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Honda CB1100 2013 review

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Honda has raised the bar with the new CB1100: it’s not just the style which is retro, the handling and engine have been given an old school flavour too.

That’s not to say the bike weaves and bobs through high speed corners or runs on two cylinders in the wet, but there has been a deliberate attempt to reproduce more than the obvious styling cues with the latest CB. Honda put experienced engineer Hirofumi Fukunaga in charge of the project, a sign of how important it was to them, and sure enough he’s worked retro features deep into the bike’s engineering, as well as its look.

See the Hirofumi Fukunaga interview here for more detail – it’s an interesting one!

The CB1100 is designed to celebrate air-cooled Honda fours generally, rather than any one model in particular, and there are plenty of recognisable visual cues. The exhaust nods at the 1970s 400-Four, the tail-light and green dials are generic seventies Honda, the wheels are Comstar inspired, the mudguards are chromed and the engine has the look of the first air-cooled, DOHC models such as the CB900F, largely due to the widely spaced camshafts with their chrome end caps.

Honda_CB1100_29

But there’s a lot more to it. The cooling fins for example are a thin 2mm in section at their tips, as they used to be three decades ago, in part to enhance that seventies style but also because these tick and ping characteristically when the engine’s cooling after a hard run – and sure enough, they do. On cylinders one and two, the inlet valves close slightly earlier than on cylinders three and four, a move designed to give the engine a slightly rough, lumpier feel in imitation of older designs.

The chassis revives narrow tyres and bigger wheels, using a 110mm front and 140mm rear on 18 inch rims, and the Metzelers fitted have a single radius profile, as older tyres used to. The geometry is old fashioned too, with a 27 degree rake angle, long 1490mm 58.7in) wheelbase and 114mm (4.49in) trail. You also get twin shocks and a tubular steel double cradle frame, although a closer look reveals the tubes are much thicker than they would have been 30-odd years ago.

Honda_CB1100_39

The engine hides plenty of modern technology despite its retro appearance. As well as the staggered intake timing, there are air vents through the head and carefully routed oilways inside it, all designed to keep the spark plugs cool. Heat dispersion within the cylinders is helped by the use of all-aluminium barrels with sintered aluminium sleeves, and unlike older Honda fours, there are four valves per cylinder. The outer two exhaust pipes exit at an angle so they can clear the two frame downtubes.

The relatively low power output of 84bhp (85PS, 66kW) means the engine is not highly stressed, so even though this is Honda’s first new air-cooled four for 20 years, it passes all current and predicted emissions regulations. No more carburettors though, so the CB gets four 36mm throttle bodies with fuel injection. The bore and stroke dimensions are less oversquare than current practice generally, at 73.5mm x 67.2mm, a ratio of 0.914 compared with 0.753 for the Fireblade.

Honda_CB1100_15

There are plenty of neat touches, like the fuel tank deliberately being made narrow enough so you see the engine below when sitting on the bike, and the brakes are Honda’s first ‘hubless’ disc design, meaning the front discs are attached directly to the wheel rather than on a central carrier. This gives the front end a cleaner look. Like the rear light, the indicators have a period look, and you also get helmet locks on each side of the seat, just like old bikes used to have – there’s even a centre stand, remember those?

The bike has been available in Japan for three years now but there are significant differences in the European version’s spec, including a wider air cleaner aperture, no flap in the silencer and revised fuel injection settings, which together have given the engine a substantial gain in torque below 3,000rpm.

Honda_CB1100_07

This wouldn’t matter on a lot of bikes, but the CB1100 has the most tractable engine I’ve ever used. Even in fifth gear (top) I found I was using lower and lower revs, simply because the engine was comfortable with it, until as an experiment I let the revs drop to 500rpm, and still the bike pulled away without a hint of transmission protest and strongly enough for everyday riding. That’s half the idle speed! As an experiment I left the bike in top gear across one of the small towns we rode through, which included some red traffic lights and roundabouts where I had to stop, and aside from a little more clutch slip than usual it coped just fine.

