Used Review: Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird

Ten years ago the Super Blackbird was celebrated as the fastest and most powerful thing on two wheels. Now, it's 'just' a very fast, big, sports tourer with an enviable reputation for quality.

By Bertie Simmonds on Sat, 5 Apr 2008 - 10:04

Visordown Motorcycle News

If it ain't broke, don't fix it, so the old adage goes. And that sums up the Blackbird perfectly.

Launched at the end of 1996, the bike was lauded as being a technical tour-de-force before quietly slipping behind the times as Suzuki's Hayabusa and then Kawasaki's ZX-12R trumped it for speed and power.

But Honda simply refined their beast, adding fuel-injection, a classier dashboard and very little else, making the 2001-on Blackbirds pretty much faultless. It should have been outclassed, but bizarrely the Blackbird kept popping up and giving them a bloody nose in group tests long after it shouldn't have.

It was graceful with awesome build quality where the 'Busa was ugly and poorly finished; it had comfort and 'legs' where the ZX-12R was cramped and had poor range. If you don't believe us about the build quality, check the picture above and try and guess which one is the S-reg bike and which is the '05 bike.


This thing is hewn from solid bauxite. It can take all the punishment a British winter can throw at it and still come up bright as a new pin with just a jet-wash and rub-down. Impressive. One thing, owners of the later 'matt black' finish machines report that the matt soon becomes satin or even quite glossy after it's been cleaned a few times. Similar to the satin-finish Aprilia RSV Milles of 2001-on, then.


Stay pretty strong, but the good thing is as they've been around for so long there's a bike for most budgets.


'Bird owners come in all different shapes and sizes, but many complain the big Honda is not a perfect fit for them. Many fit padded seats, bar-risers or alter the footpegs. Double-bubble screens are also popular. Honda will be listening to this, so expect to find the company's 'Just Fit' philosophy seen on the CBF range added to the future Blackbird (whenever that appears) to keep owners happy.


Essentials include a hugger, a tank pad, a fender extender, small crash mushrooms - the big ones can only be fitted too low and so allow the nose cone to go down - and headlight protector (it's a lot of money for a new headlight assembly). Other popular mods include mirror arm extenders, bar risers, fork preload adjusters, High Intensity Discharge headlight kit, yoke protectors and a 6mm spacer on top of the shock to jack up the rear end of the bike and speed up the steering


Some die-hard experienced riders don't like 'em, while Honda's own market research shows around 85 per cent of owners love it.


For some reason, the front wheel of a carburated XX will not fit the injected machine. You have been warned.


1996-1998 models' front springs start to sag by about 15,000-20,000 miles. The best way to check is to form a vertical fist and see if it will slide easily between the underside of the nose cone and the top of the front mudguard. If it doesn't, they're shot. JAWS Motorcycles supplies an upgrade kit with different length springs and spacers for £87. And don't fit progressive springs - they don't work well on the 'Bird!


Very smooth power apart from a few minor hiccups. Standard pre-injection models suffer from a hole in the power at around 5000rpm although this can be sorted with careful Dyno jetting. Fuel injected models can stutter a little in the low 2-3000rpm range. From 6000 on though the thing pulls hard up to its peak power at around 10,000rpm.


Apparently, all carburated Blackbirds will all suffer regulator/rectifier failure at some point (generally between 12-35,000 miles). Fortunately this can be overcome by fitting an aftermarket unit with cooling fins added.


While the fuel-injected bikes (1999-2001) have solid reg/recs, the generator stator can be a problem on these.Once again, replace with an aftermarket one and the problem rarely comes back.


Early machines (late 1996-1998) have had CCTs 'go' as early as 7000 miles. You'll feel it as a little 'tinkling' sound at around 3200rpm. Later bikes were better, with the average life being between 15 to 30,000 miles.


There is a big multi-pin plug buried in the loom to the rear of the tank on the left-hand side. Apparently, the plug was used once by Honda when the bike was built and then they wrapped it up in black tape and tucked it away. Unfortunately water gets into the tape and rots the connections, causing the FI light to come on or making the bike misfire. The simple cure is to cut the thing off and just join the wires together. This mainly effects the 1999-2000 model Blackbird.


The rear shock is gas over oil and apparently it's looking a little past its best between 15-20,000 miles. JAWS Motorcycles suggests don't replace it, but have it rebuilt by them with an oil over oil configuration which costs around £112. They can get the thing set up to the rider's specific weight and riding style too.


"The Honda was quite clearly the favourite bike on this test, despite being the oldest, the slowest and least powerful."

JOHN CANTLIE, Blitkrieg test October 2001 - "Manages more things more often than the other bikes here. Can do 170mph all day but can still play the fool as well as the other. Truly the gentlemen's express."

WARREN POLE, Hypersports test, August 2004 - "It's comfortable, the gearbox is slick and the engine's smooth. The snatchy throttle isn't good but overall this bike's excellent. Ticks all the boxes." JAMES WHITHAM, Hyperbike Test, November2005


All our prices are sourced from trade and private ads in a variety of real-world publications. No simple book price for us. Oh no

BIKE: Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird (1996-1998)

COLOURS: black, titanium, maroon, red

PRICE NEW: £9745 (1997)

PRICE NOW: £2600-£4300

COMMENTS: Original carbed model. Honda's Dual Combined Braking System was used. Only change by 1998 was the thermostat housing.

BIKE: Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird (1999-2001)

COLOURS: black, red and blue

PRICE NEW: £7945 (1999)

PRICE NOW: £3500-£4900

COMMENTS: Carburettors ditched in favour of Honda's PGM-FI engine management. Other changes included clutch, oil cooler, airbox housing and air ducts, which resulted in the mesh air intakes being replaced by louvred ones. Pearl prism black and Candy glory red and introduced too. The tail light also became 'piggy-backed' like the headlight.

BIKE: Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird (2001-on)

COLOURS: silver, black, blue, red

PRICE NEW: £8649 (2006)

PRICE NOW: £4300-£8000

COMMENTS: Iridium spark plugs introduced and a catalytic converter fitted for the first time. Big changes wer a swanky digi dash, multi-reflector headlights and a taller screen. The bike has stayed the same ever since.


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