Living with a 2004 Honda CB1300

Finally a bike that doesn't look like a Bertie's riding a mini moto. Yes it's the mighty CB1300 review

In a bid to bond with his new Honda CB1300 longtermer, Bertie books up on a Brettour and heads for the Ardennes. These postcards turned up a few days later

Dear TWO,
Things haven't started well. I bent the key to the CB in the helmet lock when I 'threw' the throwover panniers on the bike. Was late for the boat, trying to re-bend the key in the lock. Throwover panniers that you can't throw over safely? Will contact trade descriptions on my return.

Finally hook up with a P&O Ferry at Dover and get on-board. Brettours phone to double-check I'm okay. They've left the tickets and my route at reception. I sit on the boat and wave goodbye to dear old Blighty.

With the route map taped to my tank, I burn up le Tarmac Francaise with plenty of Sans Plomb. The panniers fit well on the CB, which is a surprisingly good touring tool. It's comfy enough to just about handle a full tank of fuel. Impressive as I can squeeze 145 miles before reserve!

The route that Ron Brett has put together is breathtaking and dead easy to follow. Beautiful flowing roads, charming little villages and some nice planned stops. Even on my tod and very late, this is turning out to be a brilliant weekend!

Love Bertie

Dear TWO,

I make up some time by hitting the Autoroutes into Belgium. I thought the Honda wouldn't like motorways, but I was wrong. It's got plenty of oomph for passing Renaults and Citroens and the like and the little Honda flyscreen (£100) does a slightly better job than the clocks alone of keeping the wind off me. 90mph is comfortable.

I'm heading down towards Charleroi and Namur on the E42 when I mercifully cut off towards Sambreville returning to some decent scenery and roads. I finally make it to Anhee and the Hotel Les Jardin de la Molignee. The lovely Natalie checks me in, while the even lovelier Ron buys me a beer.
I meet the rest of my fellow tourers. A bloody good bunch, riding things as diverse as a Honda X-11, Yamaha R6, BMW R1150GS and a 1983 Ducati 900 Pantah. Yes, you read that right. He's a brave man that Rob Neal. Well, either that or completely mad!

Love Bertie

Dear TWO,

Another good meal last night. A long-term Brettourer Roger Audley was chuffed to bits to get his 30th tour polo shirt. Shows that the tours must be good with so much repeat business.

We're heading back towards Calais and the boat, taking in more twisty Belgian and French roads.

Halfway to the ferry, Rob's beautiful Duke breaks down. Bugger. It's an electrical problem (no surprises there) but it's not fixable at the roadside. Ron turns up with the support van and loads the Pantah in the back and Rob in the front. That's customer care for yer...

We head tout de suite to the ferry. Rolling off the other side and three of my new friends stick with me 'til the Midlands when I wave them goodbye.

I'm knackered but happy as I roll up my drive, and the CB1300 looks like a two-wheeled sadistic franco-fly killer. It'll be a bugger to clean, but at least I've stretched her legs for the best part of a thousand miles. It's been my best biking weekend for ages.

Love Bertie

Dear TWO,

Top food at the hotel last night, top company, too. I awake woolly headed but ready to go. Just 15 miles into our ride, John Perry gets a puncture on his X-11. Shame, but Ron's on hand with the support van. That's another plus of such a well organised and supported tour.

The route is magnificent. I hook up with Dave, his brother Colin on a Bandit 1200S, Jim on an S-reg Blackbird and Andy Wysocki on his ZZ-R600. The pace is fast enough to be exciting, but steady enough to enjoy the scenery.

Dave pushes on a bit every now and again. He's no slouch, having raced on the Isle of Man and proof again that the big CB1300 handles. Rob's also doing well on his Pantah.

The sun is out and life couldn't be better. I hook up with Steve Dyer on his 2002 R1. The centre of the Durbuy village is full of bikes. Magic. Heading back to the hotel, we ride with fellow tourers Julian Manuel and Sonja Linnegar on their BMW and R6.

