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Street-nakeds tend to be the closest to the motorcycles we usually start riding on. Way more powerful, heavier and expensive but the body-bike relationship is pretty close. And that’s the first impression one gets on sitting astride a Honda CB1000R. We review the beauty and the beast in it…
Photos: Sundeep Gajjar / motoGrapher.com & Sandeep Goswami
Text: Sandeep Goswami
The riding stance is so generically motorcycle-like. Slightly rear-set foot pegs, a tank that the knees can easily grip, handlebars that need a slight forward rotation of the torso to reach comfortably with slightly flexed arms and the general feel of ‘riding’ astride a bike, neither on top of it nor ‘inside’ it.
This feeling of easy familiarity and the unhurried intimacy it encourages between the rider and machine is carried forward by the engine and drive-train. This is a high-performance bike, no two thoughts about that, but not one that necessarily imposes itself on the rider. He can choose the facet he wants to reveal, the devil or the saint. And a simple flick of the wrist can transform it from one to the other. The ’07 Fireblade derived 998cc in-line 4, though supposedly de-tuned for a flatter torque curve, still remains potent enough to take the bike from stand-still to a 100 kmph in less than 3 seconds. Yet the engine with its spot-on fuelling and the right gearing allows the same bike to trundle at
The street-naked, looking good is not just about good looks. It has to exude an attitude, ooze raw excitement and a perfect test for this is when it excites impromptu comments about its looks from the most poker-faced of onlookers. The CB1000R does all that and the comments keep flowing even if it passes by at a fair clip. Made by a company known more for perfection in its machines, they being perfect to the point of blandness and emanating those ‘good-boy’ vibes by the truckloads, the CB1000R sure is a pretty radical shift in Honda’s motorcycle design paradigm. The ‘crouching cat’ stance, the brilliantly effective triangular head-lamp with the underslung circular LED cluster, the massive single-sided swing-arm, those ‘sweeping’ spoked die-cast wheels and the unusual low-slung exhaust that comes from the ‘Blade are all strong visual elements that make for a pretty aggressive yet well-wrapped up look. Sit on it, especially after dark and see the instrument cluster glow a beautiful soft blue. A digital ‘strip’ tacho in the middle flanked by a digital speedo on the left and the tell-tale info stuff in the right display. Adding to this hi-tech impression is the Honda Ignition Security System (HISS) that allows access to the bike only through either of its two original chip-embedded keys, the system disabling the ignition in a manner that cannot be bypassed by hot-wiring in any way. In its entirety, the visual, aural, technological and tactile feel of the bike is a definite and firm intrusion into the established street-naked category ruled by the Triumph Triples and Ducati Monsters.
A good motorcycle is of course a lot more than mere looks and an engine between two wheels. A strong engine results in high potential speeds and so makes controlling the bike paramount. And the CB1000R shines here. A very rigid gravity-die-cast single sided swing arm in conjunction with an adjustable mono-shock does duty for the rear while an equally rigid inverted cartridge-type fork with 43mm thick stanchions anchors the front. The front is fully adjustable for pre-load, compression and rebound damping. The suspension set-up felt spot-on and the bike felt amazingly planted through any and every maneuver. Even though the swing-arm is a lot heavier than the set-up the Fireblade uses, the benefits, both in performance and aesthetics far outweigh the penalty imposed by weight. All this tech results in a bike that steers to perfection, right from a crawl to 200+ kph. Be it a blast through the twisties or a swift commute on the straights, the CB1000R does the job with almost boring exactitude.
The brakes, like the engine, are a straight derivative of those on the Fireblade but with slightly smaller discs. This and the fact that the CB is substantially heavier than the ‘Blade make the brakes feel just right for the bike’s purpose. Any supersports’ brakes, like its performance, can be intimidating and takes skills better than the ordinary to master. No such issues with the CB’s anchors and it goes for both front and rear. As a matter of fact, the rear has a better bite and gives enough feedback for the rider to use it with confidence, something that even most race-track bred ones cannot lay a claim on. The bike I rode had a slightly loose steering head bearing and so the front juddered a little under panic braking but I firmly believe it was more a case of an incidental and rectifiable fault than a design issue.
