I decided to write this article because I believe that Honda defined sport-touring when created this unique motorcycle. They didn’t just focused on horse power and torque (although it has scary amounts of both) but they created a wonderful looking, comfortable motorcycle that can be ridden for hours and hours.
Build with the look of speed and with performance to back it up, the CBR 1100XX Super Blackbird was the fastest production motorcycle when it was launched back in 1996 but afterwards Honda decided to concentrate on obtaining a great sport-touring model as Suzuki and Kawasaki were fighting for those extra mph that would sell a motorcycle much better.
Honda first introduced the CBR 1100XX Super Blackbird in late 1996 as a 1997 model in the original colors: Black, Titanium and Red. Being a great product, it soon became a popular motorbike for its combination of smooth powerful engine, good handling, comfort, reliability and quality. You will notice that the biggest CBR hasn’t suffered important improvements through the years as it was bulletproof built from the beginning.
The year 1998 doesn’t bring any changes to this motorcycle except the update to the thermostat housing. The colors available were the same (depending on what part of the world you were in). As you already now the 1100XX Super Blackbird could be delivered in any color as long as it was black (only in the U.S in the first years of production).
In 1999 Honda decides to change to their PGM-FI Fuel Injection System. Slight changes were also found at the tail light, air box, RAM Air ducts, oil cooler, and clutch. They kept the Black color for the U.S. but in Europe Blue entered the scene.
After those significant improvements and the adding of a new color, Honda believed that their sport-tourer didn’t need any more changes for 2000 so the motorbike remained virtually the same.
For 2001 the Blackbird was upgraded to a digital dash and Silver was added for Europe. This is the year when the color changed for the U.S.: Red was preferred instead of Black.
2002 doesn’t bring any changes except the adding of Silver for the U.S., only to return at their initial color (Black) in 2003 when the last model of the 1100XX was released in the U.S.
Honda kept producing the Blackbird for the European market but it only changed the colors: 2004 marks the introduction of two-tone Black/Silver color scheme, the 2005 and 2006 models received Silver two-tone and Blue two-tone while the 2007 1100XX features Iron Nail two-tone color scheme.
As you could see the Blackbird kept is original characteristics through the years and it is still going strong in a class with much desired supremacy.
In any domain, but especially when it comes to motorcycle building, bigger and faster is the aim and Honda made no exception when it introduced their biggest model in order to steal Kawasaki’s crown. They succeeded and the Blackbird became the world’s fastest production motorcycle. But the happiness didn’t last long because Suzuki had prepared their biggest model for 1999, the GSX1300R Hayabusa, when the title “The World’s Fastest Production Motorcycle” was obtained with 5 extra mph.
Kawasaki later introduced today’s monsters and the main competitors for the Blackbird and Hayabusa, ZX-12R and ZZR1400. Both Kawasaki models reached more mph at the top end so the battle today is taken between Suzuki and Kawasaki, Honda remaining a comfortable sport-touring alternative with a lot of power only a twist of a throttle away.
When I first approached the Blackbird, back in ’96 I was astonished of its size. This is a really large motorcycle and frankly it kind of scared me because I was expecting Honda to follow the tendency of increasing the amount of horse power positioned in a relatively small frame. But they based the aerodynamic nose design on that of an aircraft which owned the title of the world’s fastest aircraft for quite a while and that is pretty cool as well as the bike’s design. A stealth motorbike, even a pseudo stealth one, is unusual and I don’t think many shapes could carry it off. This, however, manages to look classy and somehow sinister at the same time.
The initial design of the CBR 1100XX hasn’t changed through the year because, as I already said, it is kind of the only thing that reflects the motorcycle’s capabilities. The only thing that changed were the colors but I believe that the matt black paintwork with pale gold wheels and titanium detailing echoes the aeroplane even further.
Today we encounter the same fairing dimensions and sharp look that we already gotten used to Iron Nail two-tone painted giving the impression of bare metal, kind of the aeroplane’s fairing in the early days.
Would a motorcycle even count if it wouldn’t perform the way it looks? I’m sure we all know the answer but thanks to Honda’s engineers who made sure that the Blackbird will have a big heart (1137 cc liquid-cooled, inline four cylinder engine which is compact and lightweight), we don’t have to worry about awesome performance. Those same smart Honda people came with the idea of incorporating a dual-shaft balancer system, a unit which revs up very smoothly eliminating the annoying secondary vibration. This evolved into a directly bolted engine to the dual spar, triple box section aluminum frame without using rubber mounts, obtaining even further overall rigidity.
