Honda’s new litre bike looks good to go – so we sent the Possum (a BMW rider normally) out to see if it is
I first saw the CBF1000 in the trade tent at the Phillip Island Superbike races. My first impression was, “at last, someone has made a useful all-rounder, like the bikes of the late ’70s and early ’80s – only lighter”. The bike presents a promising package with its frame-mounted half fairing and a complete luggage system on the option list.
I picked the CBF up from the Bear’s cave and rode out of Sydney on the tail of the peak. The bike was easy to ride and has a broad spread of power. On the freeway it accelerated smartly, as you would expect from something that uses a re-tuned FireBlade motor.
I will not be discussing lap times or top speeds in this test. I used the bike as if it were mine and treated it accordingly.
Out of curiosity, I turned off the freeway and headed up the Old Pacific Highway – only to test the headlights you understand. I found the main beam was aimed a bit high, but the lights were pretty good, with good spread and penetration.
The seat was making itself felt at this early stage. Firm.
The ride home was a getting to know you thing, just taking it easy. I found the levers were span adjustable, so they were altered to fit my paws. A quick bit of work with an 8mm ring spanner also had the angle of the foot controls adjusted to a comfortable position. The Bear told me the seat was adjustable for height, although there is no mention of how to do this in the owner’s manual. Fortunately I have a set of allen keys and was able to figure out the puzzle. The on board toolkit does not supply the tools to adjust the seat height.
The luggage is by Givi and to my frustration needed two keys to operate, one for the top box, the other for the panniers. The luggage looks the business but due to odd angles inside does not hold as much as one would expect, and then there are odd nooks and crannies left over. If you are packing soft articles such as clothing, no problems, but it’s not so good for hard objects such as the Trangia stove or a camera case. I was still able to fit all my bits and pieces onboard in readiness for the morning. Removing and replacing the panniers is a straight-forward operation, although the loose ignition and top box keys get in the way of the locking handle – one-key operation has some benefits.
On the freeway, the bike was smooth and pulled well. I noticed the speedo is very busy with lots of numbers, making it hard to see at a glance what speed you are actually doing. Note to Honda – either fewer numbers or a bigger dial, please. Main dials are analogue and the trip meters/odometer and clock are digital.
I took the bike to Sydney City Motorcycles, where the nice man fitted new tyres and a warning sticker telling me how slippery new rubber can be. From here I cautiously made my way via the Harbour Bridge, Eastern Distributor and M5 to the Hume Highway and headed south.
South of Goulburn I turned off and went through Breadalbane, Gunning and Sutton down to Canberra. Leaving the highway allows time to try the bike on not-so-smooth secondary roads with real corners and bends.
The suspension is quite firm and the 120mm wide front tyre seems to react to irregularities in the road surface. The front feeds the bumps directly into your wrists, but the bike stays on line. The rear felt compliant, but also delivered the occasional jolt up the spine.
After an overnight in Canberra, I headed down to Cooma, then tackled the Snowy Mountains Highway.
A smooth flowing surface revealed the bike was easy to point and swing through a series of corners. The rear wheel is connected directly to the throttle and the power is delivered in a seamless surge that makes gear changes optional.
On the section Cooma – Tumut I discovered that overtaking on the red Honda is effortless, point and squirt, and there is all the ground clearance one could want. An inspection of the hero knobs on the rider’s foot pegs shows a light grazing. Not my efforts, but I might suggest this happened on a track, rather than in real life on-road conditions.
In an effort to follow “the road less travelled” I headed from Tumut to Tumbarumba for a late lunch at the bakery there. From Tumba’ I headed for Jingellic – former location of the Clubman Rally, many years ago. This road is now sealed right through and is a pleasant run. Serious road works near Jingellic resulted in a nice coating of mud over the machine as I made for The River Road – as mentioned in some bloke’s map book of great rides.
As a result of riding through road works, it is worth noting that the front mudguard does not protect the front of the engine or the exhaust pipes from road grime.
Scooting along this usually quiet stretch allows for cornering angles to be explored and the bike performed in its element. There’s not much need for brakes if you concentrate on corner speed rather than straight-line speed. The surface was rough in patches and gave the suspension a good workout and I felt the suspension was more compliant at higher speeds.
By the time I arrived in Albury, a couple of things had become apparent. The seat is hard, and the fuel tank is too small.
A long-range touring weapon needs sufficient fuel for 300km without sweating the last 50km. The seat needs to match the fuel range. As I was hopping off periodically to take photos, the seat was bearable.
The mirrors, mounted on the fairing, gave me a great view of my elbows and arms, leaving just under half the reflective surface for actually seeing some of what might be behind you. Some consideration should be given to fixing this issue Mr Honda; this is a primary safety issue. Can’t tell I just did an OH&S course, can you?
I feel Honda is aiming at the touring rider who does not want or cannot afford an ST1300 or a Goldwing.
This bike almost hits the target. If you do one or two long trips a year, this machine will get you there and back, albeit with a few more fuel and rest stops than initially planned.
A new day saw the Honda heading for the bakery at Deniliquin, then the bakery at Balranald. (Too many bakeries I fear – the wife) Long open stretches of nothing, then irrigation and orchards, then nothing. The paddle steamer wharf at Moulamein is worth stopping at for a look.
