Honda CB1000R Preview - Hitting the sweet spot?

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Words: Nile Bijoux   |   Photos Nile Bijoux
14 Dec 2018

The Neo Sports Cafe Concept was revealed at EICMA in 2017, and Honda was quick to put the well received show pony into production. Here it is as the new CB1000R.

You’ll be able to get the full rundown in the February issue of NZ Autocar but for now, here’s a debrief.

The CB1000R is based around a retuned version of the 2006 Fireblade engine, due to it having a longer stroke than later iterations. It therefore offers more midrange push at the expense of outright top end power. Further engine fettling has resulted in an output of 107kW at 10,500 rpm and 104Nm at 8,250 rpm compared with the outgoing model’s 92kW/99Nm.

Put next to the elder CBR1000RR Fireblade, the fresh naked is down 34kW and 12Nm. Despite this, Honda says it will actually pull harder than the Blade in the first three gears. That’s down to slightly shorter gearing and the aforementioned midrange boost.

Big Red says torque is at its fattest between 6000 and 8000rpm, which isn’t untrue. Second and third gear is all you need on public roads, with third taking you above and beyond license-holding limits. Unlike the superbike you don’t need to rev the guts out of the CB1000R to make it work. You just need a good grip.

Handling is dealt with by Showa’s Big Piston Forks, which we previously saw on the base CBR1000RR. We left them as-is and found them to be perfectly fine in both threading country roads and soaking up speed bumps. The bike can be a bit skittish on some rougher B-roads, likely sorted by minor suspension/riding style adjustments.

Honda’s Selectable Torque Control (its version of traction control) comes standard, offering four ride modes. Standard, Sport and Rain are all pre-programmed while a User mode lets the rider fiddle with engine characteristics to their heart’s desire. Editable parameters include traction control (on a scale of 0-3), power output (which changes how each gear delivers power) and engine braking.

Unsurprisingly, Standard is the one to use while pootling around town, while Sport ups the ante by reducing TC to its least intrusive form and cranking the power curve. Rain mode reigns in the power delivery, boosts TC to the max and offers a middling amount of engine braking. It’s best used in the rain (duh) but we found it quite handy upon discovering one of our favourite roads was being repaved and was covered in gravel.

A new monochrome digital dash is command central and, while certainly being attractive, it’s easy to make comparisons to the likes of Aprilia’s Tuono V4 1100 and Triumph’s Speed Triple, which both have full-colour units. Those two also beat the Honda on output, as does the BMW S1000R, though the German still makes do with an analogue rev counter and a screen that looks like it might have come from a calculator.

However, there’s one thing that all of those competitors lose out on - price. The Tuono starts at $26k, the Speedy $24k and the Beamer sitting in the middle with a $24.5k sticker. The CB1000R? $19,995.

You do miss out on some creature comforts like heated grips (optional), a quickshifter (optional) and cruise control (not offered) but as the sub-twenty-thousand-dollar do-it-all bike? It’s hard to beat.

It's most immediate competition is probably Kawasaki's Z900RS, which goes for exactly the same amount of money but loses about 25kW and a chunk of the tech. Kawa's modern retro is really more of the latter, offering an old-school look paired with an old-school riding style. Honda, on the other hand, leans more towards the now, with a slightly sportier riding triangle and more technology on-board.

Thankfully for us consumers, there are so many good bikes in the supernaked category now that it really boils down to which one floats your boat the most.

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