The suspension system, combined with the motorcycle’s lightness, provide it with outstanding agility and satisfying maneuverability while still maintaining the main sport-touring characteristic: comfort.
Such a fast and big motorcycle needed a performance braking system in order to come to a safe stop and Honda had it just ready for mounting. The Dual-Combined Brake System, which actuates the front and rear brakes by either pulling the hand lever or pressing the foot pedal is a ingenious solution for fast stops in complete safe. Kind of what we would expect from Honda.
Don’t buy such a machine if you haven’t reached a high level of experience or if you think that this bike will help you gain it. It won’t!
Just take a look at its dimensions which simply say: “Not for beginners!”
They say that people are afraid of what they can’t control and I have to recognize that I got a little scared of this motorcycle. Don’t get me wrong! The CBR 1100XX Super Blackbird can be controlled, the rider is the one who can’t get his hand off the throttle. I was surprised to feel the bike’s weight vanish underneath me as I started accelerating and, going through the gears, I felt like I was floating on a very fast cloud. What seems unwieldy and threatening at a standstill becomes stable and reassuring at town speeds and even more stable and reassuring at highway speeds. And when it comes to highway speeds, the big Honda has it right. I sat at well over 130mph for just about a full tank of fuel. The Stealth-inspired aerodynamics protected me from the wind and made other drivers wonder what was passed them on: a motorcycle or a Jet? And I was perfectly relaxed, the kind of mood that you want to have when you ride at those speeds.
Let’s face it: this machine is build to accelerate and give its best on a straight line but doesn’t it need to steer? How does the Blackbird feel in corners? Well it is still a great companion. Handling is little slow, but remember that we are talking about a big, heavy bike, not a sharp handling supersport motorcycle.
At the end of the day I had to put my test drive to a stop so I used the reliable linked brakes that Honda provided for this motorcycle. It is very interesting how they take an idea and stick with it improving and refining it until it eventually becomes something worthy of the name Honda.
Overall the Blackbird was excellent although it requires a lot of getting used to and I still believe that it was a little too much for me. But hey, that’s me. If you like the bike and you’ve ridden other bikes through the years I guess you could make the step of buying it.
And if you are determined to make that step this is the place to find the prices for such a Honda. You will find the price here because the CBR 1100XX Super Blackbird stopped being sold in the U.S.
A 2002 Honda CBR 1100XX Super Blackbird properly maintained, with low miles on board won’t cost you more than $6500 but than again you have to think very well what you are buying and especially what do you want to use it for. Good luck with that!
Featuring many of Honda’s most innovative technologies all integrated into a sleekly aerodynamic sportive powerhouse, the CBR 1100XX Super Blackbird projects an unmistakable image of high performance machine starts as its bullet-shaped nose and rockets through to its aerodynamic tail.
Engine and Transmission
Displacement: 1137.00 ccm (69.38 cubic inches)
Engine Type: inline four
Power: 150.00 HP (109.5 KW) @ 9500 RPM
Torque: 119.00 Nm (87.8 ft.lbs) @ 7250 RPM
Bore x Stroke: 79.0 x 58.0 mm (3.1 x 2.3 inches)
Fuel System: Electronic fuel injection
Fuel control: DOHC
Ignition: Computer-controlled digital transistorised with electronic advance, integral immobiliser
Cooling System: Liquid
Transmission type final drive: Chain
Chassis and Dimension
Front Suspension: 43mm HMAS cartridge-type telescopic fork, 109mm axle travel
Rear Suspension: Pro-link with gas-charged HMAS damper, stepless adjustable rebound damping, 109mm axle travel
Front Brakes: Double disc
Front Brakes Diameter: 310mm (12.2 inches)
Rear Brakes: Single disc
Rear Brakes Diameter: 256mm (10.1 inches)
Overall Length: 2.160mm (85.0 inches)
Overall Height: 810mm (31.9 inches)
Ground clearance: 130mm (5.1 inches)
Wheelbase: 1.490mm (58.7 inches)
Dry weight: 224.0 kg (493.8 pounds)
Fuel capacity: 23.00 liters (6.08 gallons)