Suspension settings from the factory are on the soft side, and were likely designated for smaller European riders riding on rough European roads. Large potholes in Los Angeles’ finest roads had our 180-pound test riders crying out for mercy, as the shock compressed and sent every bit of that energy through their backs. Fortunately the CB’s HMAS rear shock is adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping. Although we ended up maxing out the rebound adjuster, we were able to get a much more desirable feel from the shock. Up front, the story read pretty much the same. The 43mm inverted HMAS cartridge fork was initially very soft, allowing the CB to pogo over even the smallest bumps. Unlike the shock though, the unit is fully adjustable for spring preload, rebound and compression damping. Towards the end of our stint with the bike, we ended up at — or near — full stiff on each of the clickers, an indication that heavier riders may be somewhat out of luck when trying to set the bike up for their weight. As set up though, the bike works well for our test riders, with ample compliance to absorb surface street bumps with ease, yet enough damping to handle spirited passes through the canyons.
Based on its handling and steering, it’s hard to believe that the CB features the same 100mm of trail as its ’07 CBR sibling and an average, 56.9-inch wheelbase. The narrow, 5.5-inch rear wheel assuredly plays a big role in how quick the bike steers. But what we found really surprising was how influential the bike’s wide bar is; the bike transitions from side to side at an instant’s notice, with the handlebar providing enough leverage to navigate the tightest canyon roads with little-to-no effort. The CB’s purpose-built single-backbone aluminum frame deserves praise as well. Its thin-wall construction is lightweight, but provides enough strength to keep things stable once the bike is tipped over on its side. You can’t fault the linear steering qualities of the Bridgestone BT-015 tires mounted fore and aft either, although feel from the tires is somewhat vague when accelerating through the corner. In the canyons the relatively high footrest position we were once concerned about ended up benefiting us, and ground clearance is seemingly a non-issue.
Stand the CB1000R up as you exit the corner, roll onto the throttle and you will see that the bike has enough top-end power to make quick work of any straight section of road. The power is provided in a smooth, linear fashion too, without the strong hit that most of today’s literbikes are known for — reducing the chances of newer riders scaring themselves too bad. From 5000 rpm, revs don’t exactly build with haste, but the 998cc engine pulls hard all the way up to its 11,000 rpm rev limiter.
Getting the CB1000R slowed is relatively easy, with the four-piston Tokico calipers biting on dual 320mm rotors to provide adequate stopping power. And while the brakes require you grab the lever with some force, the overall feel is very linear. No anti-lock brakes for the American model though, despite the fact that ABS is an option in other countries.
The CB's mirrors are deemed...
The CB's mirrors are deemed relatively useless on the road, unless you enjoy checking out your biceps. On the freeway, vibes through the handlebar make them even more difficult to see out of as trailing cars become little more than a blur.
On the freeway, the CB1000R isn’t as at ease. While that surplus of power makes accelerating past cars an easy task, the bike’s tendency to get nervous over even the smallest imperfections in the road is somewhat alarming. General consensus between the test riders is that a steering damper would be a welcomed feature in these situations. A rather firm seat makes longer commutes a little daunting, and the vibes that get transferred through the handlebar at around 5000 rpm render the mirrors (which are already hard to see out of) relatively worthless. It’s important to mention that, while obtrusive, the vibes from the CB1000R at freeway speeds are minor in comparison to the vibes from the Kawasaki Z1000, perhaps the CB’s closest competitor.
Wind protection is on par with most of the other naked bikes we have tested this year. The feel when confronted with extreme headwinds is best compared to that of the Yamaha FZ8, which features a similar triangulated headlight. At cruising speeds especially, the windblasts emanating off the front cowl are manageable, but it becomes a chore to hang on once speeds creep past the 75 mph mark.
Our only other major concern with our test unit was the bike’s tendency to surge at highway speeds, an issue that can’t be avoided even when excessively steady with the throttle. The problem seemed to be caused by imperfect fueling, and could likely be eliminated by an aftermarket fuel module, should consumers have the same problem. Despite a rather pessimistic fuel gauge, the CB1000R gets sufficient fuel mileage. We were consistently able to get upwards of 40 mpg when commuting, and when ridden aggressively, the bike still achieved a reasonable 35 mpg. Stop at the gas pump to fill up, and prepare to be frustrated. An absolutely pointless bar just millimeters below the gas cap won’t allow you to fit the gas nozzle in the tank. It’s not a big deal, but it sure does get annoying.