Love Bertie

When you've been organising anything between 10-15 tours a year for the last 12 years like Ron Brett and Caroline Hart, you have to know your stuff. And they certainly do.

The beauty of them (and I've done a few) is that for a lazy tourer like me, they take all the headaches and hassle out of travelling abroad, while still giving you the flexibility to move outside the routes and do your own thing. The price for my three-day, two-night tour was £395, including ferry crossings, bed, breakfast, evening meal with wine, structured scenic routes with the best roads and the peace of mind of a support vehicle to carry your bags and (as happened with Rob) your Italian classic, should it give up the ghost. Give them a call if the following tours take your fancy. Give it a go, you'll love it. Ring 'em on (01304) 620143 or check them out on: www.brettours.co.uk

FIVE NATIONS July 23- August 1 (9 nights, 10 days)
1700 miles to the Austrian Tyrrol and back via the  French Mosel, the Alsace, the Black Forest, German Alpenstraser and Italian and Swiss Alps. Prices: Solo rider sharing twin room, £969. Rider & Pillion, £1765. Solo rider, single room, £1140

CHAMPAGNE August 7-9 (2 nights, 3 days)
500 miles of fabulous sweeping D-roads through some of the most picturesque towns and villages of the Pas de Calais, Chemin des Dames and Champagne regions of northern France. Prices: Solo rider sharing twin room, £445. Rider & Pillion, £795. Solo rider, single room, £495

October 2004

Information is power, so I've been garnering opinions from other owners of Honda CB1300s while I've been taking mine through the 8000-mile barrier.

Power also gives information, so I've strapped six or so end cans on the bike to let you know what the best is for the big four (this will come to you next month) and at the end of it all, I strapped on a full system from Akrapovic.

But, first of all, what do other owners think of the retro Honda? It's been reassuring to find that people have been anxious to let me know what they love about this big, handsome machine.

When you ride it, it's no surprise to find that quite a few former sportsbike owners are learning to admire the bike's handling and power, as despite it being a big (224kilo) machine, it hauls ass
rapidly enough to maintain a fixated, inane grin. Yes, yes, I've got a free one, but read what these three have to say:

"I've been riding for 23 years and have had two FireBlades and a Honda SP-2, and I fancied a change. I may go back to a pure sportsbike at some point, but not yet - I'm enjoying the CB1300 too much." Jason Hibbs.

"I bought one three weeks ago, in black and my first impressions are AWESOME!" Glyn Evans.
"I had a 2001 and 2003 Yamaha YZF-R1 and I traded it in for a new 2004-model Honda CB1300 which I am totally delighted with. I think the bike is fantastic." Kevin Smith.

But I did have one complaint sent to me about the bike. Reader Ian Craig has had two CBs, complaining that both have suffered from excessive vibration throughout the rev-range, but mostly at 6000rpm. Personally, I'd like to get to ride his bike, because although I've experienced a few vibes. I've not had anything that I've not experienced with any other big Honda.

One big thing that owners complain about is the lack of sound from that huge muffled pipe, while I've always thought the bike could do with a little more top-end. The Akrapovic exhaust has added 15bhp to the top-end (up from 110bhp at the rear wheel) and has improved the rev pick-up from 4000rpm. On the road, the bike behaves normally from 0-4000rpm, meaning you have to be careful as a cack-hand rewards with jerky progress, but it's as the needle hits 5000rpm that you feel the difference. It becomes a real seat-of-the-pants punt towards the horizon, accompanied by - at last - a real bark to match the bike's sharp visual bite.

Darryl Young did the business by giving the bike a good service (see last month's maintenance tips feature) which revealed no problems, while the thinning brake pads were replaced with EBC's Double-H finest. So far, they're as good as standard (which are, er... good.) I'll probably try and fit a set of braided hoses soon. About 200 miles ago, Darryl stuck a set of black Gilles rear-sets on. At first he fitted them as they came on the mounting block, meaning the shift was race style (one up, four down) but we soon changed that. They look superb and feel comfy, although the levers feel as though they're in lower positions. Just a warning: if you fit 'em, Loctite the gear lever peg to the retaining bolt as it does work loose!

