Living with a 2006 Honda CBF1000

Two men fall in love with the Honda CBF1000

August 2006

With just under 2000 miles on the clock, I finally got to ride my CBF. Actually, I've been home and back on it once before. Once - before handing the keys to Mr Daukes MD, whose Blade was getting a makeover for Bike Reviva. I removed the panniers as he commutes through London, but left the top-box on for his executive briefcase. "How do you get it off?" he scowled. Seconds later the box is sliding down the seat, flipping onto the Tarmac and spinning around on its back like a breakdancing tortoise. That's how you get it off. So began the slow and inevitable piece-by-piece destruction of my long-termer.

Next, it's roped into a group touring test, our cover story. I'm loathe to let it go, but I'm in a corner. It's the cover story. 1500 miles later it comes back, tired and boot-marked, pegs and centrestand scraped and with a thick layer of inside-out French flies coating the fairing. I barely suppress a whimper when I see it. Then I notice there's only half a top-box key on the keyring. The other half is safe though. Still in the lock. Right you bastards. That's it. NO-ONE BORROWS MY LONG-TERMER EVER AGAIN!

Initial observations are generally positive. The Blade motor is superb - tons of torque and smooth
delivery. There are vibes through what's left of the footpegs and the screen makes an irritating
buzzing resonance at certain rpm.

The CBF is definitely not a sports bike. It's disqualified on several counts - its brakes aren't good enough, its suspension is long and soft, and it steers slow. In a good way, it's slightly reminiscent of an old UJM, a CB900F or something - a proper substantial motorbike. Its upright riding position, wide bars and low seat height make it very comfortable to commute on  (I haven't done a long run yet). Pillion feedback is 100% positive, especially with the topbox fitted - makes a nice backrest. It's easy to get on and off and the seat is comfy.

I've never been a fan of ABS or combined brakes and the CBF has both. I'll keep an open mind for now.  Meanwhile, if you fancy a go, be my guest: they're £6299 - buy yer own.

September 2006

I've bonded with my bike. I washed it the other day, with a sponge, a bucket full of suds - and without the use of an eastern European migrant worker, or, of course, a hosepipe. The car shampoo I used took all the skin off my hands. Must use rubber gloves next time. Or a migrant worker.

So having touched all its intimate secret places, I feel much closer to my bike now. And I discovered those frame rails running behind the engine are just plastic and, I would imagine, totally lacking in torsional rigidity. I'm amazed the CBF handles so well. I was preparing it for a thrash to Wales for an overnighter and some picturesque, er, pics.

I set off from Teddington at 6.30pm and arrived in Crickhowell at 8.40, unsure of whether I'd crossed a timezone or simply made tremendous progress. Anyway, I was in time for dinner and fine ale at The Bear. The CBF does motorways very well indeed. The luggage restricts your speed to about a six-month ban, with an unnerving wallow forcing a gentle roll off the gas. Duck down and it stops, so it's the top-box to blame I guess.

The tank range helps the journey time enormously. You can eke out 160 miles. On the way back, I left Urry and 'Ogan pulling in for gas as I exercised my one-stop strategy. They got back before me, due to the width of my panniers. I take them off for commuting.

There are a few things that can hurt your bottom, and 140 miles without stopping is usually one of them. The CBF's seat isn't one of those things and certainly gets my thumbs up. A comfy seat, functional fairing and 1980s ergonomics equal long-distance delight.

Is it 'sporty'? Yes. Well, no, well sort of. I'll go into this next time. So far, I can tell you the CBF is shaping up to be one of those great all-rounder models, which stays in Honda's range for decades. Its softened Fireblade engine and optional ABS/dual-action brakes give it cred and a talking point in the pub, but what will really win it a place in the world is its price: £5999, or £6299 with ABS. No wonder it's the UK's top-selling sports tourer.

October 2006

CBF1000: It's French for 'flippin' good bike'. And make no mistake, this is a French bike, I can see Honda selling thousands of them to the Froggies. Already I feel the urge to don the proverbial corduroy jacket, open face GPa and Ray Bans. The CBF is the ultimate street sleeper: looks dull as
dishwater, sees off Porsches.

And really, what's not to like? Suspension that's as plush as a Citroen's Hydractive self-levelling set-up. An engine that makes wonderful yet progressive power from zero to 10,000rpm. A gearbox that's so slick you swap cogs just to repeat the experience. Brakes do the job just fine, and if you had to have ABS - I'm no fan - Honda's version is as sorted as anyone's.

And boy but it handles too. Natural instinctive, assured. The suspension is a bit soft, but ground clearance is the only issue - eventually.

That said the seat feels borderline uncomfortable at the end of each of my 50-mile commutes. But it would be better still if sixth was an overdrive. As it is it's a bit buzzy at legal motorway speeds (you know, 95mph... ). But the flip-side of that argument is that, as it stands, it can really launch itself for overtakes.

On this morning's commute it kept company firstly with a ZZ-R1100 and then an R1. It gave nothing away to either, but then you have to keep a wee bit legal don't you? But you know, a gendarme's not going to suspect the CBF1000 in any case. "Qui je, Officer?"

