I realise that looks are subjective, but I dig it. Pics don’t do the Honda CB1000R justice as in the metal it looks so much better. The engine dominates, but the stylists have given this latest edition more of a tougher edge than previous models. Is there such a thing as stylishly butch? There is now.
Anyone who’s looking for a base for something a bit more special has a pretty great place to start. Single sided swinger, short rear overhang, the guts of a tough custom is already done if that’s your thing. There’s lots of new metal – with lashings of aluminium and, apparently, the CB1000R only has five bits of plastic bodywork. Front and rear mudguards, little rear hugger and two other bits… somewhere else I guess.
The engine electrics and pipework has been nicely hidden and it looks almost as though this engine was designed to be shown and not hidden behind fairings. All up, a neat job of packaging from the boys of the red wing.
Back to that engine. This time it’s a hefty step up from previous models. Main difference between this and the previous gen ‘Blade is a bump in compression, some nice forged pistons and a retune for more mid-range at the expense of outright power. A new exhaust that’s both lighter, louder and helps liberate more grunt doesn’t hurt either. And it’s a pearler. 143 horsepower of silky smooth grunt. It has shorter gearing compared to the Blade so makes the most of it too. Make no mistake, anything over five-grand and this little puppy hauls arse.
It’s also quicker to 130 than the Fireblade, apparently, and I don’t doubt that at all. First and second gears are dispatched in a heartbeat and third gear is nirvana on the right, smooth road. Warp speed Scotty. Bring me that horizon and whatever other cliches you want to throw about. The CB1000R lifts the front at a whim too. Ridiculous. Awesome.
The whole driveline is bloody brilliant. From the throttle feel and fuelling, to the clutch and box which seems to shift smoother than any of my old Blades did. It’s as good a thing – as a whole driveline package – as I’ve ridden in a long time. The Tokico stoppers do a fine job of pulling it up too. Plenty of power and feel without showing any signs of fading during my riding.
Like the Africa Twin I sampled recently, it comes with three pre-set ride modes – Rain, Normal and Sport, that adjust power, traction and engine braking settings. Plus a fourth ‘User’ mode allowing you to fine tune things to your liking. In the main I actually found the normal setting nearly perfect for everyday road use and commuting duties. Smooth, precise, easy.
The CB1000R is a proper weapon in traffic too. Not sure why they wouldn’t have given it a bit more steering lock though. Swapping lanes in stationary traffic becomes a three-point turn. The hot knife through butter came grinding to a halt where other bikes could get through. Bugger. I also found myself needing to fill up at 250-kilometes which was a bit too often for my liking, considering my daily return commute is almost that distance.
So… not a lot of range from that 16 litre tank then. It’s also worth noting that the rear mud guard… kinda… doesn’t. Plenty of muck turned up on my back and the whole rear end of the bike from my gravel road… Sure. It’s winter and in reality most people won’t take these off sealed roads often, but be aware. Trev took one up the snow a while ago, but then he is a bit different…
The LCD dash is nicely designed and mostly easy to read but can be tough to pick out the smaller numbers of the trip meter and fuel in the rain, as water droplets will sit on the screen.
For the first week I stuck with around town duties and the CB1000R is a fun thing, even if the suspension felt harsher than I’d have liked, particularly when I hit the odd bump and it sent it straight through to me with very little damping between me and the smack in the arse. I figured there’d be a trade-off come weekend hijinx time, so just went with it, because that engine is awesome.
I got frozen and wet to the arse a couple of times too. Who’s idea was it to test naked bikes in Melbourne during winter again Trev? Nothing a change of work clothes couldn’t sort out though. And that engine makes up for it.
Then the sun finally peeked through the clouds for a day. Birds and angels sang in harmony. I washed the bike and then rode up my gravel road at 24 km/h to try and keep it clean and finally got onto tarmac and headed straight for the coast to give it a proper workout. Right. Sport mode selected, throttle response sharpened, traction control backed off, full whack in all gears. Let’s boogie. I’d been looking forward to this for a week.
Warming up on smooth roads it was as nice as I’d hoped. Cruising down through Anglesea and Aireys the CB1000R tipped in more than willingly and felt light and nimble. Overall dimensions aren’t huge, though there’s ample room to move about on the bike, even if my right heel did snag the hefty twin outlet muffler a few times when positioning for right handers.
Speaking of the exhaust, Honda have done a nice job of liberating a decent exhaust note. That said, after hearing one with a pipe fitted, I’d at least throw a slip on if I was buying one. It sounded mad. I couldn’t NOT put one on it.
Back to the ride. Smooth roads were nice, but that suspension that felt unnecessarily harsh around town, didn’t get any better as the speeds rose on regular roads. It tied itself in knots over bumps and surface changes when really getting up it for the rent, the rear shock just wasn’t up to it. It would light up the rear without much warning or change lines when hitting small bumps or surface changes. Bigger hits weren’t very nice at all really.
Just to be clear these were ‘normal’ Victorian roads like the Great Ocean road and the Skenes creek to Forrest road. Roads I know well, but couldn’t really get comfortable on this ride. It’s such a shame as the rest of the bike deserves better. It would be amazing with a well-sorted aftermarket rear shock.
Yet there’s still one final twist in the tale. And that’s the price. At 17 grand the CB1000R bonkers cheap for what you get in terms of that sublime driveline. I wonder if it’s the best driveline you can buy for the price? Probably.
It’s cheap enough that you could get both ends dialled in properly and a slip on added to the mix for under 20K on the road. And it would then be mint. Arguably you shouldn’t have to do that on a new bike. Not in 2019. Not with a Honda. But there you have it.
I’d love to ride one that had a sorted rear end. I’d love it if Honda brought out an SP version with top shelf bits on it. That would have to give the MT-10 SP a run for the money. It arguably looks better too… In my eyes anyway.
998cc liquid-cooled inline four-cylinder, DOHC; four valves per cylinder
BORE & STROKE
75 x 56.5mm
PGM-FI electronic fuel injection
Computer-controlled digital transistorised with electronic advance
2,121 x 790 x 1,095mm
RAKE (CASTER ANGLE)
120/70 – 17
190/55 – 17
Showa Separate Function Fr Fork Big Piston (SFF-BP)
Showa Balance Free Rear Cushion (BRFC)
Two hydraulic calipers w/ 310mm floating discs; 2-channel ABS
Single hydraulic caliper w/ 256mm disc; 2-channel ABS
Wayne loves all things motorsport, but lives for two wheels. Mountain bikes, dirt bikes, adventure bikes, road bikes, race bikes, the lot.
An ex riding coach and road racer wannabe who simultaneously ran out of talent and money. Rides about a million kilometres a year and has been known to enjoy an occasional wheelie.
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