Practical Sportsbikes (UK) - - CONTENTS - Words: Si­mon Har­g­reaves | Pic­tures: Gareth H

Big sixes in full swing. And you can see the at­trac­tion. If you didn’t want one be­fore...

In the late 1970s, Honda’s CBX1000, Kawasaki’s Z1300 and Benelli’s 900 Sei show­cased the fac­to­ries’ de­sire to go big and go mad. The big­ger (and wider) the bet­ter. To­day, the trio of sixes re­main a won­der­ful high-wa­ter mark of ex­cess

Never mind the qual­ity, feel the width. Come on, ad­mit it: it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble, even as the grown men we are to­day, not to sur­rep­ti­tiously si­dle up to a Honda CBX1000, Kawasaki Z1300 or Benelli Sei (on the rare oc­ca­sions we spot them) and count the head­ers un­der our breath, trans­fixed by the rows of chrome tubes like hyp­no­tised school­boys. we’ve seen church or­gans with less im­pres­sive ar­rays of pipework, right?

The Honda, Kawasaki and Benelli sixes sprang from a 1970s decade of ‘any­thing goes’ en­gine de­sign, which saw un­prece­dented me­chan­i­cal ex­per­i­men­ta­tion as bike man­u­fac­tur­ers sought to out-ex­cess their ri­vals. If a lu­di­crously large and pow­er­ful mo­tor could be pack­aged in a dou­ble cra­dle frame with a wheel at each end, some­one, some­where, would surely build it. And so they did. Honda had six-cylin­der pre­vi­ous in racing, with the 250cc RC166 and 297cc RC174 of 1966 and 1967. So when, in 1975, Honda laid out plans for the CBX1000, the dou­ble over­head cam, 24-valve en­gine de­sign drew on ex­ist­ing tech­nol­ogy.the 1047cc six, re­leased in 1978, was Honda’s sports flag­ship.at a claimed 105bhp, Honda said it was the most pow­er­ful pro­duc­tion en­gine. And at 139mph, it was also the fastest.

Not for long. also re­leased in 1978, Kawasaki’s Z1300 sported a wa­ter-cooled two-valve in­line six mak­ing a mon­strous 120bhp, which com­fort­ably out-mus­cled and out-weighed the CBX. Mean­while Benelli, like Honda, had six-cylin­der pre­vi­ous in the shape of 1975’s 750 Sei. Ex­pen­sive and com­plex, in 1979 the sin­gle over­head cam mo­tor got bored and stroked to an 80bhp 906cc, and which com­pleted the late 1970s’ line-up of in­line sixes; bikes that stretched en­gi­neer­ing and chas­sis de­sign (as well as smiles, credulity and bell-bot­toms) to the ab­so­lute limit.

And so now it’s time to em­brace our in­ner schoolboy, and find out what the sixes feel like to­day.

US im­port Benelli in black and white looks mighty fine

1979 BENELLI 900 Sei MKIV 1979 KAWASAKI KZ1300A1 1982 HONDA CBX1000-C

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