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.
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.
Too Early to Tell
Whether or not the CB1000R will become a staple in Honda’s lineup is yet to be determined. For 2011, dealers will have a small supply. So small in fact that those who are looking to purchase the CB will have to do so upon request. And at $10,999, it’s yet to be determined how many will actually submit that request.
Based on how well the bike handles though, and based on how unique its styling is, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the bike around for an extended period of time. We firmly believe it has what it takes to avoid the same demise that past naked bike offerings from Honda have suffered. SR
At a glance, the CB1000R to me is one of the better looking naked bikes, with clean lines and a somewhat concealed exhaust. But while I did have a nice time riding her, I was hoping — and expecting — for more. While the seat isn’t uncomfortable, there isn’t much room to move around as you have a few inches to slide back before you’re hitting the rear seat. The ergo’s were a bit tighter in the legs than I would have liked and the engine lacked a bit of power down low — although it is pretty strong on top. Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast riding the CB through the canyons, where the nimble bike works really well, just not so much on the highway. And for the cost of the CB1000R I guess I just expected more.
These past couple of months, I have ridden naked more than I would probably like to admit. Naked bikes that is. I’m not complaining though, as it has given me a great opportunity to see where these bikes stack up against each other. I have to say that the CB1000R impressed in a number of categories too. Its extremely quick steering and stable chassis make it great fun in the canyons. And its crisp throttle response and great midrange make it pleasant around town, although the footrest position makes longer rides less palatable and the wind protection had me holding on dearly when confronted with heavy wind gusts. At the end of the day, I think it’s good to see another bike added to Honda’s lineup. For me, it’s a sign that things are looking up for the industry.
During my first few miles on the CB1000R, the Honda was pushing all the right buttons: quick, revvy engine, coupled with sharp, agile handling and reasonable comfort. Everything was all sake and cherry blossoms until I hit the highway on the way to the twisties; there I found the CB to have a lot of vibration at cruising speeds, with short gearing and some probably EPA-related fueling issues causing a lot of surging at 75 mph. And then with maxed-out suspension settings in the canyons, the Honda just felt a little too numb and nervous in front when pushed. I dunno — for a $10,999 naked, I kinda like my love affairs to last a little longer than that.
2011 Honda CB1000R
+ Extremely nimble
+ Great midrange power that is easy to manage
+ Crisp throttle response at low rpm
– Soft suspension settings from the factory
– Footpegs are positioned too high for taller riders
– Fueling makes bike surge on the freeway
x You’ll either love or hate the European styling
Suggested Suspension Settings
Front: Spring preload — 3 turns out from full stiff; rebound damping — 0 turns out from full stiff; compression damping — 1 turn out from full stiff; ride height — 2mm from triple clamp to fork tube cap top
Rear: Spring preload — position 5 of 10; rebound damping — 0 turns out from full stiff
2011 Honda CB1000R
||Liquid-cooled, transverse inline four
||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl. Shim-under-bucket adjustment
|Bore x stroke
||75.0 x 56.5mm
||PGM-FI fuel injection with 1 injector/cyl. 36mm throttle bodies
||43mm HMAS cartridge fork, 4.3 in. travel; adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
||Single HMAS shock, 5.0 in. travel; adjustable spring preload and rebound damping
||Dual 310mm rotors with radial-mount four-piston Tokico calipers
||Single 256mm rotor with single-piston caliper
||3.5 x 17 in., cast aluminum alloy
||5.5 x 17 in., cast aluminum alloy
||120/70ZR-17 Bridgestone BT-015
||180/55ZR-17 Bridgestone BT-015
||25.0 deg./3.9 in. (99mm)
||56.9 in. (1445mm)
||32.5 in. (826mm)
||4.5 gal. (17L)
||484 lb. (220 kg) wet; 457 lb. (207 kg) dry
||Digital tachometer, multi-function LCD screen with digital speedometer, odometer, dual trip meter, clock, coolant temperature, mpg, average fuel consumption, warning lights for neutral, high beam, turn signals and oil pressure.
||11.13 sec. @ 123.11 mph
||60-80 mph/3.18 sec.,
80-100 mph/3.36 sec.
||36 to 41 mpg,
37 mpg average