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With Its Great Heritage, Why Doesn’t Honda Produce More Retro Models?

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With several major manufacturers now enjoying success with retro-styled bikes (BMW, Ducati, Yamaha and Moto Guzzi come to mind), why hasn’t Honda developed smaller displacement siblings for its excellent CB1100?

Pictured here are just two U.S. models that were popular and are still remembered fondly — the 1969 CB-450 K-1 and the 1969 CL-350.

Honda is known for being very conservative, often entering a new market segment late. This doesn’t explain, however, why the CB1100 debuted several years ago, but Honda has not followed that model with other bikes that play on its excellent heritage. The current CB500 range, of course, has a nice 471cc parallel twin that could easily drop into a new heritage-styled model. Perhaps, Honda has something planned that we don’t know about, but when will we see it?

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119 Comments

  1. Frankie says:

    The old Black Bomber (CB450) had horrible brakes, clutch drag, dodgy electrics, odd suspension and was often near impossible to start… but it had a fun engine that would sing to 10k plus revs and make a lovely snarl on the overrun. The later CB450 (pictured) was more civilised and you could just about get away with running it on modern roads. BTW, if you got the engine to tick over at 600 revs it was astonishingly quiet re engine noise (thanks to its unique valve gear) and it was quite easy to get 70mpg out of the mill. The modern CB500 is probably better in every way except the depreciation (eye watering if you want to sell/trade after a year). It would be interesting to see how a seventies CB450 runs on upside-down forks and light modern wheels (radically lowering the unsprung mass)… a nice project for someone before prices start going classic. Personally, a modern version of the CB450 already exists… it’s not a Honda but a Street Triple (again, that eye watering depreciation on newish ones makes them as cheap as a perfect CB450!).

  2. Aussie mike says:

    I loved the CB1100. Test rode one in 2012. Loved it but didnt buy cos it only had a 14.6 litre tank. That means i would only get 200kms before reserve light appears. Regret not buying it. Thought it was beautiful. BTW i had sold my XJR1300 12 months earlier.
    They discontinued the model in Oz cause of low sales. TBH there are only 4 Jap bikes i would buy:
    Honda CB1100, Yamaha XJR1300 Cafe Racer, the Kawasaki W800, Suzuki SV1000. BTW used to own a SV1000 and DL1000. Unfortunately none of these models are imported into Australia anymore.
    I’m 65 and love the retro look. The old CB450, CL350 and SL350 models were HOT looking machines. Back in 1971 I lusted after the SL350 but had just bought the Kawasaki 350 Avenger (2 stroke parallel twin).
    My current steed is a Victory Hammer S. Am relishing the thought of a new Royal Enfield Interceptor being released in 2017.
    The number of retro bikes hitting the show room floor is becoming a tsunami & it will be a difficult choice. Heck i might even buy a Harley. Am impressed with their new Milwaukee Eight motor.
    What is old is new again. BOOYAH

  3. Tank says:

    Older bikes were small, light and relatively inexpensive. The CB1100 was none of the above. If Honda is going to let the sales of the CB1100 discourage them from making more retro bikes, it will be a big mistake. It’s like they didn’t learn anything from the Grom.

    • mickey says:

      That’s funny you would say that because today I took off on my ST 1300, went for a decent little ride, came back parked it and took off on my CB1100. The CB is so small it reminded me of riding a CB160. It felt like there was nothing underneath me. I kept think man, this thing is so little.

      As far as price, adjusted for inflation I think the 68 CB750 and the 2013 CB 1100 were similarly priced. Gas is no longer 30 cents a gallon and I make more than the $1.00 an hour I made in 1968.

      I think a Grom costs nearly 3x what a CB 750 cost when new

  4. Grover says:

    They stopped making bikes like these because technology improves the breed. It wasn’t always cool to ride an old bike when everyone else was riding faster, better handling bikes that were more comfortable with wind protection. These old machines performed better in your mind than they ever did on the highway. The CB1100 is a hard sell when you figure the the demographic that was clamoring for this bike (old dudes with fading memories) have discovered sport touring bikes that do everything a lot better for not much more money. We like to look back at “the old days” but don’t really want to go back there.
    I began my riding career on a Honda 350 Scrambler and my next bike (1982 Suzuki 750) showed me how lacking the old 350 was in speed, braking, handling and comfort. I like the looks of the old 350 but do not want to go back to those days, ever.

  5. Ken says:

    Nearly everyone likes the old look……….NO ONE likes the old performance, brakes and suspension. Poor performance seems to go with every retro bike that comes out. NOBODY wants that.

  6. Man, time does distort reality. My first bike was an SL350 Honda, fun, but feet asleep if ridden 25 miles. XL250 was way better. CB450? vibrating pile followed up by the even worse CB500. CB400F was fun if revved to the moon and not very fast until until given the full Yoshimura treatment. As I get older, I realize how bad the old established brands were for the early Japanese product to put them out of business. If you really want an old pile, go find the original. This from a guy that has been riding mostly Japanese (plus a few Bultacos) bikes since 1971 and wrenching mostly Japanese since 1974. Currently enjoying a ’97 750 Monster that sat for 15 years.

