The CB1000R isn’t Honda’s first literbike-inspired naked offering. Not even close. Pared down, tuned-for-the-street motorcycles have long since filled the Japanese manufacturer’s model-year brochures. A void was created in its lineup though when the 919 was prematurely pulled from production several years back. And given the American consumer’s general lack of interest in the naked bike category, it’s no surprise that Honda didn’t immediately set out to fill that space. Perhaps it has seen a shift in sales though, or change in trends, because for 2011, Honda has finally chosen to bring to the U.S. market the CB1000R, some four years after it was introduced to the European market. Better late than never, right?
Unfortunately, the CB1000R’s recent arrival onto American soil was about as exciting as a trip to the dentist. No press intro was held. No big hoopla was made. And we were left little opportunity to get acquainted with the bike, although we couldn’t wait to get our hands on one — after all, we are always complaining about how the Europeans get all the cool bikes. When a test unit finally arrived on our doorstep like a baby from a stork, we hurriedly threw the key in the ignition and rode off, curious as to whether or not the bike has what it takes to avoid the same demise as Honda’s previous naked offerings.
Literbike Performance Meets European Style
The CB's European-inspired...
The CB's European-inspired triangulated headlight helps give the bike its sleek, futuristic look, but we still can't help but reminisce on old Star Wars movies when we look at it. "Luke, I am your father."
In typical naked bike fashion, the CB1000R features little-to-no bodywork. In fact, between the bike’s left and right shrouds, you probably still wouldn’t have enough plastic to splint a single side panel of a CBR1100XX. The focal point of the CB1000R is the engine then, which has been culled from the ’07 CBR1000RR. That’s not to say that the bike’s European-inspired headlight won’t grab your attention. Its Darth Vadar-esque triangular design is quite different than anything we have seen in the past from Honda, and the seven-bulb LED position light adds some Euro flare to the Japanese bike. In terms of fit and finish, the CB is as we have come to expect from Honda. Simple, easy-to-use switches do their best to not clutter the wide, tapered handlebar, which is color-matched to the bike’s front fork. Out back, the sleek tail section adds to the bike’s compact design, as does the narrow tank.
As is common treatment for an engine being used in a street-oriented naked bike, the CB1000R’s engine has been reworked for more torque and horsepower in the midrange and bottom end — read “tuned for the street.” Bore and stroke numbers are 75 x 56.5mm, identical to those of the ’07 CBR, but part numbers suggest the CB1000R runs different camshafts and valves. The compression ratio has been dropped from 12.2:1 to 11.2:1 and smaller 36mm throttle bodies replace the CBR’s 44mm examples. Fitted to the reworked powerplant is a semi-underslung 4-into-1 stainless steel exhaust system similar to what you would see on both the CBR600RR and CBR1000RR. Unlike some of the more gawky mufflers fitted to today’s sportbikes, the CB’s muffler is easy on the eyes. Plus, it emits a healthy exhaust note that is not too obnoxious, but not too subdued at the same time.
The 2011 CB1000R runs a single-sided...
The 2011 CB1000R runs a single-sided swingarm that the manufacturer claims was developed with information gathered from the examples used on its endurance bikes. Also mounted out back is an HMAS shock with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping.
In the chassis department, the CB1000R is drastically different than both CBR models. Setting it apart most is its single-sided swingarm and unique four-spoke wheels. A die-cast aluminum mono-backbone frame and HMAS suspension components are designed to aid in the bike’s handling, and the tall tapered handlebar to provide a more comfortable riding position. Engineers felt a mass forward design would be best for the CB. That said, a narrow seat and short, compact tail was incorporated. Both position the rider in a forward seating position. Saddle up and you will see that the overall riding position is very upright, as you would expect from a bike intended to compete with the Kawasaki Z1000 and Triumph Speed Triple. The footrests of the CB are mounted rather high and rearward. While not extremely uncomfortable, it’s fair to say that the units were not designed with riders over six feet in mind. The reach to the handlebar is palatable, though, and the moderate 32.5-inch seat height is not too obtrusive for those short in the inseam. Everything else seems to be well positioned and well designed. For instance the adjustable brake and clutch levers are easy to reach, and both have a light feel that makes them easy to operate.
The Honda’s all-digital gauge cluster is drastically different than the LCD/analog combinations we have grown accustomed to over the years. The more futuristic three-screen unit offers a bar-graph tachometer, plus digital displays for speed, temperature, odometer, trip meters, instantaneous and average fuel consumption, and time. At first glance, we were impressed with the display — perhaps deceived by its modern design. As we made our way down the road though, we quickly remembered why we lust for digital readouts rather than love them. Any amount of glare from the sun makes reading the provided information a chore, and it wasn’t until the sun went down and the blue backlighting came on that we could make sense of the display at a glance.
The CB's all-digital instrument...
The CB's all-digital instrument display gives the bike its modern look, but similar to the digital readouts on other models, the display is difficult to read when any amount of glare hits it. At night, the display's backlight makes it easy to read at a glance.
Four-piston calipers bite...
Four-piston calipers bite on dual 320mm rotors up front. While the initial bite is adequate, you are forced to grab the lever with some effort before being rewarded with decent braking forces.
Fitted to the bike's four...
Fitted to the bike's four spoke wheels is a set of Bridgestone BT-015 tires. The tire aids in the bike's quick steering, which also benefits from having a narrow 5.5-inch rear wheel. A CBR-inspired 4-into-1 stainless steel exhaust system exits the "reworked" '07 CBR1000RR powerplant.
What we can’t whine about is the CB1000R’s performance around town. Designed to excel on Europe’s tight, rough roads, the Honda has an extremely crisp throttle delivery and steering that allows you to go from upright to max lean almost without effort. The relatively small throttle bodies make it easier to modulate the throttle at lower rpm, and spot-on fueling in the lower rpm makes neighborhood speeds more than welcome on this literbike. The light feel from the clutch lever makes leaving from a stoplight effortless, and the hiccup-free, close-ratio six-speed transmission provides effortless gear shifts. The bike’s expansive powerband and increased midrange means you aren’t constantly searching the gearbox for the proper gear either. Vibes are almost nonexistent at low speeds, and the bike cruises at a mere 4500 rpm while running an indicated 45 mph. Around 5000 rpm is where you can really feel the changes that have been made to the CBR-derived powerplant, with the improved midrange making it easy to accelerate past cars when need be.