Buyer Guide: Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird

The ultimate buyers guide to the Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird written by the people who actually own the bike…

Click to view: Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird owners reviewsHonda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird specs and to see the Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird image gallery.

Newest is best, right? Not so in the hyper sports class. Honda’s Super Blackbird scythed its way to the top spot in 1996 and 12 years later, nothing’s really knocked it off its perch as the best all round machine. Kawasaki’s ZZR1400 and Suzuki’s GSX1300R Hayabusa have overtaken in the spec sheet points war but in terms of an overall package the Honda still has them beat. It’s not only an insanely fast, fine handling motorbike which can carry two people and their luggage huge distances, it’s also staggeringly well built and reliable. It’s a flagship machine in every true sense of the word.

There have been rumours of an all-new Blackbird for years – possibly even a V5 VFR1000 replacing both the Blackbird and VFR800. Even if a new version is released, the current ones will retain their following and their used value. They have a near cult-like status including some folk who reckon the original carb’d version is better than the later FI model. That’s normally the sign of over loyal crackpots but with the Blackbird there’s some credibility to their arguments. Anyway, there’s no denying it’s a well loved bike with a massive following and deservedly so.

This month 66 Blackbird owners filled in our online survey, telling us all about their bikes and what they’re like to live with. Amongst them, they’ve covered over a million miles on these bikes. Here’s what they’ve got to say…

Honda CBR1100XX Super Black Bird Specifications

1996 Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird

Engine l/c, 16v, injected in-line four, 1,137cc Power 162bhp @ 10,000rpm Torque 88ftlb @ 7,250rpm
Dry weight 223kg Seat height 810mm Fuel capacity 22 litres Insurance group 16 Top speed 175mph

1999 Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird

Engine l/c, 16v, injected in-line four, 1,137cc Power 164bhp @ 9,500rpm Torque 88ftlb @ 7,500rpm
Dry weight 223kg Seat height 810mm Fuel capacity 23 litres Insurance group 16 Top speed 175mph

The nuts & bolts


  • Top five tyres

Avon Storm ST 38%
Bridgestone BT020 19%
Bridgestone BT021 13%
Avon AV45/46 Azaro 13%
Continental Road Attack 6%

Avon’s Storm STs romp away with loads of owners raving about their longevity and good grip in the wet and dry. Bridgestone’s BT020 and its successor the 021 are always good sellers for sports touring bikes and owners who use them are pleased with them. The Continental Road Attacks have a few fans but a similar number of other people said they’d tried them and didn’t like them. Dunlop Roadsmart (a new, cost conscious tyre), Pirelli Diablo Stradas (a good sports touring tyre), Michelin Pilot Road IIs (another quality sports touring tyre) and Pirelli Diablo IIIs (the sportiest rubber in the survey) were fitted by a smattering of owners.

Tyre life is pretty good for such a powerful, heavy bike. Fronts lasted an average of 7,808 miles and rears 5,296 miles.

Running costs
Fuel consumption’s not brilliant – but this is a big, heavy, fast bike that often lugs two people plus luggage. Injected bikes in our survey averaged 39.8mpg and the earlier ones with carbs did a slightly better at 41.3mpg. Gentle motorway cruising will see both getting near to 50mpg while track day thrashing can get this below 20.

Servicing is due at 4,000 with the average cost being £111, a larger one at 8,000 miles, typically £160 and the biggy with valves every 16,000 miles average cost £271. Quite a few owners are using independent mechanics.

EBC HH brake pads are more popular than original Honda ones and owners say they’re cheaper and work better – although those with OE say they’re perfectly fine. A few use Ferodo with no complaints and one chose Carbone Lorraine and says they’re excellent in the wet. Owners seem to care for chains and plenty are getting 20,000+ plus miles from them – although quite a few have Scottoilers. Insurance is group 16 – one down from the highest so get a quote before you buy as this can be steep. Equally, we’ve heard of fully comp for less than £90!


Owner Case Study: "I liked the Blackbird so much i set up a business selling parts for them."

John ‘Jaws’ Smith 

“I’m on my third Blackbird. I must have owned 100 to 150 bikes in my life and I’ve never bought a second one of anything, let alone a third but these are brilliant. There’s not enough superlatives in the language for me to say how good they are. My first one was a 1996 bike. I did 30,000 miles on it, got knocked off and bought a 2000 one.

“I tried a lot of tyres on it. Bridgestone were very good at the time but I don’t think they’ve moved on much. I rate Avons. The Azaros were good and now the Storm STs are too. I sold that one as the injected ones are slightly slower and use more fuel than the carbed ones. I’ve just got another carbed one. Doing a steady 80 or 90mph it’ll return high 40s to low 50s mpg.

