The heat shields on the underseat...
The heat shields on the underseat exhausts do a great job: we never felt them more than warm to the touch, and passengers never noticed excessive heat. Attaching luggage takes a bit of creativity, though.
Hopefully, your daily dredge doesn't include any freeway action, as you'll be less than enamored with the 919 in that context. The seating position is fine, and the seat itself is quite comfortable. For longer distances, however, the seat is a bit hard, and its forward slope means you can't move around all that much. The mirrors provide a good view although we'd much prefer rectangular units for a wider shot of what's behind. It's the buzziness in the handlebar and footpegs that kicks in just before 5000 rpm-about 80 mph-that, combined with the windblast at those velocities, will tire you out quickly.
On the plus side, the passenger seat-while not looking all that spacious-is quite comfortable. While we were initially worried that the high-mount exhausts would cause trouble with luggage or a passenger's legs, we never felt the exhausts' shields more than warm to the touch. There is a substantial amount of heat from the engine, which at lower freeway speeds is directed at your legs. Oddly enough, it added no warmth on cooler days, but was noticeable with temps in the 70-degree range and above. With a fairing (and Honda plans to offer a small flyscreen and centerstand as options) you could take the 919 on an extended journey, but it wouldn't be our first choice.
We'll digress momentarily and discuss the 919's suspension, as you're sure to be wondering why it's nonadjustable. We did too-and we still are. The componentry itelf-a cartridge fork and remote-reservoir shock-is of good quality and works surprisingly well over a variety of surfaces. The damping settings Honda has chosen are a nice compromise. Our lighter staffers found the suspension worked nicely in smooth twisties, but was too stiff for freeway expansion joints or rough canyon work. And conversely, heavier staffers (which we borrow from Motorcyclist as they have plenty to go around) found the settingsfine for the freeway, but too soft for serious sportiness. We're happy with the boingers, but it's the lack of adjustability that leaves us that little less eager to take the bike on a long trip, and a bit reluctant to take it on a serious sporty ride.
Bust a move
Back to the business at hand. On twisty pavement, the naked Honda is back to being a fun bike to ride. It's happiest on tighter, second- and third-gear sections of road, where the midrange grunt can be used to squirt from the exit of a turn and the powerful brakes-with excellent feedback-can scrub off that speed easily for the entrance of the next. The light steering has the bike eager to change direction, although if you're too forceful with the handlebar the bike will show its displeasure by wallowing on its suspenders. Rolling whoops bother the 919 less than some sportbikes we could name, but sharp-edged bumps will see the bike's tires leaving the pavement, and you'll be running wide if there's a series of small stutter-bumps.
We liked the simple tachometer...
We liked the simple tachometer (with inset temperature gauge) but the speedometer is a bit crammed to quickly judge speed. This view-no fairing, and the closely spaced fork tubes-makes the whole bike seem smaller than it actually is.
Now I wonder why.... As delivered,...
Now I wonder why.... As delivered, our CB900's chain adjuster was near the very rear of its range. The bike turns much quicker than its 57.5-inch wheelbase would indicate.
Our 919 came shod with Michelin Hi Sports, which provided stunning grip on smooth pavement, and make touching down the curb feelers a regular occurrence. While the Honda has ample midrange for canyon work, you'll be wishing for a bit more of a top-end rush on faster sections, as power fades off quickly after about 6500 rpm. Trying to eke more steam out of the boiler room by spinning the motor relentlessly nets decreasing returns-handlebar vibration at higher revs soon tires you out, and the engine just doesn't pull like it does down low. Additionally, the fuel injection-fine in that broad sweet spot between 2500 and 6000 rpm-becomes quite abrupt in the off/on throttle transition. No, the 919 is definitely at home ridden smoothly in a tight canyon, with the pace backed down just a hair from all-out.
The 919's nonadjustable suspension and lack of fairing-omissions which are not really reflected in the bike's price-significantly narrow the bike's focus from an all-around mount. As a streetfighter though, the 919 is stunning. It makes the daily commute fun, and willingly partakes in any antics you may occasionally perform. That Honda chose to give the bike a decidedly sporting bent only endears it to us further, meaning this is one bike that we'll have to keep for a while.