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Honda shows roots with CB1100

18 October 2012, 10:19

Honda unveiled its classic, naked, CB1100 at the 2012 International Motorcycle, Scooter and Bike Fair in Cologne, Germany – and what a stunning bike it appears to be.

It's an exquisitely engineered mix of classic and naked styling that offers thoroughly modern and engaging performance with a timeless design.

Bike specs

Inspired by the 1969 CB750 Four (and we all know how good that bike turned out to be) the CB1100 might only make 66kW but it's found a strong following in the countries where the bike is already on sale. Despite the old-fashioned looks and lack of liquid cooling, the motor was developed specifically for this bike and is actually one of the most modern in Honda's range.

Old School Is Cool

The CB1100 is powered by an air-cooled, in-line four-cylinder engine and let's hope is makes its long-awaited debut on our shores after quickly gaining a loyal fan base in Japan and Australia.

The weight of the bike is suitably "old school" as well at 248kg wet but the centre of gravity is low and the Japanese testers tell me it feels lighter. Conventional transmission is of the five-speed variety, final drive is by chain.

Honda’s chief designer on the CB1100 project, Mitsuyoshi Kohama, said: "It just had to be an air-cooled engine… instant acceleration has its appeal, as does modern styling that conveys the swiftness of the bike, but there's a lot more to the path of motorcycle evolution.

"I found myself thinking along these lines for the first time when I returned to Japan, after several years in Europe. It was also at this time that I grabbed a pencil and quickly started sketching: tyres, engine, frame, tank, seat. I thought about how to craft all the necessary elements beautifully and combine them in a perfect whole.

"I wanted to create a beautiful motorcycle with artisan-level handiwork that's also approachable and easy to ride, Kohama continued.

Oil, Not Water

"'Why are you giving that new engine air-cooling when you know its performance won't be as good?' was a question often asked. "I had better have a pretty convincing explanation!? That's the kind of thing people said when we began the development process. And I could understand that thinking. Going with an air-cooled engine was bound to seem 'retro' to people at Honda, which had long favoured liquid-cooled systems in the pursuit of maximum performance.

“When asked to explain my choice, I could only say: 'My only reason is that a lot of customers like air-cooled engines'. I like the metallic sound the engine makes as it cools… a motorcycle engine should have oil in it, not water… just looking at the cooling fins inspires me."

Not surprising, then, that the Honda has been touted as a gentle alternative to a Bonneville, Kawasaki W800 or Moto Guzzi’s V7, so it's got to be worth considering if you enjoy your motorcycling in this way, although its true success here in South Africa will surely hang on the as-yet-unannounced ticket price.

- Wheels24


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