Honda CB1000R (2008 - present) review

Details
Manufacturer:
Honda
Category:
Naked
Price:
£ 6950
Overall
4
Essentially a de-tuned Fireblade with riser bars. Capable and great fun.
Sterile, sounds like a modified dishwasher.

Angular, aggressive and arguably the least conservative bike to come out of the Honda factory in a very long time, the CB1000R was one of only a handful of bikes that got me properly excited when it was launched towards the tail end of 2007.

Like a wide-eyed child with a new Beano annual, I excitedly read all the promotional promises of a full-blooded, sports bike-engined monster of a bike with bags of style and a ton of performance. Absolutely sure that Honda had taken the bull by the horns, at the earliest opportunity I snatch the keys off Hogan and jump on the Honda with suitably youthful enthusiasm.

But then perhaps at my age I should know better. There’s no denying that the CB1000R is an efficient and well engineered motorcycle, but there’s no getting away from the fact that they’ve done what every Japanese manufacturer does when it comes to strapping one of their litre class sports engines into a streetbike chassis – they’ve gone and bottled it.

Rather than give us the fire-breathing lunacy that we probably don’t need but most definitely want, the usual detuning with milder cams and different injection is clearly evident from the very first twist of the throttle. A naked Fireblade, the CB1000R is not.

Okay, perhaps my disappointment at Honda’s lack of bravado has left a slightly bitter taste in my mouth, and in fairness, while the CB is unlikely to scare the pants off you in the wet or have you nervously whooping with delight at the 15th accidental wheelie of the day, it’s unlikely to dish out any nasty surprises, either.

In fact it’s highly probable that Honda have got it exactly right in assuming that while most riders want to be able to tell anybody that’ll listen that their chosen engine displacement is 1000cc, they don’t necessarily want the 160bhp that by rights, should go with it. At least, not from a usable, day-to-day street bike anyway.

And there is still plenty to praise about the way the detuned – sorry, from now on let’s call it retuned – 2007 Fireblade motor works. From a slightly wooly bottom end through to a healthy enough midrange, the way it delivers drive to the back wheel is never anything short of silky smooth if slightly lacking in charisma. The James Blunt, if you will, of this naked clique.

Ease of use is something that the CB1000R has running right through it. The chassis is typically Honda-neutral, the suspension plush and confidence inspiring. The battle-scarred streets of London fail to upset the bike, while the pot-holed B-roads of leafy Surrey on the way south do nothing to bother the well-balanced Jap.

Indeed, head-to-head against the other bikes along the less well-surfaced expanses of fast southern tarmac, the Honda’s lack of grunt compared to the thumping torque of the Ducati and the turbine like pull of the BMW is never really an issue. The compliant suspension, sweet steering and total indifference towards bumps means that the Honda rider can just crack on with the throttle wound on and simply leave the suspension and tyres to deal with the consequences.

Making a bike to suit a variety of riders but still work over a broad range of riding scenarios is something that Honda do very well. While the CB is great fun as a back lane scratcher, it’s the all round appeal of the bike that sets it aside from the more single-minded Streetfighter and the hefty BMW.

In town, the CB1000R is right at home. With a turning circle so tight, you almost feel you could perform the dodgem’s trick of going backwards on full lock. Whipping in and out of the traffic during the bi-daily rush hour slalom is nothing short of fun, while filtering at walking pace is always comfortable; the low speed balance, light clutch and soft bottom end all contributing to make the bike incredibly easy to manage in virtually any scenario.

So, other than Honda’s decision to spare the horses, what’s not to like about the CB1000R? Frankly, not very much. The riding position suits everyone, the futuristic clocks are easy to read, the Combined Braking System (CBS) feels natural after a few miles, the ABS system works without being obtrusive, the gearbox is slick, it’s well priced and it’ll have a go at absolutely anything.

There is a problem with all this ruthless Japanese efficiency, though. The biggest being that in this kind of company, a bit of character goes a hell of a long way. And sadly for the Honda, this is where it all falls a little flat.

If you’re looking for style at a bargain price and are the kind of rider that always goes for practicality over personality then the Honda could well be the bike for you. Up against such classy European opposition though, there’s little doubting that you really do get what you pay for.

Click to read the full road test review

Angular, aggressive and arguably the least conservative bike to come out of the Honda factory in a very long time, the CB1000R was one of only a handful of bikes that got me properly excited when it was launched towards the tail end of 2007.

Like a wide-eyed child with a new Beano annual, I excitedly read all the promotional promises of a full-blooded, sports bike-engined monster of a bike with bags of style and a ton of performance. Absolutely sure that Honda had taken the bull by the horns, at the earliest opportunity I snatch the keys off Hogan and jump on the Honda with suitably youthful enthusiasm.

But then perhaps at my age I should know better. There’s no denying that the CB1000R is an efficient and well engineered motorcycle, but there’s no getting away from the fact that they’ve done what every Japanese manufacturer does when it comes to strapping one of their litre class sports engines into a streetbike chassis – they’ve gone and bottled it.

Rather than give us the fire-breathing lunacy that we probably don’t need but most definitely want, the usual detuning with milder cams and different injection is clearly evident from the very first twist of the throttle. A naked Fireblade, the CB1000R is not.

Okay, perhaps my disappointment at Honda’s lack of bravado has left a slightly bitter taste in my mouth, and in fairness, while the CB is unlikely to scare the pants off you in the wet or have you nervously whooping with delight at the 15th accidental wheelie of the day, it’s unlikely to dish out any nasty surprises, either.

In fact it’s highly probable that Honda have got it exactly right in assuming that while most riders want to be able to tell anybody that’ll listen that their chosen engine displacement is 1000cc, they don’t necessarily want the 160bhp that by rights, should go with it. At least, not from a usable, day-to-day street bike anyway.

And there is still plenty to praise about the way the detuned – sorry, from now on let’s call it retuned – 2007 Fireblade motor works. From a slightly wooly bottom end through to a healthy enough midrange, the way it delivers drive to the back wheel is never anything short of silky smooth if slightly lacking in charisma. The James Blunt, if you will, of this naked clique.

Ease of use is something that the CB1000R has running right through it. The chassis is typically Honda-neutral, the suspension plush and confidence inspiring. The battle-scarred streets of London fail to upset the bike, while the pot-holed B-roads of leafy Surrey on the way south do nothing to bother the well-balanced Jap.

Indeed, head-to-head against the other bikes along the less well-surfaced expanses of fast southern tarmac, the Honda’s lack of grunt compared to the thumping torque of the Ducati and the turbine like pull of the BMW is never really an issue. The compliant suspension, sweet steering and total indifference towards bumps means that the Honda rider can just crack on with the throttle wound on and simply leave the suspension and tyres to deal with the consequences.

Making a bike to suit a variety of riders but still work over a broad range of riding scenarios is something that Honda do very well. While the CB is great fun as a back lane scratcher, it’s the all round appeal of the bike that sets it aside from the more single-minded Streetfighter and the hefty BMW.

In town, the CB1000R is right at home. With a turning circle so tight, you almost feel you could perform the dodgem’s trick of going backwards on full lock. Whipping in and out of the traffic during the bi-daily rush hour slalom is nothing short of fun, while filtering at walking pace is always comfortable; the low speed balance, light clutch and soft bottom end all contributing to make the bike incredibly easy to manage in virtually any scenario.

So, other than Honda’s decision to spare the horses, what’s not to like about the CB1000R? Frankly, not very much. The riding position suits everyone, the futuristic clocks are easy to read, the Combined Braking System (CBS) feels natural after a few miles, the ABS system works without being obtrusive, the gearbox is slick, it’s well priced and it’ll have a go at absolutely anything.

There is a problem with all this ruthless Japanese efficiency, though. The biggest being that in this kind of company, a bit of character goes a hell of a long way. And sadly for the Honda, this is where it all falls a little flat.

If you’re looking for style at a bargain price and are the kind of rider that always goes for practicality over personality then the Honda could well be the bike for you. Up against such classy European opposition though, there’s little doubting that you really do get what you pay for.

Click to read the full road test review

Price: £8,525 (£9,075 with ABS)
Front suspension: 43mm inverted forks, preload, compression and rebound adjustment
Rear suspension: Monoshock, preload and rebound adjustment
Front brakes: three-piston Tokico calipers, 310mm discs
Rear brake: Twin-piston caliper, 256mm disc
Dry weight: 222kg (488lbs) Seat height: 825mm Fuel capacity: 17 litres
Colour options: Black, White, Grey, Bronze

Engine: 998cc, 16 valves, liquid-cooled, in-line four
Bore and stroke: 75 x 56.5mm Compression ratio: 11.2:1
Power: 120bhp at 9600rpm Torque: 74lb/ft at 7200rpm

Top speed: 150mph

Score Breakdown
Overall
4

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