Ridin’ For Harambe, Part 23

Alright, let’s get this party started again. And what better way to light the flame once more than to feature one of my all-time favorite bikes: the Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird. Frequent readers of this site know that I have long harbored a weakness for the Yamato class of sportbikes; as a teenager I wanted an FJ1200 so badly that I put FJ1200 stickers on my BMX bike, and in my twenties I lusted for a Kawasaki ZX-11. I am now the owner of the final-boss cruise missile, the Kawasaki ZX-14R, but as recently as last October I was trying to purchase a decent example of the Super Blackbird.

Jeff has a “Dos Equis” Honda that’s been in his fleet for seven years. But as you’ll see below, it’s no longer his favorite way in which to pay tribute to The Gorilla Who Knew Too Much.

(If you have a bike that you’d like to see featured here, send it to askjack@calamarco.com.)


So the 2000 Blackbird has been my long distance ride since 2010 when I found her with only 8k miles down in Newport Beach. Now she’s got 43k and still runs like a top. A top with a rocket shoved up its pigu.

If you want to see one of my coast trips on the bird I did a forum write up a while back. The writing is mostly forum drivel but there are a lot of nice pics.

When I moved to Seattle in 2014 her 530 some odd pounds were were a little much for my commute downtown. On some of the most broken, crazy steep and sopping wet pavement I’d ever seen. Not to mention when the roads did open up I was at constant risk of getting her impounded. I learned to ride in Las Vegas where the average speeds are much higher and I would regularly flaunt those limits. She just makes it so easy.

Enter the 2007 990 Duke. A stripped down flyweight naked. I had never owned anything other than Japanese bikes before. This thing blew away all my preconceptions. On paper it doesn’t look all that great. It never won a comparison in its day. The competition offered more for less money. It barely makes more power than a 600 supersport! But it has… something. It really is more than the sum of its parts. The bird is so perfect it’s anodyne but the duke will slap you in the face and shove it’s hand down your pants. KTM just woke up one day and said (in your best arnold) “ya, we make za street bikes now!” And this one has been race prepped. The exhaust is a sewer pipe. Braaaps like a dirt bike. The springs are made of uranium. It has 10 sliders. 10. It’s sliders have sliders. There is some serious inception stuff going on here. The throttle is a bear even after having it dyno tuned. The brakes are sensitive and she loves to slide that back wheel; when she’s not lifting the front. I’m not sure why I thought this would make a good commuter. I call it Cato, my little orange friend, because it’s constantly trying to kill me.

I used to laugh when people would bring up “character” as a defense for their clearly inferior rides. And I would go back to trying to spreadsheet my way to happiness. Never again. My Honda is relentlessly reliable, user friendly, and will get me across the country time and time again – and in no time – but my KTM has provided more butt puckering, stomach clenching, adrenaline dumping, rediculous sensory overload than I ever thought it would. I’m in love with a stripper.

Well, Jeff, I’ve been in love with a stripper as well, and it didn’t have the happiest of endings. I hope your love affair with your Austrian girl works out a little better!

15 Replies to “Ridin’ For Harambe, Part 23”

  1. Economist

    Love the Honda. I noticed the bag setup you have, and it gives me ideas. I am trying to figure out a luggage solution for my Interceptor without spending $2000 on the factory hard cases, but in my heart I know I won’t be satisfied without that sweet color-matched luggage.
    I don’t understand people’s love for KTM bikes, but I am happy that they are happy.

    • Robert

      As a serial Honda and one-time KTM owner…you take the Honda home to meet your parents. The KTM is for debauchery.

    • Yamahog

      KTM is really something else. I don’t know that I’d ever own a KTM street bike (chiefly because weight doesn’t bother me, expensive parts bother me immensely, and I’m a glutton for smoothness).

      But I own a KTM dirt bike it’s the best bike I’ve ever ridden (and I once got to do a few laps on a factory tuned YZ125 but that was years ago and the bike had been owned privately for a few years). The KTM is predictable and the whole bike seems tuned in a consistent way – every control seems to have the same amount of dead space and the same response curve.

      It’s very nice, it’s the bike I’d build if I were the project manager and I made a bike for myself.

      They’re worth considering if a given model of KTM seems up your alley, but the bikes aren’t so good that you should expect one to change you.

  2. St1100boy

    I just sold my 2014 Super Duke 1290 and miss it immensely. My ’06 FJR is a great bike, but so dull by comparison. The plan is/was to buy a ’17 SD, but there still seems to be none in the USA yet. I’ve got a deposit with a dealer and a good deal set up, we just need the bike! Rumor has it, there’s some sort of hang up with the EPA, but no one is talking on the record.

  3. Jeff Smith

    Thanks Jack! There is no other site I’d rather be a guest on.

    On a semi related note, my dad would never ride this KTM. Will it wash out in the 999cc 75° V-twin, or is it always in the blood? I still have 3 years to blame my parents so I’m going to make them count.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Can’t speak for you, but as for me… my father wouldn’t ride a motorcycle if you put a gun to his head.

      How much of my father am I destined to become?
      Will I drop this bitchin’ wheelie just to satisfy someone?
      Will I let this Kwacker kill me, or slink on back to Porsche love?
      Will the driveway fill with water, or will the freeway fill with blood?

  4. DirtRoads

    Had a KTM 400 desert bike years ago with a 6 speed box and that thing would FLY. Loved it. KTMs truly ARE better than the sum of their parts, somehow.

    Always wanted a Blackbird or modern (past the 80s, man) V4 Honda.

    You’re a lucky biker.

  5. Jeff Smith

    I just reread an old post where you proclaim your busa love. I think you made the right choice with the 14R. It’s one of my favorite modern bikes.

    Fun fact: Hayabusa in Japanese means peregrine falcon. In Japan peregrine falcons eat blackbirds.

  6. Wulfar

    Glad to see this return! And love the KTM Super Duke – don’t currently own one but had a couple of the single-cylinder models through the years. My current version of that is a 1996 Ducati Monster with a 940 kit in it that I can’t bring myself to sell. Not sure why except that I obsessed over a Monster when they came out and searched high and low for a 1993 model. I had to “settle” for a 1993 Ducati 900SS which was a wonderful bike. But like so many things we eventually settle for they drift out of our lives eventually.

  7. Jon Buder

    That class of sport touring bikes has never appealed to me, but I guess that’s fine because I’m an average height & weight, under-30 guy who hasn’t yet gotten my first bike.

    Just got done with my basic rider course last week and done test rides of a few bikes. I was pretty set on an FZ-07 before, and finally got to test ride one today. I also rode the Z650 and there are some good things about that one for sure.

    The assist/slipper clutch is one of the good things about the Z, and the gauge is easier to read since it’s up higher. I thought the FZ-07’s engine was smoother while riding, but the throttle is more jerky when first rolling on from low speed. I think the FZ sounds better with an aftermarket exhaust, and I’d rather buy a bike made in Japan over Thailand if all else was equal.

    Since the FZ’s been out for longer there are more deals to be had, like the used one I rode and new leftover models for quite a bit less than the Z650.

    To complicate matters, one of the dealers has a Z800 leftover for just over 7 grand, but it’s a hundred pounds heavier than the others and probably too much of a handful for a newbie like myself. The salesman started it up, and the stock sound and smoothness of the small four-cylinder engine right after a cold start are impressive.

    Priority #1 is to get the wife onboard, though. Aside from the usual danger aspect, she says we can’t afford it right now, and I should actually listen to her on that one but my heart keeps telling me otherwise…

    I guess it would be that much sweeter if we could pay off some debt first and pay cash for the bike later instead of making the (temptingly small) payment.

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