Ridin’ For Harambe, Part 24

Here at Riverside Green, we never get tired of the Honda CB1100 in all of its thoroughly satisfying guises. I know of two readers who bought the big aircooled Honda after reading about it here. Mine is about to sail through the 11,000-mile mark, and when I needed to clear a little space in my garage it was a no-brainer to sell my very lovely VFR800 Anniversary Edition instead of the all-black JDM.

Is the thoroughly-revised 2017 CB1100EX a better mousetrap than my bike? Just for once, we can probably get away with the Motor Trend “there are no losers here” reply. My opinion is that the updates do a great job of moving the 1100’s aesthetic back from the Nighthawk-era square-tank look of the 2014 Standard to a proper Seventies-style CB750-Four tribute.

For more on why the CB1100EX is great, let’s hear from a reader who took delivery of one.

Kevin writes:

“Loved your article on the 2017 Honda CB 1100 EX. Your perspectives were spot on.

I bought the only 2017 CB 1100 EX available in upstate NY last year and have put 3,000 perfect miles on it.

Creamy smooth, broad torque curve and plenty of pull at low revs in 6th gear, even on steep Rt. 20 hills, even with my wife of 42 years on the back. Sweet ride.

I owned a Honda 550 Four the year I graduated from college in 1976. Rode it all over the East coast. The CB 1100 EX took me back to those days, but with twice the horsepower, fuel injection, dual discs up front, ABS, dual valve adjustable front shocks, a slipper clutch, 55 MPG and six gears. Thank you, Honda, for a retro machine with plenty of punch and purist appeal.

I’ve owned ten bikes. Loved them all. Harleys, two strokes, singles, twins, quads, shaft drive. The red KZ650 with a coffin tank was a favorite design, but lagged momentarily when the throttle was twisted. Test drove a Zero and it blew me away, but no memories evoked and that’s part of the experience. Never dropped a bike, but some close calls with deer and dumb drivers. Many miles. Lucky life.

I nearly bought the bike you own. It was so close to right. Beautiful. Understated. Liked the subtle tank emblem. For me, it needed a sixth gear and I really wanted twin pipes and spokes.

Sent a letter off to Honda asking for that and must have been on the same page as other customers (older guys my age?). They built just what I hoped for and the build quality is just amazing.

Probably my last bike and a great way to finish a long, sweet run on two wheels. I love the bike and have experienced more thumbs up and more smiles from more strangers while riding that Honda than on every other bike combined.”

Naturally, I had to remind Kevin that the 2014 CB1100 Standard, unlike the 2013 model, does in fact have a sixth gear! I agree with him that it’s very close to mandatory on this bike, particularly in states where you can regularly knock on the door of 80 or 90 miles per hour without much drama.

Would you like to be featured in Ridin’ For Harambe? Sure you would. Email me: askjack-at-calamarco.com.

22 Replies to “Ridin’ For Harambe, Part 24”

  1. everybodyhatesscott

    I know of two readers who bought the big aircooled Honda after reading about it here

    I recommended one to my friend based on reading about it here and he picked up a used one. Well, I actually said “Get a CB1100 or an FZ-09”

    Reply
  2. yamahog

    Sweet bike! The sixth gear ‘debate’ was hilarious – people panned the 5 speed (“it should have six gears!”) and then Honda made it with a six speed transmission and that was panned (“you can hit the speed limiter in the top 3 gears!” ).

    I’m of the opinion that every bike ever made is perfect for someone, for any bike it’s just a matter of answering “for whom?”. I guess I never thought about it, but a CB1100 is a perfect last bike for people buying their last bikes now. This is like the highest form / most evolved possible 1970s UJM. If it had any *more*, it would cease to be a UJM. So thankful that Honda made this bike, I’d love to pick one up at the right price – but it might take a while, these bikes are just too high quality and too nice to depreciate quickly.

    Reply
    • Don Curton

      Actually, there wasn’t a big demand and prices are remarkably low. It’s easy to pick up a “new-in-the-box” 2014 for well under 10G. If you read the forums, there’s always posts and comments about where to find them, the very low resale value, etc.

      Reply
      • yamahog

        Perhaps that’s all true, but the market is thin and it’s not clearing well around me. Every CB1100 for sale within 250 miles of me is owned by some dude who “knows what he has” and demands 6k for a bike that’s worth less.

        I scrimp and save and I’d pay $3,500 for a CB1100 with ABS and not a dollar more.

