Honda’s ‘Dr Jekyll’ retro CB1100 roadster gains a new ‘Mr Hyde’ bad brother…
Honda’s impressive if slightly overlooked air-cooled, four-cylinder retro-inspired roadster, the CB1100, is many things. But one thing it certainly isn’t is ‘bad’.
Until now, that is.
Honda’s reinvention of the classic motorbike was originally unveiled at the 2008 Tokyo Show before going on sale at first only in Japan and Australasia, then belatedly being introduced into the UK and Europe from 2013, the big CB has conspicuously failed to match the success of arguably more funky and aggressively-styled retros such as Triumph’s Thruxton and BMW’s Rnine-T despite a series of updates and improvements.
That first CB, despite a fabulously engineered, all-new, air-cooled engine and glorious build quality, was considered, at just 80bhp with a silky delivery and a plush ride, as simply too smooth and soft and had a few details, such as a too-small 14.5-litre fuel tank, which annoyed.
An update into the CB1100EX in 2014 with a larger 17.5-litre tank, new wire wheels and more, improved matters but, crucially, its public image was largely unaffected.
Which brings us to 2017 and, prompted by the requirements of the new Euro4 emissions regulations, the biggest changes to the CB1100 yet. And the biggest change of all is that there is not now just ONE CB11, but two – the updated, fully retro-styled CB1100EX which is reviewed elsewhere on Insidebikes and this new ‘Mr Hyde’ version, the CB1100RS, a 1970s AMA superbike racer-inspired, stripped back, blacked out and ‘hotted up’ version designed to address all the ‘over soft’ concerns of the original.
It’s much more than ‘just’ a lick of mean ‘n’ moody black paint and slightly lower ‘bars, too.
The basics are, of course, the same as its sensible ‘EX’ brother: That glorious air-cooled four, to satisfy Euro4, has been tweaked slightly and Honda has also taken the opportunity to enhance its character slightly via revised valve-timing which gives a slightly more ‘curdly’ delivery. This is combined with a new, shorter exhaust, which delivers a richer note. In short, as Honda intended, they’ve ‘turned up the CB volume’.
The basic twin loop chassis is the same, too, as the EX, as is the new and mouth-wateringly tactile seamless fuel tank, classy LED headlight and uprated twin dial clocks. After that, however, the two CBs go their separate ways.
Where the EX is plush and chrome, the RS is taut and black. On the RS the CB’s barrels are black, as are the backs of the clocks. Wheels are more performance-orientated 17-inch cast alloys (in place of the EX’s 18-inch wires), firmer, stiffer 43mm gold-nitrided Showa ‘Dual Bending Valve’ forks are in place of the EX’s plainer 41mm items; there are uprated, remote reservoir twin rear shocks; more powerful, radially-mounted four-piston Tokico brake calipers, a different seat, lower, narrower bars and it’s all finished off in more racy black or red livery for around £400 more. Got that? Phew!
And all of that adds up to a CB that’s both familiar – yet significantly different, too. From the outset it’s clear you’re aboard a sportier, slightly more aggressive and more modern machine. Looks are in the eye of the beholder and you can judge the differences for yourself. But everything else about the attitude of the RS backs that up. The ergonomics are less laid back, more aggressive; the bars are narrower, the brakes slightly sharper (not that the EX’s are lacking in any way) as is the steering; the ride, is firmer, more taut, more controlled. And yes, as a result of all that, I did start imagining myself, slightly, as Freddie Spencer circa 1982, aboard his AMA CB750F…
In that respect, the RS achieves its goal: it is a badder, bolder CB1100 that should appeal more to Thruxton and RnineT retro buyers. Just be aware, though, its performance is unchanged. It still produces ‘just’ 88bhp, which is more pleasing than punchy. But if the image appeals, and you want that Honda badge on the tank, you won’t be disappointed.
|ENGINE TYPE||Air-cooled, DOHC, 16v transverse four|
|BORE X STROKE||73.5 x 67.2mm|
|MAXIMUM POWER||88 hp (66 kW) @ 7500 rpm|
|MAXIMUM TORQUE||91Nm @5500rpm|
|FRONT SUSPENSION||43mm telescopic forks|
|FUEL TANK||16.8 litres|