We were not the only ones to name the 1969 Honda CB750K as Bike of the Century when the year 2000 dawned. It is hard to overstate the impact of that machine on both manufacturers and enthusiasts. If you look at the entire CB lineage, that impact is vastly greater, of course. Honda is understandably proud, and the CB1100 introduced in 2010 in Japan (available here for the first time this model year) reflects that pride.
The 2013 Honda CB1100 we tested recently, contains an 1140cc, fuel injected, air cooled inline-four cradled by a twin loop steel frame. Its specifications include disc brakes at both ends, controlled by Honda’s Combined Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS is optional).
Compared to the 1969 CB750, the CB1100 has gained roughly 50 pounds (claimed curb weight is 540 pounds), and roughly 50% more engine displacement. Seat height (now 31.3 inches) is roughly the same, and both bikes feature a five-speed transmission.
The original CB750′s 68 crank horsepower pushed it to nearly 125 mph top speed. If it didn’t happen upon a three-cylinder Kawasaki two-stroke 500, it was the fastest thing available in its day. The 2013 CB1100 puts out a claimed 86 crank horsepower, which seems quite pedestrian when compared with modern sport machinery of similar displacement. But that peak horsepower is accompanied by a healthy 68 foot pounds of torque delivered at 5,000 rpm.
The modern CB makes do with 3.9 gallons of fuel capacity (versus 4.7 gallons in the 1969 CB750). Unlike some retro models available today, the CB1100 has 18″ wheels that make it look that much more period correct (although, it should be noted that the original CB750 had a 19″ front wheel).
The 41mm forks and dual shocks offer spring pre-load adjustment. The tires are modern radials, but they feature the narrow dimensions (110 wide in front and 140 wide in the rear) of an older machine. The U.S. market gets the single Candy Red color shown in the photos for 2013.
Sitting on the new CB1100 is comfortable with its relatively low seat height and traditional, upright rider triangle. Honda is known for well-sorted ergonomic packages, and the CB1100 puts the rider in a relaxed position of control. Despite the relatively low seat, there is a reasonable amount of leg room (something often lacking on modern machinery).
That sense of comfort and control is only reinforced when you pull away from a stop for the first time. The clutch engages very smoothly and predictably, and the strong low-end power has you effortlessly underway. Handling is surprisingly light and confident at low speeds, which we attribute to good steering geometry and the tall, narrow tires that have you quickly wondering whether modern sport machinery has sacrificed some ease in direction changes for ultimate grip with its fat rubber.
The handling is fluid, both at low speeds and as the pace increases. The big CB rolls easily on its side, but never feels twitchy or incapable of holding the line you have selected. Depending on how you carry your feet on the pegs, you may be rubbing the toe of your boot, or the pegs themselves, before you know it.
The engine is strong and linear in its power delivery, although you won’t be mistaking its acceleration for that of a modern superbike, or, for that matter, a modern 600cc supersport. Nevertheless, it has all the thrust you need, particularly around town where its low rpm torque actually surpasses that offered by most modern bikes.
The long-pull throttle softens power delivery even more, but you get used to this. The friendly, relaxed way this bike responds to your right hand is consistent with everything else about it. The brakes are strong and progressive (and several leagues removed from the single front disc, rear drum configuration in 1969). In short, this is an extremely easy-to-ride 1140cc four-cylinder machine.
It is also very pleasurable to ride . . . not in an adrenaline-laced manner, but more in the manner of a sporting cruiser. It is lighter, more nimble and faster than most cruisers, but it offers a similar, relaxed enjoyment that has you appreciating the scenery and the scent of the air.
It also has that stout unflappable demeanor that can immediately remind you of an old Honda you rode “back in the day” (such as a CB, or even an older, naked Gold Wing). The slight, but generally not unpleasant tingle sent through the hand grips can bring back memories, as well.
In addition to its ability to hustle confidently through twisty roads, the CB1100 is rock steady in a straight line at higher speeds. The lower seat helps reduce the wind blast in comparison to some other naked bikes.
The five-speed transmission always did its job, but it could feel a little clunky at times, particularly when down-shifting, which precedes fairly aggressive engine braking.
The vibration felt through the bars had me thinking about thicker grips, and even reminded me of some of the older puffed-up handgrips that were popular responses to the vibrations inherent in this engine design.
Like other large displacement standards, you could use the CB1100 for just about anything . . . from commuting to canyon carving to two-up touring. It wouldn’t be ideal for any one task, but it is capable of all tasks. Among the Honda accessories offered are heated grips and a luggage rack.
One of the most impressive things about the CB1100 is the styling. The lustrous red paint on our test unit could not be faulted, and the chrome fenders and tire/wheel profile just look right. The only thing we can fault is the gray, plastic side covers that really should be color-matched with the tank. You could also argue about Honda’s choice to anodize the tire spokes black, rather than leave them silver. Everything else about this bike looks like a properly restored, and upgraded, air-cooled CB from a different era. Parking at a coffee shop, a customer approached me and asked how old my beautifully restored Honda was. When I told him it was a 2013 model, he was shocked, but at least he had a basis for understanding how flawless it looked.
So now you can buy a flawless CB with modern brakes, suspension and tires here in the United States without going to the trouble of building one yourself from a decades old clunker, or finding the money to buy a previously restored classic. If you have been stretching your adrenal glands with superbikes of late, this might not be your cup of tea, but Honda never intended this bike to serve that purpose.
The 2013 Honda CB1100 gets all the important retro elements right, while delivering a riding experience that combines the simpler joys of piloting an older machine with enough modern performance to erase any of the annoyances of doing so. If the styling tugs at your heartstrings, you won’t be disappointed with how the CB1100 works beneath you. At a U.S. MSRP of $9,999 ($10,999 with ABS brakes), the CB1100 offers a lot of motorcycle and nostalgia for the buck. Visit Honda’s web site for additional details and specifications.