  7. Tim says:

    I love looking at the Honda’s of that era, but I suspect the reason Honda isn’t taking advantage and building smaller vintage bikes is because the CB 1100 wasn’t exactly a hot seller, even though it was an absolutely beautiful bike (in my opinion). I don’t believe they’ve been produced since the 2014 model year, and there are still a bunch of them on dealer floors, despite prices well below MSRP.

  8. ivan says:

    I owned a 1973 CB450 AND A 1975 CB400F back in the day when i was in my late teens. My previous bike to the 450 was CB175 so the 450 was a big step up in power so yes i was impressed. The first day i bought it i was riding with a friend who pulled up behind me at a stop sign and then pulled up beside me and started yelling and pointing at the back of the bike. We pulled over and stopped. I asked what all the commotion was about and he told me that my rear fender and taillight were loose and about to fall off. Checked it over and everything was good and tight. I thought he was just goofing around so started up again and he started pointing again. I left the bike idling and got off and turned around where i could see the rear fender and it was going wild, vibrating the taillight about an inch all over the place. Later the vibration would put my hands to sleep after about 15 minutes of riding so i was always trying to lift one hand or the other for a rest. The handling wasn’t that great either. As i learned to ride the 450 faster the handling short comings became more apparent. One of the biggest problems was the foot peg mounting brackets came up from the below the muffler pipe and dragged like crazy when i was flying. Quite a spectacle at night especially. In search of a better handling bike i went to the honda dealer actually thinking about a CB500. But when i saw the CB400F i was entranced. Everything i always wanted to do to the 450 was already there on the 400, in spades. It wasnt any faster, both bikes ran about the same but the 400F was a revelation in terms of handling and looks. The 400F had to be revved to the moon to make power but I didnt care. Both bikes came and went but i still have fond memories of them both but i doubt I would buy another one.

    • Curly says:

      That’s how I remember my brief rides on a CB450 and the 500T that came after it was even worse.

  9. azi says:

    It’s worth pointing out that Kawasaki Europe was approached repeatedly during the late 1980s by Z1 fanatics to re-release a replica. They did a cost analysis (including tooling) and worked out it would cost the same as releasing a brand new bike. The Zephyr series was the final result. (Reference: “30 Years of Z-Power” DVD, Micky Hesse, 2003)

    Suzuki also released a nut-and-bolt replica of the GSX1000S Katana during the 1990s for the Japanese domestic market and it was the same price (if not more) than its contemporary GSXR750.

    I think the Japanese factories know their market very well and consider retro as a highly niche market. The W650/800 and CB1100 were always going to be vanity projects, and the sales figures reflect this.

  10. Tim says:

    They make a very retro model now.
    It”a called a GL1800.

  11. Martin B says:

    I too, had several Hondas back when. I also rode my brother’s CB500 and CB750, and the 500 was my favorite by far. It lacked some torque, but was smooth as a dynamo, revved to 13,000 rpm in third uphill (ask how I know) and had much better handling. The 750 had more torque, but understeered, had insufficient brakes, and just generally felt unwieldy. Plus I crashed it, which didn’t please my brother.
    Other great Hondas were an XL350 and a CX500. That one was just perfect for slow speed riding around town, extremely smooth and civilized, and pleasant on the open road. The XL350 was better than the CB350 as it had more torque, a wider power band, and much, much better handling.
    But I never bought any Honda for its looks.
    The best looking bikes to me were the Moto Guzzi T3 850 and a Triumph Bonneville. Both were way out of my price range.

  12. WSHart says:

    If it doesn’t tug at your heartstrings it won’t make you want to pull out your wallet. Good memories are a powerful sales tool. Bikes that pay homage to the past and stir those memories from long ago don’t have to go ridiculously fast by todays standards, they just have to make your heart beat quicker.

    You also have to be able to afford them.

    There’s always a catch to getting from there to back again.

  13. 70's Kid says:

    I really like the designs from the 70’s. But the bike that I would most like to see Honda bring back is the Hawk GT. A modern version of that bike to compete against the SV650 and the FZ-07 would be awesome.

    The 80’s are now plenty retro to a lot of folks and this class of bikes appeals more to a younger demographic that Honda could upsell to later on.

    • Curly says:

      A new Hawk GT would be a great pick to go up against the Yamaha and Suzuki.

      • Dave says:

        Had one, great little bike. Add some power, EFI, a 6th gear and better spring/damping rates and you’d have a really compelling package. It would be pretty hard to do economically today, we’d probably lose the alloy frame & as swing arm.

  14. Crazy Joe says:

    Looking at the Husky Vitpilen and the some of the comments ma de about it and what should be the modern standard. Honda’s designers must be frustrated. Look at the cb 650 f, nc750s and the cb1000r they all have rear fenders. All that’s missing is a round headlights analog gages and fake cooling fins to make them look retro. How about a cb500 scrambler?

    Even the retro look Indian built Harley and Enfield get no respect. They look good. Maybe if they came with brakes?

    Just saying because I want a nc750s so bad. Not in black but.

  15. Mack says:

    Maybe Honda doesn’t go retro because their best ideas are not 50 years old? You have to admit, going retro is kind of the PT Cruiser intellect, while the retro piece might be better in every regard it is still kind of a desperate move. Ford tried it with the T-bird and failed, although the current Mustang does have some legitimacy as never having gone out of production. Will today’s Challengers ever have the street cred that a 70 or 71 has? I doubt it, no matter how impractically fast they make them. Same thing goes for today’s retro motorcycles, if baby boomers were not so plentiful manufacturers would leave the classics to the genuine articles of yesteryear.

