Road test: Honda CBF1000FA review

Almost five years old but still commanding the same premium as much newer bikes. So it has to be good...right?

RATHER strangely, riding the Honda CBF1000F reminded me of a Jeremy Clarkson review from a while back.

This is years ago, before he used to land himself in the tabloids for upsetting the politically correct committee on a weekly basis - sometime around 1996 if I recall correctly. Clarkson had the task of carrying out a six-minute road test for Top Gear on the new Vauxhall Vectra, arguably one of the dullest cars ever made. Ever.

He spent most of the review talking about trivial components on the car, like the coat hook, deeming it the most interesting part of the car to talk about, with ‘I am bored’ music playing in the background.

Vauxhall didn't take too kindly to it and refused to let Clarkson review any of their cars for a number of years.

Perhaps it’s a tad harsh comparing the Vectra to the CBF1000F; after all, the Honda is a perfectly adequate bike. But that’s sort of wherein lies the problem - who wants to be praised for adequacy?

Use the word ‘adequate’ to describe your girlfriend and she’ll slap you in the face.

We’ll start with the good stuff then, like that front end. The headlights are taken from the 2009-2012 CBR600RR and lend the bike a sleek, menacing look from the front.

And that’s not the only hand-me-down from the RR family; the CBF1000F uses a detuned version of the 998cc engine from a 2006 Fireblade. But don’t get too excited, the motor has been neutered from 170hp to 106hp and it hasn’t made up for it in extra torque either, making compared to the Blade’s

In fact that was probably one my biggest bugbears with the CBF - for £9,500 I’d expect an extra 30hp to make up for the dated technology. Not because it’s lacking in power, it’s definitely not slow, but when you place it alongside the similarly powered, equally practical, and much newer CBR650F, you have to wonder why you’d pay the extra £2,500 for the CBF1000F.

And the new Honda Crossrunner isn’t helping matters either. That’s a brand new model released last month with a stonking V4 engine from the latest VFR800F, exceptional build quality, digital this, digital that, traction control, and Honda are throwing in a load of useful goodies like an Akrapovic exhaust, top box, satnav and centre stand too. And it only costs £700 more than the CBF.

You’d need a good reason not to dig a little deeper for the Crossrunner.

Power aside, the adjustable suspension is compliant and copes with nearly all manners of riding in a faultless manner. Under heavy braking and acceleration there’s no squatting or diving and there’s no shortage of feedback either. It’s a shame the forks aren’t USD’ers though. I think they would have complimented the CBR600RR headlights nicely.

The Nissin brakes work exceptionally well also, there’s plenty of stopping power to be had with the added safety of Honda’s Combined-ABS system. Step on the rear brake lever with any force and the system will mechanically activate one of the front brake pistons for increased braking efficiency.

Thinking about it, just about everything mechanical on the CBF1000F works a treat. The six-speed gearbox is smoother than my dad’s bald head, the hydraulic clutch is light and precise, and the screen is easily adjustable on the fly. Honda has even fitted a small footrest behind the rear sets so that your heel doesn’t scratch the exhaust. It’s a sensible bike for a sensible person.

It also makes light work of daily commuting. Despite the 245kg wet weight, slicing through traffic in utter comfort is easy thanks to the narrow profile, tall mirrors and generous turning circle. It will do over 50mpg too, the 20L tank lasted 200 miles before the low fuel light illuminated the part analogue, part digital dash.

Winter riding always proves to be a good testing ground for tyres, usually whether you like or not. The CBF is fitted with Continental RoadAttacks, a sports touring tyre which Continental says is ‘A serious all year round tyre choice’. I’d have to disagree.

In greasy conditions and wet weather the rear tyre would regularly break traction which in turn kills all trust in front end grip. There’s plenty of grip in the dry but for a bike that’s likely to be used year round in all types of weather, I’d want something that doesn’t allow the rear to spin up under moderate acceleration in first gear. Bridgestone’s T30, Michelin Pilot Road, Metzeler Z8 Interact, Avon Storm 3D X-M…get the drift Honda? There’s plenty of decent all-rounder rubber out there.

I usually really like Hondas but the CBF1000F feels a bit too much like a safe option and at £9,500 there’s no doubt it’s overpriced. Even more so when you consider that an ABS-equipped Kawasaki Z1000SX will only set you back £200 more than the CBF. That extra cash gets you an additional 34hp, traction control, power modes and a much newer design.

Model tested: Honda CBF1000FA (2010 - present) 

Price: £9,499 on-the-road

Power: 106hp @ 9,000rpm

Torque: 71lbft @ 6,500rpm

Fuel economy: 50mpg

Wet weight: 245kg

Tank capacity: 20 litres

Seat height: 795 mm (±15 mm)

Availability: Now

Colours: Red, black, white, silver 

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