Here's the world-first review of the 2014 Honda CB1100 Deluxe. Not because we tried all that hard to scoop it, but because everyone else really is just that lazy.
Full Disclosure: Honda wanted me to ride the new CB1100 so bad, they agreed to let me borrow it after I phoned up and asked politely.
I love the CB1100. Its smooth character, handsome looks and surprising performance just combine to create a modest, but capable motorcycle that has all the charm of a classic bike and all the speed, handling and convenience of a modern one.
How's that for a good-looking motorcycle, eh?
For 2014, it's switched from a 5- to a 6-speed gearbox and this new Deluxe model gains half a gallon of fuel capacity, a 4-into-2 exhaust and a quilt-pattern seat. ABS used to be a cost option, but is now standard on the $11,899 Deluxe model. Oddly, it's no longer an option on the standard, $10,399 bike.
This year, the standard CB1100 is only available in black, while the Deluxe only comes in burgundy, with silver pin stripes. Both models benefit from the new transmission.
I said "fix" in the headline, so what was wrong? Well, the CB1100 is just sort of an odd bike. Riding it, you get the feeling that an older Honda executive in Japan came up with his dream bike, then forced it through to production with no compromises. High quality suspension, a bespoke motor created just for this bike, deep chrome fenders and just a general no compromises approach throughout — the brake calipers are the same used on the firm's superbikes just a few years ago — does not lead to a low price point and the CB1100 is thousands of dollars more expensive than any rival.
A price gap it doesn't really justify with performance. It may carry 276cc and two more cylinders than a Triumph Bonneville, but at a 87bhp and 540lbs (standard model), it's no faster than the 496lbs, 68bhp, $7,899 Bonnie.
The addition of a 6th gear — something the Triumph doesn't have — does do a little to improve performance. While Honda hasn't released the ratios inside the new gearbox, we can count a one tooth larger rear sprocket, shortening the final drive ratio for incrementally improved acceleration. And, while 6th is noticeably taller than 5th on the previous model, it's not just an overdrive ratio and you can achieve meaningful acceleration in it.
It does noticeably drop RPMs at highway speeds though. Where the old CB1100 was unsettled at 80mph, this new bike cruises at 90 in a smooth, unflustered fashion.
The clocks continue the classic good looks with modern function theme. The two green-faced analog dials bookend a digital display complete with a now-accurate fuel gauge, gear position indicator, clock and trip meter.
Fuelly reports that CB1100 owners average 46mpg. With the new 4.6 gallon tank (created by adding a little height), the CB1100's range grows from 180 to a more useful 210 miles.
With quality damping and brake components combined with a low center of gravity and long wheelbase, the CB1100 has always been a strong braker. The Deluxe model's ABS adds to that, giving you even more confidence during emergency stops.
The 4-into-2 exhaust was added over the standard model's 4-2-1 arrangement purely for aesthetic reasons and brings no power benefits. That's disappointing, because it does add weight. Combined with the added fuel capacity, weight grows from 540 on the base model to a positively portly 570.9lbs for the Deluxe, both measured with full fuel tanks.
This isn't a bike that's about performance specs though, it's about giving you an evocative, capable, fun package. And, at that, the CB1100 still excels. The air and oil-cooled motor ticks and pings as you walk away from it after a ride, reminding you of all the smiles as it sure-footedly picked its way through traffic, down a canyon or now, even on a long highway.
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