  16. Sam says:

    I would like to have the CB450 just as shown! Not fast enough for the time? It would easily outrun 99% of the British stuff and any domestic Harley. The brakes were fantastic for the time, worked every time and didn’t fade at all on the street. It was also HONDA reliable—nuff said. It was also comfortable, with no weird seat nor ‘horse Jokey’ pegs!

    • Geoffrey Hill says:

      Double leading shoe, loved them. Was good enough at the time, didn’t need to have fluid change. Would buy a light bike that still had that if it was light. My 66 Trump didn’t have that new stuff. Wish it had.

  17. Frank says:

    Modern-up the suspension and brakes a bit and a black 450 would start looking like a winner to me.

    • Curly says:

      You may not have even ridden one of those “Hamamatsu Vibrators” then. My recollection of the CB450 were that it was badly carbureted and shook like a dog scared of thunder. Don’t believe that 13 second 1/4 mile brochure fluff either. It was around full second and a half slower than that if the carbs were happy that day.

      • MGNorge says:

        The one I rode (a friend of my brother’s) was better behaved than that. It idled and ran very well with the well known secondary vibration that 180 degree cranks offered up.
        As far as 1/4 mile times, those were all up for conjecture no matter what, achieved only possible by experienced drag racers (don’t try that at home kids!).
        Brings back memories of high school, a guy with a ratty CB450 with long straight pipes down low and up behind his sissy bar used to take on an “upperclassman” with his relatively new Kawasaki Mach III. The Kawasaki was starting to experience some of the demons of the transistorized ignition common at the time but seemed to fire on all three. The CB accounted for itself quite well in impromptu drag races out in front of the school. How’s a guy supposed to keep his mind on his studies with all that going on outside?

    • MGNorge says:

      The Black Bomber?

  18. Randy in Ridgecrest says:

    OK, just a comment all by itself, not a reply. I think the bike Honda should recreate is the CB400F. I’ve ridden one and even against the experience of modern bikes I was surprised at how fun it is. Besides being a beautiful timeless design, the engine is flexible, seems more powerful than the 500 four, and sounded pretty good. The bike is comfortable and handles well – like the Triumph 500 twin of it’s day but with a WAY better engine. Fix some of the weaknesses (swingarm, brakes, cheap junk suspension). Air cooled would be great, do something like FI and perhaps oil cooling, somehow bride it through regulations. It would be a competitor to the 100 pound heavier and probably not better performing Street Twin. A sharper, crisper, more chiseled retro.

    I’m one of those that don’t like the homogenized styling of the CB1100. A jumble in my mind. And it’s just too big and heavy to be interesting to me.

    • Tyler says:

      They tried this, called it the CB-1 back in the late 80’s and noone bought them. Sadly mass producing a small displacement I-4 engine is just as expensive as producing a larger displacement engine of the same configuration, but they can sell the bigger bike at a greater profit margin.
      That being said yes it would be nice if they would build a retro version of the current CB300 or CB500 but with the swooped headers of the OG CB400F.

      • Randy in Ridgecrest says:

        No, the CB-1 wasn’t a remake of the CB400F. I should have said that in the first post because this comment is so predictable. I’ve ridden both, I’d take a well sorted CB400F, thank you. In looks there is simply no comparison, none, the CB400F is far more interesting. Not saying the CB-1 wasn’t a good bike, but it wasn’t very exciting. Same as the little Suz 400 four, decent bike but missing the magic combination.

        Sometimes Honda didn’t really care about “greater profit margin”, they took a chance they would capture riders imagination. The 750 did, big time. The 400F did, but somewhat after the fact. I’m not saying it’s a sure fire model to reissue, just it’s the one I’d be interested in.

  19. GKS says:

    Remember the GB500 Clubman? I don’t believe it was a hot seller, but it probably would be in this crowd. The same engine series is still sold in the XR650L, so some of the work is done.

    • MGNorge says:

      Too many would complain that it was only a single, vibrate too much and have too little power.

      • todd says:

        My GB doesn’t vibrate at all and I can keep up with sport bikes. I just hate the auto-decompression cam and the eight, wear prone rocker arms.

        • HalfBaked says:

          If you’re having the problem you’ve described with an RFVC engine than you’ve got some serious issues with the motor. I’ve had an XR 600 for 15 years and these engines are bullet proof and aren’t known for any concerns with the valve train.

    • GKS says:

      If Honda brought back the GB500 would that make it a retro-retro?

    • beasty says:

      GB 500 was one of the best looking bikes Honda produced.

  20. Butch says:

    Longing for that bike you learned to ride on ?
    I was, so I went out and found my “first bike”, a CB450 and brought it back to life.
    Fast? No. Great brakes ? er no.
    But riding it puts on a big grin every time.

  21. Skybullet says:

    Harley has built a business on Retro, so there is a market out there. Honda found nothing to be encouraged about in CB1100 sales. So what is the magic combination? Modern performance that looks (really looks and sounds) retro. Riders who fondly remember 60’s and 70’s bikes would love to have a comfortable (we are older now, right?), sweet sounding (most of us hung aftermarket exhaust) but still have modern suspension/transmission/performance/reliability/cruise control/heated grips and luggage options (lighter weight would be a huge plus). But most important, it has to look REALLY RETRO.

