2017 Honda CB 1100 EX
There can be no doubt that retro is very popular right now, and with more folks than just your token hipsters to be sure. Honda takes that resurgent interest to the bank with its CB 1100 EX that brings ’70s style and modern performance together in a bid to ride that current wave of popularity. Granted, this bike has been available in other markets, but Honda, in its infinite wisdom, has made the decision to bring it back to U.S. shores for 2017. And the peasants rejoice. The 1,140 cc mill sports components and features only dreamt of back in the day, but retains the classic looks along with the rest of the bike for a total package that would blend in easily with a pack of four-cylinder UJMs — just before it left them all in the dust. Let’s check out this fine little ride and see what all Honda packed on for our riding enjoyment.
Continue reading for my review of the Honda CB 100 EX.
2017 Honda CB 1100 EX
Right off the bat there is no mistaking that classic ’70s look. Until I saw my first plastic-clad crotch rocket, this typified the Japanese motorcycle offerings, and in my very young mind was what everything that wasn’t a Harley or Triumph looked like. It’s through this lens that I observe the CB 1100 EX, and I gotta say, I’m loving what I see.
Laced wheels are always a good place to start with a ride such as this, and the front fender comes sans paint for a bit of extra bling. In classic UJM fashion, the front end is very clean with a single headlight can bracketed by chrome front turn-signal housings, and a pair of clocks to cover the instrumentation.
A tapered fuel tank has an almost Triumph-like look about it, just without the knee pads, and from there the flylines gentle down to the tuck-and-roll, two-up bench seat. Thankfully Honda didn’t go too far with the retro styling, and left the flanged fuel tank in the history books where they belong.
A polished fender covers the rear wheel, with a chrome taillight housing and bullet turn signals that isn’t necessarily squeaky clean, but still manages to fit the classic look quite nicely. Polished aluminum case closures and chrome sidecovers complete the bling with good, old-fashioned, subframe-to-swingarm shocks that are exactly what you’d expect to see on such a classic ride.
A double-downtube, double-cradle frame defines the classic looks, and sets the tone for the rest of the bike. Since Honda wisely went with the air-cooled option, there’s no ugly-ass radiator to ruin the panache, and the minimal oil cooler mounted up under the steering head does nothing to diminish that one bit.
Honda thoughtfully included a feature unheard of back in the day, and even now doesn't show up often enough: adjustable front suspension.
Said steering head comes set to kick the forks out a bit with 27 degrees of rake for a natural look to the front end, and that coupled with the 18-inch wheels leaves us with 4.4 inches of trail and a well-behaved machine both in the corners and the straights. All-in-all, a nice compromise between looks, cornering and straight-line tracking.
Honda thoughtfully included a feature unheard of back in the day, and even now doesn’t show up often enough: adjustable front suspension. The 41 mm Showa front forks sport adjustable spring preload, as do the dual shocks in back, for all around ride control. Additionally, the forks use the Showa Dual Bending Valve technology for a ride quality you just don’t get from standard stems, and wheel travel is rather plush with 4.21 inches at the front axle and 4.49 inches at the rear.
As far as Honda went to tie into the past, I’m proud to see the designers went with all-around disc brakes and left the drum brakes next to the flanged fuel tanks, ’cause let’s face it, neither has a place on the road in this day and age.
A pair of four-piston calipers bite the dual, 296 mm front discs, and a uni-pot binder grabs the 256 mm rear disc with ABS protection as part of the standard equipment package.
The modern fandanglery doesn’t stop with the chassis, but continues into the drivetrain with features we’ve come to expect on a modern ride. A transverse-mount, air-cooled, four-cylinder mill rides on a hybrid rubber/rigid mounting system meant to help tame some of the vibrations before they transfer to the rider.
Slightly oversquare, the 73.5 mm bore and 67.2 mm stroke gives us a total displacement of 1,140 cc with a mild, 9.5-to-1 compression ratio that won’t beat the bearings out of the bottom end like some of the hotter engines will. A chain-driven, DOHC setup times the 16-valve head. Aspiration control falls to the 32 mm throttle bodies that boast Honda’s PGM fuel injection with an automatic enrichment feature that does away with the need to have a manual enrichener or choke for cold starts.
