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Honda CBF1000FA: Litre of sense

2012-12-24 07:41

MODEL UPDATE: Honda updated the CBF1000FA in 2010 in response to criticism that the bike was showing its age. Images: DRIES VAN DER WALT

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Author: DRIES VAN DER WALT

 

The South African motorcycle market is pretty much sewn-up between litre-class superbikes and big-bore adventure machines... or is it?

These two classes, each glamorous and popular, often overshadow less spectacular but more practical offerings which possibly explains why a gem such as the Honda CBF1000, available in Europe since 2006, has snuck into the local Winged H line-up for 2012 without much fanfare.

Given its solid reputation in Europe, we were keen to take a closer look at Honda’s big all-rounder.

RETUNED FOR COMMUTING

It’s assembled by Honda subsidiary Honda Italia Industriale in Italy and intended for riders older than 30. Honda’s chief designers Ishu Akari and Magnus Jaderberg said the bike was intended for roll-on acceleration, a relaxed riding position and easy all-round handling.

Image gallery

The engine, based on that of an earlier-generation CBR1000RR, was retuned to be more usable on a daily basis. Peak power and torque figures are significantly lower than the CBR1000RR Fireblade on which it is based but power and torque come in much sooner and lower in the rev range - giving the CBF1000 more "usable" power.

Honda updated the bike in 2010 in response to criticism that the CBF was showing its age. In came a new instrument pod and re-designed fairing and headlights, the lights straight from the CBR600RR parts bin. It is this new version that is now available in South Africa.

Bike specifications

Although still conservative in appearance, the CBF1000FA is attractive, with a flowing transition from metal into plastic where the new fairing meets the tank. The new headlights do a lot to modernise the bike’s appearance. The test bike was equipped with Honda accessories, among them a body-colour top box and a centre stand – two vital conveniences on an all-rounder bike.

QUESTION OF WISDOM

The CBF’s instrument cluster follows the now-standard approach of an analogue rev counter and digital multi-function display. However, on this bike Honda (in a design cue picked up from the VFR1200) elected to place the rev counter in the middle and flank it with two MF screens.

While this approach may have made sense on the VFR, I question the wisdom of placing the rev counter in the primary position on a bike that will likely spend most of its life in traffic.

When it comes to ergonomics, it’s apparent that the bike is intended for people who will spend many hours in the saddle. In my opinion it rivals full-dress tourers with its comfortable seat and relaxed riding position.

Slipstream protection comes in the form of a four-way adjustable screen that seems to work better than similar arrangements on other bikes I’ve tested. With the screen it in second-highest setting it was perfect for my 1.78m frame, directing the air just below my helmet.

This meant no buffeting of my helmet and prevented my upper body acting like an air brake. 

Although on paper the Honda’s peak torque seems relatively low for a litre-class bike, in practice it pulls strongly from low revs, with a very satisfying roll-on punch at highway speeds.

ANNOYING FLAT SPOT

The linear power is delivered with no sudden rush of speed towards the top of the rev range. While that rush is part of the fun of riding a rev-hungry sports bike, the CBF’s strong and even pull brings its own kind of satisfaction. The way the bike performs is more like a Bentley Continental that a Lamborghini Guillardo – it’s plenty fast but not in a manic, wrench-your-arms-from-their-sockets, way.

On the downside, the test bike had an annoying flat spot at around 3000rpm. It doesn’t come into play at speed but I did run into it every so often during commuting. Seeing that commuting is where a lot of these bikes will spend their time, perhaps Honda will address this issue soon.

Harnessing its power is an excellent set of brakes equipped with Honda’s combined anti-lock system. The brakes do a very good job of brushing speed off what is essentially a fairly heavy bike and, to the credit of the Bridgestone Battlax tyres on the test bike, I had to really abuse the clampers on a wet road to evaluate the system.

Having decent brakes on a bike of this weight and performance adds tremendously to your on-road confidence, especially in the close-quarters battlefield of rush-hour traffic.

SUZUKI DETHRONED

As pleasant as the CBF is, its best feature is not its engine, brakes or ergonomics – it’s the price. It’s a steal at R90 000 considering you get a competent, comfortable, well-made 1000cc machine for the cost of a mid-size commuter or maxi-scooter.

In my opinion, Honda has dethroned Suzuki’s GSX-1250FA not-a-Bandit with the CBF1000FA as the best value-for-money bike on the local market.


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