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2017 Honda CB1100 EX: Smooth Ride From New Front Fork

We will have multiple articles on our 2017 Honda CB1100 EX test bike, but we wanted to provide a quick first impression on the new front end settings.

When Honda announced changes to the CB1100, it identified two new models, including the RS and EX. We were not sure the EX model, which is now in the U.S., would get the Showa Dual Bending Valve fork slated for the sportier RS. Fortunately for the U.S. market, this impressive new fork is included (albeit, with 41 mm fork tubes, rather than the 43 mm found on the RS in other markets).

Our first ride on the big, classic Honda underscored how much this fork, together with a revised lower triple clamp, improves front end suspension compliance and damping. It doesn’t hurt that the wheels are 18″ in diameter with steel spokes. Together, this package offers an extremely smooth, controlled performance, which works well with the twin Showa rear shocks.

Honda has a history of finding excellent compromise settings on non-adjustable forks (ride just about any older VFR, for instance), and the new suspension on the CB1100 EX is consistent with this. Only spring preload adjustment is available.

This kind of attention to detail (e.g., the lower triple clamp, which was redesigned and slightly re-positioned to improve front-end compliance) is found throughout the 2017 model. One ride on this bike reveals just how smooth and refined the whole package is.

Regardless of what you think about the CB1100, which trades a flat torque curve (with generous thrust from just above idle) for the arm-ripping top end found on other bikes, this is one impressive motorcycle that reflects Honda’s respect for its inline-four heritage. Much more to come.

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80 Comments

  1. mickey says:

    I’ll tell you the problem with the CB1100. With new bike sales being what they are, Honda dealers are practically giving them away. That in turn hurts the used market…. great if you are buying, horrible if you are selling. We have seen new leftover 2014 6 speed CB1100s being sold at dealerships from $6995-$7495. This is an unbelievable bike for that kind of money. I mean that is NC700X money.(and in turn extremely low miles used units around $4995-$5500.) Incredible.

    Of course the CB’s aren’t the only ones taking a hit. I have seen unbelievable bargains on new 2016 Suzuki Bandit 1250’s, on new Vstrom 1000’s, on new VFR 800s, on new CTX 1300’s (friend just bought one new the other day under $7K)

    It’s a buyers market these days.

    • todd says:

      I’m wondering if that is just a regional thing. Dealers here in the SF Bay Area do not discount nor do they ever seem to have a floor model of popular bikes. They always tell me they have “pre-sold” their “allotment”. Can’t. They just ask for more or transfer from the shops that aren’t selling?

      • mickey says:

        Well it would make sense that dealers aren’t as desperate where they can sell to a base that can ride for 12 months of the year unlike back here in the midwest where we have winters with ice and snow and freezing temps that stop most riders. I ride 12 months of the year but the average rider here puts their bike up in October or November and doesn’t get it out again until late March or April.

      • Mark says:

        California emmisions laws prohibit that

    • Motorhead says:

      The day may soon come when dealerships must sell bikes at razor-thin margins to the dwindling number of bikers, and earn their real money on accessories and repairs. If that is the case, expect to see “lifestyle” bikes that come with after-market options, and dealerships hosting clubs and rallies, charitable events and bikini bike washing days. But low priced bikes. Also expect to see low inventories, so that one isn’t stuck with leftovers from 2014 or 2016, as written above.

    • Selecter says:

      One dealer in Fargo has CB1100s from 2014 for $5999, plus I believe $100 doc fee. No tax or license fees for out-of-state buyers, you’d pay that in your own state. A dealer in Wisconsin has them for $6399 plus about $100 for doc, same story on TTL. They’re practically free.

      Speaking of NCs, those are also at blowout prices. $4500-$5000. CTX700s? Even cheaper – $3500 for naked ones, $4200 for faired ones. Pretty wild pricing.

  2. Joe T. says:

    Great looking motorcycle! This is what motorcycles are supposed to look like!