November 2006

Honda's media liaison, Scott, was trying to talk me out of it. "What's the point? We've got the Fireblade if you want to go on the track. No matter what you journos think, CBF owners won't be riding their bikes on the track. That's not what they buy them for."

He was right, but my point wasn't that CBF owners would go track day riding, simply that they could. The CBF1000 is so good I'm looking for new measures of its abilities. So far it's consumed some 6000 miles without so much as a murmur. No oil, no tyres, just fuel. Tim has meanwhile been fussing over Bridgestones, Akrapovics and Power Commanders in trying to get his FZ1 Fazer on the money, so's Jon over his GSX-R6. Even Army John was putting pipes and bars on his now late GSR. But the CBF has just been getting on with it. Yet when Jon hightailed off on his GSX-R one night it was the CBF that went with him, showering sparks mid-roundabout as the pegs dug in deep, but it was there in his slipstream. And when ad' boyo Barry blipped his R1's throttle at the lights it was the CBF that wheelied away, top-box waving in the wind, then got the holeshot into the sweep before the roundabout. Yeah, it goes like the clappers, as it should, but it commutes 100 miles a day without so much as a sniff too. No nonsense, just getting on with the job. Man, I just love the way you greet it in the morning, put the key in the ignition and minutes later it's maximum haste to work, day-in day-out. And, as well, I like the way these test bikes keep arriving at TWO offices - we'll go out and ride them, then

I'll get back on the CBF and still be very happy. It's been parked next to two 10-grand tourers and it's still looked the pick of the pack. That said, it got mistaken for a Deauville the other morning - that's how low key it is. Sometimes I feel for the poor CBF's inconspicuousness.

So I want to take it on the track, give the little worker a holiday, not least because with nearly 100bhp and sorted neutral handling it stands a good chance of being brilliant. But then Honda's Scott brought up the matter of CB1300s and Hornet 900s - both likely to be better as track hacks. Damn, defeat. Still, we'll find a way.

January 2007

Recently I met with a Blackbird and a CB1300 owner. Both were borderline apologetic about their mounts, mentioning that killer adjective 'bland' but countering that the bikes were just so damn good that they liked them anyway. Riding the CBF, I knew exactly what they meant.

Actually, life for the CBF has been a bit pacey recently, relatively speaking. John Hogan launched a set of Leo Vinci mufflers across my desk a couple of months ago, which were promptly installed. Then following a rear tyre puncture on the return from the NEC (isn't that just typical - fortunately it was Hogan, not me, stranded until two in the morning) the OE Michelins were finally binned (7200 miles nicely done) and a fresh new set of Dunlop D220STs fitted.

Upshot is the CBF now howls a bit more like the mutant Fireblade it is and once again hoofs securely through the sweepers like a fast little grey motorbike. Only this is Hondaland, so it howls in a muted public-friendly manner and it hoofs in a generally speed legal velocity. Even when it's boasting 110mph on the motorway you know it's not, just check the rate at which the other traffic is being sucked in - gently, almost slowly. No, the CBF is telling porkies, to safeguard your licence.

The Leo Vinci mufflers are cool though, going on easily and requiring no injection remapping. Beautifully made and emitting a beautiful tune. Only like modifying a Deauville to sound like an SP2, it feels ever so slightly like a wasted exercise. But maybe there's the true market for the CBF - for the Deauville rider looking for something that little bit... edgier? Certainly faster.

That said, the Honda remains the constant companion. Smoothly and effortlessly eating up the 100-mile commutes. Everything still feeling just-so. Distinguishable from new? Barely. Until you see the discoloured exhaust headers and the odd bits of corrosion, thanks to poor cleaning habits. Yes, a good bike looking for an identity.

March 2007

I feel I must apologise for not having been more enthusiastic about the CBF. A couple of months ago I was borderline ambivalent about its aesthetic and performance. Now I think that was nothing more than a mild case of spoiled-journo patois. Comparing apples with aubergines.

This month, with over 10,500 miles now under its wheels and with the winter starting to make itself felt (jeez it's been freezing), the CBF is almost spectacular. It's doing nothing different, it just isn't coming off that level of being super-useful, super-slick.

The change to Dunlop D220STs has been a good move. These are a perfect complement to the CBF, maintaining that wonderful sense of neutrality in the handling and, despite the slick conditions of late, they've felt very grippy. Some 2000 miles in they're looking good, barely marked.

The Leo Vinci exhausts continue to excite a racy alter ego in the CBF, but being unprotected aluminium they take a fair beating from the elements and will soon have to come off - great exhausts, but best saved for the summer. By the way, we finally got them on the dyno and, surprise surprise, found they made almost no difference to the power. If anything there's very marginally less midrange and very marginally more top end, up from 94.9 to 95.2bhp. But bearing in mind the Vincis are substantially lighter, very nicely made and create a rather nice burble, overall they're a good job.

A pre-Christmas wash and love-up showed the CBF has been taking the winter in its stride. Corrosion is sadly limited to the Leo Vinci exhausts. Elsewhere thick paint, stainless steel and plastic have helped make the CBF an impressive all-weather motorcycle.