  22. BP in AZ says:

    They are still licking their wounds for offering up the F6B, 2nd gen Rune, and VFR1200. You can still get the 2013 F6B new from a crate and its almost 2017.

  23. J Wilson says:

    Triumph owns that market with the various Bonneville variants (looks old/ works new); my local multi-line dealer sells more Triumphs than Hondas, and it ain’t Tigers they’re rolling. Triumph also has hit that very hard to reach point of selling to oldsters like me that remember the old ones and at the same time being an ‘it’ bike for hipsters. After the Triumphs, the few remaining crumbs are snatched by Guzzi, the retro BMW’s, and then you’re on to HD’s, Victorys, and Indians.

    Honda went to great lengths to certify a brand new air-cooled engine in today’s regulatory climate. I think ultimately the CB1100 (and I admire the hell out of the thing) was one more ‘we can do anything because we’re Honda’ projects they come up from time to time. I think they also look at Yamaha’s luck with the little 400 single and say, ‘see, that stuff just doesn’t work in America, I told you !’

    And ultimately, I think there’s a general tendency in America to look at anything under 1000cc as just not big enough, despite great mid-size bikes like the 500 Honda twins or the redesigned 650 Versas. Oh well . . .

  24. clasqm says:

    Honda is a car company these days, with a small and irrelevant motorcycle division. They introduced a chopper just as the chopper fad was fading out. Now they are concentrating on boring commuter bikes with cut-in-half Fit engines.

    Triumph is selling Bonnevilles as fast as they can build them. Ducati can’t build Scramblers fast enough. So yes, there is a market there.

    What makes a Triumph Bonneville or a Ducati Scrambler a classic retro? They refer back to when the original bike was a technical tour de force, a revolutionary product. Long before the Bonneville became an old man’s leisurely ride, it was the fastest production motorcycle you could buy (Vincents were history by then), the H2 of the time. The original Ducati Scrambler created a new kind of motorcycle. These were OMG moments that got baked into biker culture. Ask a five-year old to draw a motorcycle. Hmm, that looks suspiciously like a Triumph Bonneville. That shape came to define the term “motorcycle”.

    A Kawasaki W650, while a great motorcycle, does not refer to anything – Nobody remembered the W-1 until Kawasaki insisted on pointing it out. So to make a retro, you have to pick the moments in your history that have become part of motorcycle lore.

    Honda tried to do that with the CB1100, but they chickened out. Instead of making a clear visual reference to one specific model (like the original CB750), it has bits and pieces from the 400-4, the CBX, the CB900F. That doesn’t make it a bad bike, in fact, I wish I had one. But why is there a Japanese firm that will sell you all the parts to turn your CB1100 into a true CB750 replica (http://www.samurider.com/?p=18506 )? Because the Honda stylists lost their nerve.

    We all know about the fake carburettors on a Triumph Bonneville, but how many people realize that the front sprocket cover is also a fake external gearbox? Triumph’s stylists were and are relentless.

    Honda has a heritage worth drawing upon, but the vertical-twin retro niche is now owned by Triumph. Kawasaki couldn’t crack it with the W series. So forget about the 350s and 450s. Produce an updated CX500 Turbo and see me throw credit cards at you. Or a CBX. Or a 750 Interceptor. Those are the OMG moments in Honda’s history.

    But it’s not going to happen. Honda today is a corporation like any other – it avoids risk at any price. I actually wonder how long the Honda motorcycle division will still be around.

    • MGNorge says:

      “Honda is a car company these days, with a small and irrelevant motorcycle division.”
      I wouldn’t say it’s small, Honda still is #1 in world motorcycle sales by a large margin. As long as it’s profitable and their man at the top wants to remain in the business I would expect that. Remember that in Japanese business culture it’s common for prior presidents to remain as advisers. Unlikely that a new president would come in and throw it all away.
      I believe what you’re seeing is what is happening in the domestic US market. Honda’s soft, conservative nature in the US market at present seems similar to Suzuki’s stance. How they view it I cannot say but I have a hunch that Honda hunkered down during the downturn and we’re seeing a resurgence as of late (Africa Twin and other new models). Only the future will tell.

  25. Starmag says:

    Harleys still wear Brook Stevens designed sheet metal from the 50’s and new Bonnevilles are directly copied from Bonnies of the 60’s both of which sell big numbers. It seems like Honda is too proud to directly copy one of it’s own previous models. The CB1100 is not a direct copy of anything. I think it would have sold better if it was. Here’s Whitehouse’s take on a CB1100 that is a direct copy of a first year CB750:

    http://www.samurider.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/wh0072.jpg

  26. mcmotohistory says:

    The key is to imitate Harley and Triumph’s formula. Which is modern performance and retro styling. You have to admit that most modern standards are really ugly.The new Triumphs are a great example of an all round motorcycle that is completely modern but looks like what they built in the 1960’s. They have sport bikes down cold and the cruiser formula is well known.Adventure bikes are selling because its the closest to all round standards on the market.I would love to see a 1000cc flat four from honda with retro styling,Honda has a great heritage to draw from. Done right they could sell alot of bikes!

