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Someone Else’s Retro

After the somewhat surprising, passionate response of our readers to Honda’s CB1100, coupled with our recent observations on Triumph’s success manufacturing modern bikes that draw on its own herritage (twins and triples), I started to think about Honda finally reaching back to its own roots, rather than the roots of American v-twin manufacturers (as it does with it’s cruiser models).

Although Honda makes some nice v-twin cruisers, our readers have never responded to those the way they have upon seeing the CB1100. Honda has its own rich history and iconic models. The early naked Gold Wings (with their flat four), the CBX (an air-cooled inline 6) among others (I’m sure our readers can think of a few). Modern versions of these models might prove popular, as well. In the end, if you have the history to draw on, there is really nothing like recreating your own past.

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MD Readers Respond:

  • Hello Motorcycle Daily

    I don’t see what the fuss is about regarding the ‘new’ Honda CB1100. I’m very surprised at how so many readers are waxing lyrical and coming to tears over what appears to an 80s CBX750 given a rebore and a styling job. Even the solid disc brake rotors seem to have been retained! Seriously, how much engineering was involved in its development? The video was an excellent marketing hype job with great weasel phrases such as ‘gentle throttle response’ and so on. Didn’t Kawasaki already make something like this about twenty years ago in the form of the Zephyr 1100?

    I think Honda should to go the extra mile and develop an engine and styling package to look like the original 1969 SOHC CB750, not some boxy rehash of the 80s version. That’s what Triumph did – copying the style of the classic T120.

    You’re probably right – Honda has finally learnt to play the heritage card, Harley style – get some third rate outdated parts lying around in the factory storeroom, put them together with a new coat of paint, then perhaps sell them for a premium price with a new marketing package. Once they offload this model, THEN they might bring out the 1969 replica that the buyers REALLY wanted. Guaranteed upgrade market. Genius!  Kelvin

  • In 1972 I was a 13 year old kid on my own Honda. It was a magical time: carefree, independence, fresh air, adventure…
    Honda just made it a magical time again.

    My brother-in-law and I, both sworn off motorcycling because of lack of genuine interest in Harleys, BMWs and modern bikes, not to mention the usual spousal pressure, have just lined up to get the new CB1100 when it comes to the States.

    If the CB750 was so great, why not buy a genuine old Honda CB750 or GXS, which are still quite affordable? Because for us old riders aged 50 and above, there is one thing that’s even more important than a great, comfortable ride, and that’s a completely dependable new ride that will get us home again. When we were kids, we trusted our bikes to always get us home, so we rode anywhere we wanted whenever we could. We want to keep doing that.   Thomas

  • Hi Dirck,

    Great observations on the Honda Heritage. Honda is a great brand with a great history.

    Many dirt bike and Motocross riders/racers like me have grown up on Hondas like the XR75, Elsinore 125/250 and the CB750F.

    I loved them all, but, the two models I would buy again today are the Mini Trail 50 and the CT-70.

    They were the greatest play bikes ever made!

    I would be the first guy in line for a brand new retro street legal CT-70 with Chrome Fenders and Head Light!

    What could be better!!!

    The world doesn’t need any more V-Twins.

    We just want fun bikes with personality – preferably historically great personalities.

    Take care,  Scott

  • I think my all time favorite Honda was the mid-70’s CB400F. It was (is) an absolute jewel of a motorcycle that combined style, performance and economy and fun to make it a nearly perfect ‘fun’ bike. I deeply regret selling my red ’76 – was getting into touring and it WAS too small for 2-up over the road work. A 500 or 600 in the CB-F genre might be a very attractive starter or re-entry bike for boomers who don’t want liter + bikes.  Eric
  • I would like to respond to your short list of possible retro bikes. I would like to suggest a refresh of my first bike, a 1984 Honda Nighthawk ‘S.

    The ‘S was everything that a bike was supposed to be with little of the maintenance hassles. It was a few ccs short of perfection but the look was pure rowdiness. The brakes were awesome; the power band hit was pure adrenaline.

    Best Regards,  Allen

  • I have never seen a more tone deaf company than Honda. They are either too early and too half-hearted (GB500, V-twin Hawk GT – Which were later supplanted by the wildly successful and similar Triumph Bonneville and Suzuki SV 650 lineup) or they overinvest / overdevelop / overprice already successful models (Latest Interceptor, cruisers lineup etc..). There are LOTS of examples of committee thinking. The Ascot immediately comes to mind. God that bike “could” have been great before the committee got a hold of it.

