First Ride: 2006 Honda CBF1000

Evil Jim Bowen slings his leg over Honda's four-cylinder all-rounder






They say: "Ensures versatility and agility during your adventure" KTM


We say: "I have a collection of videos demonstrating just that" JIM BOWEN

I OCCASIONALLY WONDER if I shouldn't be more critical of new bikes at their press launches. The thing is, though there are very few perfect bikes, there are also very few complete duffers. It's generally more a matter of pointing out a few areas for improvement. You can usually tell how a new bike will ride by looking through the spec sheets (which is exactly what I did on the flight over to Athens) and frankly, I didn't have especially high hopes for the Honda CBF1000 with its prudent approach (on paper, at least) to motorcycling. Borrowing an engine from a famous sports bike and shoving it in a budget all-rounder is no guarantee of success. Give it basic components with a very sensible look and you could be in for a sound kicking from disappointed journalists. All this aside, theories born from press packs can sometimes be turned on their head.

As with the smaller 600 version, Honda have incorporated their 'Just Fit' ethos to the manufacture of the 1000, which sits meekly between the aggressive Hornet 900 and the two retro CB1300's. In short, this allows adjustability for the handlebars, seat and screen, making the CBF more appealing for the lower legged among us. And no, I don't mean it's a girls' bike, as making adjustments in the other direction should enhance its appeal to taller riders too. Honda have deliberately given the CBF a non-threatening look so that they can market it as a beginner 1000, or simply to those 'nice' people that you are supposed to meet on Honda's who don't care for all that racy paintwork and socially irresponsible graphics. There will be a choice of four other colours for those not tempted by the Highland green metallic scheme seen here.

Right then, we've figured out that it's a vehicle for inexperienced downsized upstanding vicars who want to go unnoticed, and arrive very discreetly at their first session of the Surbiton Swingers. So why the hell has Honda seen fit to shoe-horn a FireBlade motor into the poor little bugger, particularly as it competes with the Suzuki Bandit, rather than a more street fighting Hornet? Well, the 'Blade engine is actually a rather refined individual and Honda have re-tuned it to provide lots of passenger friendly low and mid-range torque, with none of the screaming top-end rush that might frighten off decent folk. The chassis is derived from its little brother (with strengthening in some areas), so the end result is a very compact 1000 in the body of a 600, which offers another confidence inspiring aspect for riders tentatively entering the world of grown up biking.

Despite having to teeter through the Athens rush hour on the most horrendous surfaces imaginable, the motor makes its presence felt immediately. Its manners are impeccable and will surge smoothly away in all situations, and without negative reference to the PGM fuel injection system. No embarrassing lurching or stuttering as sleepy Greeks are negotiated in 1st gear, and with a slicker 5-speed transmission than is usual from a Honda. Once into the mountains and sweeping through sweet but slippery switchbacks it becomes apparent that this engine is not just a peach in town. No, this motor is in fact, a complete and utter gem. Honda has apportioned power and the all-important torque in precisely the right quantities and at the right revs, making the bike quite effortless to ride, even two-up. It will pull cleanly and smoothly from 1,500 rpm in all gears and is already in the fat of the torque by 4,000rpm. Proper progress is being made by 6,000rpm and is the ideal gear-change point, unless you want to max out at around 8,000-9,000rpm.

Honda deserve credit enough for making the smooth flowing CBF motor the ace that it is, and therefore the bike that the CBF is, but they've somehow also managed to generate the elusive (to so many Japanese 16-valve in-line fours) fun factor. It seemed odd that such an unassuming little thing should be so enjoyable and capable. Admittedly, I never encountered any particularly grippy surfaces, but the suspension package allied to a quick turning chassis with a 160 rear Michelin allowed predictable positioning and the kind of progress that could infuriate a 600cc race replica through a section of twisty asphalt. This low-revving but quick riding resulted in impressive fuel consumption too. After 90 miles the fuel gauge was showing that only a quarter of a tank had been used, whereas another tester who had travelled the same distance at high revs had an empty tank. That's a clearly optimistic reading but interesting none the less.

It's undoubtedly a very comfortable bike for the average rider, but one that should suit just about anyone. There's 10mm of forward adjustment for the handlebars and three height positions covering 15mm for the seat, which is also adjustable by 10mm for forward movement. The screen can be fixed in two different positions, with the highest being 40mm above the standard setting, giving a more appropriate touring setting.

