Honda’s Revised CB1100 RS Has So Much Unused Potential
Don’t get me wrong, the new Honda CB1100 RS is as good as it gets for a modern UJM. Its got a nicely sculpt-up tank along with the proper styling for something one would get overwhelmed seeing over and over again at the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride -kind of places. It is a very polite modern-classic design that is more Moto Guzzi than Yamaha Sport Heritage. It’s more Triumph Bonneville than BMW R NineT and it is totally unapologetic about it, and thats fine. This isn’t a Honda CB1100 review, but rather what I would have liked seeing from the company’s updated machine.
The Honda CB1100 RS is the spiritual successor of the one motorcycle that changed everything about how the Japanese motorcycle giant was perceived back in the 60s. It was sort of an overnight affair with the CB750, and Honda rose from a small displacement commuting motorcycle maker to the maker of serious testosterone-filled machines. The legacy of the Honda CB750 finally came to an end in 2003, a whole 36-years after it was first brought to market. It was then in 2010 that the Honda CB1100 first came out to pick up from where the 750 had left.
But why you would ask, did Honda once again plan to bring out the motorcycle? They obviously did see that the market was once again getting primed up for the now-so-popular modern-classics and thus thought it would be great to have their own offering in the middle of it when it blooms. But tell me honestly, how many times have you heard people talking of or thinking of buying the new Honda CB1100?… almost never.
Honda fazed out the CB750 when it though that the market was no more viable for such motorcycles back in 2003. But when the CB1100 was introduced so that it would carry the heavy responsibility of the iconic motorcycle’s successor, it somehow wasn’t all that relevant anymore. Did Honda not see, or choose to simply ignore what other motorcycle makers, even from Japan (Yamaha) were doing to refresh their modern-classic motorcycle offering? The Honda CB1100 is still the same double cradle frame with a rather mundane 88bhp in-line four engine that seriously fails to stand out in the crowd of 70s-inspired motorcycles today. Sure a Honda CB1100 cafe racer would look good based on the new machine, but since 2010 when the CB1100 first came out, Honda must have realised that their modern-classic motorcycle range could do much better than what the 1100 was doing.
Todays modern classics are highly flexible because buyers are looking to buy into something that gives them more options to fine tune it later or immediately to their own taste. Every other 70s-inspired offering like BMW’s R NineT, Yamaha’s XSR700, and even Ducati’s Scrambler, while being retro-inspired, are motorcycle that can do well as they are, but also in custom avatars too.
The Honda CB1100 RS is stuck somewhere in the middle of both world. Unlike the Honda CB750 that came out in an era where British and Italian motorcycles were heavy, leaky, shaky and quite unreliable, the CB1100 cannot leverage alone on build quality in today’s competitive and highly-improved motorcycle market.
I love the CB750 and really want to see the Honda CB1100 RS carry forward its legacy, both spiritually as well as in monetary terms. Motorcyclist both experienced as well as newcomers are equally interested in modern classics, but unfortunately they have quite a few options today than to carry on with a Honda CB1100 custom . But with so many amazing motorcycles, they really have no reason to look at the Japanese Giant’s offerings. That being said, Honda is now trying to crawl back on lost time with the upgraded CB1100 RS for 2017 which gets a few interesting updates. To solve the problem of the previous motorcycle’s rather flat handling, Honda has increases the rake and trail figures making the front end more agile in comparison to the rather lazy one on the predecessor, and the wheelbase is shorter too. The front forks have been upgraded to beefier ones too (now 43mm vs the previous 41mm) and the brakes have been updated to better four-piston radially-mounted calipers too. But these changes still leave a lot to be desired from the motorcycle. With Honda’s reliability, smoothness and brand value, there is so much that can be achieved from one motorcycle if placed well in today’s market.