This is very much a low and mid-range engine, as you’d expect, and it’s strong and responsive here without threatening to rip your arms off. But the bike overtakes cars with little need to drop a gear and gets fast enough to be exciting and stretch the chassis. Some patches of tingling vibration come and go as the revs rise, but there’s nothing intrusive, although at some steady motorway speeds you could end up with the odd numbed digit. This isn’t an issue generally though, and the engine does have a pleasing, gravelly sound that’s a more welcome characteristic from the past. Spin it into the red line above 9,000rpm and it feels flat, but that’s not what the bike is about, and it has enough muscle for anything but harder sports riding, along with, ironically, more character than the original four-cylinder engines which inspired it.

Honda claims a fuel consumption figure of 51.5mpg (18.2km/l, 5.49l/100km, 42.8mpg US) in general riding, which wasn’t possible to check on the presentation, but generally I get around 10-12 per cent less than Honda’s claims so 45mpg is a realistic expectation, and it could be better. That would mean a range of 145 miles (230km), which will be adequate for many buyers but some will find it restrictive, especially when venturing on the longer trips which the bike is perfectly capable of. It’s going to put a few people off, that’s for sure.

Honda_CB1100_31

Comfort is good after all, a day in the seat caused me no problems and the slight forward lean and spacious riding position are fine for most kinds of riding. The seat is low – the official figure is 31.3in (795mm) but the slim tank and front part of the seat help in reaching the ground too.

In keeping with the attention to detail, the general finish is outstanding, especially the deep, liquid gloss of the tank paint. This comes in white, red or black and looks stunning in red in the sunshine, while many other components are deep chrome, polished aluminium or a high quality plastic. The impression is that Honda really cares about this bike, as if because it’s flying the flag for the company’s heritage they’ve needed to put in some extra effort.

What some riders might not get on with though is the handling, simply because it’s so different to what they’re used to. All those retro chassis parts have had an effect and the feel is quite different as a result. The steering is extremely light, which is fine for agility around town but there’s little feel in the straight ahead position, while the bike rolls into a turn with disconcerting speed, then changes direction slowly. It’s all a bit odd unless you’ve had experience of seventies bikes, in which case there’s something familiar about it. What you don’t get though is the awkward feeling of lots of mass concentrated around the headstock that many bikes used to have, the CB1100 instead having excellent balance at low speeds which also helps it around town. It steers well too, just occasionally hinting at a tendency to drop into turns at lower speeds which never really seems to materialise.

The suspension meanwhile works very well, getting just a little choppy on bumpy roads at higher speeds but providing a really good and sometimes plush ride quality the rest of the time. There’s nothing retro about the brakes though, which have plenty of power with decent feedback and ABS as standard.

Honda_CB1100_25

Honda says its research has showed many customers will be those interested in classic bikes but who don’t want the hassle and reliability issues of riding a 30 or 40 year-old machine. There’s little doubt the CB1100 will be utterly dependable, and it will also meet the desire for some authenticity, even as a pastiche of a range of older machines, as the lineage is clear and the execution excellent. What surprises many people though is how many youngsters are going for this kind of machine – it’s the same with Bonnevilles and the W800, as these are what many new riders think of as looking like proper motorbikes. The Honda does the same.

Another surprise is how few accessories Honda has produced. The bike is lining up to do the same job as the Bonneville and W800 for Triumph and Kawasaki, the Monster for Ducati or even the Sportster for Harley, yet you can only buy a handful of bits and bobs for it, where these other machines, especially the European and American ones, have whole catalogues of extras. Honda though is still uncertain about sales, which is why the bike has not even come to Europe until now, and the company’s rich heritage hasn’t had the same appeal here as the home grown brands’. But if any bike can change that, it’s the CB1100. It’s a handsome machine in its own right, it has all the right styling cues but it also offers some real character along with hints of the feel and sound of an older machine.

The fact that some reviewers actively didn’t like it, as opposed to be being unmoved either way, to me confirms Fukunaga has done an especially good job here. The big fear was that the CB1100 would be bland and boring, but instead it’s evoked emotions and opinions in people. I happen to like it a lot and particularly appreciate the care and attention to detail that’s gone into the engineering as well as the styling.

