Big, Naked and Beautiful: Open-Class Standards 2006
2007 Buell XB12Ss v. 2006 Honda 919 v. 2006 Kawasaki Z1000 v. 2006 Yamaha FZ-1
2006 Honda 919
Last but not least
There are no winners or losers here, just different shades of "good", OK, Honda? We all like your bike, but to like is not enough to part our testers from their mythical money.
Everybody knows Honda has meticulous build quality and reliability. We've all heard about the 300,000 mile CBR900RR. The 919 is no exception: it's well-made and pleasant to ride, even fun. So why wasn't that enough to bring home some bacon, eh?
The first 919s sold in the US were painted a cool Asphalt Black color that gave them a mean, gritty edge. For 2006, the 919 gets a rich, deep coat of Candy Red paint. In such a civilized color scheme, the styling looks dated and almost stodgy compared to the other machines. However, looking over the bike reveals typical Honda build quality and attention to detail; carefully covered hoses and cables, deep, rich paint and chrome, and a substantial, finished feel overall. Fonzie had a dissenting opinion, noting a "cheap-in-parts" feeling, although he was a lone voice in the wilderness.
Climbing on board, our testers mostly enjoyed the Honda's comfortable seating position and good ergonomics. There's an easy reach to the ground from the low seat and the bars are close at hand (although one tester thought they placed his elbows too high in the air). The seat itself is soft, but supportive enough that nobody complained after a day of riding. The pegs are low enough to give comfort to old, creaky knees. Passengers are even provided for with a neat little grab handle, too. However, nobody doubted that the 919 was a comfortable place to spend a day of riding.
How comfortable can you be with the legendary 900RR/Fireblade motor nestled inches from your reproductive organs? As it turns out, very comfortable. The 919cc motor is the second-softest here, 12 hp more powerful than the Buell's ancient, push-rod design.
"How comfortable can you be with the legendary 900RR/Fireblade motor nestled inches from your reproductive organs?"
However, it is incredibly smooth and definitely powerful enough to be entertaining; wheelies are not a problem, top speed is moot with the upright seating position and what Al called "minimalist wind diversion" and sixth-gear passes on the freeway are undramatic events. The transmission is of course Honda-silky, with a short throw and a smooth, positive feel.
The best motor is no good without good handling to make it fun, and the 919 doesn't let you down, even if it wasn't distinctive enough for most of us to rave about. Like all these bikes, the broad bars and short-ish wheelbase allow easy turning, but the bike's bulk and moderate steering geometry lend it stability in the turns. Stunter Dave liked the 919's handling the best, and Al might have had a few glasses of Bushmills when he wrote that the 919 felt as "nimble as my own hand on solo date nights." Hmm. But Pete didn't like the "falling into corners" feel the 919 has, and Gabe was inclined to agree, especially when he was inclined.
Braking is late-90's high tech, with sufficient feel and power, although we found the brakes required a bit more effort and planning than post-Clinton era binders do. Fast Fonzie even boasted of burning up the brakes and noting some fade when the temperatures in the High Desert soared past the century mark, but not to worry; the Honda will stop you just fine.
Suspension is as high-quality as the rest of the bike, with a supple, controlled ride on the backroads or highway.
Honda pays plenty of attention to making things feel good out-of-the-box, and the 919 is no exception. But it's adequate, not fantastic. Like most things about the 919, it gets the job done but doesn't inspire passion in many.
In general, the 919 is a very good all-purpose motorcycle.
It's comfortable and easy to ride in town with its low seat and torquey motor, good on the highway with the comfortable seating position and solid midrange, and fun in the twisties with competent handling.
It's also value-priced at $8,399, just $1,000 more than its slightly-wheezy 599 little brother. But does "good enough" and "adequate" make you want to run out and purchase a bike as a hooligan machine? Us neither, apparently, and although it's a very good bike, there's better choices for us.
Honda 919 Tech Talk
The 919 was first introduced in the USA in 2001 as a 2002 model and has received few updates since then. Like its smaller 599 brother, it is popular in Europe, where the "naked" thing has always been popular. What makes it tick?
Honda started with the second-generation CBR900RR motor, which was a long-stroke 919cc four-cylinder, liquid-cooled, dual-overhead cam affair with four valves per cylinder. Honda of course tuned it (say it together, children) for torque, using various tuning tricks to reduce horsepower to 102.7 (down from the 113 that the CBR900RR made the last time we tested one in 1999) and bump up torque to 66 foot-pounds (from the RR's 60.8). It emits dreaded carbon into the atmosphere via a trick-looking four-into-two-into-one-into-two high-mount exhaust that won't burn you passenger's legs thanks to prodigious heat shielding.
That motor is located in a tube-steel chassis with a big, rectangular backbone. It's smooth enough to be solidly-mounted to lend extra rigidity to the chassis.
Suspension is handled by conventional 43 mm forks that are now adjustable for preload and compression damping. rear shock works through a linkage and is also adjustable for preload and rebound damping. It's got seven preload positions, 16 fewer than Paris Hilton demonstrated in her latest video. Good Night Everybody! Tip your waitress!
Braking duties are handled by standard late-90's four-piston calipers and 296 mm rotors. There's a good ol' fashioned steel gas tank ready for five whole gallons of your favorite fossil fuel. Wheelbase measures in at 57.5 inches and the entire red-painted enchilada tips the scales at a claimed 427 pounds dry. Pricing is $8,399, only $400 more than it was priced at in 2001.