2007 CBF1000 First Ride Report
The CBF1000 could be a great and un-intimidating step up the displacement ladder
You can juggle and play with the figures as long as you want but it ain't gonna help; Big Nakeds haven't been a big success so far and that's a fact. On paper, it should have worked better, at least in Europe where middleweight nakeds such as the Yamaha FZ-6 and Suzuki GSR600 rule the sales hit parade.
But somehow, regardless of their big jugs, the liter-sized strippers have failed to appeal and you'd better not try comparing Italian market sales figures for the 599 to those of the 919; it'll be downright embarrassing.
The big four have noticed this scandalous injustice a while ago and are trying to address the situation.
Yamaha has pushed the lovely FZ-1 towards the ragged edge this year with an aluminum frame, bizarre-ish design and extreme engine tuning, and Kawasaki is following the same route for 2007 with the new version of the Z1000. Both companies seem eager to transform their do-it-all giants into extreme "naked-sports" thingies. Someone in Honda must have thought that redemption for liter nakeds might be found elsewhere then, at the opposite end of the scale. Instead of chasing the city racers and wheelie hooligans, why not go for the mature boys, the once-in-a-while tourers with a family and a mortgage?
Cast a look at the new CBF1000 and you'll understand immediately that a weekend in its company will be more a "let's hold hands" type of thing rather than a sweaty and steamy affair.
Honda product planners seemingly drew their inspiration from the discreet success of the Europe-only CBF600, a cute mid-weight touring naked of sorts and have morphed the 919 into a much more sedate type of tool.
Look behind the half fairing and you'll indeed find the same basic rectangular steel backbone tube frame of the 599/919.
Honda didn't try to re-cycle too many parts in creating the CBF1000 (the seat unit looks too familiar though); it's more as if the bodywork of the CBF600 was simply scaled up by 10% by the 3D CAD software. Compared to its smaller brother, the main differences that stick out are the strange, arc-shaped, silver-painted side panels and the use of nothing less than the latest version of the CBR1000RR mill to propel the thing.
"It's more as if the bodywork of the CBF600 was simply scaled up by 10%..."
The engine choice is a bit bizarre to say the least. From the 174 claimed hp in the RR, the unit has been detuned to... 96 hp in the CBF1000.
That means a good 78 HP have been chopped for "better midrange response". I can't think of a reason as to why Honda would decide to use this engine when they already had good torque producers in the shape of the previous 954 Fireblade mill or the 1100 motor of the Super Blackbird. Why they used a power unit with a relatively extreme bore and stroke ratio is beyond me. Maybe this is paving the road for the new 1000 version of the 919, a bike that will surely come pretty soon.
Till that one arrives, it's the CBF1000 that we are dealing with. By the sound of it you might be tempted to see it as a contender to the new half-faired FZ-1 tested in MO's 2006 naked comparo, but in reality the two are aimed at very different folks. The FZ-1 is all about sharp angles, tight lines and complex syntax while the CBF offers smooth classic lines, soft curves and a plain-Jane composition of its components. The final result is indeed a close cousin to the groovy and well-proportioned CBF600, just not as well groomed in my opinion. I think that the most offending element in the CBF1000's design is that odd, arc-shaped side panel that's stuck smack in the middle of the bike, a rather boring focal point.
Closer examination of the CBF1000 helps to clarify Honda's intentions even more. There's a standard fork with no adjustments, a pair of simple two-piston brake calipers of the floating type, a rear 160-section tire (even the 599 has a 180), and an all-analog instrument panel with no LCD in sight. Hello? Honda? It's the year 2006, remember?
The finishing and detailing level doesn't impress either. So then, we have a sort of budget 1000cc tool which means that in Europe, it's priced a good 15% cheaper than the half faired FZ-1 and that's not small change. OK, the picture is becoming clearer now, yet in my humble opinion, with exactly the same budget, a much more captivating design could have been achieved. A Honda technician catches me casting dubious looks at the CBF1000 before leaving and voluntarily adds: "What do you expect? It's been styled in Honda's German studio." Aha! That would explain.
The aesthetics complaint chapter ends a few minutes into the ride. De-tuned the engine might be, a puppy dog, a pussycat, call it as you like but I've yet to experience such an elastic response and so much user friendliness from a liter tool. With an extreme starting point such as the CBR1000RR mill, textbooks say it shouldn't be so, but smaller throttle bodies and a host of other mods have turned the fire-breathing Fireblade powerplant into a refined unit that purrs happily from what feels like zero RPM.
