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Honda CB1000R Test Ride Review

Ride Date 24 Sep 2016

By Ren Withnell

I never wanted to ride a CB1000R. Regular readers will know I usually do around 15,000 miles per year on a CBF125 and a few more on my new CB500X. My attitude towards large capacity motorcycles is WHY!! With ever decreasing speed limits and rising fuel costs the 125 keeps up with traffic and is as cheap as chips to run. My 500 is an extravagant luxury so what is the point of one thousand cubic centimetres?

The Honda CB100R Motorcycle as seen from the front and sideOh 'eck, it's a beast!

Still...the nice people at Wigan Honda said take it out while they're having a poke around at the 500. Meh, I guess it's something different I suppose but 1000cc? Really?

Oh poop. It's massive. It's powerful. I'm gonna bin it and kill myself aren't I. I throw a nervous leg over and haul the thing upright off the stand. Strange? It comes off the stand easily and it feels like er, erm, well er, erm, like a motorcycle. OK yeah it's wider than the 125 with 4 big pistons in a row for an engine but my 5 foot 8 body isn't struggling to move it around. I switch on the beast and the clocks come to life. Oh dear. The central focus of the binnacle is filled with the rev counter and the speed counter is tucked away to the left side as an afterthought. This screams "POWER BABY! Don't worry about the speed, speed limits are for wimps and nerds!" The only problem is I count myself as a wimp and a nerd. Oh poop.

The CB100R clocks with the rev counter centre of attentionIt's all about the rev counter. Everything else is irrelevant apparently.

With the motor growling beneath me I release the clutch. Ahhh, yes of course. Think not of this as a 1000cc arm wrenching nerd killing machine, think of this as four 250cc engines strapped together. At lower revs the power is rock solid and smooth, nothing will stop the motor and the output is slick like pouring syrup through the clutch plates and transmission. Lovely. I like the character of singles and twins yet I miss the refinement and precision of a mechanically balanced four. 

I regret to admit I am impressed. Riding through the town at low revs is easy, comfortable, gentle and serene. I have to negotiate a tight mini roundabout and rather than cutting the corner I take the small circle with ease and balance. You could do U-Turns on this! The riding position is neutral and natural with the pegs, bars, controls and levers all coming to hand without thought. It takes a mile or so before I get used to seeing the speedo on the left and ignoring the big daft rev counter. 

On an empty lane at 30mph I give the throttle a flick. WOW! There's no dangerous drama rather than a rapid reminder that I'm on a big butch bike not a chicken chaser. The thrust forwards is immediate and rapid. Yet it is also manageable, in fact I'd argue it feels less aggressive than the much lower powered MT07 I rode a while back. There's no substitute for big pistons when it comes to low down grunt. What the big four brings is a never ending wave of power. Whereas the MT07 was running out of hard punch at 70mph the CB1000 just keeps on giving and giving and giving. Obviously I don't know how it accelerates over 70mph but I suspect it shoots off just as quickly as it does at 20mph. Apparently. Allegedly.

Out in the countryside on the narrow lanes I'm once again impressed. How on earth can such a big bike flick so easily and more importantly confidently change direction so well and grip so steadfastly? This thing is running on rails and goes precisely where I tell it to. The limit of the bike is not the machine itself it is I the rider, that much is blatantly obvious. The suspension is taut compared to my 125 and 500 although not uncomfortably so. It's doing a great job on these chopped up old country lanes. 

The single sided swingarm exposes the whole rear wheel on the offsideSingle sider....phwoooaaar!

You don't need to rev this engine too hard to get the best from it. At 3k there's plenty to squirt you forwards. Most earlier fours tended to come "on cam" at over 7k where as this engine only seems to get noisier. The power is spread across the range in a big usable tractable accessible manner that requires little thought or effort to find. The spread is so good I can just select one gear for almost all of this twisty lane and use the throttle to manage the speed.

Luckily the brakes are strong! I've overcooked this bend and I need to scrub off speed rapidly. With a delicate finger in the lever I slow so rapidly I'm practically at a standstill long before the bend. And again - no fuss no fluster no shimmy no squirrelling just rapid deceleration.

The six pot front brakesAnchors! Rapid and controlled deceleration. Thankfully.

It's time to stop and look at the bike.

Upside down forks - check. Two six pot callipers with ABS - that's why stopping is easy but maintenance will be a bitch. Stainless exhaust - good. Short front mudguard - it'll need a fender extender but all bikes are like that these days. Single sided swingarm - easy wheel removal and cool. No stupid rising rate suspension linkage - living proof that it's not needed for road bikes. Exposed rear shock - needs a hugger. That headlight is uuuuuuuuugly. No centre stand - I doubt it's an option either.

So what's this bike all about? To me it is a gentle giant. It's a little girl's daddy. It will sit and play dolls and ponies with her all gentle and nice then beat the living hell out of any nasty boys who upset her. You could ride this bike to work and back year round so long as you treat the twist grip with the utmost respect. You could take your partner to see the mother in law. Then when the mood takes you it is so easy to make the world go by in an incomprehensible blur and still hold on to some degree of control. I'm glad it took it out, it's been a revelation. 

For me? Nah mate, it won't do 85mpg like my 500 or 140mpg like my 125. I wouldn't hold out much hope for my licence either. 

Reader's Comments

Pocketpete said :-
Rear wheel looks amazing pity the exhaust is ugly.

Seems to be a common thread on honda the lack of hugger and short front fender.

I think it must just rain and England and no where else.
27/9/2016 2:18:53 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I don't find the exhaust offensive. It is what it is and I suspect most of them will be ditched in favour of something more in keeping with the butch and tough beast anyhow.

Front fenders are short on most modern bikes, not just Honda. Anyhow while this bike ought to work just fine in the rain most of them won't see much of it just dry sunny Sunday afternoons. You'll be able to pick these up in 3 years time with just 7 thousand miles on the clock.
27/9/2016 3:02:43 PM UTC
Alan Buss said :-
I test rode one myself. Can't disagree with anything you've said. I'd ridden Bandits for 60k+ and when it came to having to change everyone extolled the virtues of a Honda. The salesman warned me of the powerful, wheelie inducing acceleration and the poise of the bike. Granted, it did steer like it was on rails but, and thankfully it is a but, the acceleration was only as violent as the twist of the throttle. Get it moving then accelerate hard and it's like going over the brow of a big dipper, which is a playful feeling I like but only every now and then.
What I thought was, in the higher gears at low revs, compared to my old 650 Bandits it did seem unresponsive . I now have a Honda Hornet and that's exactly the same as its bigger bro.
In my opinion the 1000 is a great bike but in the days of the more purposeful & practical bike, GS'so, Tigers, V Stroms, ER6F's etc in my opinion it is a bike aimed at the rider who wants rip around on a sunny day, a bit like my Hornet which is filthy after a wet day in the Lake District
29/10/2016 9:07:45 PM UTC

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