“I now own a business selling parts for Blackbirds, Jaws Motorcycle Services (01842 754415). Officially we only sell parts but unofficially we do some service work too. I seem to beat Honda on price by about 2/3. I think this is because I only work on Blackbirds and know them so well, what a Honda dealer mechanic will book four hours labour takes me one and a half or two.”

Hard luggage
Almost exactly half the bikes in our survey had hard luggage fitted. Givi is the most popular brand by far and people are generally pleased with it. Some use Givis own fitting kits and some use SW Motech ones which can accommodate different brands of hard luggage and can be removed rapidly when not needed. Quite a few owners use Kappa luggage which fits Givi mountings but is cheaper.

Honda luggage is rare – just three owners had it. Bob Philips recons it made the bike unstable above 100mph while Tom Jackson liked their looks but pointed out you can’t fit a topbox with that system, just side panniers.

Hard luggage can affect high speed stability. The majority of riders thought panniers didn’t cause a problem but some reckoned a topbox could make for some weave and wobble at a ton plus. Special mention goes to Andy Sandham who’s a musician / music teacher. He carries a £7,000 French horn in one box, a £2,000 cornet in another and his DJ or tails in the third. His bike came with Nonfango luggage which he reckoned wobbled too much so he swopped it for Givi.

What goes wrong
Very, very little considering the mileage and age of some of these bikes. The number one niggle is an electrical fault which effects all fuel injected models. There’s a factory diagnostic plug on the wiring loom which starts corroding internally, this spreads into the loom and this can make the FI light flicker or the engine cut out all together. The best solution is to cut the plug out all together and solder the wires instead.

There’s a guide to how to do this on excellent Blackbird website
The regulator / rectifier can fail on carburated bikes, especially if the battery’s tired. It’s not a hard fix.

Some injected bikes encounter a problem with a generator coil failing. Jaws Motorcycle Services does good pattern replacements for about £85 (Honda OE are more like £300).

The slave cylinder on the front forks which operates the combined brakes can seize if not regularly greased.  The linked brakes are a sod to bleed and even worse to completely overhaul.

One good tip is to be aware the four bolts which hold the front mudguard on go into captive nuts – as they’re captive in the plastic of the mudguard itself. So it’s worth greasing these often otherwise when you do try and remove them, they break the mudguard. Another is not to overtighten the front wheel spindle (just 59NM / 44ftlb is correct) as it can pull the wheel and brakes out of alignment.

All things considered, the Blackbird is one of the most reliable bikes out there – possible THE most. They rack up huge miles with next to no problems.

A decent set up as standard if not top notch or as adjustable as some would like. The front sags after about two years if the bike is regularly left on the side stand. An easy check for this is to measure from the top of the mudguard to the bottom of the nose cone. If all’s well this will be 95-100mm. If not, fork springs are needed and it’s well worth changing the oil while you’re in there (budget about £60 for parts if you go DIY, £150 for a shop to do it or £250 to get them uprated).

The rear shock also goes off somewhere between 15,000 and 25,000 miles. Jaws Motorcycle Services can get them re-built using oil over oil (rather than the OE gas over oil) for about £115.

About ten percent of owners have fitted a spacer to the rear shock (most are 6mm, one says theirs is 5mm) and all of them say it makes a huge difference to the handling, making the bike far more nimble.

Peg lowering kits were fitted by several owners as are bar raisers. Lots of double bubble screens are fitted and aftermarket seats or gel inserts in the original one.  Rear huggers and fender extendas are common to keep the bike tidy and Scottoilers to minimise chain maintenance.Exhausts are less popular than on most bikes. The standard cans work well plus owners don’t want the police attention, their bikes are fast enough. A few have end cans, but not many.

Owner Case Study: "My bike has 91,000 miles on the clock"

Andrew Gray 

“I bought my 1998 Blackbird about five years ago. It already had 45,000 miles on the clock and I paid just £2,400 for it. I use it for a 50 mile round trip commute every day in all weathers except snow and it’s now showing 91,000 miles. During all those miles it’s only gone wrong twice. The rear wheel bearing failed at 70,000 miles but that was an easy DIY fix. Once, a main dealer didn’t put one of the vacuum pipes back on the fuel tank properly and it fell off – but again that was easy to fix. Otherwise I haven’t had a single problem with it. I had BMWs and Yamahas before and they weren’t a patch on this Honda.

“The finish is excellent. I don’t wash it often but when I do a blast with the pressure washer brings it up beautifully.

“I’ve found Honda main dealer service to be poor and their parts are expensive but I do most of my own servicing and get bits from David Silver Spares or Jaws Motorcycle Services. Jaws do the major services too.
The only problem with the CBR is that the engine creates a lot of heat which I can feel on my legs. It can be nice in winter, but not good in summer. Otherwise I absolutely love it. If I got something else it’d be another Blackbird.”