Intake air moves through a shorter intake tract and reduced-diameter, 4-into-1 exhaust system that also went to fat camp this year and dropped 5.3 pounds of dead weight. Best of all, the header pipes come with a double-wall construction that combats the dreaded bluing at the heads. A slip-and-assist clutch provides some wheel-hop prevention and reduced effort at the clutch lever as it couples engine power to the six-speed, over-drive ratio transmixxer. A good, old-fashioned chain drive fits the dated look of the bike while providing reliable, low-maintenance service.
At the end of the day, we get something around 82.5 horsepower at 7,500 rpm and a surprising 64.7 pound-feet of torque at an even five grand— depending on whose dyno is used, as always.
Honda offers the ’17 CB 1100 EX for $12,199 in its classic, Candy Red paint scheme.
For me, there was but one place to turn for a suitable competitor for such a classic ride as the CB 1100 EX, and that would be Triumph and the Bonneville T120 from its “Modern Classic” lineup. The Bonnie falls into the same UJM-ish mold with a clean front end and tapered fuel tank, though naturally it goes full-on with pads in the knee dents and fork gaiters.
Flylines are similar across the board, and one can’t help but see the similarities in overall design. As cool looking as the Bonnie is in profile, I gotta say the fact they went with liquid cooling just utterly wrecks the appearance from the front, and ruins so much of the hard work the designers put into the ride.
Triumph runs rear shocks with adjustable preload, but is typically vanilla up front with nothing in the way of adjustment and falls behind the slick stems on the CB. Both rides provide ample brakeage with dual discs up front, a single in the back and ABS protection all around.
Philosophies diverge at the powerplants with Trumpet favoring a 270-degree, parallel-twin engine over the Honda’s inline four. Both run four valves per cylinder, electronic fuel injection, oversquare layouts and similar displacements, but Triumph packs in a few more cubes for an even 1,200 cc. However, that minor difference in size can’t explain away the significant difference in power output.
The Bonnie plant churns out 80 horsepower and 77.4 pounds of torque against Honda’s 82.5 ponies and 64.7 pounds; not a lot of difference to be had here though the extra grunt from the Bonnie will definitely register on the heinie dyno. To compound Honda’s woes, Triumph offers the T120 for $11,500, so you get more performance for less cheddar.
“I must confess that even though Trumpet seems to beat out Honda on paper, even the price and lack of performance isn’t enough to overcome the awful radiator on the Bonnie. I will 10/10 take air-cooled engines over liquid-cooled models, especially on retro pieces like the CB 1100 EX. Kudos, Honda. Kudos.”
My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, "From 2014, I don’t see much of a difference. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, I’m just sayin’ it is. I think this is a nice entry-level bike, a good commuter, and even a weekend-getaway ride. It’s approachable for new folks, but has enough appeal for long-time riders that appreciate the vintage look."
|Engine Type:||1140cc air/oil-cooled inline-four-cylinder|
|Bore and Stroke:||73.5mm x 67.2mm|
|Induction:||PGM-FI electronic fuel injection|
|Ignition:||Digital transistorized w/ electronic advance|
|Valve Train:||DOHC; four valves per cylinder|
|Front:||41mm conventional telescopic fork (SDBV) w/ adjustable spring preload|
|Rear:||Twin Showa shocks w/ adjustable spring preload|
|Front Brakes:||Two floating 196mm discs w/ hydraulic calipers (2 channel ABS)|
|Rear Brakes:||Single disc w/ hydraulic caliper (2 channel ABS)|
|Front Tire:||110/80 R18|
|Rear Tire:||140/70 R18|
|Rake (Caster Angle):||27º|
|Trail:||114mm (4.5 in.)|
|Ground Clearance:||5.3 in.|
|Seat Height:||31.1 in.|
|Fuel Capacity:||4.4 gal.|
|Curb Weight*:||562 lbs.|