  3. MIGUEL ZEDRX says:

    I don’t care about the technical issues with this bike. I got on the Japanese accessory websites and love the crazy cool retro 1/4 fairings and old school solo seats they have. Now that makes me all tingly in my secret place!

  4. Norm G. says:

    MURGUEZ…!!! (on pole ahh-gin)

  5. Mr.Mike says:

    Nice to see motorcycle and automotive manufacturers recognizing the market for classic designs. Design innovation is great but sometimes designers truly nail it and there’s no reason to lose the option to buy great designs just because time moves on.

  6. Scottie says:

    Love this bike, but at 6’2″ and 210, it just doesn’t work for me. Yesterday I saw a rather small guy on an M108 and that was silly too. Ride bikes that fit.

    • Tim C says:

      I’m 6’2″ and 170 and looked pretty funny on my Ninja 250. Guess what, I couldn’t see it from the bars and I still miss that bike.

      • Mr D says:

        I’m 6’2 and 210 and looked probably worse on my Kz 200. I have to agree on the rest of your comment, funny how most of your fondest memories of riding usually involve your most gutless bikes……well, other than seeing myself driving past a mirrored window building. “egad! now I know why that random person yelled out “nice bike buddy!”” So, other than those odd yet amusing moments it was great to bomb around with.

    • todd says:

      I’m 6’3″, 180 and these things fit like a glove. Even the Ninja 250 like Tim C suggests is a fine fit for us tall-ish people. What do you need, a Bohmerland, Amazonas, or a Boss Hoss?

    • Norm G. says:

      i’m 6’1″ and 280. hey hey, quit looking at my gut…!!!

      Q: What do you need, a Bohmerland, Amazonas, or a Boss Hoss?

      A: boss hoss TRIKE.

  7. Fred M. says:

    The CB1100 EX doesn’t do much for me, but I’m glad that it’s here for everyone who does like it. Ride safe.

  8. 5229 says:

    That is one gorgeous motorcycle. And having the ridden the CB1100 on occasion it is one fine bike to ride. And what is all this chatter about valve adjustment? Unless your banging the rev limiter, never change the motor oil and run dirty a air filter the valves will not need adjustment.
    My trusty 919 has 66,000 miles on it and the valve cover has never been removed. Starts, sounds and runs fine. I’m sure the CB1100 will offer the same if not more reliability and low maintenance.

  9. Doc says:

    The 750 Nighthawk of ’91-99 had a redline of 8500 if I remember correctly. The Nighthawk S on the other hand turned 10,750. The 650 Nighthawk came out first though in ’83 and used the same basic engine. Believe its redline was 10,000. Kawasaki promised a 650 in 1977 that would run with the 750s of the day but the KZ650 fell short. Hell it was slower than the original K0 model Honda. But the 650 Nighthawk was a hot rod. It would run with 750s. As far as styling, I never get tired of looking at my ’13. Silver side cover? So what. I like it. Tank seams? Seriously? I don’t even think about it. And personally I think the lines of mine are very close to maybe the best looking UJM ever made, except for ’81 CB900F I owned, the CB400F of 75-76 vintage. The ’13 is also faster, weighs less, makes more power and cost less than a T120 Bonneville. One last thing. The bike is electronically limited to 110 mph. I’ve read with limiter modified they day do somewhere north of 125.

  10. Josh says:

    I have a 2014 CB1100 that I am working on making more like the early 80’s bikes I grew up around.

    Once of the modifications I have done is to purchase and install the new ’17 SDBV forks onto my bike (plug and play) and I can attest- YES they ride much smoother. I love em.

    Sorry for the bad pic- I rolled it out of the garage and it instantly condensates-

    https://uploads.tapatalk-cdn.com/20170802/97d8bc9a71f41a3d8514cf0277eaace4.jpg

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “Once of the modifications I have done is to purchase and install the new ’17 SDBV forks onto my bike (plug and play) and I can attest- YES they ride much smoother. I love em.”

