Ride - August
To put this
test into context, the bikes the Honda CB-1 was tested against were
a Suzuki 600 Bandit (the eventual winner), a Yamaha 600 Diversion
(Seca II) and a Honda NTV650 Revere. Note that all the other bikes
had at least a 50% capacity advantage.
Short and Sweet
things come in small packages: Cadbury's Mini Eggs, espresso coffee
and Honda's CB-1. Can it live with the big boys?
ago Honda's original 400/4 burst into a world where a real man needed
at least 650cc of wind in his flares. It was a glitter covered yet
sensibly cut trouser, a scaled down superbike that sold by the boatload.
Two decades on and they did it again, and this little beauty is
every bit as good as its bit as good as its grandpappy. But to dismiss
the CB-1 as just another retro is missing the point. It's an unfaired
motorbike and that's all there is to it. It shares an engine with
the CBR400, the sweetest of all the in-line 400s. It doesn't have
an EXUP-type gizmo to boost the mid-range, and it doesn't need one
as it pulls cleanly from 5000rpm all the way to the 13,500rpm redline.
Richard F sussed it: "It doesn't feel like a 400 because the
engine seems bigger. You don't need to rev the nuts off it to keep
moving." 55bhp is more than enough for a small light bike It's
deceptive though, and actually takes time to get up to speed. Richard
F again: "It feels faster than it is and the others blow it
away through long bends with their extra torque."
But for new
riders the CB-1 is great: the delivery's so smooth that anyone fresh
from CSM's diapers could ride it without soiling anything but their
licence. And I mean anyone. Honda have a knack of bestowing a Tardis-like
quality on their 400s. Ronnie Corbett's smaller sister could ride
one, yet three RIDE six-footers found it comfy. The pegs are low
and the bars quite high which combine with the low seat so you feel
like a grown-up sitting on a rocking horse but it works and I never
felt uncomfy on it at all. Everyone liked it. "It feels like
a smaller version of my Bandit," said Steve.
intensified when it rained. It's incredible that it wasn't the English
who invented fairings. Five minutes in a heavyish shower was all
it took to get through my leathers on the Honda or any of the unfaired
bikes on this test.
to hide on an unfaired bike and it's enough to make you come over
all miserable, which is a shame because the CB-1 is a mighty fine
bike in the wet. The flat power-delivery is perfect and the chassis
is every bit as responsive as it is in dry weather. And on dry roads
it's pretty damn good: a bit soft at both ends for a fatty like
me but well damped enough to float over bumps without throwing you
is slow by 400 standards but thoroughly predictable, and your only
worry comes if you get all butch with it and throw it into a corner
like that Fogarty superbike bloke on the telly.
thing that scrapes is your boot unless you've got the balls of your
feet on the pegs," muttered Richard E, inspecting a nice new
hole in his daisies.
Being a Honda,
the attention to detail is lovely. "This is certainly no budget
bike - the finish is top notch," said Richard F after a good
poke around. We all liked it because at this end of the market there
are lots of bikes that do the job, but are bland and characterless.
The idea of this test was to find an all-rounder that worked well
but put a smile on your face, which this bike did.
CB-1 is an ideal bike for anyone wanting something that will get
them to work with a bit of sparkle. It's especially good for those
who are diminutive enough get both legs and most of their body into
a Barnsley biker's trouser-leg. For £3000 you could ride away
on a low mileage minter. That's a bargain in our opinion...
25, a mechanic at BAT motorcycles bought his 1990 CB-1 a year ago
for "a good price". He's since done about 5000 miles on
"I really like the look of it. I'm not really into race-reps.
Plus it's a Honda so it's well made and reliable. it's fast enough
for me and it handles pretty well too. I don't expect miracles from
it but I've not found its limits yet. The engine's terrific, I might
put some cams from a Tri-arm in it to make it a bit faster, but
apart from that, I love it."
lows: "Motorways are a real slog, so avoid them where possible
and that means lots of blasting round city streets which is what
the CB is good for. The gearing's lower than the CBR which is fine
for getting away from the lights but you lose out at the top end.
Two-up it's a nightmare - slow and a bit wobbly. No thanks."
"£300 insurance and that's third party only. Servicing
is around £100 for a customer but I do my own. Apart from
that, all I've done is stick a pair of Bridgestone Cyroxes on it.
They're cheap and last for ages."
CB-1 at a glance
handling, fun, build quality.
Against: Softly sprung, uneconomical if thrashed.
(out of 5)
numb bum: 50
cosy, and the extra weight takes the edge off the performance. All
right around town but make your excuses out of it.
seat's a bit short but the pegs are OK if you're less than 5ft 8in.
No grab rail means you get friendly with whoever's on the front.
It's this that limits the comfort more than the seat which is actually
Low speed drop cost: £50
Most of the
big grey importers can supply used spares. Bars are £25, a
mirror is £15 and indicator £10. If you want new spares
you can get them for around three times the price. Worst of all
is a headlamp at £235 new and a bargain £60 secondhand.
(Used prices from D+K).
If you can't
get a Bandit, then give one of these a try. You can get hold of
them for as little as £2500, which is a bargain in our book.
Just stay away from motorways and you're laughing. You can have
tons of fun on a CB-1 without breaking the law or your collarbone.
Don't be put off by the engine size, or the size of the whole thing
for that matter.
do you think? Comment
about this review in the message forums.