    Even the latest retro model is late to the game. I’m sure they’ll half heartedly commit with a totally watered down and vanilla design and when sales don’t reach expectations they’ll claim that American tastes just aren’t there. Hey Honda, How about a REAL adventure bike for the US market for less than $8000. How about a REAL and street legal update to the XR600L . How about an affordable touring bike that isn’t styled to look like a toaster. How about dipping into your past an pulling out an update to your parallel twin masterpieces. Try not to look at what you did to them in the 80’s. See beyond that. Give the styling department a shakeup already!

    chirp… chirp…  Steve

  • Hello
    Personally, I think the CB1100 is beautiful, but I really think it looks a lot like the Yamaha SRX from the mid 80’s. I thought the 600 SRX single Yamaha was one of the nicest bikes I’d ever seen, but after watching the Yamaha dealer struggling to start the kick-start-only one they had, I decided not to buy one.

    If I remember correctly, the year after they stopped importing them into Canada, Yamaha added electric starters.

    If a nice “retro” SRX came into production, with modern features – electric start and EFI, I would buy one. I have no real interest in four cylinder bikes, I prefer lighter, narrower twins and singles.  Rene

  • I couldn’t agree more with your comments about recreating history. U.S. car manufacturers finally figured that out with the retro-looking but modern pony cars, such as the Challenger, Mustang and the Camaro. OK, the Camaro isn’t retro looking, but it does draw on Chevrolet’s amazing pony car heritage. When I finally let go of my aging Voyager, it will be for a Bonneville or a CB1100.  Robert
  • Kawasaki has already been retro. They sold every ZRX1100/1200 they built….and I think they would still be selling them if they were available.  Rich
  • Both me a buddy thought of the 1968 CL450 tank after first seeing the new CB1100. Took us right back to that era which of course was just as the iconic CB750 was to take the world by surprise. Those were glory years for Honda.

    I’m not sure how a bike such as the CL would fare today but they sure were fun in their day and even comparing the modest engine output to today’s bikes they sure lead to piles of smiles and new adventures.  Rick

  • Well put. I have always wondered why, if Honda is going to build
    cruisers why not stick with their 80’s V-4s. I liked those, they were
    as intimidating as a V-MAX. I believe the only reason the CBX didn’t
    do better was it scared the you know what out of most riders. I
    remember waiting in line at a Honda dealer for a demo ride when the
    original Gold Wing was introduced. Personally I don’t like Honda’s or
    any other non-Harley V-Twin cruiser because of their “me too” nature.
    I own a BMW and a Moto Guzzi. If I was in the market for another bike
    the CB1100 would be at the top of my list. I have always liked Honda
    quality, fit, finish, and technology. The CB1100 seems to have all of
    Honda’s good qualities combined with retro looks. I like it!!  — Bob
  • I’m afraid that the modern retro’s I long for will never come to be, because they were never successes in their time. The Honda GB500 and Yamaha SRX6 are the most notable of the bikes that still tempt me. Maybe Yamaha will bring the SR500 back or Honda its FT500. That would be close enough.

    Of course, if any of those bikes came to be again, the majority would say they are not powerful enough. Personally, I feel they are perfect for back-roads barnstorming.  Wayne

  • One needn’t look much further than guitars for what a draw a retro-remake is.

    The Fender Stratocaster, Telecaster and Gibson Les Paul. Take a new one off the wall and hold it next to a model from the 50’s. Not enough visibly different to really matter. Both companies are currently enjoying massive success. They absolutely revel in their heritage while advancing the design in subtle ways. The motorcycle industry(*ahem* Japan) should pay attention. Harleys are loved because they’re the Original. A CB750 redux? CB900F? A naked Gold Wing? You’re right – lots to learn from the CB1100 and Triumph’s success. With such a long heritage (bikes and culture), you wonder why the Japanese insist on mimicking someone else’s heritage.  Brett

  • Dear Editor,

    When I started riding, the biggest bike out of Honda was the CB450,
    but my paper route could only afford me a 1966 Honda 65 Sport model –
    65cc single. Those with more pocket change could afford the 90 Sport
    and many of my friends also entered the world of motorcycling on the
    Honda 50 Sport, the Yamaha 80, or the Suzuki 80.

    If the motorcycle makers want to get more people riding, I think they
    need to offer these sporty small bikes again, to attract the young
    guys who won’t consider a scooter, or can’t afford the price of a
    CBR125. Get back to some simple, economical, sport styled bikes and
    develop a future market for the bigger machines.