Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 19th June 2017

Classy retro roadster shows others how it should be done

In a category – retro roadsters – where there’s more posturing and pretence, than virtually any other, it’s refreshing to come across a machine that’s authentic, genuine, versatile, classy and overall with probably more credibility than most rivals put together – Honda’s updated-for-2017 CB1100EX.

Honda CB1100EX review

Originally launched in the UK in 2013 after first going on sale in Japan and the Far East in 2011, it’s fair to say that, despite the current fashion for all things ‘retro’, the big CB has so far failed to set the world alight. While the headlines are grabbed by faux bikes likes Yamaha’s XSR900 or Ducati’s various Scramblers, all of which are as modern as an iPhone, the big CB, with twin shocks and air-cooling, analogue dials and more pleasing, period details than you can shake a pogo stick at, is largely overlooked, underrated and forgotten.

Honda CB1100EX dash

And that’s a shame.

Honda CB1100EX bike review

Powered by a simply glorious, genuinely air-cooled four-cylinder motor that takes its inspiration from both the 1969 SOHC CB750K and the later, 1978 DOHC CB750F, the CB has always been a fabulously crafted lump with pleasing manners. Its engine is both metal sculpture and an engineering marvel requiring, for example, Honda to create a new engineering process in order to manufacture cooling fins of the required thinness.

Honda CB1100EX details

Elsewhere the thorough design, attention to detail and quality touches never fail to impress. Those mudguards, by way of an example, are genuine chromed steel rather than the fake plastic of so many rivals. The taillight sweetly mimics the classic Lucas shape of ‘60s items for another. While the whole plot, being both larger and more substantial than many learner-friendly machines yet also beautifully balanced, ergonomically perfect and intuitive to handle, is both a doddle to ride and useful, too.

The trouble was, none of that was exactly exciting (the CB motor only produces 88bhp), some details (such as a too-small, 14.5-litre fuel tank) annoyed and, well, overall the CB lacked a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’.

To Honda’s credit, many of those criticisms have been addressed since: in 2014, redubbed the CB1100EX, the big CB gained wire wheels, a larger 17.5-litre fuel tank and a few other detail changes, although, to be honest, most barely noticed.

Honda CB1100EX motorcycle

Which brings us to 2017 and, thanks in part to changes required by Euro4, the biggest changes to the CB11 yet – and boy have they made a difference!

First, there’s now not just one CB11, but TWO – this relaxed, retro EX and additionally, and as to be shortly reviewed elsewhere, a new, more aggressive, RS version with revised ergonomics, cast 17-inch wheels, uprated brakes and suspension and a host of blacked-out mean and moody cosmetic changes.

Not that they’ve left this retro roadster EX version alone, either. The tank’s a new, seamless, more curvaceous 16.8-litre affair complete with neat flush filler; there’s a new, more authentic looking ribbed seat along with more tasty, brushed aluminium side panels; those authentic 18-inch wheels are now alloy rimmed wires with quality zinc-plated spokes; there are new, 41mm Showa ‘Dual Bending Valve’ forks; an LED headlight, chromed seat rails and much more. Simply, as a static lump of retro metal it doesn’t get any better.

 Honda CB1100EX

But what DOES is how the new CB goes. Although mature and upright and a big 1100cc machine, the Honda’s a doddle to get on and ride and, when you do, that reworked engine comes to the fore and is simply sublime. Subtle internal engine revisions plus a reworked exhaust give the CB significantly more ‘curdle’ and character than before and, now with an ‘overdrive’ sixth gear, it’s more leisurely and long-legged, too. Sure it’s still never quite a ‘blast’ but it is engaging, enticing and enjoyable and you constantly have to remind yourself it’s a genuine air-cooler.

Honda CB1100EX motorbike review

Overall, though, you’re simply left with an impression of genuine, easy-going and pleasing class. Everywhere you look on the CB1100EX are mouth-watering details and craftsmanship, more so than on any other production bike I can think of. No longer does the CB11 want for anything. After this, bikes like Thruxtons and Scramblers, I’m sorry, simply seem tacky and fake. While the fact that the big Honda is now much more of a decent, evocative and pleasing ride is the cherry on top.



Air-cooled, DOHC, 16v transverse four




73.5 x 67.2mm


88 hp (66 kW) @ 7500 rpm


91Nm @5500rpm


41mm telescopic forks






16.8 litres

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