"Europeans have enjoyed the new Honda CB1000R since the 2008 model year. The CB, or the Hornet as it’s known across the Atlantic, has long been one of the cool bikes us damn Yankees were not deemed fit to possess. Lucky for us, Honda chose to introduce its naked standard to the U.S. as a 2011 model. This streetfighter business is familiar territory for Big Red, and we tested the CB’s predecessor model – the Honda 919 – back in our 2006 Streetfighter Shootout. The latest Honda streetfighter iteration impressed us during our First Ride sampling, so we’re eager to see how it ranks amongst its peers.
The CB1000R makes use of an Inline Four derived from the 2007 CBR1000RR Superbike. Remember, while this CB is new in the US, it’s actually a four-year-old design. Internally, however, changes to the CBR Four come from the state of tune, as engineers designed the CB for torque-friendly street use rather than track glory.
As a result, the CB doesn’t turn Superbike power numbers on the dyno, where it tops out at 109 rear wheel horsepower and 64.8 lb-ft of torque (2007 CBR 147 hp / 75.9 lb-ft torque). The dyno results are a full 15 ponies and 10 lb-ft down on its Shootout competition. Those peak numbers are more than enough for sporty performance on the street, including hooligan antics for those inclined. That said, the Honda does feel down on power compared to its brawny rivals, as measured by our sophisticated seat-of-the-pants dynos.
“The Honda engine spins up pretty fast,” says Ken. “It seems to be making all its power in the middle of the rev-range and it winds out well up top but there’s not as much there as I would expect. Does it haul ass though? Yep. But it’s not as impressive as the other engines in the test.”
Performance testing confirms our subjective impressions, where the Honda trailed all its rivals in both the quarter-mile (11.51 at 121.2 mph) and 0-60 runs (3.283).
“Honda will always be guilty of being butter smooth with no big punch you in the face surprises,” cries Mr. Steeves. “With that said the motor in the CB1K is strong enough to propel you into the triple-digit dash numbers, but does it so seamlessly it’s almost anticlimactic.”
The Honda engine screams up-top to be sure, but everywhere else the Inline Four feels subdued and polite compared to the raucous Triumph and Ducati.
“Get this bike to a rev-limiter taxing front straight or bolt a Ti racing exhaust system on it and this would be a different story,” opines the Big Four Superbike-lovin’ Steeves. “Until then, the Four-bangers will have to wait to be adopted and hopefully outfitted with a pipe from Motorcycle-Superstore. It’s bland otherwise.”
These complaints on the Honda engine are all relative. On its own the Honda Four doesn’t suffer for real-word performance. Crack the throttle hard and the front wheel hops up. Throttle response is smooth, one of the more forgiving in the test. Twist and go and it hustles just fine.
The Honda's exquisite drivetrain is without sin. The six-speed gearbox is smooth without being slippery, the hydraulically operated clutch offers a light lever pull and seamless engagement.
“It’s a typical Honda in regards to shifting,” says JC. “The throws are short and it finds the next cog easily every time. It feels like they borrowed a clutch off a CRF dirt bike, it’s amazingly light. The CBR clearly stood above the rest with its drivetrain.”
Brian agrees: “When anyone talks about a great transmission, the appropriate thing to say is, ‘Ya it was sooo good, it was like a Honda.’ Well, the King of cogs continues to rule.”
Radial mount four-piston calipers are der rigueur in this class, so it’s no surprise that Honda’s Tokico calipers up front on their own are fantastic. These are Superbike-spec stoppers, and while they may not match some of the monobloc stoppers on its competitors, they are plenty potent and transmit good feel at the lever.
The neutral handling Honda proves an easy-to-ride motorcycle. It dips into corners without effort and feels stable at reasonable paces. The HMAS suspension components offer three-way adjustment in the front and preload/rebound adjustment in the rear.
“The Honda transitions side-to-side like a scalpel,” judges our dirt man JC. “Because the engine and transmission don’t upset the chassis, I feel like I can get away with the most mistakes on this bike and ride as aggressively as I want. There’s just the right amount of feedback from the chassis and suspension without being vague or chattering. This is the bike I want to ride on rough pavement or varying road conditions.”
While the suspension does smooth out the ride, our most aggressive riders find they leaned on the soft side. This proves doubly true during our track sessions and sorties through the high-speed twisties.
“Soft, soft, soft was the mantra here,” cries Brian. “I understand why, I get it. It’s a game of trade-offs. The Honda is number one for long distance riding, but feed it some gas and ask it to get aggressive and she bounces around with reduced rider connection to the tires.”
“Honda did a great job of suspending the CB with adjustable inverted fork and shock but we expected it to be CBR-stable and it wasn’t quite that tight,” agrees Ken.
One thing we’re happy to trade out with the Superbike is the CB’s relaxed ergos. Riding position on the Honda is upright, with a comfortable reach to the bars and it feels snug without being cramped. The Honda’s ergonomics are pleasing and the 32.5-inch height seat itself it comfortable, with one exception.
“What is not cool about the CB seat is the stylized bump on the front side of the passenger seating area,” whines Hutch. “This protruding piece pokes you in the tailbone region when you accelerate, ride a wheelie or simply scoot back too far in the saddle. I’m short and it bugged me, so I’m sure it would drive a tall rider crazy. That glitch aside, the pegs are positioned well and the big headlamp/dash area provides a ramp that directs air over the rider in a way that doesn’t buffet too much.”
The CB generally lives up Honda’s high fit and finish reputation. The switchgear and mirrors are functional and well-placed although at high rpm the mirrors do blur. The instrument console features a unique arrangement, with digital bar tach front and center but the small left-side digital speedo is hard to read at times.
Our testing crew gave favorable marks to the Honda’s appearance. The murdered out black look is accented by the gold fork and low-slung exhaust. Other highlights include the single-sided swingarm and directional spoke wheels, which give it the go-fast even when it’s standing-still compliment.
Ringing in just-under 11 grand the CB1000R is one of the most affordable rides in this comparison. If we could distil a performance to dollar ratio, the Honda is up near the top of the scoresheets for sure.
The affordability factor ratchets up the Honda's appeal, making it a practical pick in this Streetfighter comparison review. While its raw performance trails some of the more expensive competition, the CB1000R makes a fine addition to the American market."