WORDS: Ben Purvis
PHOTOS: Honda and Anonymous
Honda’s CB1100 concept was the star of the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show and the production bike it spawned has been a hit in Japan since going on sale in 2010. But the rest of the world can only admire it from afar, as Honda has chosen not to offer the bike in other markets.
This absence seems especially puzzling in America, where the original CB750F, 900F and 1100F of the early 1980s were extremely popular motorcycles. These four-cylinder sportbikes for the masses were the quintessential UJMs, with a classic standing that has never been in doubt. With retro style seemingly always in fashion—witness the enduring appeal of pseudo-‘60s musclecars like the Camaro, Mustang and Challenger—it seems like Honda might be missing an opportunity by not offering the CB1100 as a worldwide model.
This might change soon, however. Spy photos, snapped high in the Austrian Alps, show an international version of the CB1100 undergoing testing, and it’s understood that modifications are being made to suit American regulations as well. Apart from the tail pack, stuffed with data-logging equipment and trailing umbilical wires, there appear to be few changes from the existing specification. Additional exhaust sensors suggest the engine is being retuned to meet different emissions regulations, while what appears to be a rapid-prototyped plastic taillight mount looks to raise the lamp a fraction of an inch to meet some nitpicking European or American law. With similar standards between America and Europe, once the European regulations are met it will be easy for the bike to transfer stateside, too.
Honda’s CB1100 is the only four-cylinder, air-cooled motorcycle currently in production, with an all-new engine designed at a time when most other manufacturers had given up on air cooling. The normal problem with the air-cooled inline layout is that the middle two cylinders run hotter than the outer pair. Honda’s solution is to cleverly route air not just around the engine but also through holes running under the camshaft tunnels and between the cylinders to even out the temperatures and allow modern (read: tighter) running clearances.
The fuel-injected, 1140cc engine isn’t superbike-spec by any stretch, making just 87 horsepower. At 544 pounds ready-to-ride, in part due to an old-school, steel-cradle frame, she’s no featherweight. But reviews from Japan and Australia (where the bike has also been on sale since 2010) reveal it to be a charming pseudo-cruiser, with capable Showa suspension, modern ABS braking and a relaxed appeal that will satisfy riders wanting something similar in concept but more substantial than the Triumph Bonneville or Moto Guzzi V7 Sport.
American Honda, of course, is mum on the topic, citing the old prohibition against commenting on “possible future models.” It’s perhaps no coincidence, however, that American Honda officials were spotted at the recent Motorcycle Sport Touring Association’s STAR 2012 gathering in Avon, Colorado, in late June with a pre-production CB1100 in tow, soliciting comments from prospective buyers. Reaction was reportedly positive.