    • mickey says:

      I’m still trying to understand your concept of Harley and Triumphs modern performance. The Harleys are putting out about 70 hp and the New 1400cc Bonneville has about 80, both less than the Honda CB1100 which puts out closer to 90 yet everyone says the CB is so under powered.

      All have fuel injection, triple discs, 6 speed trans

  27. EZ Mark says:

    The reason those bikes sold well back then was because they were cheap, not because they had some timeless styling. There have been plenty of retro bikes over the last 20 years like the Kawasaki W650 and the Zephyr. Even the CB1000. None of them have set any sales records.
    The bike Honda should have made is the Victory Octane. That’s what the Japanese used to be known for. Performance and style at a value price.

    • MGNorge says:

      Yes, I’d say the Japanese bikes were cheaper than the Euro brands and the Harley models but also took motorcycling into a more modern era at that time with bikes that were easy to afford and reliable. Rather than greasy and dirty they were clean, they didn’t spill their lube from every gasket. Looking at an inflation calculator $10,000 today is roughly equal to what $1400 was in 1968.

  28. Gary says:

    Those 450 Hondas were great bikes in their time. I remember them well. But they’d be real turds today, even compared to modern 250s. Maybe if they updated their performance while giving them retro appearances, a la Triumph.

  29. mickey says:

    Maybe it’s not the United States market that isn’t worth persuing, but the number of motorcycle BUYERS that would be in the market for this type of bike. In order to stay solvent in this country they are going to have to find a way to hook the 16 to 25 year olds, and it’s not going to be with the models adored by thier parents and grandparents. I love my CB 1100. Rode it to dinner with my 37 year old son on his FJ-09. It’s too futuristic to appeal to me, but my CB1100 is too dated to appeal to him. I might buy one more bike before I am worm bait. He will probably buy 10. THey need to court him not me.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      I’m roughly the same age of your son. I prefer a stylistic nod to the past rather than an exact replica of it. I don’t know if that is just me or if that sentiment is representative of pups in general. Your CB1100 with USD forks and a monoshock tucked out of site would be an improvement in my eyes but probably not to you.

      The Ducati Scrambler is retro done right as far as I’m concerned. It is light, has a good performance threshold for its price point and manages to look both classic and modern at the same time. I feel the same way about the Husqvarna concepts of recent discussion, the new Thruxton (though it tries a little too hard with its silly fake carbs) and even the XSR900 which while arguably not retro has the right elements to draw me to it.

      I wouldn’t want a dusted off Honda Scrambler 350, but a CB500 with elements that pay homage to that design would be appealing.

      • mickey says:

        jeremy over on the forum we do have some pups that have bought CB1100s and here is ” generally” what they do with them. 1st off they like the all black 2014 stds, rather than the silver red chromed deluxes. Then they rip the fear fender off and put a fender eliminator under tail on it. Then they put on some tiny turnsignals. Then they put on lower handlebars and put on bar end mirrors. Then they buy a small front fender. They remove the stock pipe and either put a black 4 into 1 yosh pipe or a carbon oval thingy. They also remove the center stand. The basic motor trns gauges brakes they love. They just want it modernized to appeal to the leanings of their age group. THey liked their fathers CB/s when they were growing up, they just want them to look differently than the bikes their fathers rode. Which I guess is the eccense of what you are saying.

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          Yep, that is basically what I am saying!

          The one I rode through the Rockies was a stock 2013. I thought it was a great looking bike as it was, but I couldn’t help but think how much prettier she’d look with USD’s and beefy brakes, a more modern swing arm and just a few other touches here and there to make it look less, well, old. Haha.

    • mickey says:

      I do appreciate the bone they threw me though ( the CB1100) allowing me to have one last bike like the ones of my youth, only updated with fi, great brakes, slick 6 speed trans, digital gear indicator, abs, real fenders, 2 equally beautiful exhaust pipes, gorgeous paint, a seat I can move around on, a wonderfully torqey motor tha can cruise in top gear down to 2000 rpms, mirrors you can see out of… And I average close to 60 mpg. Win win in my book

  30. McRider says:

    “Honda is known for being very conservative”. What a change. At one time Honda was the most innovative company……recall the Turbo, CB 750 four, 23 inch wheels on dirt bikes, two carbs on a single cylinder, the Elsinore, v-fours, ‘meet the nicest people’, etc, etc.

  31. Bob Loblaw says:

    The old bikes are devoid of molded plastic. They’re cast aluminum, steel tanks and fenders, lots of real chrome and lacquer which are all too expensive now. Yes, it’s fun to reminisce but wouldn’t a new CB500 or a Grom fit the bill?

    • Curly says:

      60’S Hondas were chock full of molded plastic. The Honda C100 Cub 50, their first and biggest selling model of all time, made molded plastic “a thing”. Tap the headlight shells on those two bikes above and you’ll see what I mean.

      Honda could easily do a Monkey Bike version of the Grom but the modern lump 500 engines lack the finning of an old air cooled bike to make them look “old”. Triumph and Moto Guzzi are the only ones doing real retro right in my opinion.

  32. azi says:

    “With Its Great Heritage, Why Doesn’t Honda Produce More Retro Models?”

    Honda already does. It just doesn’t send them to the USA. The 4-cylinder CB400 is still around, and is available in Oceania, Asia, and some European countries. The CT90 scooter is still kicking along as the SH150 and Cub series.

