Honda CB1000R: A polished gem

<b>HONDA HOOLIGAN TOOL:</b> Which it can be in experienced hands on a Sunday breakfast run or a track day - or it's a docile commuter just waiting to be let off the leash. <i>Images: DRIES VAN DER WALT</i>
<b>HONDA HOOLIGAN TOOL:</b> Which it can be in experienced hands on a Sunday breakfast run or a track day - or it's a docile commuter just waiting to be let off the leash. <i>Images: DRIES VAN DER WALT</i>
The tradition among the Big Four to use “tamed” versions of their sport-bike engines in everyday-friendly standard bikes has produced both gems and lemons.

When I looked up its specs before testing the Honda CB1000R I was worried that it might be the latter. As it turned out, my concerns were totally unfounded.

The naked CB1000R’s physical appearance is based on that of the third-generation Honda Hornet, with minimal bodywork and a headlight cluster that wouldn’t look amiss on a Transformer. Another reviewer likened its appearance to a fighter plane on two wheels, which is probably as apt a description as you could wish for.


The bike features an attractively styled single-side swingarm and stylish 17" swept four-spoked wheels. Up front, a compact bikini cowl surrounds a multi-reflector headlight with a distinctive LED position light in its chin.

As is becoming common on naked bikes, the seating is somewhere between a sport-bike and a commuter – fairly comfortable, but canted forward enough to give the bike a decidedly sporty feel. This makes it quite easy to lean forward at high speed to tuck in behind the vestigial screen if you want to avoid visor-induced Flat Nose Syndrome.

I initially found the seat uncomfortable but my nether regions adapted to it within a day or two. That aside, the CB turned out to be a reasonably comfortable everyday bike. Despite its engine size, the bike is compact and light with a tight turning circle – attributes that are extremely important in rush-hour traffic.


Based around the familiar formula of 'CBR1000RR motor detuned for more midrange punch', the naked CB1000R sacrifices a considerable percentage of its top-end power. On paper it seems worse than it actually is. Where it falls short at the top end (which, considering its unfaired body, is almost academic), its low-end torque more than makes up for it.

On the road, it's a pleasant, willing and responsive bike that rewards you with powerful acceleration until the wind threatens to dislodge you from your perch. Unfortunately the fun comes at a price, with the bike returning a surprisingly thirsty fuel consumption of 6.4 litres/100km.

Granted, when I test a bike, economy is not exactly my focus – everyday users will probably get better consumption in the long run.

Honda has endowed the CB1000R with a low-slung suspension system that concentrates most of its weight and mass directly under the engine. This, says Honda, results in optimised mass centralisation for quicker, more neutral, handling. What it means is that the real fun of the CB lies in its road manners. Being light, nimble and powerful, it is the epitome of the hooligan bike.


It constantly feels as if it is straining at its leash, saying: “Come on, twist the throttle and let’s play!” Having a steeper fork rake than more mundane machines, the CB1000R is responsive enough to be thrown at corners with reckless abandon. Adding to the sense of confidence is the fact that the suspension and brakes are more than up to par, so that generally the bike never really feels out of sorts.

The CB1000R may not be the most practical or economical bike you can buy but if you're after a true urban warrior that can double as a commuter with extra grunt, it's one of the better options on the market.
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