        Reply
        • ScottS

          It think these bikes are priced pretty high too. After reading Jack’s review of the Yamaha FZ1 for Cycle World I think I would prefer to find a pristine example of one over a new CB1100. The trouble for the retro bikes is they have to compete against the authentic article and they don’t represent any real progress in terms of performance and utility.

          I guess that pretty much sums up the entire Harley Davidson product line?

          Reply
  3. G. Wallace

    I picked my new 2014 standard up at the beginning of the year for $6,199. I had my eye on one 3 years ago and landed on a CB1000R instead. These two bikes are quite the pair: Beauty & the Beast. I added a Delkevic stainless can and a Corbin seat and the bike is just perfect. And though I like the new EX, I wouldn’t trade it for my black on black standard. The bike is so mellow but with a tremendous reserve of power. It really is a symphony. And next year I’ll spring for a one of those pricey Pipemasters 4 into 4 exhaust systems to complete the package. This bike is a keeper.

    Reply
  4. -Nate

    Dang that looks pretty .

    I prefer twins over fours having ridden many of both .

    Looking for an affordable up right seating position twin now, apparently none available unless you want a ‘!!CLASSIC!!ANTIQUE!!!RARE!!’ or other B.S. poseur experience .

    -Nate

    Reply
    • JustPassinThru

      Nate.

      The Kawasaki Versys, and the Honda CB500X…among others…have in-line twins. Beyond their pouncing plastic profiles, favored by the “Adventure” format these days…the riding position is much the same as the UJM of forty years ago.

      This will get egg thrown at my face, but I don’t share the site owner’s enthusiasm for the CB1100. And I had one for a year. Trouble-free? Yes, but with Honda that’s almost a given. Neutral handling? Yes…to where the sporting aspects were taken out of it. Both my BMWs had far-more engaging steering geometry – BMW’s bizarro layout which seems dangerous until you take it out, just you and it, and make friends with it. And my later V-Strom, which critics deride as a snooze in the road-manners…I found a step up.

      And the traditional MC air-cooled, in-line four’s buzz – which I understand was deliberately left in, inn the design of this engine, as balance shafts were avoided. The cycle was to pay homage to the big fours of Honda’s past – not to perfect them. I actually find my Versys 650, a thrashing beast with 180-degree firing spacing…to be, if not less buzzy, less annoying at higher frequencies.

      There’s room for many types and many preferences, in the cycling world and in the real world. And that’s as it should be.

      Reply
      • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

        I think your view is actually the majority one… these bikes are a tough sell in the USA and it’s still possible to buy a brand-new 2014.

        Reply
        • JustPassinThru

          All bikes, are a tough sell in the USA today…the two exceptions being BMW and H-D; and Harley’s losing its momentum. And that has little to do with the quality of their offerings, which is light-years ahead of what riders had to choose from 40 years ago.

          I just this winter purchased a new 2014 Kawasaki Versys 650, for the KBB value of a used one. And while the new models are better, the changes are evolutionary (softer engine mounts) and a more-generic styling for the “Adventure” set.

          The list of market failures which should have been winners is a long one; but aside from the CB1100’s styling – which I’m drawn to – it is only a standout in its fealty to the retro theme.

          I seem to remember reading, in a long write-up, that balance shafts were in fact left out; that the crank throws were even slightly offset to give “tactile similarity” to the old CB750. Even the ticking of the cooling engine was studied..

          Perhaps the refreshed current model has them. But I was not the only rider finding the buzzing tiresome, especially on highways or in spirited riding.

          Bottom line was, it was great fun to BE SEEN on the CB1100; but riding pleasure was only average for a liter bike; and its utility as a tourer was minimal at best. The traditional pogo-stick twin rear post-suspension layout didn’t help there, and this gave me a great new appreciation for the now-standard monoshock rear layout.

          Reply
      • -Nate

        I looked at the images : https://search.yahoo.com/search?p=CB500X+images&fr=uh3_news_web_gs&fr2=p%3Anews%2Cm%3Asb

        GAH ! .

        I guess I’m just too damn old to be seen on one of those .

        I miss my old BMW /5’s, they’re all sorts of trendy now so I cannot afford one, the /2’s were O.K. but suffered from terrible brakes when new (can’t lock up either wheel so modulating the brakes is impossible) , I rode Urals for a long time but cannot seem to find one within my price range .

        This weekend is a Moto swap meet so I’ll go have a look and see what happens .

        I know I should stop riding , my Son, SWMBO, entire Family and more than a few Friends tell me this but if i can’t enjoy life, why live ? .

        -Nate

        Reply
        • JustPassinThru

          Yeah, the brakes.