      Mickey UPGRADE TIME, let’s “git-er-done”. (cable guy Larry accent)

  11. Sam says:

    The Honda 700 and 750 4 cylinder Hawks had Hydraulic valve lifters and attained very high rpm’s of 10 to 11,000 if I remember correctly.

    Even my new 1989 Yamaha V-Max had 26,500 intervals and my 2012 goldwing had 34,000 intervals—even new Ducati’s are at 14,000 now so the 4 thou is just to much maintenance. If it was screw and locknut like my past CB750’s were it would be no problem. Shim under bucket, shim over bucket and the worst: replaceable buckets like on my past BMW K1200LTC is reprehensible.

    The older models of this CB1100 are basically being given away now. Google it and go to CycleTrader and see.

    They are also painfully slow and sign off early with only about a 100 mph top speed.

    • Paul says:

      My 2003 Honda VFR V-4 has shim under bucket valves. They have been checked on a few occasions and as is typical, they have ALWAYS been in spec. It has over 46k on it now. People over-obsess on this issue.

      • Ryan Craig says:

        Maybe I ride my bikes a little harder than some, but on all the bikes I’ve owned and done my own valve clearance check/adjust (ZG1000 Concours, ZRX1100, DL1000 V-Strom), I’ve typically found some valves, usually exhaust, right at the tight end of the range, or even slightly under it. At least on the first adjustment. Actually, only ever did it once on my V-Strom in the 80,000 km or so that I had it, at about 50,000 km (40,000 km interval or so, according to the manual, IIRC). A couple exhausts were borderline tight and so got adjusted. I’d be surprised if it ever needed it again.

        Now my new bike, a Yamaha Fazer (FZ) 8, gets bounced off the redline reasonably regularly. I wouldn’t feel comfortable skipping the first check at 42,000 km. But if nothing needs adjusting at that point, I’d be pretty comfortable leaving it alone after that.

    • Ryan Craig says:

      I don’t understand why the intervals are so short on a relatively low-revving bike with shim adjustment. My old ’95 Concours with split rockers and screw adjusters had a longer interval. My old ’78 XS400 with screw adjusters probably had a longer interval.

  12. vintagemotorcyclist says:

    About valve adjustments on modern motorcycles. I’ve made my living since 1972 as a motorcycle mechanic, specializing on all four Jap brands. My observation is that ALL shim top ends are incredibly robust and factory suggested intervals can be ignored at lest by three times. If a motor has the shit driven out of it, maybe not, but that is seldom the case, most bikes see red line very rarely. The previous advice to pay attention to symptoms is good. For the most part all you get from a valve adjustment is a chance to damage a too delicate shroud, strip a bolt, mark a gas tank or create an oil or coolant leak.
    I was the proud owner of a ’83 CB1100F (fool that I am I sold it). I like the new one well enough but I’d rather have the real McCoy. I doubt there is much real difference in performance and the styling on the original is light years ahead. Of course, the new model has the advantage that you can still get parts for it.

  13. Ryan Craig says:

    What I want to know is this:

    Is that seat as comfortable as it looks? Man, I wish every bike had a nice wide, long, thick seat like all the UJMs did back in the day. I wasn’t really around in those days, but I bet there wasn’t nearly as much bitching about uncomfortable seats. Unlike today’s sporty bikes that almost all have stupid seats that slant forward and pretty much lock you in one place.

  14. ed peatross says:

    I like the bike for sure waiting on Kawasaki to retro a modern KZ 1000…

  15. Doc Salvage says:

    Beautiful scoot! She is just aching for a big ol’ tall Sissy bar!

  16. PN says:

    Typical Honda. Mechanically impeccable but just not sexy.

  17. johnny ro says:

    I like Racetech emulators but prefer to have bikes that dont need it. For above $10k should not need it.

