather take it easy.BE­LOW: Clever elec­tron­ics and sub­tle changes make the Honda’s en­gine a real peach.

AC­CES­SORIESHonda sells a large range of ac­ces­sories for the CB1000R and any­thing the + model has can be retro­fit­ted to the stocker. In ad­di­tion you can buy a 12V socket, Al­can­tara rider and pil­lion seat, wheel rim de­cals and more. ELEC­TRON­ICSThe in­tro­duc­tion of a ride-by-wire throt­tle has al­lowed Honda to add three rid­ing modes to the CB1000R – Rain, Stan­dard and Sport – plus one ‘user’ mode that can be tai­lored for en­gine power and torque con­trol. MO­TORBased around the 2006 Fire­blade mo­tor and not the cur­rent model’s. It has the same 998cc ca­pac­ity as the out­go­ing CB1000R, but has higher-lift cams, 8mm larger throt­tle bod­ies and big­ger in­let ports to boost per­for­mance. CHAS­SISNew sin­gle-sided swingarm is 14.7mm shorter than be­fore and weight bias is fur­ther for­ward to im­prove agility. Over­all it’s 12kg lighter than be­fore. Rid­ing po­si­tion is more re­laxed with 13mm higher bars and 5mm higher seat. STYLINGHonda says it de­signed the CB1000R un­der the theme ‘neo sports café.’ This means the num­ber of plas­tic parts has been sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced and a lot of alu­minium de­tail­ing has been added to give it a qual­ity feel. CB1000R +The CB1000R+ model costs £12,299 (£1070 more than the stock bike) and comes with a se­lec­tion of bolt-on ac­ces­sories as stan­dard such as heated grips, a fly­screen, seat cowl and an up and down quick­shifter.

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