Specifications
Model tested: Honda CB1100

  • UK price: £8,950
  • Available: March 2013
  • Engine: in line, four cylinder, air cooled, dohc 12v, 1140cc
  • Power: 84bhp (85PS, 66kW) @ 7,500rpm
  • Torque: 69b.ft (9.46kgm) @ 5,000rpm
  • Economy: 51mpg (18.2km/l, 5.49l/100km, 42.8mpg US) (claimed)
  • Tank/Range: 3.2 gallons (14.6 litres, 3.9 gallons US) / 145miles (230km)
  • Transmission: Five gears, wet, multi-plate clutch, chain final drive
  • Frame: tubular steel cradle
  • Seat height: 31.3in (795mm)
  • Wheelbase: 58.7in (1490mm)
  • Rake/trail: 27 °/ 4.50in (114mm)
  • Weight: 547lb (248kg) wet

"There are moments on bikes when you're concentrating so intently on the moment, the rest of the world, life, worries, memories are all pushed out of your mind as you focus on the now. There's no such thing as perfect happiness, but on two wheels, these can get close." – Kevin Ash, 2011 Interview, Bike Exif

Kevin Ash was for 15 years the motorcycling correspondent of The Daily Telegraph. He tragically died whilst test riding a new bike in South Africa on January 22, 2013. He was 53.

His website - AshonBikes.com was a frequent read for the founders of Motofire.com and - with the blessing of his wife, Caroline - it's our pleasure to be able to share Kevin's reviews and writing with a new, wider audience.

If you would like to donate to the fund setup by the Daily Telegraph in support of his family, you can do so by clicking here.

REVIEWS

Ride Review: The Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 hits the bullseye!

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WE’VE WAITED SO LONG, and it’s finally here.

It was over three years ago, in November 2014, when Husqvarna revealed the Vitpilen 401 concept at the huge EICMA show in Italy. It marked Husqvarna’s return to the street motorcycle segment, and the attention it received was massive.

The angular, fresh design helped: for many, it was a welcome respite from the endless focus on the retro scene. Then a year later, the bigger 701 concept was unveiled: another clean and modern design, built around the 690 Duke engine from sister company KTM.

Husqvarna Vitpilen designer: ‘We want to offer an alternative to the motorcycle market’.

Fortunately, the production Vitpilen 701 is very close to the concept, and the design is stunning in the metal. The tank is a piece of modern art, and so is the tail unit. It’s all very clean and sleek—very Swedish, pure and simple.

This is the DNA of the bike, and its vision too. It was not developed for a specific target group, and there is no stereotype that matches its philosophy. The Vitpilen 701 defines its own segment.

The new Husqvarna is a serious and ‘grown up’ motorcycle, and not just a style item.

It’s tempting to underestimate single cylinder bikes, but one shouldn’t. Especially not when the engine is the most powerful street single you can get nowadays. It’s derived from the KTM Duke 690 and delivers 75 hp at 8,500 rpm from 693 cc. It’s also worth noting the Vitpilen’s wet weight of only 166 kilograms, which is easy meat for this engine.

It’s a good setup and it’ll put a bright smile on your face. In Swedish Vitpilen means “white arrow” and the moniker fits well.

The urban playgrounds of Barcelona and the Catalonian backcountry are a good area to test performance, in both city traffic and on twisty roads. The chassis is quite firm, but it’s a dynamic and precise riding experience.

It’s super easy to bank the bike quickly from one side to the other, from curve to curve. The 43mm USD forks and monoshock—both from sister company WP Performance Systems—deliver exact feedback. You know exactly what’s going on, but the setup is also stable at speeds of up 160 kph (100 mph) on the highway.

For a single, the sound through the standard exhaust system is pretty good, especially if you’re accelerating at full throttle. If it’s not loud enough for you, you can improve it with a stunning titanium/carbon muffler from Akrapovič—which adds to the looks of the bike and doesn’t require a remap.

The seating position is comfortable and feels ‘just right’—even though it’s higher than you’d expect at 830mm. Everything else is where it needs to be, and gives you a good feeling of control.