  18. Dino says:

    Lovely bike, probably all I need, realistically. Actually, I should give one a spin since all the other new bikes have their ass in the air and plastic melting off the whole front

  19. Tom R says:

    And another thing.

    Honda must be reading MC Daily on a regular basis because I just looked at their website page for this model, and I saw this text:

    “Seamless” Fuel Tank

    Holding almost four and a half gallons, the CB1100 EX’s fuel tank features gorgeous “seamless” construction (no visible bottom weld seem), for a super-clean, classic look, as well as impressive cruising range.

  20. Tom R says:

    What’s with the odd-looking headlight lens? Maybe it also has a clever trade name like the forks:

    Singular Photon Orienting Emitter? Or….?

  21. John S. D'Orazio says:

    I have really enjoyed my 2013, purchased for $9,999.00 new plus sales tax. A great bike and would do over for sure.

  22. skybullet says:

    What a beauty, this is what a motorcycle ought to look like. No styling gimmicks, no wierd headlight, body panel or fender treatments. I would almost buy one just to admire it.

  23. Sentinel says:

    Now if they could just give that bike an engine that doesn’t need a valve service every other time you change the oil they may actually have a decent bike there, but until then, no thanks!

    • Gham says:

      really? What is the recommended valve service? I know my old CB is a pain to check.

    • Provologna says:

      Maybe you’re new here. The following has been posted as often as some like myself read comments like yours. There are unseen powers that influence OEM spec for valve lash service interval unrelated to engine life and/or performance critical to the owner.

      Valve lash clearance Re. to non-Desmodromic engines: less than safe/recommended minimum clearance manifests as rough idle and/or spitting on deceleration. Greater than safe/recommended maximum clearance manifests as excess top end noise.

      If the bike lacks the above symptoms, IMO and other’s, forget the OEM schedule, which among other reasons exists to minimize emissions, satiate bureaucrat regulator appetite to regulate, and to get buyers into the shop to see shiny new things on which to spend money.

      I’m not the only one to report finally checking valves at 4 to 6x the OEM schedule, to find all lash clearances within spec. Considering the state of CB1100 tune, I estimate valve lash clearance within spec up to about 25k miles, lacking any symptom described above. We’re talking about a modern (presumably shim and bucket) Honda, not a 60s Trident.

      • paquo says:

        Thanks but i will follow the manual. 4 to 6x lol

        • Provologna says:

          Based on multiple conversations with friends/lifetime pro mechanics, having owned about 70 motorcycles, and about a half million miles ridden.

          Multiple posts at this site confirm my advice (see redbird below).

          You’re welcome to part with your money and time on your own “schedule.” IMO the primary determination for the OEM spec is to minimize emissions, a worthy cause, but over emphasized in this instance.

      • steve eaton says:

        two big reasons i’m drawn to yamaha’s fz07: valve checks every 24k miles, and wet weight a tad under 400 lbs… 🙂

    • redbirds says:

      Valve check, not service at 8000 miles. My 2013 has not yet needed a valve service and I really don’t expect it ever will. Most shim under bucket systems rarely need adjustment especially with this low revving motor.

  24. CrazyJoe says:

    Hmmm… dual bending front fork isn’t that what Harley is using?

  25. dubbltap says:

    Lately, as I’m in my early fifties, I’m been interested in a lighter, smaller standard or dual sport(WR250R or 690 Enduro R) just for putting around town and backroads.

    Love just about everything about the bike……except the $12,200 + $385 freight + setup, etc.
    Think I would have to go with the Yammie XSR900 or MG V7-III and save about $3K all said and done. I’m sure there are deals to be had, especially next year on a leftover ’17. I’ll wait.

  26. JohnB says:

    47 years ago my 1979 CB750 had a ‘slushy’ front fork, and diabolical stiff rear shocks. So it is about time Honda made real progress on the basic non-adjustable fork. I am very pleased I did not buy the earlier versions of the CB1100. A local salesman claimed the Blue color ( a couple of years ago?) was the result of customer surveys!! My 1970 was Candy Ruby Red – so finally all the ducks are in a row.