  33. Wayne says:

    With its canted engine the current 500 would look more like a 305 Super Hawk or Scrambler. It would certainly vibrate less than the originals.

  34. bmbktmracer says:

    It’s getting to the point that anything with glossy paint is retro in my eyes. hahaha. I think they can safely dip their toes in the retro waters in the way that Yamaha is doing with the XSR900. Take the CB1000R, change the bodywork and exhaust, then add a cool 70’s paint job. Suzuki could do some light fluffing on the Bandit 1250, give it twin chrome exhausts and a blue and white paint job and create a modern rendition of the GS1000S. I don’t think they need to go back to air-cooled engines to give us the retro vibe.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      I agree. I think “neo-retro” would work in today’s market.

    • Fred says:

      Did you Americans not receive the Suzuki GSX1400 naked retro in your market about 10 years ago?
      4 cyl inline, Blue & White, twin chrome exhausts, twin round clocks, single round headlamp, modern fully adjustable suspension and comfy seat.

  35. I owned a 450 SS from 1969 to 1971 and put 19,000 miles on it, including rides from Seattle to Minneapolis and back, Seattle to San Francisco, and Seattle to Florida – where it snapped it’s cam chain and ate itself. A wonderful bike, and I think it would sell well today. The new Bonneville T 120 (which I purchased in April) sold out the entire year’s production by the end of May. Everywhere I park the Bonneville it gets more attention than any of the last several bikes I have owned. I think the potential “retro” market is HUGE, as most modern sport bikes and sport tourers have far more performance than almost all riders can use, are too heavy for many aging riders, and have to cost more than (relatively) simple retros.

  36. Fivespeed302 says:

    My first motorcycle was the Honda Z50. It was already beat to hell when dad brought it home. My brother and I rode the hell out of it and the only maintenance it ever got was new gas.

  37. MGNorge says:

    The bikes pictured above were in my riding heyday, right when the hook was set. I know a lot of us old farts would find a brand new model closely built as back when as being almost irresistible, but I don’t think the sales numbers would be there. Air cooling would almost guarantee modest power levels and we all know how that’s welcomed here! So start off with a modern, liquid cooled power plant and add the visuals, how many would bite and for how long?
    It seems to me the greatest unity among motorcycle riders in the US is with cruisers. Take away them and it seems like what’s left is a hodgepodge of likes, dislikes. We want it all but we don’t want to pay for it. Meanwhile, Harley keeps on selling all the $20k+ bikes it rolls out the door.

    Who knows what Honda has in mind for the US and rest of the world? A new president and renewed interest in motorcycles may surprise us yet.

  38. Mindspin says:

    Honda is almost as lost as Suzuki right now. They probably still think the retro thing is a trend that will go away. Still, Honda needs to get exciting and relevant and they know it. It’s just a matter of what will they do about it. Their motorcycle sales numbers pale in comparison to Yamaha right now and you know Honda wants the market back. The CBR250RR (350 for US Europe?) could be the start of them getting things right. But Some small-midsize retro bikes are LONG overdue and Honda really is missing a lot of potential sales. There are a lot of new riders who would be all over a new retro CB450, Scrambler, CB550F, CB750F, or even a retro based on the 300 single they already have. The CB1100 is awesome but just a little too expensive. Get a move on Honda!

    • MGNorge says:

      I think it would be interesting to listen to both Suzuki and Honda management and what their thoughts are about the US market.

      • Curly says:

        It would be interesting but my bet is that they would say the North American market is not worth the investment on retro bikes with limited worldwide appeal. Justifying it to the board would be a real song and dance routine.

    • Fivespeed302 says:

      Also, the new 250/350R should be an inline 4 with unbelieveably fantastic brakes.

      • Curly says:

        But would you buy one for $7K+ when you could get an FZ-07 or SV650 for the same money? No? Didn’t think so.

        • Dave says:

          That all depends on who you’re referring to as “you”. I wouldn’t, but there are legions of hipsters who have zero interest in a modern styles standard, they would only shop the retro product. The problem is that at the core of their desires is an “authentic” experience. That’s the part that’s all too easy to miss with a new product.

    • Mgood3mgood3 says:

      The CB1100 is just a little too big / heavy. Most of the old bikes we remember so fondly were light and fun. Honda, bring back the FUN.

      • KenHoward says:

        It’s interesting that many don’t know/remember that those old CB750/900s weighed just as much, if not more, than the “new” CB1100. I’d guess Triumph would have lowered the weight of its new Bonnevilles if it weren’t cost-prohibitive.

  39. Huffster says:

    Honda probably has seen all the other Retro bikes die a slow miserable death on showroom floors. Another reason none of the Big 4 will do this is they cannot justify the MSRP of the things they have tried….They simply want all US buyers to have to spend 9K on a beginner bike. If the best retro bike in the World was projected to be MSRP of $ 5k, it would never happen. Not enough profit per frame.

  40. My2cents says:

    Always liked the SL 350 and a modern tuned 350 cc air cooled fuel injected motor would be a great all rounder.

  41. redbirds says:

    As an owner of a 2013 CB1100, I’m amazed at how many guys, young and old, ask questions about my CB most every time I stop for gas, eats, rest, whatever. Most think it a well cared for older bike and are unaware that Honda introduced the CB1100 for 2013-14 model years. Honda, unlike Triumph, did a poor job promoting this model and offered little in accessories to build interest in the ownership experience. If Honda was to introduce a line of retro bikes they had best plan to do a better job promoting the line.

