The 2013 Honda CB1100 could almost be from the 1980s. Or the 1970s even. Only, it isn’t – it’s a 2013 model, which, according to Honda, ‘mixes naked and classic style with thoroughly modern and engaging performance.’ And we think it’s a pretty cool motorcycle – one that we’d actually buy if we could afford to keep more than one bike in the garage.
Honda say the new CB1100 has ‘a small part of the soul of a true original – the Honda CB750 Four, a bike that has cast a long and influential shadow over motorcycling since its debut in 1969.’ That late-1960s CB750 was powered by a then-revolutionary 749cc, air-cooled, SOHC inline-four that produced 67bhp. The new CB1100 is also fitted with an air- and oil-cooled inline-four, but this one is a DOHC, fuel-injected unit and produces 88bhp and 93Nm of torque. It also does 25km/l, which as we all know is important these days.
According to Honda, ‘the CB1100 is sporty, without being a sportsbike and can tour tour, without being a touring bike.’ We kind of like that. The bike has a tubular steel double-cradle chassis, 41mm telescopic forks (preload adjustable), Showa rear shocks and 19-inch alloy wheels shod with 110/80 and 140/70 tyres. Anti-lock brakes are standard, with twin 296mm discs at the front, with Nissin 4-piston calipers. Kerb weight is 248 kilos.
“Instant acceleration has its appeal, as does modern styling that conveys the swiftness of the bike. But there’s a lot more to the path of motorcycle evolution. I found myself thinking along these lines for the first time when I returned to Japan, after several years in Europe. It was also at this time that I grabbed a pencil and quickly started sketching,” says Mitsuyoshi Kohama, Chief Designer for the Honda CB1100. “Tyres. Engine. Frame. Tank. Seat. I thought about how to craft all the necessary elements beautifully and combine them in a perfect whole. I wanted to create a beautiful motorcycle with artisan-level handiwork that's also approachable and easy to ride,” he adds.
“Going with an air-cooled engine was bound to seem ‘retro’ to people at Honda, which had long favored liquid-cooled systems in the pursuit of maximum performance. When asked to explain my choice, I could only say the reason is that a lot of customers like air-cooled engines. A motorcycle’s engine should have oil in it, not water! Just looking at the cooling fins inspires me,” says Kohama. “There is something about an air-cooled engine, a feeling you simply can't get from the liquid-cooled engine in a high-performance bike. To me, a bike rider and a bike fan, a future without air-cooled engines just didn’t seem right. And I was certain I wasn’t the only one who felt this way,” he adds.
All we can say is, we quite like the new CB1100. Unlike some other new Hondas (and the NC700 is the first bike that comes to mind in this case…) that seem to be completely devoid of any emotion or character, the new CB1100 looks fresh and clean and inviting – it’s a beguiling mix of 1970s/1980s design cues combined with modern engineering. Good work, Honda!