Intermot: Honda reveal café-cool CB1100RS

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Honda’s retro CB1100 has never been the rampant success story they’d hoped for. A stylistic blend of the SOHC CB750 of the 1970s and the twin-cam models of the 1980s, there was never much wrong with the CB, it just suffered from a lack of character. And that’s what the Big H are trying remedy with this new model, the CB1100RS.

The explosion in modern classics is a bandwagon no manufacturer can ignore, and this RS version is jumping all over the café racer resurgence, with its uprated 43mm Showa Dual Bending Valve two-piece front fork and remote reservoir rear shocks, 17in cast aluminium wheels and dual radial Tokico calipers. The massive engine also now breathes through revised inlet and exhaust systems and gets a slip/assist clutch, too.

The RS’s chassis uses sharper geometry than its more traditional EX sibling, with firmer Showa suspension, and a lower, more compact riding position to move the rider’s weight forward into a marginally more sporty position.

The revised air-cooled four-cylinder engine breathes more easily thanks to a new inlet tract and its smaller, lighter 4-2-2 exhaust system (now 70mm shorter at the mufflers), while that assist slipper clutch makes for a lighter action at the lever, plus more positive engagement when pulling away, and full slipper action on aggressive downshifts.

The rake and trail of 26°/99mm and wheelbase of 1485mm (as opposed to 27°/114mm/1490mm for the EX model) means faster steering and more responsive handling. The seat height is a middling 795mm, while the kerb weight of 252kg is still remarkably lardy for such an uncluttered modern classic – that’s steel chassis for you.

The most notable of the handling improvements is likely to be the Showa Dual Bending Valve (SDBV) 43mm fork, which uses two valves to generate both compression and rebound damping force giving linear feel, for improved ride quality and road holding. The fork is complimented by matching twin Showa remote-reservoir rear shocks.

The chunky fork bottoms – note this is a RWU fork, not inverted – hold a set of equally beefy radial Tokico calipers gripping 310mm floating discs, and ABS is standard – so the RS should have no problems hauling its mass to a stop.

The only odd part of the CB’s dressing up box is the modern styling of the new cast wheels, which look ever so slightly out of place in this retro homage. Some fake Lesters would have been more endearing. But at least they wear 120/70 ZR17 and 180/55 ZR17 front and rear tyres – allowing the fitment of something more sticky than the sport-touring Bridgestone T30s fitted at the factory. The biggest disappointment of all though, is that there’s no Imola-style half-faired version like the original R concept. Come on Honda, sort it out.

The big-looking tank actually only accepts 16.8L of petrol via its aircraft-style filler cap, while the side panels are genuine pressed aluminium, the sidestand is longer than was, and the footrests sleeker. Lighting is LED all-round, including the indicators. The CB1100RS will be available in Candy Prominence Red and Graphite Black.