  27. Stuki Moi says:

    Not sure if that fork is exactly the same, but I had the opportunity to ride the “old” NC750x back to back with a new one, the latter with a “dual-bending-valve” fork, in Spain last fall, and the difference in compliance and control was night and day. I’m sure some of that is due to one being a a 3 year old rental bike, while the other was almost new, but I have ridden lower mileage NC750/700s with the old fork as well, and the dual bending stuff sure seems to work.

    As for weight and power, the CB is pretty much dead on, as far as a retro bike goes. Goes, stops and turns better than the originals, but retains enough of their characteristics to manage to tug at the same heartstrings the old ones did. The whole point of a retro bike, is to provide the same sensations that older bikes provided, just with the most annoying niggles and limitations corrected. Not to be no more than yet another modern bike, just with some superficial parts looking a bit different than the rest of them.

  28. Tom R says:

    “Dual Bending Valve fork”.

    Silliest product name ever.

  29. SausageCreature says:

    My ideal CB1100 would have the engine, chassis and 17″ cast wheels of the RS model, the cb400-esque 4-1 exhaust of the older base models, and color-matched side panels.

    Hopefully the RS finds its way to the US one day, since it’s closest to what I want right out of the box…but I’m not holding my breath.

    • JVB says:

      The side panels should be black, and then they would have a ’79 CBX look.
      I like the retro look, but every bike today should have at least 43mm USD forks with non-retro calipers.

      • SausageCreature says:

        Black would be better than silver, but I’m not really hung up on period correctness. If I was, I would be demanding orange or brown metal flake paint or complaining about the lack of a huge Vetter-like fairing in the accessories catalog (though the cynic in me wouldn’t be shocked to find a Genuine Honda milk crate for $500 plus installation).

        Totally agree with the 43mm forks though. I doubt I would push the bike hard enough to need the extra fork diameter, but I like the beefier look.

      • cinderbob says:

        I agree, the side panels should definitely be black. They stand out like a sore thumb as is.

  30. skortch says:

    20 more hp and 20 pounds less weight and I’ll start paying attention. There’s no reason that Honda couldn’t have made it a fun motorcycle while keeping the retro aspect intact.

    • Dave says:

      It’s apparently tons of fun for the customers who’ve bought and love this bike. Yamaha’s XSR900 is a great answer for the lighter/faster/retro crowd.

      On another note: “Honda has a history of finding excellent compromise settings on non-adjustable forks”

      While I like my 01′ VFR’s fork well enough, I had a VTR1000 for several years that led me to understand that Honda’s “HMAS” acronym could easily stand for “Harsh and Mushy as the SAME tIME”. In the 90’s people used to joke about the Showa forks on the CR’s, Showa is Japanese for “Fork doesn’t work”. They’ve gotten it wrong as often as they’ve gotten it right.

    • P Harris says:

      Air cooled/modern pollution requirements/detuning

    • Bubba says:

      Yup, that’s why I got the XSR900 but still really like the CB1100EX. Truly has classic looks.

    • Mark says:

      Change to a Shorai battery and lose 10 pounds. Change the slip-ons and gain 5hp and lose another 5-10 pounds. Problem solved!

  31. mickey says:

    Turned over 35,000 miles on my CB1100 just yesterday. It’s had 9 oil/filter changes, on my 4th set of tires (1 Dunlop 3 Michelin), replaced 1 set of spark plugs and an air cleaner (at 26K), and 1 set of brake pads F&R (at 19K)… Want to know what has broken in 3 years? a t/s lens, and some reflective off the left mirror. That’s it. Still on original chain, sprockets and battery even. Great bike. Love my CB.

  32. Grover says:

    Is the RS coming to the USA?

  33. xLaYN says:

    dje text at the bottom.
    The CB1100 it’s a friking thing made of pure beauty.

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