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Grey Bike - June/July '97

Honda CB-1

I've owned three grey imports over the last couple of years. I used to despatch on a grey import GS500 (much the same as the UK spec model). I did 25000 miles on that bike in five months and with regular maintenance, never had any problems with it. (Our own review of the GS500E can be found in Issue 10 of The Rider's Digest, back issues available from the usual address, price 75p - Ed). I also owned a GSX400FWS for a couple of months and clocked up 5000 miles, again without any problems. It used the same engine as the GSXR400 Mk I/II so reliability was a pretty safe bet.

B/W CB-1 I traded the GSX for the CB-1. I'd wanted one for a while but hadn't come across any at the right price until I spotted this one in Sunami Motorcycles in Mordern, Surrey . A 'G' reg for £2 800; it only had 5000 miles on the clock and was in almost mint condition. I work in London and commute up to 700 miles per week, which is a pretty good test of any bike. You soon get to know if you'll like it or not.... And I do. It's absolutely brilliant and when you're really pushing it, it's hard to believe that you're only on a four hundred four pot. This little bike will pull from 2000 rpm in sixth gear! And the throttle response is fabulous. A blip of the throttle in neutral sends the tacho needle instantly to the red line at thirteen and a half thousand revs.

Yet it's no powerband buzz-bomb. Town riding is effortless. You can leave it in sixth and just roll throttle on and off as if you were riding an automatic. Or, if the mood takes you, you can scream the tits off it in every gear listening to the whine of the gear-driven cams as the needle waves up and down the tacho. The engine's just so responsive and there doesn't seem to be a flat spot throughout the entire rev range.

The handling is good too. Some people might find the front end a bit twitchy over bumps but it's never bothered me, I ride the bike pretty hard to and from work using the A22 from East Sussex to London every day. It's a great road with only one GATSO camera on the whole journey. The whole machine feels so firmly planted on the road, I've never had any problems or dodgy moments, and that's with a very standard suspension set-up. You can only pre-set the rear shock, the front end having no adjustment at all.

There's all sorts of tuning goodies available for the CB-1. M and P do a full race exhaust system from Lazer and if you don't like that naked look, there's new fairing options and even straight handlebar conversions.

While there is only a single disc up front, braking is very good with only a slight dab needed on the rear stopper. Though it's easy to make the front tyre howl, it's not an on/off affair. The very progressive brakes can haul the bike up without fuss or trauma with plenty of feel and feedback to let you know what's going on at all times. It will do stoppies though, if you're that way inclined.

Top speed is about 115-120 mph. I've had the bike off the speed, and it still seemed to be pulling, though not very convincingly. The bike is best for just bleating around on. There's no real power band, it just gets aggressively faster as the revs climb and at eight grand there's a definite urge that might well become a kick with a different exhaust and carb jetting.

I recently bought a manual from Riders of Yeovil (Top notch Grey importers and TRD Dealer of the Month, a few months ago - Ed) and the time off work provided an opportunity to take the three hundred mile round trip to get it. The journey was mostly fast 'A' roads and motorway. The bike handled it easily, cruising at 80-90mph with no real problems at all. 80mph equates to about 9,500rpm, so there's loads more on tap to overtake without having to change down. The riding position is really good as well so even on long journeys it isn't uncomfortable. Despite being described as a naked sportster, you're not flung too far forward as you would be on a race rep. If it had a fairing it would probably make an excellent and comfortable little tourer. The only downside to this is the minimal tank size with only about 120 miles, including reserve, before you're getting really desperate for a fuel station. This isn't to say the bike is juicy to run just that it has a genuinely small fuel tank holding only around 11.5 litres.

Tyres, chains and sprockets are easy to get for this model, M and P do most bits and any decent bike shop can match up the pads. I haven't needed anything other than service items or consumables so far but I reckon that enough importers have broken suitable donors by now so there should be few problems sourcing spare parts. As you've probably gathered, I like the bike. If there's anyone out there who fancies a naked CBR instead of something covered m acres of plastic, then go for it, You won't regret it.

Stuart Kennedy


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