2017 Honda CB1100EXEditor Score: 84.0%
Engine 16.5/20 Suspension/Handling 12.5/15 Transmission/Clutch 8.5/10 Brakes 8.25/10 Instruments/Controls 4.5/5 Ergonomics/Comfort 9.0/10 Appearance/Quality 9.0/10 Desirability 7.75/10 Value 8.0/10 Overall Score 84/100
One of the most famous taglines in motorcycle history is “You meet the nicest people on a Honda.” And when it comes to nice motorcycles, Honda most often exemplifies this description. The retro-themed CB1100, first offered on our shores in 2013, made a nice case for nice, and so does this nicely updated version, the CB1100EX.
First off, the harsh critics out there should be thrilled the CB’s fuel tank has gone seamless, and it’s one of the prettiest modern tanks in recent memory, with a lustrous depth of color highlighted by glittering metallic sparkles. It verges on stunning. More bling is offered by rich chrome accents seen on both fenders and the new LED taillight housing.
Honda has also adorned the CB1100EX with pricier-than-steel aluminum in several locations for some higher-end componentry. Alloy engine covers are set off against the blacked-out engine, and an aluminum chain guard is a classy touch. Aluminum brackets also hold the new LED headlamp, and the upper triple clamp has a tasteful brushed finish protected by a clear coating. Smaller aluminum wheel hubs hold 40 stainless steel spokes instead of the shorter-length 48 from previous CB hoops.
Despite those aluminum bits, the EX remains a heavyweight motorcycle, scaling in at 562 pounds with its 4.4-gallon tank full of fuel. Once rolling, however, the CB11 is feels anything but ponderous. Credit for the bike’s agility must go to its skinny tires – 110/80-R18 and 140/70-R18 – the same sizes as a Ninja 300. There’s nothing particularly sporty about its chassis geometry of a 27.0-degree caster angle, 114mm of trail and a 58.7-inch wheelbase.
Size queens/kings need not bother bitching about the narrow rubber, as there’s more than enough grip to provide traction up to and exceeding the cornering clearance offered by the footpegs that will drag if ridden aggressively. Remember, the CB is a nice bike, not a 1980’s superbike, so your Freddie Spencer aspirations might go unfulfilled here.
However, ridden with some decorum, the CB is a delight to lean over, entering corners with a linearity unusual with most modern bikes, partially due to the 18-inch front wheel in contrast with the 17s so common these days. A rider can confidently pitch the Honda into a turn and never be surprised by its responses.
Keeping the CB11’s wheels in control is an upgraded suspension. Up front is a new 41mm Showa fork that impresses both for its control and its compliance. Dubbed a Dual Bending Valve, Honda claims it offers performance equivalent to a cartridge fork but is lighter. And, presumably, cheaper. Its responses are very good.
Also new is the rear suspension, with revised old-school twin shocks providing a generous 4.5 inches of travel. They, like the fork, are adjustable only for spring preload. Compliance is good, even if rebound damping feels a bit loose.
Brakes take modern inspiration, boasting four-piston calipers biting on a pair of 296mm discs up front, with standard ABS working along with a 256mm rear rotor and single-piston caliper. Power is strong but predictable, with decent feedback to dole out precisely the speed retardation required.
The centerpiece of the CB1100 is, of course, its four-cylinder motor that harkens back to Honda’s glory days of blowing rider’s minds with the original CB750 Four. This one is fuel-injected and uses double overhead cams to actuate four valves per cylinder. Despite the updated technology, including using both air- and oil-cooling, the 1140cc lump is a pussycat.
Honda says revised air-intake ducting and a new air cleaner, along with a new four-into-two exhaust, improve “engine breathing and power characteristics,” but it feels quite similar to the previous mill that dynoed at modest 83.5 hp in the shootout linked below. Torque peaked at 66 lb-ft, although describing a portion of one of the flattest torque curves we’ve ever seen as a peak is a bit of a misnomer.
Power delivery is anything but peaky, with a robust bottom end that will allow taking off from a stop in second gear. Modulation from a new clutch is perfectly predictable, and its assist function is claimed to reduce lever effort by 16%. Its new slipper function isn’t especially slippery. Both hand levers are adjustable for reach.
The CB11 isn’t slow, but neither is it fast. The broad powerband means there’s always oomph at the ready, but power tapers off as revs pass 7000 rpm, leaving a sporting rider a bit unsatisfied. Many who are in the market for a retro machine like the CB will be content with its power, but aggressive riders will likely be wishing for a lumpier set of cams to awaken the motor’s top-end output. The exhaust note is reminiscent of a 1970s Four, pleasingly deep and with a few pops when using the engine for compression braking.
The CB’s motor is held in the double-cradle steel frame with four mounting points, two of which are rubber to help quell vibration. The handlebar also uses rubber mounts to damp unwelcome vibes. Riders still feel some tingles, but they aren’t problematic. The 2014 update that brought in a sixth gear to the tranny, and overdriven ratio, keeps revs respectably low on the highway.
2017 Honda CB1100EX + Highs
- Quality finishes
- Authentic retro
- Nice, nice, nice
- A little too heavy
- A little too expensive
- A little too nice?
Overall, this new EX model of the CB1100 is an appealing retro standard, and it’s sure to catch the eyes of Baby Boomers who recall the heady era of Honda’s 1970s superbikes. But at its $12,199 MSRP, we wonder how many millennials will be pulled away from Triumph and Harley dealers to select this beautifully finished and wonderfully accommodating Honda. That might depend on a rider’s perception of nice.