The headlight is well made and looks very sharp, but the dashboard could have been finished a little better. It’s also not always easy to read the key information fast.

To sum up: the Vitpilen 701 is a fun and easy bike to ride. It’s not cheap, but it’s not expensive either. For US$11,999 (or £8,899 or €10,195) you can get one of the most desirable and stylish motorcycles on the market.

It’s a progressive design that fits the modern zeitgeist, with state-of-the-art componentry and engineering—and a dynamic riding experience. Well done Husqvarna. Your white arrow has hit the bullseye.


The full version of this review first appeared on Bike Exif. It’s republished here with explicit permission.

For the full review by Christoph Blumberg of CRAFTRAD and more photographs head on over to BikeExif.com

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Ride Review: We’d buy a Triumph Tiger 800 XC in an instant – If we had the money!

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We often speak about riding into the ‘middle of nowhere’ – that place where we’ve lost GPS signal, there’s no bars on the mobile phone reception and there isn’t a petrol station for miles around – but it’s usually a metaphor and doesn’t really exist.

Yet somehow, Triumph found us that place for the Tiger 800 launch and we can”t wait to return.

Our ‘middle of nowhere’ for the Triumph Tiger 800 test is in and around the wasteland of lake Lalla Takerkoust in Morocco. It’s a fitting location for the smaller bike in the Tiger range that Triumph hope is to become synonymous with adventure.

What kind of adventure chosen is up to the individual of course and everyone has to decide for themselves – it could just be a ride through the centre of the city at rush hour, or a trip through the African savannah. Regardless of your pursuits, Triumph say that they now have a very clear Tiger 800 range that should offer something for everyone. But even after speaking with Triumph’s Chief Engineer Stuart Woods it took us longer than we would like to fully comprehend the difference between the Tiger XR, XRx, XRxlrh, XRt, XCx and XCA.

For those who are of a similar mindset, the closest we could come to was this… The XR is for asphalt use and is available in a basic version (XR), the same bike but slightly more richer equipped (XRx with LED daytime running lights, handle heating, TFT color dashboard, etc) or as a luxury model (XRt with heated seat, full LED, extra driving modes, fully adjustable Showa suspension, etc).

The lrh version, or Low Ride Height, is considered a completely separate model because the engine not only receives a lower saddle, but also a lower suspension. It’s nice that Triumph takes into account a slightly shorter riders!

This logic is then extended out from the XR series to the more off-road orientated XC range. However, there isn’t a ‘basic’ XC version, just the XCx which is already reasonably well equipped and then the XCa which has all of the bells and whistles thrown at it.

Anyway, enough letters and versioning, as motorcycle journalists we get to feed our egos with only the best models, so the XRt and XCa are presented to us and the heated seats are immediately welcomed as we set off towards the Atlas Mountains.

The addition of new toys and electronics make an already good ride even better

The first few kilometres are enough for us to determine the marked differences between this and the previous Tiger 800. Of course the most immediately visible from a rider’s view is the new colour TFT dashboard screen and handily adjustable windshield. From an aural perspective the new 800 has a narrower exhaust damper that sounds a lot deeper in low revs and roars louder as you open the throttle. It’s the perfect amplifier for that wonderful, triple engine.

The Triumph engineers will say that there are more than 200 improvements made to this new Tiger 800, but whilst the changes made may be many, the bike still feels comfortably familiar. This is no bad thing either, as the Tiger 800 was always a relatively light and fun bike that didn’t shy away from the task of tackling heavier roads.

Certainly during the first test drive on the road with the XRt it is noticeable how smoothly the three-cylinder picks up from the bottom and still pulls hard up to the red zone at 10,500 rpm. The sports mode with it’s 95hp isn’t the most potent of machines on the market, but this just means it’s a machine that we reckon everyone would be able to handle. In this respect the gearing has been tweaked too – enabling a shorter first gear that means that riders should now benefit from better control of immediate torque when compared to the previous version – especially when off-road.

Where the Tiger 800 really shines through is with it’s balance of components, comfort and riding characteristics. The wide handlebars offer a solid lever, the tank is well-formed and offers a lot of ‘grip’ and it’s interesting to note that the larger 21″ front wheel on the XCa is almost as neutral and familiar as the XR.