Handling the CB1000R is like handling a very powerful and somewhat heavy Karizma. Pretty neutral in its turn-ins, the bike leans just so much as the rider wants and feedback is virtually telepathic.
The low-slung engine results in a low center of mass and the fact that the addition of the rider into the equation does not result in a major shift in it makes the bike very flickable. And yet there was no discernible steering nod when riding at appreciable speeds through twisties that had a rippled surface, even without a steering damper. The rigid swing-arm of course takes most of the credit for this and so does the linear power delivery.
That the CB is unequivocally a street-fighter that cares primarily for the rider, the pillion being almost an appendage, is apparent from the seat design. The perch for the rider, though minimalist, is well designed and acceptably comfortable. But the same can definitely not be attributed to that for the pillion which gets the step-motherly treatment reducing it to a mere slip of a cushion that would make even the slimmest and shapeliest of the human rear-ends writhe in discomfort after some time on the road. But then this bike is not a tourer as such anyway. True, the torquey engine, splendid ergonomics, great handling and secure braking are all the ingredients needed to make a tourer but the lack of wind-protection and a relatively small-capacity fuel tank precludes its effective use as a real mile muncher. The low gearing penalizes fuel consumption further reducing range but then one wouldn’t really want to do 150 kph in first on a naked bike.
The CB1000R has been the most ‘rider-friendly’ litre-class bike I have ridden and also the most ‘natural’ to ride on. Not intimidating at all despite those aggressive looks (though a hard twist of that throttle does make ‘not intimidating’ a misnomer), it endears itself to the rider by becoming just what he/she wants it to be. It responds to its master like a superbly trained horse, switching between a leisurely canter and fast gallop with unimaginable ease and seamless fluidity. This is one bike that can befriend a rider quicker than any and keep that trust for as long as the rider desires. And yes, the Hornet finally has the sting, the wings and the looks to buzz terra-firma big time.
* Engine Liquid- cooled 4-Stroke 16-Value DOHC inline 4
* Displacement 998 cm3
* Bore X Stroke 75 X 56.5 mm
* Compression Ratio 11.2:1
* Max. Power Output 92 kW/10,000 min-1 (95/1/EC)
* Max.Torque 100 Nm/ 8,000 min-1 (95/1/EC)
* Carburation PGM – FI electronic fuel injection
* Ignition System Computer – Controlled digital transistorized with electronic advance.
* Starter Electric
* Transmission 6-Speed
* Final Drive # 530 O-ring Sealed chain
* Dimension (LxWxH) 2,105 x 785 x 1,095 mm
* Wheelbase 1,445 mm
* Seat Height 825 mm
* Ground Clearance 130 mm
* Fuel Tank Capacity 17 Litres (including 4-litre LCD –indicated reserve)
* Suspension Front 43 mm inverted HMAS cartridge –type telescopic fork with step less preload, compression and rebound damping adjustment, 120 mm cushion stroke.
* Suspension Rear Monoshock with gas -charged HMAS damper featuring 10 – step preload, compression and rebound damping adjustment, 128 mm axle travel
* Wheel Front Closed –section 4 –spoke cast aluminium
* Wheel Rear Closed –section 4 –spoke cast aluminium
* Tyres Front 120/70 – ZR17M/C (58 W)
* Tyres Rear 180/55 – ZR17M/C (73 W)
* Brakes Front 310 x 4.5 mm dual hydraulic disc with 4-piston caliper, floating rotors and sintered metal pads
* Brakes Rear 256 x 5 mm dual hydraulic disc with dual-piston caliper and sintered metal pads
* Frame Mono – backbone ;cast aluminium
* Caster Angle 25
* Trial 99 mm
* Kerb weight 217 kg (F: 106 kg; R: 111 kg)
And don’t forget to check out the video when we took the Honda CB1000R to one of the world’s densely populated areas
Check out some more photos of the Honda CB1000R