Bikes - January '94
was my chance - the chance to prove that journalists were nothing
but a bunch of fakes and tarts. I was gonna go out and lean this
CB-1 over so far the balls on the ends of the levers would wear
away. Kenny Roberts would see the pictures, sign me up immediately
and next year I'd be World Champ. And I'd buzz the PB office in
my helicopter blowing raspberries out the window and and and....
can do that." It had to happen eventually. I'd been volunteered
into a bike test. I felt as if I was standing against the school
sports hall being picked for football. You know the scene - the
captains take it in turn to choose players until only you and the
pasty faced spectacled kid with the leather briefcase are left.
Still, I only had to ride to Scotland on a tiny, high revving, 400cc,
unfaired grey import with crap tyres. It's not that I'm bitter or
no question that this is a pretty bike. Almost everyone who voiced
an opinion liked the look of the CB-1, mainly for the aggressive
stance of the engine, and the retina popping cyan blue paint. The
first question was usually, "How big's the engine mate?"
followed by, "400? That's a girlie size!" In fact the
detuned CBR400 lump is by far the CB's best asset.
All the journalists
who rode the CB praised the crisp, precise throttle response - better
than any other 400's they said. From low down it makes ZXRs and
FZRs feel small and weedy, then developes amazing midrange power
that starts at 6,500 rpm and keeps coming until 11,000. From then
it starts to flatten out, but by 12,5000 in top the speedo needle
is going off the end of its 115 mph scale and starting round again.
You can't keep
this sort of speed up for long, the engine begging you 13,000 times
a minute to slow down. That, along with the lack of a fairing, soon
slows you down to a realistic 70-80, which is where the CB-1 can
easily cruise: the seat and pegs lean you forward onto the bars
while wind blast takes the weight off your wrists.
front brake easily copes with this sort of performance. The single
disc is powerful enough to pull you up with the lightest pressure
on the lever and with an amazing amount of feel, letting you really
screw the front tyre into the tarmac. To be honest I can't tell
you about the rear because with a front this good you never have
to use it much. But it worked, anyway.
6'4" I didn't find the bike that uncomfortable. Compared with
the RF600 I rode to Scotland 4 months ago, the CB is absolute luxury
because the footpegs are a decent distance from the seat. Compared
with my CX500 Maggot it's hopeless. Compared with any other unfaired
bike up to 600cc it's about average. The seat's a bit narrow for
my immense arse, so after 30 miles it was the usual aerobics on
is well impressive, especially the sexy stainless plate on the right
crank cover. Clocks, controls and idiot lights are perfection, though
the headlight's powerful but narrow beam made it difficult to see
round Scotland's windy, tree-lined roads.
only duff bits of design are the footpegs; they fold back about
an inch then stop, so when you're cornering hard they dig in and
lift the tyre. That really puts the frightners up ya, but Honda
hasn't exactly put handling at the top of the list anyway.
steering tips the CB into corners effortlessly but once cranked
over the Honda carries on wanting to change direction, making it
hard to hold a precise line. Ridden hard it always corners nervously,
unable to make up its mind which way to go - so much so that you
end up tip-toeing round, unable to use anything like as much of
the engine as you should.
resulted in a verbal slagging for the Honda from Mark Forsyth when
he rode it round Knockhill. For my level of riding it wasn't too
much of a problem since I knew where all the bumps were and when
to compensate for the ensuing wobbles. But following a speed-crazed
Simon, Rupert and Kevin Smith on the road I was always being taken
by surprise (ooer), making fast country lanes a terrifying, white-knuckle
noticed the fork stanchions were poking about 8mm above the clip-ons
and suggested that if we moved them down flush it would make the
steering angle shallower and increase trail and wheelbase slightly,
possibly improving stability. It made a slight improvement; changing
to softer compound, lighter construction tyres would help even more
(the standard US spec Dunlops would only soften with a blowtorch)
but more serious modifications would have to be made if you wanted
to keep up with your nutter mates on their FZRs.
isn't a problem with other naked bikes; the heavier steering 550
Zepher is fine. So for that matter, is the CBR400 from which the
CB-1 was developed.
This CB-1 is
one of many initially destined for the American market. But out
on the prairie there just ain't no room for no cotton pickin' pussy
400s, so they found their way to Europe where corners occur more
than once every 300 miles (so that's why it doesn't handle!) which
is where Moto Vecchia import them from. Servicing any grey import
is more hassle than a genuine one but most bike shops will be able
to do a basic service, mainly thanks to the CBR400 derivative engine.
it competes with the GPZ500S (£3,495), Zepher 550 (£3,690)
and, at £400 less, Suzuki's GS500 (£3,099). The CB-1's
power unit and build quality trounces all opposition in this price
bracket; the handling doesn't.
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