The ample braking performance is taken care of by twin floating front discs with 2-piston callipers and a single fixed rear disc allied to a single-piston calliper. I could happily live without the linked CBS brake system and the optional ABS fitted to test bike, though I'll concede that it'll probably be a winner for the CBF target market. The ABS was constantly called to action on the slippery Athens tarmac and performed well. There will also be a decent range of extras available including full hard luggage, hand guards, heated grips, alarm, snazzy huggers and carbon fibre bits and pieces. So the option to pimp the CBF for more attitude or long distance comfort will appeal to those not satisfied with the basic bike.

At £5,999 for the standard bike or £6,299 for the ABS version, buyers will have little to complain about, as the CBF1000 is a fine, well-developed bike. So, although the styling leaves me flaccid, underneath this starchy overcoat beats the heart of a cheeky pervert. Jump leads for two indeed.

VERDICT - 4/5


Non-threatening styling meets kinky motor for fun and frolics. A do it-all entry level one-litre Honda that will appeal to newcomers, circus freaks and vicars.

EVOLUTION


000: Faired 500cc parallel twin GPZ500 is launched. Rick Astley tops the charts.

RIVALS


Suzuki GSF1200S Bandit: £5,299. From stunt champion to limp has-been. Things have moved on but the Suzuki has a good motor and offers strong VFM.


Yamaha FZS1000 Fazer: £6,699. Nice looking Bandit beater. Wants to be for the extra money, though

SPECS


TYPE - STREETBIKE


PRODUCTION DATE - 2006


PRICE NEW - £6199


ENGINE CAPACITY - 998cc


POWER - 97bhp@8000rpm


TORQUE - 66lb.ft@6500rpm


WEIGHT - 220kg


SEAT HEIGHT - 795mm


FUEL CAPACITY - 19L


TOP SPEED - 140mph


0-60 - n/a


TANK RANGE - N/A

Click to read: Honda CBF1000 owners reviews, Honda CBF1000 specs and to see the Honda CBF1000 image gallery.

I OCCASIONALLY WONDER if I shouldn't be more critical of new bikes at their press launches. The thing is, though there are very few perfect bikes, there are also very few complete duffers. It's generally more a matter of pointing out a few areas for improvement. 

You can usually tell how a new bike will ride by looking through the spec sheets (which is exactly what I did on the flight over to Athens) and frankly, I didn't have especially high hopes for the Honda CBF1000 with its prudent approach (on paper, at least) to motorcycling.

Borrowing an engine from a famous sports bike and shoving it in a budget all-rounder is no guarantee of success. Give it basic components with a very sensible look and you could be in for a sound kicking from disappointed journalists. All this aside, theories born from press packs can sometimes be turned on their head.

As with the smaller 600 version, Honda have incorporated their 'Just Fit' ethos to the manufacture of the 1000, which sits meekly between the aggressive Hornet 900 and the two retro CB1300's. In short, this allows adjustability for the handlebars, seat and screen, making the CBF more appealing for the lower legged among us. And no, I don't mean it's a girls' bike, as making adjustments in the other direction should enhance its appeal to taller riders too.

Honda have deliberately given the CBF a non-threatening look so that they can market it as a beginner 1000, or simply to those 'nice' people that you are supposed to meet on Honda's who don't care for all that racy paintwork and socially irresponsible graphics. There will be a choice of four other colours for those not tempted by the Highland green metallic scheme seen here.

Right then, we've figured out that it's a vehicle for inexperienced downsized upstanding vicars who want to go unnoticed, and arrive very discreetly at their first session of the Surbiton Swingers. So why the hell has Honda seen fit to shoe-horn a FireBlade motor into the poor little bugger, particularly as it competes with the Suzuki Bandit, rather than a more street fighting Hornet?

Well, the 'Blade engine is actually a rather refined individual and Honda have re-tuned it to provide lots of passenger friendly low and mid-range torque, with none of the screaming top-end rush that might frighten off decent folk. The chassis is derived from its little brother (with strengthening in some areas), so the end result is a very compact 1000 in the body of a 600, which offers another confidence inspiring aspect for riders tentatively entering the world of grown up biking.