Honda CB1100 echoes classic superbikeComment on this story
Soichiro Honda was as much an entrepreneur as he was an engineer, but it's doubtful that he knew what he was starting when he put together the elements of the first superbike - a big four-cylinder engine, electric start and a disc front brake - in what was, by the standards of the time, a competent frame, to create the Honda CB750 Four in 1967.
Motorcycles have changed a great deal since then, as have their riders; while many still aspire to cutting-edge sports bikes, some look back at the bikes they wanted when they were young but simply couldn't afford.
Others want something that runs like a new bike, but with a classic look that blends real-world usability with a sense of history - so the company that wrote that page of the history book built the Honda CB1100.
But motorcycles are very personal things, so we'll let the man who created this one, chief designer Mitsuyoshi Kohama, take up the story.
'IT JUST HAS TO HAVE AN AIR-COOLED ENGINE'
“That's what I found myself thinking when I returned to Japan after several years in Europe. It was at this time that I started sketching a bike with each of the necessary elements separate but combining to form a perfect whole.
“And of course I was asked: ‘Why are you giving that new engine air-cooling when you know its performance won't be as good?’
“I could understand that thinking. Going with an air-cooled engine was bound to seem 'retro' to people at Honda's Asaka R&D facility, which has long favoured liquid-cooled engines in the search for maximum efficiency.
“But a lot of customers like air-cooled engines. I like the metallic sound the engine makes as it cools; a motorcycle's engine should have oil in it, not water.
“There is something about an air-cooled engine, a feeling you simply can't get from the liquid-cooled engine in a high-performance bike. I'm a biker, and a future without air-cooled engines just didn't seem right to me - and I was sure I wasn't the only one who felt that way!
“So, based on my sketch, we built a concept model of this 'illogical' bike - the CB Four - for the 1999 Tokyo Motor Show, and the enthusiastic response it received convinced Honda management I was on to something.
“The CB Four became the CB1100F concept, which we showed at Tokyo in 2007 and, eventually, the CB1100 production model.”
ECHOING THE PAST
From the outset Kohama insisted on using the word 'design', rather than 'styling', and the finished bike recalls the golden era of superbikes with a big round headlight, analogue instruments above a scalloped fuel tank (complete with the classic Honda 'wing' insignia), a long slim seat, chromed mudguards at both ends and a four-into-two-into-one exhaust.
The riding position is upright and relaxed, a perfect platform from which to watch the world glide by.
The 1140cc DOHC engine is the centrepiece of the bike; Honda quotes 66kW at 8500rpm and 93Nm at 5000, supplied by PGM-FI electronic fuel-injection through just one 36mm throttle body, which gives it a wide powerband and impressive fuel economy - 18.2 litres per 100km, according to the maker.
It also has the slimmest fins ever cast into the barrels of a Honda engine, at just 2mm apart, which meant inventing a new casting method to make them.
It's sporty, without being a sportsbike, says Kohama. It can tour, without being a touring bike. It has a classic tubular steel double cradle frame and box-section steel swing-arm, and runs on 18” silver-painted cast-alloy wheels with 41mm conventional forks and dual Showa rear shocks, each adjustable for preload.
Tyre sizes are 110/80 in front and 140/70 at the back and the combined ABS brakes feature boast dual 296mm floating discs in front, with three-piston Nissin callipers, and a 256mm disc and single-piston calliper at the rear.
Wheelbase is a tight 1490mm, and seat height a manageable 795mm, just as well since the CB1100 scales an intimidating 248kg with a full (14.6 litre) fuel tank.
Mod cons include a fuel gauge and a clock, along with very welcome old-style features such as a centrestand and passenger grabrail.
The CB1100 retails for R117900.
Engine: 1140cc air and oil-cooled transverse four.
Bore x stroke: 73.5 x 67.2mm.
Valvegear: DOHC with four overhead valves per cylinder.
Power: 66kW at 7500rpm.
Torque: 93Nm at 5000.
Induction: PGM-FI electronic fuel-injection with one 32mm throttle body.
Ignition: Digital electronic.
Clutch: Cable-operated multiplate wet clutch.
Transmission: Five-speed constant-mesh gearbox with final drive by chain.
Front Suspension: 41mm conventional cartridge forks, non-adjustable.
Rear suspension: Dual hydraulic shock absorbers adjustable for preload.
Front brake: Dual 296mm discs with three-piston floating callipers, partially linked.
Rear brake: 256mm disc with single-piston floating calliper.
Front tyre: 110/80 - 18 tubeless.
Rear tyre: 140/70 - 18 tubeless.
Seat height: 795mm.
Kerb weight: 248kg.
Fuel tank: 14.6 litres.
Price: R117 900.