Unveiled at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show, the Honda CB1100 strikes a chord among those seeking a throwback to a simpler time. We’ll save you the suspense: Sorry folks, Honda has no serious intention of exporting this faithful repro of the “four paw” to your postcode any time soon, unless you’re one of the lucky souls living in Australia or New Zealand. “Japanese design rules are very close to those of these two countries,” explains Tetsuya Kudoh of Honda R&D. “Which isn’t the case with the U.S., whether you’re talking about sound levels or carbon monoxide emissions.”
The CB1100 hails from glorious ancestry beginning with the first CB92 of 1959 and spanning to the majestic CB750 Four of 1969 and beyond. Its aesthetics are timeless, thanks to purity of form. In terms of style and functionality, Honda paid attention to the details; this CB is packed with Honda DNA. Steel twin-cradle frame, dual rear shocks, retro taillight, double horn under the round headlight… Even if you decide to nitpick, it’s hard to find a spot where taste falls short.
Yet Honda’s latest technology, from PGM-FI injection to optional ABS or the HISS anti-theft system, was not sacrificed at the altar of retro chic. The centerpiece: an air-cooled, 16-valve, inline-Four beams you back down memory lane. It’s over-simplistic, but damn, it feels right!
One leg over and we’re snugly sitting on the comfortable, 30.1-inch saddle. You can find your way around the controls with your eyes closed, so familiar is the layout. Despite its 545-pound heft, the 1100 is easy to maneuver at low speeds, helped to some extent by the narrow—but aesthetically correct—18-inch Bridgestone rubber.
The engine jumps to life at the flick of your thumb, and the five-speed gearbox couldn’t be smoother. You hardly need a mile or two to succumb to the CB1100’s charms or feel the urge to give it a decent thrashing. It immediately puts out its best with a serving of very controllable torque (68 ft.-lb, claimed) that’s easy to tame. The CB1100’s thrills kick in from low in the rev range, but with substance to back it up as you climb the rpm scale. It’s nothing but pure joy. Good braking comes from twin 296mm discs clamped by four-piston calipers and a single-pot caliper out back. It’s far from being a sportbike, but the ride is impressive, and the bike can fulfill your daily needs as a commuter and also for those long Sunday rides.
How many more broken hearts will it take for this golden nugget to find its way out of Japan? Compliance and export are expensive and, while the CB1100 retails for one million yen in Japan, it would be likely to fetch more than $10,000 if it were ever brought stateside. Getting buyers to fork out that kind of money for a neo-retro, however, may be very difficult. The CB1100’s only hope for wider market distribution would require enough potential buyers to justify production. Sadly, we don’t see that happening anytime soon, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed.