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.

Posted: 5 April 2008
by Bertie Simmonds

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!


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Discuss this story

Hi there, Could some one please tell me if the wheels from a honda blackbird  injection model will fit the carbed version,  Cheers. Mike

Posted: 16/08/2009 at 17:26

I've got a feeling they don't.
Going to have a look ,think it was mentioned in a buying guide.
Ride or bike.

Posted: 16/08/2009 at 21:06


Posted: 06/10/2010 at 02:51

I like how my first visit to visor down and i see a nasty twatish response like that.

Posted: 04/01/2011 at 00:12

Hi Apologies for the Twat!  Good valid question. The FI wheels all fit the carbed bikes, but the mounting for the disks is different so you need to use later FI disks (gold inners) as well to change the front wheels. The bearings are also uprated (larger) and more reliable. In my opion worth upgrading the carbed bike with the latter wheels as they have a more durable finish than the black paint of the carbed birds, look better too in sllver/grey colour. The rear wheels disks and bearings are the same for carb and FI bikes and should just swap no probs. If you have a carbed bike in good condition, keep it. I have owned 6 blackbirds from 1996 on and am going back to the carbed bike. Undoubetedly a future classic, more powerful, runs cooler and gives better fuel economy. It pulls a 10% upgraring without problems to give over 200 mile tank raqnge and saves petrol costs. Standard speedo reads circa 8% slow so makes speedo readings more accurate too. Good luck  Grant Webb

Posted: 14/01/2011 at 05:32

Hi. First, thanks for an interesting article. and Hugh, if I had a dick I'd tell you to choke on it...
Have always wanted a Super BlackBird, however kept with Triumphs & XL V twins for ease of servicing. (Plus, had a hubby that didn't like my bike being faster than his) Now I've done justifying how I dare ask what maybe be perceived a 'stupid question' I'll ask it.

Which in your humble opinion is the most reliable model, with budget of £3 - £4k ?

Posted: 14/12/2011 at 08:41

Grant Webb, thank you so much for the comments about the carbed Blackbird. I have a chance to buy a 97 at a reasonable price, and with very few kilometers, but was kind of balking because it is carbed rather than injected. I am now going to go ahead and buy it.

Posted: 19/02/2012 at 09:01

add your 3k lpus your 4k and maybe you can find some one to do you for it. misha

Posted: 08/04/2012 at 19:01

I have a 98 model, carb and red and its just superb. I bought it with a full race Yoshimura S3 exhaust system which sounds superb and the power of the bike is just awesome. Still gut wrenchingly fast and the handling is still brilliant.
Ive stuck with the Battleaxe 020 front and rear and although they wear out pretty quickly i find them tremendous in all weather conditions, the grip is great and even in the awful waether we currently have she is superb. I have had her four years and i can safely say she will be with me for life, she commutes me over 1700 miles every month and is just a superb alround machine. When she is polished and waxed she is still in excellent nick and the best comment i ever had from her was from a Bonneville owner who came up to me in a garage forecourt and said she was the most beautiful bike he had ever seen.
Apart from the exhaust and hugger she is standard, the screen is original, even though im 6ft 3ins i didnt want to spoil the syuperb front end of the bike with a double bubble, even though the buffeting gets on my nerves, i love her the way she is.

Quite simply one of the best bikes ever made and i have had over fourty over the years, from blades, CB900's, CB750's, CX500's CB400, CB550, CB250, CB125, CB200, CB50, Yamaha XS, 750, 650, 1100,Kawasaki GPZ100, GPZ900 etc,etc.

Blackbirds are sublime.

Posted: 07/06/2012 at 16:11

Hi guys , completely agree with the above comment, I have a 97 bird in red ...38k on the clock...had her 9 years now...superb bike...had blades cb 600 s triumphs etc...this bird is another Safe great ride

Posted: 07/03/2013 at 13:16

Hi Guys

Got a 99' XX-X - First of the FI's - gotta say I'm in love after coming from a CBR 1000F of the same year! I heard the argumenst for and against Carb v FI and from what I've experienced is nothing but shear joy and big grins - including a nice 1000mile round trip from the UK to Belgium & back in 30hrs!! just didn't fancy stopping when popped out for

Posted: 31/03/2013 at 23:06

I too have just moved from a 1000f to the bird and I am in love !
One thing, what's people's views on the introduction of bar risers ?

Posted: 06/04/2013 at 17:22

I've got a 2001 bird,candy red,fast ,comfortable, smooth ,good range,nice to look at but getting on in years,don't know what to get next,looked at zx1400/zzr1400,vfr1200 (expensive),what bike compares?.might even get later model bird,Australia received the last shipments of the blackbird so there are some low mileage and new looking ones here at a good price ,any ideas?

Posted: 12/04/2013 at 08:28

Ive been riding over 20+ years,had the usual dogs until i could afford new bikes,Around 07 to 2010 i went through a faze of new such as 07 Blade ( too small) 08 Hayabusa ( sublime ) 08 SV1000 ( viby ) CB1000R Streetfight ( gutless ) then decided to go back to an 01 GSXR1000 K1 ( nice colours/sweet handling good power and more important bigger bike feel )for a sport bike..I later purchased a FZ1-S fully kitted out with colour coded panniers etc,great tourer and fast in the twisties,found my perfect bike,,,until it was knicked in 2010..Bikeless and then jobless for 3 years im now in a posistion thankfully due to a good job and saving very hard over the last few months to purchase a 2nd hand beast..Im torn between the Blackbird, A Blade 98/99 or ZX9R E1...Im swaying to the Blackbird for size( like my hayabusa)touring abilities if needed and power..the ZX9R for looks and price or the Blade for status and the fact that i never had one in the 90s hence why i got one in 07 but found too small and cramped..I like a big bike feel but want reliability at a price i can afford with power at my hands when needed..Ill have approx £2.5k to spend..What do you guys recommend out of the 3 bikes or would you choose something different ? If you say Bird would it be carb or FI..
Thanks in advance for any input guys.

Posted: 15/05/2013 at 20:28

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