A close look at the CBF's torque curve published by one of the local mags shows that from a silly 3,000 RPM and up the power unit supplies 61.4 foot pounds of torque and never dips under this figure till 8,000 RPM, climbing to a 68.7 foot-pound peak at 6,500 RPM. And that curve doesn't lie. It's kind of usual to attach the expression "pulls from any revs" to big twins, but this four-cylinder mill could teach some big twins the meaning of "low-down pull".
"When the road gets kinky, the wonderfully grunty motor remains a big source of satisfaction and pull."
When I took the bike from Honda, one mechanic suggested I try starting from standstill in sixth gear. "Do it gently and you'll see it manages". Well, I didn't go that far; I didn't feel like being left stranded with a fried clutch in case it didn't work as planned. But I did try the trick in fourth gear and, by golly, it does pull away! I also let the revs drop to 1,500 in sixth and the CBF gathered itself together without any of the shaking power pulsing and drama that you'd find in, say, a Ducati 1000 at such revs. So then, it turns out that leaving aside the new FJR 1300, this CBF1000 is the closest thing to riding an automatic bike that I've ever tried. On secondary roads that are free of dead-slow hairpins, you can pretty much leave the thing in sixth and forget about shifting.
The relaxed attitude is also displayed in the pilot's environment. It's not as plush as that of a GoldWing to be sure, yet it's still very comfy. There's an ultra-soft seat, a very natural bend in the handlebars, a total lack of vibes and the fairing protects well till 80-85 mph (though not beyond). Considering the budget nature of the CBF1000 there is also a surprising feature in the form of seat height adjustability (with an Allen key) but I didn't have the chance to try that.
So this CBF isn't really a tourer or sport tourer but rather a standard comfy roadster with a half fairing. OK then, doesn't that mean that it should also be a good back road scratcher? Isn't that part of the charm of these high-bar, simple-to-ride tools?
When the road gets kinky, the wonderfully grunty motor remains a big source of satisfaction and pull, but the rest of the package doesn't leave a clear impression. Yep, there's plenty of oomph to drive you out of turns and thankfully, the highish handlebars do help while throwing the CBF around with abandon but there are limits to the idyll too.
"This nice-guy attitude has some limits."
The extra leverage is really needed as Honda engineers put more attention to stability rather than flickability on this one.
Up to 80-90 percent on the speed scale, the CBF1000 does behave itself, supplying a semi-sporty experience, but don't get too serious about getting your adrenaline fix with this one. Pile on the coals and the 160-section rear tire starts to move around.
Slam on the brakes with authority and the fork consumes its entire available stroke in one big gulp without a hint of guilt or remorse.
The progressively-linked rear shock copes rather well with the increased demands but it's the single-backbone frame that at a certain point cries "enough is enough". The well-behaved motor also tries to tell you that torque is torque but still, power is power. What I mean is that plenty of drive at 4,000 or 5,000 RPM is a nice thing to have but when riding above semi-fast speeds, you don't spend much time at those kinds of revs and the lack of kick higher up the range is missed.
'I can't think of an easier liter bike to ride to work with on a daily basis...'
In reality, after 8,000 revs there's a serious drop in power so that you don't even feel tempted to try and bump into the rev limiter and simply hook up the next gear. I must add that knowing about the 12,000 RPM redline potential of this very engine in its Fireblade incarnation left me with mixed feelings about the limited rev range of this otherwise fine unit.
Considering the budget calipers mounted, the braking power was rather good, but also brought to light a strange problem. The top half of the fairing ends in two sharp corners that are positioned exactly in front of the rider's knees. When braking hard, unless I was making a conscious effort to brace myself on the gas tank my knees often met the offending corners. Ouch!
Since we're talking `bout braking, it might be worth noting that I've been riding the standard version of the CBF1000 but there's also an ABS-CBS version with linked anti lock brakes. The CBF1000ST model is equipped with higher-spec Brembo calipers and some of my colleagues reported improved braking power. On top of the sophisticated brakes, the ST version comes with original hard luggage, adding about 10% to the basic model's price.
Back in town, the tables are turned back again. The CBF1000 simply shines here and that's no mean feat for a 1000 tool in the narrow city streets.