  42. xLaYN says:

    Look at those numbers for the 450 super sports…

    400 pounds and 112mph… probably will put to shame a modern CBR500 on a quarter mile, at least according to

    http://www.motorcyclistonline.com/reviews/honda-cbr500r-vs-kawasaki-ninja-300-batting-500

    by .43 sec :p

  43. schmoe90 says:

    Well, they showed some pretty cool looking retro 50cc Grom concepts, then did nothing with them.

  44. Buzz W says:

    Maybe they don’t produce them because the old originals are still out there and still running.

    I see lots of youngsters putting around on old UJM iron these days.

    No one putts around on old British iron (for long anyway).

  45. Bob says:

    Suzuki TU250x and Yamaha SR400 are currently available Japanese retro bikes. These probably don’t contribute greatly to their respective companies’ sales. It’s all a business decision.

    • Brian says:

      But a lot of it is hitting the mark. The TU250X would undoubtedly sell a lot more copies if it had a 400 or 500 (another magazine clocked it at 11.8 seconds to 60), and the SR400 was pricey for what it was (not to mention the whole kick-start-only thing).

    • Mgood3 says:

      $6000 for a seventies tech 400?

  46. Provologna says:

    That blue CB450SS is a beauty.

    How many poor, unsuspecting Honda 450 owners were beat by Suzuki X-6 Hustler 250 2-strokes (cough, cough)?

    I still kick myself for not finishing a yellow-green Honda SL350 rebuild (remember thee awesome matte black exhaust)? A modern well equipped SL mid-size would be nigh irresistible.

  47. GKS says:

    Why doesn’t Honda produce more retro models?
    Because their three biggest markets (China, India and SE Asia) show no interest in them.

  48. Scott says:

    Because no matter what you build today, it will get slammed on comment boards by 90% of the motorcycling public. Then, out of the 10% that like it, you’ll get 10% of that group that will actually consider buying it. And maybe 1 out of 5 of those people will put down their money.

    It takes a lot of commitment to go through all the trouble of creating a new bike for that few buyers…

    • Dirck Edge says:

      Then why are Retros selling so well for other manufacturers?

      • Dave says:

        Re: “Then why are Retros selling so well for other manufacturers?”

        Are they? Which models other than big twin cruisers would qualify as good sellers (in a US market that struggles to move 500k/units/yr.)? We must also remember that doing these bikes isn’t as simple as dusting off the old tooling. There are tons of updated standards and regulations that most bikes more than 15 years old could never pass today.

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          Triumph has seen a decade and a half of sales success with retros, and the Scramlber became an instant hit for Ducati. The V7 retros have been Guzzis best sellers since they were introduced. The R-nine-T was BMW’s 5th out of 17 in units sold for that mark’s model sales.

          We’re not talking about dusting off old tooling and designs – that isn’t the case with any of the other manufacturers mentioned who are offering new designs for the modern consumer. (Okay, “new” is a relative term when talking about the Guzzis whose tooling was never left alone long enough to gather dust.)

          • Dave says:

            My point is, if you put Triumph, HD, and Polaris (all of who’s core business has always been “retro”) aside, I don’t think companies like the Japanese big-4 view the market as significant enough.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            And that is a valid point. However, I contend that the market is significant enough. I’d argue that Honda has a weighty heritage with which to inspire more than one desirable retro bike (particularly scramblers, IMHO.)

            While such an endeavor would amount to little more than a drop in the bucket compared to the roughly 17 million or so units Honda sells each year, it could potentially be as significant as or maybe even more so than many of the other market segments Honda participates in for the developed nations. Honda already invests heavily in less lucrative and also completely unproven markets.

        • mickey says:

          I agree with Dave. ARe they selling well? What are the actual sales numbers in this country? It’s impossible to find out.

          Just because a unit is the most popular for a manufacturer, it doesn’t mean it’s selling in mass numbers. It’s like saying Ducati sales and BMW sales or KTM sales are better sellers increasing by x percentage. Well, If they sold 2 one year and 3 the next year it’s a 50% increase, but still not a lot of units. Ducati may have sold 1000 scramblers and Honda a 1000 CB’s ( we dont know for either) but for Duc it would be a rousing success and for Honda a dismal failure with the same numbers.

          If someone ( Dirck maybe?) could find out how many Bonnies, or How many scouts or how many Duc Scramblers,or how many CB1100s were sold in the US we could discuss with some accuracy how big the retro market is and if it’s worth persuing. unfortunately manufacturers for some reason are loath to give us those numbers.

      • redbirds says:

        HD moves thousands of retro bikes every year and Indian sales are growing. Honda certainly has the resources to compete in this segment if they decide to but Honda will need to advertise and promote the product.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      Bikes that hit the mark sell. Those that don’t, won’t. Lots of manufacturers are selling retro bikes like hot cakes right now. Comment boards be damned. Honda has a very rich history to draw inspiration from. There is no reason they shouldn’t be able to capitalize.

      • xLaYN says:

        “Bikes that hit the mark sell. Those that don’t, won’t.”

        The thing is, given that’s true; you want at most costs to avoid falling into this category right?

        That’s a good reason to avoid spending a lot of time and money on a project.

