There are plenty of retro bikes on the market but no Japanese offering comes across anywhere near as authentic as the CB1100.

Triumph’s current Bonneville and Thruxton models have been a huge success for the British brand and faithfully echo the 60s. Honda’s CB1100 is by far the most faithful of any attempt to recreate the charm of the 70s.

The new CB1100 has up until recently only been sold in Japan so when the machine came Down Under I was keen to get hold of a machine and put a quick 1000km on it to get my head around this latest retro bike.

Honda Australia had very little information and images available prior to the machines landing Down Under early this month. After covering nearly 1000km on the new mount over the course of the last week it is fair to say that we now know the bike inside out.

After picking the CB1100 up from Honda HQ in Campbellfield (VIC) I made a beeline for Castlemaine to meet up with photographer Stephen Piper for a shoot at the old Gaol. Even Honda Australia had no decent images of the bike so we went to extra lengths to ensure we did justice to the timeless lines of the CB1100. We hope you agree that the effort was worthwhile. However, even Stephen’s skills don’t convey the true beauty and charm that the machine exudes in the flesh.

On the road the CB1100 is not quite as deserving of such continuous strings of superlatives.

It does nothing wrong and is competent enough, just don’t expect it to perform like a modern day sportsbike and you won’t be disappointed.

The 1140cc engine is flexible and delivers good power but is no huge grunt factory, certainly nothing like the massive pull exhibited from the more contemporary CB1300 or the Fireblade like performance from the thoroughly modern CB1000R.

The CB1100 will still pull top gear from 1500rpm without grumbling but don’t expect rapid progress until a few thousand rpm later. The engine is best kept between 3500 and 7500rpm for maximum enjoyment in the hills. On the highway the mill is turning a leisurely 3400rpm at 100km/h in top gear.

Overall I would have expected the 1140cc four to have more grunt down low. No doubt it is very conservatively tuned to meet 2010 emission requirements. That’s quite a task from an air-oil cooled mill and one that sounded the death knell of Suzuki’s GSX1400.

A servo controlled flap-valve in the single muffler helps to improve emissions and reduces the acoustics. Nothing a set of flat-slide carbs and a four-into-four exhaust system wouldn’t fix!

The five-speed gearbox is slick and the hydraulic clutch light and easy to use. Final drive is via chain and a centre-stand is provided to simplify maintenance tasks.

In keeping with the period theme Honda have fitted the CB1100 with 18” rims. This old style sizing in narrow 110mm (F) and 140mm (R) widths helps provide great stability at the expense of a little agility. The only time this is really felt while riding is when adjusting line mid-corner as larger diameter rims are a little slower to respond to quick changes of direction. Don’t for one minute though think this renders the CB1100 cumbersome. The machine handles really quite well, especially in the tight cut and thrust of challenging roads and ground clearance is adequate.

When speeds increase the preload-adjustable Showa suspension does start to struggle a little, as you would expect, but keep your inputs smooth and the CB1100 provides a rewarding ride. It was more than capable of providing me with plenty of satisfaction during a spirited strop back and forth across the Mount Samaria Range above the King Valley with time to admire the magnificent views to the Australian Alps along the way. Mid corner bumps could be dealt with a little better but overall the CB1100 is quite sure-footed.

Thankfully the braking hardware on the CB1100 is nothing like that of the originals. A pair of 296mm discs are progressively clamped by Nissin four-piston calipers. Feel is good and power is easily modulated through a fairly long stroke through the lever. A light squeeze provides smooth and surefooted braking power while a firm squeeze can easily overcome the skinny front hoop. Japan also gets an ABS version of the CB1100 but that model is not making its way Down Under, no doubt due to cost concerns. ABS would have been nice on this bike, largely due to modest rubber.

On the open road the CB1100 provides a natural riding position and I never experienced any significant wind buffeting. The seat is amenable around town but after a couple of hours in the saddle it can get a little uncomfortable and some firmer padding would be welcome on long haul rides. A low 775mm seat height and low tail piece makes for easy mounts and dismounts.

I enjoyed my time with the CB1100 immensely. Much, much more than I imagined I would. Maybe I am getting old, or perhaps just a little soft in the head, but at the end of the day I couldn’t care less that it doesn’t have the massive grunt of its contemporaries or scalpel like handling. I loved every minute of my time aboard the CB1100.

The only real nuances that stand out are a limited tank range and its $15,090 price point. Returning 6 litres per 100km economy the 14.6 litre tank is only good for a 240km range to empty. A fuel gauge is thankfully provided so you can keep an eye on things. A low fuel warning flashes when there is 3.5 litres remaining. I never managed more than 185km before the fuel light illuminated. I also must question the 12,000km valve clearance inspections in the user manual. On an engine in such a mild state of tune that regimen seems onerous.

Those negatives don’t stop me wanting a CB1100 in the garage for long term keeps. It really is quite a charmer and the more I look at it and ride it the more I would like to keep it. I really enjoyed my first 1000km aboard the machine and would have liked the opportunity to cover many more kilometres aboard the CB1100. This really is a bike that adds up to more than the sum of its parts, the experience from the saddle conveys that message loud and clear. The CB1100 moved me, and that perhaps says more than the 1000 words that precede my final positive and negative assertions.

Pictorial – Fantastic images of the CB1100 out and about in Victoria

  • Specs – Honda CB1100
  • Engine – 1140cc, liquid-cooled four-stroke, in-line four
  • Bore x Stroke – 73.5×67.2mm
  • Compression Ratio – 9.5:1
  • Transmission – Five speed, chain drive
  • Seat Height – 775mm
  • Length x Width x Height – 2195 x 835 x 1130mm
  • Wheelbase – 1490mm
  • Caster – 27°
  • Trail – 114mm
  • Tyres – 110/80R18 (F), 140/70R18 (R), Dunlop D205
  • Wet Weight – 247kg
  • Fuel Capacity – 14.6 Litres
  • Average Consumption on test – 6 litres per 100km
  • Range – 240km
  • Warranty – Two years
  • Price – Expect to pay $15,090 plus on road costs

Positives
+ Gorgeous
+ Charisma that few inanimate objects manage to convey
+ Relaxing ride
+ Did I mention how good this thing looks in the flesh

Negatives
– 14.6 litre tank too modest
– More bottom end grunt would be nice
– Seat could do with firmer padding for the long haul

Honda_CB1100_Black