I can't think of an easier liter bike to ride to work with on a daily basis except maybe -- just maybe -- the GT1000 I road tested not long ago. The drivers around me are nervous, the weather is extra hot but the CBF maintains its millennium nirvana. The reduced fairing lowers of the CBF let the heat disperse with ease, the seat is still comfy regardless of the massive sweating, all the levers and controls remain buttery smooth and I must admit that I am cursing less than usual inside my boiling helmet considering the heavy heat.
The CBF1000 seems to have a calming effect of sorts.Whether that's good or bad is a matter of taste and personality but on the cobblestone-paved streets I find myself quite happy with the softish springing and damping rates chosen by Honda's test riders for the CBF.It's just too easy to blame and disdain the CBF for not being all sorts of things. Like not being a proper contender to the aforementioned FZ-1 or Z1000 or for not having a more inspiring design or color schemes. But then, it seems like Honda never planned a glittering rock star status for their cute CBF1000.
Moving over to the half-full side of the glass, it's just as easy to praise the fact that together with the SV1000, it's the world's cheapest liter tool. Or that it's almost an up-to-date water-cooled Bandit 1200 rather than a road-burning streetfighter.
The model is not headed to the US this year but seen in a European context, the CBF1000 could be a great and un-intimidating step up the displacement ladder for somebody who's growing out of a 599 or FZ6. Seen as such, the CBF1000 has a rationale behind it, a rationale that can speak volumes to the 40-50 something born-again bikers that are so numerous these days across the pond. It's an easy to live with on a daily basis, 1000cc roadster that could also take you on a comfy weekend-long two-up trip. Does this sound just too serene and relaxed?
Honda seems to believe that the market for this kind of tool and attitude exists and how. I wouldn't be surprised if a year from now, Honda ends up selling more CBFs than the competition sells flashy FZ-1s or Z1000s.
|2007 Honda CBF1000 (ED-type)|
** Specs courtesy of Honda **
|Type||Liquid-cooled 4-stroke 16-valve DOHC inline-4|
|Bore x Stroke||75 x 56.5mm|
|Compression Ratio||11: 1|
|*Claimed* Max. Power Output||72kW/8,000min-1 (95/1/EC)|
|*Claimed* Max. Torque||97Nm/6,500min-1 (95/1/EC)|
|Carburation||PGM-FI electronic fuel injection|
|Aircleaner||Dry, cartridge-type paper filter|
|Fuel Tank Capacity||19litres (including 4-litre LCD-indicated reserve)|
|Ignition System||Computer-controlled digital transistorised with electronic advance|
|Ignition Timing||5° BTDC (idle) ~ 45° BTDC (7,500min-1)|
|Sparkplug Type||CR8EH-9 (NGK); U24FER9 (ND)|
|Headlight||12V, 55W x 1 (low)/55W x 2 (high)|
|Clutch||Wet, multiplate with coil springs|
|Primary Reduction||1.604 (77/48)|
|Gear Ratios||1 2.714 (38/14)|
2 1.941 (33/17)
3 1.579 (30/19)
4 1.363 (30/22)
5 1.217 (28/23)
6 1.115 (29/26)
|Final Reduction||2.687 (43/16)|
|Final Drive||#530 O-ring sealed chain|
|Type||Mono-backbone; rectangular-section steel tube|
|Dimensions (LxWxH)||2,176 x 827 x 1,175mm|
|Seat Height||795mm (+/-15mm)|
|*Claimed* Dry Weight||220kg , *228kg|
|Kerb Weight||242kg (F: 118kg; R: 124kg), *250kg (F: 120kg; R: 130kg)|
|Max. Carrying Capacity||195kg|
|Loaded Weight||242kg, *250kg|
|Front||41mm cartridge-type telescopic fork, 120mm axle travel|
|Rear||Pro-Link with gas-charged HMAS damper, 120mm axle travel|
|Front||Hollow-section 6-spoke cast aluminium|
|Rear||Hollow-section 6-spoke cast aluminium|
|Rim Size Front||17M/C x MT3.5|
|Rim Size Rear||17M/C x MT5|
|Tyre Size Front||120/70-ZR17M/C (58W)|
|Tyre Size Rear||160/60-ZR17M/C (69W)|
|Tyre Pressure||Front 250kPa|
|Front||296 x 4.5mm dual hydraulic disc with 4-piston (*Combined 3-piston) callipers, floating rotors (*ABS) and sintered metal pads|
|Rear||240 x 6mm hydraulic disc with single-piston (*3-piston) calliper (*ABS) and sintered metal pads|
|* ABS version||All specifications are provisional and subject to change without notice.|