Honda 919

Text: Andi Seiler • Photography: Christian Neuhauser

To compete with Yamaha's FZ1 and Kawasaki's ZRX1200R, Honda brought out the 919 this year. Big Red's nimble, naked bike comes with a fuel-injected engine and a design concept crammed with high-tech goodies.

Concept & Tranformation
After reaping a great deal of success with a standard 600 called the Hornet in Europe, Honda decided to take things a step further. The poor sales of the CB1000 in the mid-nineties and the X-Eleven (not for the U.S.) from 2000 on forced Honda to create a brick-wall concept to challenge the competitors. Yamaha's FZ1 and Kawasaki's ZRX1200R became the targets, and Honda zeroed in with the 919 (in Europe, the Hornet 900), which comes at a very reasonable price: $ 7,999, just $ 100 more than the Kawi and $ 500 less than the Yamaha.

Even more exciting is what you get for the price. Honda didn't look too far back in their history to find the right machinery. The inline four comes from the 1998 and 1999 CBR900RR, a bike deemed powerful, reliable, and easy to ride. And it's light, a very important factor because its heavier predecessors - the CB1000, and X-Eleven - made handling a more demanding process. Even a cursory inspection reveals how well the guys from Big Red have managed the job. Slim and trim, the 919 can't possibly be seen as another heavyweight boxer. It's a good-looking bike with just the right proportions of beef around the chest and waist.

Engine & Transmission
When it comes to challenging the competitors it doesn't necessarily take the very latest technology. Honda chose the '98/'99 CBR engine because it isn't engineered to merely go for the last bit of horsepower. Instead, it draws a nice power and torque curve on the Dyno paper. And that's worth more than all those unbridled horses the current Supersport bikes deliver.

In addition, Honda applied other modifications that make the engine even better for a wider range of use in a Standard bike. With the changes rendered by new intake ports, different cams, a lower compression ratio, fuel injection, a shorter final ratio, and the catalytic converter, the bike runs as nimbly as a hornet on steroids. Just open the throttle a little over idling speed and the 919 responds with smooth but good torque. From midrange revs on, the rear tire bites harder into the asphalt and pulls the bike and rider up to five-digit numbers on the tach before the rev cutter jumps in and does its job. All of this happens with an ease that guarantees trouble-free operation even for beginners. Other pleasing aspects include the light-shift gearbox and the wonderful sonorities the two high pipes produce.

Chassis & Brakes
Fans of Standard bikes like the way these bikes show off their technology by missing any fairing bodywork. The 919 is a very good representation of this because it engages the right frame concept. Like the Hornet 600 in Europe, this big brother uses a strong backbone frame. The steel unit doesn't involve any down tubes to hide the view to the engine and Honda's technicians also covered ugly wiring harnesses and placed the water hoses for the cooling system out of sight. The 43-mm fork in the front, and an aluminum swingarm with a single shock in the rear, generate a comfortable ride. Good suspension damping stabilizes the bike exactly the way you need it for faster speeds.

When the first curves appear, you can't believe you're riding a motorcycle with more than 900cc displacement. The wet-weight of 218 kg (484 lb.), the short wheelbase of 1,460 mm (57.5 in.), a 65-degree rake, and the trail of 99 mm allow the bike to turn as easily as a 600. And with the wide handlebars, the 919 handles even better than lighter Supersports. This handling advantage is derived from the leverage the bars provide and a relaxed seating position with nice, narrow fuel-tank indentations for your upper legs.

And now, getting to the brakes. The 296-mm front discs with four-piston calipers that were also mounted on the '97 CBR still work great. It takes just two fingers to get the kind of braking power that will challenge your wrist and shoulder sockets. As important, it's easy to modulate. For more stopping forces, you can use the 240-mm rear brake with its single-piston caliper.

Accessories & Arrangements
Contrasted with the FZ1 and the ZRX1200R, the 919 doesn't come with a small fairing. But you can live with it, even at highway speeds. In our opinion, the perfectly arranged controls and gauges are more significant. A digital display keeps track of your trip. The hand levers are adjustable to differing finger lengths, a compartment under the seat will stow your raincoat, and potential thieves should have their work cut out copping a ride. The electronic anti-theft device must be deactivated with the ignition key before anyone can take off.

