Classic Styling with Modern Performance
Honda’s retro-styled CB1100 was introduced to the Japanese market in 2010, but there was some doubt whether we would ever see it here in America. Good news! The CB1100 finally came to our shores in 2013, and I was chomping at the bit to own one.
Retro styling, combined with modern technology, can be a powerful draw in today’s motorcycle marketplace. The CB1100 pays homage to the lineage of Honda’s air-cooled, in-line four cylinder high performance bikes, which began with the introduction of the CB750 in 1969. The CB1100’s styling is not intended to be a replica of just one particular bike; instead, it’s a composite of design cues from several CBs of the era.
Having previously owned a red 1975 CB400F Super Sport, with its iconic four-into-one exhaust and distinctive fuel tank, I was immediately drawn to the CB1100’s classic look. Although the new bike’s headers lack the distinctive angularity of the CB400F, it nevertheless is visually enticing. And, the bike exudes both great attention to detail and quality construction. The air-cooled engine with its dual overhead camshafts, blacked-out cooling fins, and polished aluminum bits is a thing of beauty.
With about 85 hp on tap at the crankshaft, the CB1100 has adequate power but less than most other modern liter-class sport motorcycles. Certainly more horsepower could have been achieved with a water-cooled engine and a higher compression ratio, but adding a disguised radiator would have undercut the bike’s design objectives. The engine’s torque curve, which climbs rapidly and peaks at around 68 pound-feet, gives the bike plenty of quickness for everyday sporty riding. The CB’s fuel injected acceleration is delivered in a linear, smooth-as-silk fashion.
However, at 549 pounds wet (ABS version), the CB1100 is a little porky. But, the bike’s weight provides plenty of open road stability, even in windy conditions. The suspension, with dual shocks out back, provides a comfortable ride without undercutting taut handling. Although the fuel tank has a capacity of only 3.9 gallons, the CB’s range is helped by its efficient consumption of fuel (at least for a 1,140cc engine). My bike has consistently delivered 45 to 50 mpg, which converts to a range of at least 175 miles.
Although the CB1100 is a well-designed and engineered bike, no motorcycle is perfect, including this one. Here is my short list of disappointments:
- The oil level window is small and difficult to see through.
- The stepped seat is not adjustable and is low for riders with long inseams.
- The range of accessories offered in the U.S. is limited, given that this bike has been on sale since 2010 and at a time when many accessories are available abroad.
- Fuel tank capacity of 3.9 gallons seems to be unnecessarily small.
- Why not offer a spoke wheels option to solidify the retro styling?
Of course, most of any bike’s disappointments can be rectified in the aftermarket.
In 2014, Honda introduced two versions of its CB1100: Standard and Deluxe. Both are equipped with a six-speed transmission and a new LCD instrument display with clock, gear-position indicator, and revised trip computer. With the Deluxe version, Honda adds a four-into-two exhaust, double wall chrome headers, ABS braking, candy red paint (instead of black on the standard), and an extra .7 gallon of fuel capacity.
Although $ 3,666.96 has been added to the cost of my 2013 CB1100 in aftermarket accessories, I’m very satisfied with the end result. With more gears it’s easier to keep a high-revving in-line four engine in its power band, but a robust, relatively flat torque curve helps to offset the missing sixth gear. As for the larger gas tank available on the 2014 Deluxe model, that clearly would be a “nice-to-have.” But, my bike’s 175-mile range should be adequate even when touring in the western states. Although the K&N air filter and Staintune exhaust added relatively little horsepower, the cosmetic and aural enhancements add to my riding pleasure. In the final analysis, each rider must decide which accessories and enhancements are worth their additional cost.
Engine 1,140cc inline-four cylinder, 9.5:1 compression ratio
Cooling air and oil-cooled
Suspension Front/Rear Showa 41mm forks, adjustable pre-load/4.7in travel Showa dual shocks, adjustable pre-load 3.5in travel
Brakes Front/Rear dual 4-piston calipers w/full-floating 296mm discs/single-piston caliper w/ 256mm disc
Seat Height 31.3in (795mm) (w/ stock seat)
Fuel Capacity 3.9gal (14.7l), .9gal (3.4l) reserve (U.S.)
Wet Weight 540lbs, (245kg), 549lbs (249kg) w/ ABS
Colors Candy Red