The original Dunlop Sportsmaxes were replaced at around 4800 miles (with around 400 miles at the most still left in them) by Bridgestone's superb BT020s. There seems to be no bike that these tyres can't do the business on.

In the meantime, I'll simply top-up the tank and head out on another one of my lovely 'I'll be working from home today' runs...

March 2005

The timing couldn't have been better. The Buell I had been using for most of the year was due to go back to its rightful owners, and at about the same time ex-editor Bertie decided to leave us at TWO and put his card behind the bar at the Freelance Arms.

This of course meant he would be giving up his much-loved Honda CB1300 longtermer. Never one to miss an opportunity, I offered to pick the bike up from Bert's house - on account of me living the closest to the big man, you see. So it was all arranged, I picked the bike up in the van and got it over to my place. I had only ridden a CB1300 once before - and that was just a quick burst around the block - so I was looking forward to my first proper ride, a 100-mile blast down to the TWO office the following morning.

Unfortunately, the day didn't start too well. All the usual things went wrong; I overslept, put salt in my tea stead of sugar, then burned the toast and tripped over the cat. Then, to top it all, the not-so usual happened. And it went downhill from there. Although it was reasonably warm the roads were still a bit damp and greasy as I took a right turn at the mini roundabout just 30 yards or so from the end of my drive. On any other morning I would always approach the following blind bend with plenty of caution.There is always a line of parked cars on one side of the road and, just to add to the danger, there's a junction tucked behind an old stone cottage, which you have to be right on to see.

But this wasn't any other morning, and although I really, honestly wasn't speeding, I was going just a tad faster then I should have given the conditions. Normally I'd be doing about 10mph at this point, but this time it was probably nearer 15. Anyway, as the blind side of the cottage came into view so did the old boy attempting to turn right across my path. I didn't have much time to think about anything, but as
I broadsided gracefully towards the car I remember thinking just how big and heavy the CB1300 was.

Trying to haul it up in a space that clearly wasn't available to me felt more akin to bringing an oil tanker to a halt in a rockpool, and it soon became clear I wasn't going to make it. It was time to take avoiding action. Fearful my left leg was about to get pinned between the bike and the front wing of the car I lifted it in the air and stepped off almost gracefully over the bonnet. At the time of impact I was probably doing no more than 5mph, but the big old CB still managed to stove itself into the front wing and driver's door. Fortunately that's where it stayed - it didn't even fall over, although it more than left its mark on the poor old boy's motor.

Once I had picked myself up I retrieved the bike from the side of the car and inspected the damage. Nothing too serious, but a hole in the radiator meant I wouldn't be going any further on it.

I got it down to those lovely chaps at Avonvale Honda in Northampton who sorted an estimate out, and one week, a new rad, fuel tank, engine case, mudguard and front wheel spindle later got the old girl back in order and on the road - top work, lads.

Then I finally got my first proper ride on the CB. And I loved it. Jumping off my tiny Buell and onto this, the Honda felt massive and really, really long, but incredibly manageable with it.

Most of my journey to work and back is a motorway slog - not ideal territory for a big naked bike like the Honda, but with enough protection for little old me provided by the Honda fly screen it was actually pretty comfortable. The only thing I found was, with the handlebars and rearsets adjusted for big old Bertie, the riding position sat me a bit too upright and put too much weight on the bottom of my spine. A twiddle with the adjustable Gilles rearsets should get things to my liking - all I need do is mount the footrests back a hole or two to push my weight forward a touch.

Other than that the CB is tops. It's a big lump of a motorcycle but it looks gorgeous and I love the engine. The Akrapovic helps here, adding a healthy dose of top-end to the otherwise standard motor. It's a real man's bike, is the CB, and I love it.