        Do you remember the link about the minutia on the creation of the CB1100? all those people and all those details are worth a lot of $$, would it be worth it for a CB750 when the CB1100 it’s already bashed for not having enough power? (don’t look at me I would love to have one).

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          Maybe a CB750 would do well if executed properly. (I’m not claiming to know what the magic formula is.) I think the CB1100 failed to make any significant waves because the market was expecting something materially different than what Honda delivered. With Honda getting into the game, I think many were expecting the rebirth of the air-cooled hotrod. Twas not to be.

          If other manufactures have proven anything about the retro market, is that the bike just has to press the right buttons. Which buttons to press is what each manufacturer needs to figure out, a task I don’t envy.

          • xLaYN says:

            “Maybe a CB750 would do well if executed properly.”

            Agree, I wonder how much power you can get from an air/oil cooled 4i…

            a quick duckduckgo got me 86 hp for the 1140cc in the CB1100… and then advanced math 750/1140*86 = 56hp …

            and things like the aural magic around the CB1100 (runs to put sennheiser on head and hear again that glorious sound of the CB1100 with custom exhaust)… would probably not scale… or maybe…

            a japanese Steve Jobs-imoto needs to get into some of the big 4 and starts producing those bike that you can only imitate because they cannot be improved…

        • Norm G. says:

          re: “don’t look at me I would love to have one”

          Norm stares at Xlayn trying to “weird” him out.

        • Geoffrey Hill says:

          Doesn’t Honda limit power in the top 3 gears on the CB1100? I was ready to get one till I read that. The 450 is still beautiful, and I would get one if it was sold. Not transformered up like all the crap now.

          • xLaYN says:

            Vehicles without traction control most of the time have limited power on the first 3 gears.

            I know my Mazda 3 and my TLR does it.

          • mickey says:

            Geoffrey, No, technically it is rev limited in the lower 3 gears as xLaYN pointed out and speed limited overall to the Japanese National limit of 112 mph.

            Some people don’t like the idea of that, but nearly all bikes are either rev limited, speed limited or both.Even the really fast ones. I think omly MV does not participate in the agreement between manufacturers to limit top speed.

            Some CB1100 owners have had their ECU’s reflashed gaining an extra 500 rpms in lower gears and top speed raised from 112 to approx 135 but with only 88 hp on tap it’s hardly worth the effort IMO. Any 650 supersport will still wipe your butt. Still some don’t like their bikes nannied and so they rebel lol

    • Brian says:

      And yet they seem to have no trouble putting into production far-out styling exercises like NM4, Rune, and DN-01. I realize that companies want to be forward-looking, but geez…

  49. joe b says:

    If Suzuki put their latest engineering in a ‘Retro-Katana’, ‘like – bike, I would buy it. I debated between the CB1100, and CB1000R, I bought the CB1000R, so much more motorcycle. Its a really nice bike, it too could easily become ‘Retro’, I guess its all about the production line, eventual profits from quantity sold. You should Feel lucky if the bike you ever wanted finally gets ‘made’. They will probably put me in the pine box first.

  50. Tank says:

    Looking at those bikes makes me feel like I’m 18 again. Come on Honda, what are you waiting for?

  51. Jeremy in TX says:

    This is something I’ve wondered ever since Triumph reintroduced the Bonneville at the turn of the century. Honda finally did come out with the CB1100, for better or worse, but there are some models in Honda’s history that I think would be met with some fanfare should they execute the idea correctly for today’s buyers.

  52. Austin ZZR 1200 says:

    Honda is trying to make a market for scootery, AT hybrid-type bikes instead of responding to the market. On a different tangent…with Kawasaki give us an updated ZRX already?

    • Dave says:

      The US is not a market worth a unique response to a company of Honda’s size.

      • xLaYN says:

        I agree with Dave.

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          I’d have to disagree with both of you. Honda seems to think the US market is worth quite a few unique responses. If the CTX, NC700X, NM4, Rune, 700cc adventure scooters, DN01, Fury and Grom aren’t unique, then what are they? They may not be responses to competitors or trends (the Fury excepted), but I’d say each of those machines was a far riskier proposition than taking a shot at a market that has been heating up for a long time.

          The retro motorcycle fad is not itself unique to the US market, nor is it particularly small. There is sufficient demand that I would have expected a response from Honda beyond the CB1100 by now.

          • xLaYN says:

            I’ll back my prior response… obviously the USA represents a HUGE potential market, people say that you just need to be successful in one state to get rich.

            With that said, we will probably need to get numbers on sales, size of target markets and the cost of a project to try to get to a conclusion.

            ————–

            It could happen that someone on big 4 get away with a “we approved your project, go ahead and do whatever you want” like with the Valkyrie Rune which was sold on loss.
            I see it as a way of promotion, a statement on what could be done.

            ——————
            Edit: check also Mickey comment above
            “Maybe it’s not the United States market that isn’t worth persuing, but the number of motorcycle BUYERS that would be in the market for this type of bike.”

  53. mickey says:

    I guess the younger folks want hipper stuff. I had a whole slew of those Hondas. cb160, cl77 (305) cb 350, cb 450, cb750, CB 750 Nighthawk , 2013 CB1100 and 2014 CB1100 dlx. Every one a great bike, and great stepping stones for learning how to really ride.