2014 Honda CB1000R Test

The 2014 Honda CB1000R is a hoot to ride, and does just about everything well. It’s that simple because this is one of those bikes you can climb on and feel an immediate intimacy with the whole package.

Just a few miles in town, and this naked – designed by Honda Italy – displays its easy nature and desire to please. The CB1000R’s 56.9-inch wheelbase is average for the category, but the CB is very nimble, quick to turn and feels shorter and smaller than actual size.

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Popping on to some curvy roads puts an instant smile on the face. It bends deeply into the turns with razor precision. The ride is not harsh over bumps, yet is firm enough to withstand a flogging.

There may be a lot less horsepower than you will get on a KTM Super Duke R or Aprilia Tuono but I, for one, don’t really miss nor need it. Why? The CB will provide you with a fast and comfortable ride if you’re not trying to tear up the pavement.

Squirts is not an adjective I’ve ever used to describe a bike’s character, but the CB really does and that’s a good thing. Twist the throttle, row through the gears, and this bike simply squirts up to speed.

In reality, riders who have the skills to utilize all the power and resources available in a 160+ horsepower motorcycle are rare. I am not in this group, and while I do enjoy that power on straight sections, applying full power after the apex and leaving dark streaks in my wake is only a dream.

In the case of the Honda, we rarely found it lacking during the severe thrashing we gave it. Fueled and ready to ride, the package weighs 485 pounds. It is a potent machine and not that far off the specs of some other open-class naked bikes.

Since its release in 2008, this Italian-made Honda was popular in Europe and arrived on US shores in early 2011. I don’t see many on the road or at our hangouts, and after a few minutes riding it I can’t understand why this is so.

The planets seem to have come into alignment in 2014 as so many great naked bikes are being offered; and not just the Super Duke R and Tuono. There’s the BMW S1000R, Triumph Speed Triple, Kawasaki Z1000, Ducati Monster 1200S, Yamaha FZ-09, and more yet I’m not reading or hearing about the CB1000R during these discussions as it surely deserves to be a part of the conversation.

This bike should have been included in so many formal and informal comparisons made among the new crop of nakeds but has been conspicuous only in its absence. Its power, overall performance and $11,760 MSRP makes it slot right into the center of the range. Just don’t tell this to its buyers who are railing through the canyons with thousands of dollars left in their wallets and a smile to match that of any naked bike’s owner.

The fact that it has no electronic rider aids (ERA) nor ABS should make it appeal to those who spurn such equipment. I’m not sure how long Honda, or any manufacturer that sells high performance bikes, can go without ERA in this current environment where competitors already offer extremely competent systems and high power levels demand it.

All that considered, riding it hard through favorite canyons reveals that it has the power to spin the rear and slide a bit when pushed, but it is far from overwhelming. The 998cc, 4-valve, inline-four engine – sourced from an earlier model CBR1000RR – has been tweaked in such a way as to offer a true across-the-range torque curve that will deliver copious thrust from any engine speed above 3000 rpm.

Due to its close gearing, the CB1000R will loaf at 40mph in sixth, and still pull without a downshift. Crossing 60mph the engine comes into its own and roars. It will do 65mph in first gear at its 10,000 RPM redline, and it makes power effortlessly.

During casual riding I experience the bike asking to shift early and I often found myself in high gear at boulevard speeds. The lack of a gear position indicator makes it easy to forget what gear you’re in.

The engine’s character may not have as high a degree of entertainment value as some of the competition’s exotic architectures, but it does everything well – the CB1000R provides prodigious power through a very wide rev range and doesn’t have any flat spots from 3000 rpm and higher in any gear.

With the Tuono, for instance, nothing much happens until 5000-6000 RPM and, while this is expected on the Aprila, it defines the nature of the CB1000R as less hard-edged.

Partial credit for the accuracy of handling goes to the die-cast, mono-backbone aluminum frame. It is quite strong with thin-wall construction to save weight. The chassis feels stiff, especially sporting a single-sided aluminum swingarm, and provides a stable platform for razor sharp handling.

The front suspension is a 43mm inverted HMAS cartridge fork with spring preload, rebound and compression damping adjustability. The rear is equipped with a gas-charged HMAS shock that features spring preload and rebound damping adjustability. All together it just works and, with my weight at 185 pounds, I found the stock suspension settings pretty near perfect for me.

It is confidence inspiring on very fast sweepers with an uneven road surface and just about everywhere else too. Even on stock suspension settings the ride was forgiving yet firm enough to be comfortable and to respond perfectly when pushed to near the limit.

The bike dons Bridgestone Battlax BT015R 180/55-ZR17 rubber out back, with a 120/70-ZR17 up front. As is often the case, these stock tires worked well enough on this bike. There are many alternative choices, depending upon your mission, once they are consumed.

Underneath is a large exhaust canister that is protected from too much lean by 2.5-inch long peg feelers that do touch down during aggressive riding. I’ve seen owners remove them but we don’t advise that in stock trim. Still, there’s plenty of clearance for apex attacks.

Clutch action is hydraulically actuated, light and easy and is one reason the CB is a very fast bike off the line. Hookup is smooth with nary a bog. Honda’s literature doesn’t address clutch type, but it sure feels and sounds like a slipper or other type of back-torque limiting device. We downshifted and popped the clutch repeatedly with mismatched revs and all we ever got was a silky smooth response and no chirping or sidestep from the rear tire.

There’s not much to tell about the six-speed, close ratio transmission. Typical of Honda, the throw is short and the action is as smooth as glass. A quickshifter would be a nice addition but you will need to find that in the aftermarket.

Stopping duties are performed by dual, radial-mounted Tokiko four-piston calipers with full-floating 310mm discs up front and a single-caliper 256mm disc out back. They are nothing to brag about but, never-the-less, match the performance of the motorcycle, offer good feel and nice initial bite.

The rider’s ergonomics are also about average for the type with full upright seating on a comfortable perch, not-too-high peg position, and an easy reach to the handlebars. Even considering the feeling that this is a small bike does not detract from the roominess of the cabin.

The angular headlight surround does little to the block the airflow yet there is a modicum of protection afforded by the lower cowl and the tank shape which wraps the thighs a bit and protects the legs.

Fit and finish are excellent and typical of Honda. The CB is available this year only in Matte Gray Metallic (almost black) with gold wheels and handlebars, and a flash of gold on the tank and small lower cowl.

The instrument cluster with analog style LED tachometer and digital speedometer is sleek and accents the front end nicely. It includes trip odometers and a fuel gauge but no gear position indicator.

We were impressed with the Honda CB1000R for 2014. If you have a hankering for a naked bike, don’t need 160 horespower, don’t want to sacrifice handling, and want to save some money, then you might consider adding this machine to your buying calculations.

Photography by Don Williams

Riding Style
Helmet: Schuberth S2 Sport Tech
Suit: Joe Rocket Speedmaster 5.0 2-piece
Gloves: Joe Rocket GPX 2.0
Boots: Sidi ST Air
Midland BT Next Bluetooth headset