By Mildura I was averaging from 17 to 19km/litre. The book tells me I have a 19 litre tank. Deduct a litre for the space occupied by the fuel pump and fuel filter – which lives in the tank, deduct a bit for the air gap to allow hot fuel to expand, deduct a bit more for the slops in the bottom of the tank the pump can’t reach and you may have 17 useable litres of fuel. Later in the trip I covered 276km for 16.28 litres at 16.1km/litre. A headwind could explain the drop in the average, nevertheless; I was close to the big push!
From Mildura, I wandered across to Adelaide for a day of rest. Leaving town in the darkness before dawn, I was able to make good progress with no traffic to hold things up. Out past Tailem Bend I leave the Murray River for a while. The Honda is smooth and effortless, although I miss the heated grips of my usual machine but please note, they are an option on this one.
Out on the Mallee Highway, the road crosses the rail line a number of times, providing a series of left then right 90 degree sweepers for your pleasure. Be warned that as you cross from SA into Vic, the road is suddenly bumpy immediately after the rail crossing. Heavy wheat trucks have pushed the tarmac into humps and this could be most unsettling at speed.
I was almost stranded in the time warp of SA. I rode into the BP servo at Pinnaroo to discover the power was out for the whole area; third time this year. The first time was for 19 hours after a storm. The nice man who owns the place asked how much fuel I needed and I replied that 10 litres would get me out of trouble. He kindly produced a 10 litre jerry can, and I was on my way, riding for economy.
The road just out of Ouyen was awash from a passing rain storm and the Bridgestone tyres performed as well as they had in the dry. At Ouyen I took on 12.18 litres, plus the 10 litres from Pinnaroo, for a total of 382km, which gave me 17.3km/l.
Note: east of Ouyen, the 110km/h speed limit on the road drops back to 100km/h. Same quality road.
A photo opportunity at Tooleybuc records my second border crossing for the day. Pressing on through the near desert conditions to Deniliquin, where I take on the 16.28 litres mentioned above. This thing needs a bigger tank to meet its design brief. After 205km I have arrived in Albury for the night.
On the road early in an effort to beat the Easter lemming run up the Hume, I detour and visit another mate who has just returned from Port Pirie with “The Pudding” of rally legend. As “The Pudding” has never travelled other than by bike, I carried it on the next leg of its journey in the top box of the Honda.
Whenever I head off, my wife, bless her, loads me up with presents for various relatives who live along the way, and on this occasion, my mum also added to the load. By re-arranging my bits and pieces, all items were delivered, and on the return journey there was plenty of room for “The Pudding”.
North of Tarcutta, the weather turned decidedly damp. The Bridgestones handled the wet conditions without a problem. The windscreen on the Honda, despite being at its highest setting, did not provide much protection. The little wind deflectors mounted off the fairing, out from the windscreen, did keep some of the rain off my gloves. They took much longer to get wet! I encountered a mob of Harley riders at the driver reviver stop at Bookham. All bike riders band together in adversity and they made room for me under the shelter while I scoffed my tea and biscuit before pressing on.
Not much further up the road, the rain stopped and I made it through Sydney and home to the Central Coast in good time.
Now I have had some time for reflection I will fill in some gaps.
The distance covered was 3,500km over seven days, including a day off.
The firm to hard seat, I am told, is a sports seat, which is made like that to allow the sporting rider to hang off and slide about. I suggest this is not a bike for that rider, go and get a ‘Blade if you must hang off. I was glad of my AirHawk seat cushion.
The centre stand, which all road bikes should have, is well designed and easy to use. It’s also very handy for that chain lubricating ritual I had to re-learn.
The pillion seat had an accessory shell over it, extending the sports bike image I suppose. A touring rider would strap a tent or similar to that cover and scratch it badly, unless he used some contact or anti-slip covering. Or he could always take it off. In the same area, the support rack for the top box is tubular steel of bridge building proportions and incorporates grab handles for the lucky pillion passenger.
The bottom of the top box was wet after my trip through the rain, but the contents of the panniers remained dry.
Should you need to stop in a hurry, the combined braking system of the Honda is well up to the task with ABS as a back-up. It will certainly crush the wedding tackle against the back of the tank.
The gearbox has six ratios, but the engine is so strong across the rev range – down to 1500rpm in top gear, then smoothly pulls away – that I wonder if fewer wouldn’t be sufficient.
Washing the bike is a subject not mentioned in other road tests. The body work of the Honda is easy to clean with a sponge, while the wheels need a brush to reach in around the discs. Engine and exhaust system also need a brush to get into the nooks and crannies. While washing it becomes evident the bike needs a RadGuard or similar as the radiator was already showing stone damage.
The spin-on oil filter mounted on the front of the motor has a plastic rock guard over it to preserve it from stones and such.
The toolkit lives under the seat with the owner’s handbook and enough room for a U-lock and perhaps a pair of gloves. The tool kit is adequate for on-road maintenance tasks, but for regular home servicing I would look for tools of a better quality.
The CBF1000 is a good bike that almost meets my version of its design brief. To me, it presents as an “all-rounder” that can be used for long trips, round town and a quick strap up your favourite set of bends.
If you follow the philosophy of a certain editor and take the road least travelled and hasten slowly, the undersized fuel tank with its 270km max range can be planned around, most of the time, and the seat will enforce plenty of stops for photos, scenic lookouts and bakeries.
Would I buy one myself? No. Would I recommend one? Yes, I have a friend who has been talking of upgrading and I will give him a call and tell him to put this on his list.