Who ever thinks that an 800cc three-cylinder is too heavy to play in loose sand, between the rocks or on jumps, must revise this opinion immediately

All of the Tiger 800s (with the exception of the base model XR) come with Brembo front brakes too, and these do a fantastic job of offering balanced bite in well-managed doses. And of course there is the adjustable ABS that really handles itself well in even the most treacherous of circumstances.

After a whole day of touring, we become convinced that the new Tiger 800 isn’t so much a revolution of the previous machine as opposed to a measured and balanced evolution of it. The engine was already great – it still is – and the addition of new toys and electronics make an already good ride even better.

The next day sees us on the XCa’s equipped with Pirelli Scorpion Rally studs and playing some more on the Moroccan trails.

Even more so than on the road, it strikes us just how well balanced the XCa is and how smoothly this engine comes out to play.

Who ever thinks that an 800cc three-cylinder is too heavy to play in loose sand, between the rocks or on jumps, must revise this opinion immediately. Admittedly, it doesn’t take long before the bottom plate has claps,the soil underneath, but that’s what it’s for!

We do wonder if the plastic hand caps and tank parts would survive a slight crash just as quickly though.

After just a short ride in the sand, it dawns on us that this is the real, natural habitat for for the Tiger 800. The XRt is undoubtedly the more thoughtful option for the busy road traffic, but given a choice we would buy an XC in an instant, slip on the off-road studs and drift, slip and jump my way along any dirt I could find, powered by that sumptuous three-cylinder soundtrack.

If we had the £12,500 to spend on such a machine that is! And that’s before we’ve even added the cost of the panniers.

The Tiger 800 is a beautiful machine and the equipment is as top-level as a rider can get, but secretly we dream of a Tiger 800 XC with as little bling and glamour as possible. Forget the iPad like dashboard, the 27 rider modes, electronic aids, heated grips or Brembo brakes and give us a basic XC package for around £9,500.

Sure the ride won’t be quite as pleasurable, but then the tent we would have strapped to the back wouldn’t come with air-conditioning either and we’d be ok with that!

Specifications

Triumph Tiger 800 XRt
Engine:
  800cc, 4 kl./cil., Water-cooled 3-in-line  
Max. power:
 95 hp / 9,500 rpm 
Max. torque:
    79 Nm / 8.050 rpm 
Transmission:
  zesbak, chain 
Frame:
  steel trellis frame 
Front suspension:
  43 mm Showa fully adjustable suspension 180 mm 
Rear suspension:
  Showa monoshock, fully adjustable, suspension 170 mm 
Front brake:
  305 mm discs with Brembo radially mounted four-piston calipers, ABS 
Rear brake :
  255 mm disc with Nissin twin piston caliper, ABS Front 
/ rear tires: 
 100 / 90-19 / 150 / 70-17  
Dry weight:
 199-208kg, depending on model 
Seat height:
  810 – 830 mm 
Tank capacity:
      19 l. 
Colours:
  Silver Ice, Crystal White, Matt Cobalt Blue

 

Triumph Tiger 800 XCa
Engine:
  800cc, 4 kl./cil., Water-cooled 3-in-line  
Max. power:
 95 hp / 9,500 rpm 
Max. torque:
    79 Nm / 8.050 rpm 
Transmission:
  zesbak, chain 
Frame:
  steel trellis frame 
Front suspension:
  43 mm WP fully adjustable travel 220 mm 
Rear suspension:
  WP monoshock, fully adjustable, travel 215 mm 
Front brake:
  305 mm discs with Brembo radially mounted four-piston calipers, ABS 
Rear brake :
  255 mm disc with Nissin twin piston caliper, ABS Front 
/ rear tires:
 90 / 90-21 / 150 / 70-17  
Dry weight:
  199-208kg, depending on model
Seat height:
  840 – 860 mm 
Tank capacity:
      19 l. 
Colours:
  Korosi Red, Crystal White, Marine


This review was first featured on MaxxMoto. It’s translated and republished here with permission.

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