With claims that the new-for-2018 CB1000R accelerates faster than a 2018 Fireblade from 0-80mph, a new chassis, fresh styling, 20 more horsepower and a 12kg diet, it’s a model that promises to put Honda right back up there with the serious players in the naked bike class. Our man Marc Potter (who was also at the launch of the 2008 CB1000R a decade ago), rode it at the world press launch in Spain to find out.
The naked motorcycle class has gone crazy in the last few years. There have been new models, from BMW with the S1000R, the brilliant KTM Super Duke, Yamaha’s mental MT-10, and Triumph’s recently updated Speed Triple.
But while the bikes above have been fighting it out with their own takes on the naked bike class, Honda’s CB1000R remained unloved, a ten-year-old model that couldn’t stay with the modern power delivery and toys fitted to the best from Japan and Europe.
But that has all changed, with an all-new bike that puts Honda right back in the naked bike fight. All the bikes above take their own unique theme on the naked bike class with horsepower ranging from the 148bhp of the updated Speed Triple, to a heady 177bhp for the KTM.
Honda has taken its own unique look at the class, and come up with what is possibly the friendliest, easiest to ride naked bike in the class, that still delivers bags of grunt and excitement, and tons of low-down grunt. It has a soul, it handles, and it’s incredibly well detailed, with the highest standard of finish of any naked bike, I reckon it’s fair to say.
The CB1000R uses a metallic theme on things like the radiator cowl, the tank, the machined engine cases, and the frame pivot point. With the CB1000R+, a slightly more expensive model featuring heated grips, aluminium front fender panels, aluminium rear hugger panels, a fly screen with aluminium inserts, a single seat cowl, a radiator grille with CB1000R logo, and a quickshifter. The standard model costs £11,229, the CB1000R+ comes in at £12,299.
The bike features what Honda calls ‘Neo Sports Café’ styling, which essentially means it harks back to a retro theme, with hints of Café Racer about it, while still offering all the toys we’ve come to expect from high-end naked bike, yet, being very minimalist in its styling.
Inspired by Honda’s 2015 Honda concept bike, called the CB-4, the CB1000R is designed as a motorcycle to show the fundamentals of motorcycling, or ‘return to origin’, as the Japanese engineers tell us at the world press launch near Malaga in Spain.
The whole packaging of the bike is much shorter with less front overhang, clocks are modern and full of features and sit closer to the rider, the key in the front of the tank, and a short, stubby rear LED light. Even the LED front light allows the bike to be shorter in terms of its packaging, even though the wheelbase of the chassis is actually slightly longer.
What that means is a bike designed to offer a simple design, and an enjoyable ride. They’ve got it bang on. In terms of headline figures, the Honda may not make the same heady power as some of its naked rivals, but it delivers it in such a controllable, exciting, real world way that it doesn’t matter. It weighs in at 212kg wet, meaning it’s no lightweight, but honestly it carries its weight so well that you don’t feel it, and it’s 12kg lighter than the old CB1000R. Even the exhaust weighs 4.5kg less.
The bike is ultra-agile, quick steering, and the power-to-weight ratio compared to the outgoing model is some 20% better! Not just that but Honda claim it accelerates quicker to 80mph than the current 2018 Fireblade, thanks to its low-down grunt, and 7.5% shorter gearing. It’s some claim, but open the throttle and you’ve got to believe them.
With 143.4bhp, and a claimed 104Nm of torque, the new motor is based on the 2006 Fireblade (as was the old CB1000R), but it features a load of internal changes like bigger valve lift, new airbox tuned for better flow and airbox sound, and a host of other technical changes to make it some 20bhp more powerful than the bike it replaces. The long stroke motor has been given ride-by-wire throttle, engine modes including rain, standard, sport, and a user mode which allows the rider to change the level of engine braking, power, and torque control.
The fuelling is seamless, it’s easy to ride around town in any mode, and has masses of grunt, especially between 6000-8000rpm. The nature of the inline four-cylinder motor means it may not quite have the soul of a twin or a triple, but it hauls ass. The bike’s project leader told us that tuning the bike to deliver noise for the rider both from the airbox and the exhaust was a key factor for the experience of the bike, and the enjoyment of the rider.
It sounds great.
There are few bikes that give strong, smooth amounts of power and grunt, but are also so easy to manage, but the Honda is never snatchy, it just delivers seamless power. I barely hit the rev-limiter all day, even when following TT winner Steve Plater around the challenging Ascari circuit for a few laps. The riding modes are easy to change using just two buttons, and the User mode can be set for rider’s preferences.
It’s not a track bike, it was never meant to be, but riding at Ascari shows just how well it handled on the limit, in a safe environment.
The big piston forks are fully adjustable and give a good front-end feel, and you can turn it incredibly fast through some of Ascari’s flip turns. Bridgestone S21 tyres do a good job of harnessing its grunt, and a few times on the track, the torque control light flashed on but allowed constant drive. It will wheelie under power and with the traction-control on its lowest setting too. Honda wants this bike to be fun, and practical and it shows. The electronics really enhance the safety and security of the bike without interfering.
The bike is comfortable, the seat is narrow, but nicely padded. We did 155 miles on the bike in one day, with some stunning, twisty Spanish mountain roads and vistas. It’s happy to tickle along, or wind up the pace. The rear shock is adjustable for rebound and preload, but I never felt the need to touch any settings. The brakes, too, are good, and the four-piston Tokico calipers just get on and do their job well.
As an everyday bike that you can do miles on, or as a weekend toy that you can also use for commuting, and have a blast on with trips to places like the Isle of Man TT, the new CB1000R is right up there with the best naked. It’s a big step up from the old bike, delivers tons of excitement with great handling, and so much grunt it will make you smile every time you open the gas. And in terms of quality of the finish and the styling, I reckon it’s the best-looking big naked, too.
We’ll just have to wait until we get a bike in the UK to test those acceleration claims out against a Fireblade, watch this space.
WORDS: Marc Potter
PICTURES: Zep Gori, Francesc Montero and Ula Serra
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