For longer trips, we recommend a tankbag and some kind of luggage roll or tail bag for the rear seat. Hooks come installed for mounting stretch cords. Of course, in that case, the bike won't take a passenger. Because of the two high-mounted exhaust pipes, good-fitting, side softcases are a necessity. Mufflers covered with additional heat shields that Honda installed keep most of the heat at bay. We rode the 919 in temperatures around 65 degrees and the shields worked fine. The seat is comfortable for the rider and the person in the back. Foot pegs are placed in the right positions; longer trips wouldn't be a problem for both of them - pilot and co-pilot. And that leaves the passenger's backpack as the final ingredient.

Test Summary
Pretty impressive the way this Honda newcomer confronts its competitors. Machinery at its best - a powerful, modern engine, combined with a strong chassis and perfect brakes. And, downright attractive, the Hornet's stinger slips right into your heart. All of this at a very exciting price. It doesn't take a particle physicist to predict worldwide acclaim for the 919. American riders will latch onto it for its power output, its smoothness, and the highway-suited, relaxing riding position. It's a kick to ride and definitely a package the competition should fear. In fact, the guys at the distributor practically had to tear it from our hands after finishing the test.

TECHNICAL SPECS:
Honda 919

Retail Price $ 7,999
Warranty One year, unlimited mileage
Maintenance Schedule 600/4,000/every 4,000 miles(1,000/6,400/every 6,400km)
Importer/Distributor
American Honda Motor Co.
1919 Torrance Blvd.
Torrance, CA 90501-2746
phone (310) 783-2000
www.hondamotorcycles.com

ENGINE
Type 4-cylinder, inline, 4-stroke
Cooling water-cooled
Valve Arrangement 4 valves per cyl., dohc, cams chain driven, shim under bucket adjustmentt
Bore & Stroke 71 x 58 mm
Displacement 919 cc
Compression Ratio 10.8:1
Carburetion electronic fuel injection
Exhaust Emission Control catalytic converter

TRANSMISSION
Gearbox 6-speed
Clutch multi-plate wet clutch, mechanically operated
Final Drive chain drive

CHASSIS
Frame steel backbone frame
Wheelbase 1,460 mm (57.5 in.)
Rake 65 degree
Trail 99 mm (3.9 in.)
Front Suspension cartridge fork
Stanchion Diameter 43 mm (1.7 in.)
Adjustments no
Travel 120 mm (4.7 in.)
Rear Suspension cast aluminum-alloy swingarm w/single shock
Adjustments spring preload
Travel 128 mm (5.0 in.)

WHEELS & TIRE
Type cast aluminum-alloy wheels
Front 3.50 x 17
Rear 5.50 x 17
Front Tire 120/70 ZR 17
Rear Tire 180/55 ZR 17

BRAKES
Front Brake 2 discs, 4-piston calipers
Diameter 296 mm (11.7 in.)
Rear Brake 1 disc, floating single-piston caliper
Diameter 240 mm (9.4 in.)
Combining no

WEIGHT & FUEL CAPACITY
Wet-Weight 218 kg (484 lb.)
Fuel Capacity 19 l (5.0 gal.)

PERFORMANCE
(European measurements)
Claimed Horsepower (crank) 109 hp at 9,000 rpm
Torque 9.3 mkp (69 ft. lbs.) at 6,500 rpm
Top Speed 226 km/h (141 mph)
Acceleration 0-100 km/h (0-62.5 mph): 3.0 s
Fuel Consumption 6.2 l/100 km (38.3 mpg)
Fuel Range 306 km (191 mls.)

EQUIPMENT
Dashboard w/speedometer, tachometer, cooling fluid temperature gauge, digital odometer and trip odometer, ignition switch/lock in front of the upper triple clamp, lever for front brake adjustable, side stand, raincoat compartment under the seat, electronic anti-theft device (deactivated with ignition key).

ROADRUNNER Test Diagram
Engine 5/5
Chassis 5/5
Brakes 5/5
Comfort 4/5
Luggage w/accessories 3/5
Equipment 3/5
Design 4/5
Bike for the buck 5/5