          One of the biggest mistakes I lucked out on, was – a year ago, after my Wee-Strom had disintegrated on the road (in Glacier National Park, no less) was buying a 1982 Honda GL500 from a 79-year-old who finally realized his riding days was over.

          Price was right; the machine was cared for and had been well-sheltered for the decade it was out of use. And it checked all the boxes: Shaft drive, front discs; luggage, the bulletproof CX vee motor.

          First thing I had to realize, was that not all disc brakes are good brakes. Second thing I had to learn was, don’t trust your memories. Stopping one of those things back then was whoops-and-wee, and often, OUCH.

          Second thing I learned, was that Honda was not above closing the parts books on some less-popular models. The GL500, a Mini-Me Baby Gold Wing, was only sold three years (if you count the last-year GL650) and was a flop. The right bike at exactly the wrong time…as gas prices were falling and income rising. Liter bikes were the way; and the performance of the CX and derivative bikes, wasn’t up with the new sport-machine craze.

          Last thing I learned was, sometimes the gods look after drunks and fools. I was up against it, this spring, and although I didn’t want to sell my museum piece, riding it was not exciting and touring on a 36-year-old orphan machine, risky beyond words. So I put an ad on the List of Craig, and eight hours later, someone came to look at it. A father of a hipster (a popular social posture, here) – the boy had a CX500, and the guy, who’s a decade younger than me, wanted a similar machine for male-bonding runs. He paid just what I asked, and the only thing I lost, in 3000 miles of use, was the cost of the new tires on it.

          But, never again. Old riders and old rides, are not always a good mix.

          Reply
          • -Nate

            In the 1990’s my Son bought a CX500, a good simple basic machine .

            He learned to ride it far faster and harder than I ever could (he;s now a competitive racer) , it was always amazing to me to see the extreme lean angles he used, I was occasionally dragging the heads of my old BMW AirHeads but that thing, WOW ! .

            They had a few weak spots : the plastic fans fell off the metal hubs and once in a while the alternator windings went open circuit, you had to separate the engine and tranny to replace it .

            For $350 with very low miles it was a good old Moto .

            I’m old & crippled but still want to ride, slower now I suppose, not as far either .

            Life goes on .

            -Nate

          • JustPassinThru

            Nate, you should check out the newer 300s. The Versys X-300, is an adult-sized machine, but far lighter than the 650. I had a trial seat on it and was much impressed – but frankly, after the 500, I was afraid that a 300 would not be enough engine.

            But, that, and the BMW G310GS, and a few others…I think they are aiming at guys between your age and mine; who are tapering back, but don’t want Harley trikes. You’re not likely to get a shockingly-good deal on either of the above two – yet. I expect a few will start popping up, lightly used, as riders either move up, find they aren’t riding much, or get twisted by the bank notes.

          • G. Wallace

            Nate is right about the looks. If you appreciate the big air cooled 4 look, real metal real chrome, and the lack of plastic (save for the side covers), the CB1100 is spot on. The fit and finish is also top of the line. It has a bit of the big inline 4 high frequency tingle but it is in no way shape or form a show stopper.

  5. G. Wallace

    The CB1100 does have a balance shaft (from Honda press release):

    Bore and stroke is set at 73.5mm x 67.2mm. Drive for the twin camshafts is via central chain, and the valve included angle is 26.5° inlet and exhaust. Inlet valve diameter is 27mm, with a 2.5mm stem; exhaust 24mm with 2.5mm stem. A single secondary balancer shaft ensures smooth running.

    Reply
  6. ScottS

    Kevin, thanks for a nice write-up! The CB1100EX checks a lot of boxes for me, but Jack’s article on the Yamaha FZ1 for Cycle World has my brain all twisted up.

    Reply
  7. Jim Zeigler

    My problem with the CB1100 isn’t what it’s lacking, but what it has in excess: weight. For an air-cooled bike with no radiator or the accompanying plumbing, the fact that it’s pushing 550lbs is almost impressive. Is the frame made out of solid round bar or something?

    Current retro itch is a ZRX1200. About the same weight, but plenty of wheeeeee. I’d buy one in a second if I could find a clean Kawasaki green example. Might need to do a brief write-up of my Hawk GT for this series…

    Reply
    • BlueovalDave

      I have a ZRX1100 with 17,000 miles. i had it custom painted original Eddie Lawson green with blue/white stripes and added a Kerker pipe. It scratches my retro itch pretty well. I think the Honda is beautiful, however, it won’t give you that Kawi rush. I also like the new Kawi Z900RS, best of both worlds but not enough to make me trade.

      Reply

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