Breaking Bad – Honda CBR1100XX BlackbirdadminMBB
For decades Honda left it to others to fight it out for the title of the worlds fastest production bike, in 1996 they wheeled out the all new CBR1100XX Blackbird, the 1137cc water cooled engine was good for 160bhp and it achieved a top speed of 178mph, which was good enough to crown it champ.
The Blackbird is so much more than a point and squirt missile, thoughts of it being a bad mannered thug in keeping with the belt for for being the fastest bike you could buy were unfounded, it had lots of other attractions for any potential owner.
The Blackbird makes an excellent sports tourer, and it’s just as happy below 70mph that it is doing over twice that.
The bike oozes quality, it was built to a very high standard which explains why so many of those early bikes are still out racking up miles. The 160bhp engine gives you plenty of midrange, which away from disused air strips is where you really want your power to be residing. Style wise the CBR1100XX is very distinctive, the sleek bodywork isn’t to everyones taste, but on the whole it’s a thumbs up from most motorcyclists. There was a revised model that arrived in 1999, visually it was pretty much identical and even under the bodywork there wasn’t too much that was obvious to spot. The biggest change was the switch to fuel injection, amongst the Blackbird community it’s recognised that the outgoing carburettor model had the edge, in build quality and strangely mpg.
The Blackbird stayed in the range until 2005, unsold new bikes cluttered up dealers showrooms for a while after. There wasn’t to be a new version, instead Honda put its eggs in a V4 shaped basket with the VFR1200.
What’s it like to ride.
Any motorcycle with big vitals like 160bhp and a top whack of 178mph demands respect, it might also conjure up images of a ruthless machine that will be hard work to ride. Thankfully being a well put together Honda it’s none of those things. The bike is physically big, the bars sit above the top yoke but feel quite low. The seat sits at 810mm and the pegs are slightly higher than you might have preferred.
Once away that 223kilos are evident, it feels a bit like Big Bird than a Blackbird.
Every mile clocked up allows you to make more sense of the bike. It’s so user friendly, from big familiar switch gears to excellent mirrors. Little touches like this really do add pleasure. The clocks are a bit tricky to read at first, the jamboree of numbers fighting for space on the speedo. The engine pulls cleanly from tick over up to the 10,000 red line.
The brakes are good but many owners are split on wether the CBS linked brake system is a good or a bad thing? The headlight is great, and adds to after hours riding pleasure. Six foot plus riders might struggle with the riding position over longer distances, it does help if you take comfort breaks.
What to look for when buying a Blackbird?
We spoke to Vinny Styles from Wheels Motorcycles, Peterborough.
It’s still a very popular used bikes, those in showroom condition are well worth paying a premium for. There’s lots of bodywork, any topples will end in scratches at best, or busted panels at worse. The paint Honda used is very hard to match up, poorly repainted tanks and fairings are easy to spot.
The engine is more than up to monster mileages, service history is desirable on high mileage bikes. Fuel injected bikes are more common, and unsold stock trickled out well beyond the model was discontinued. Extras are usually touring inspired, decent luggage and comfy seats add value.
What goes wrong?
We spoke to Chris Tombleson at Grumpy 1260, they service motorcycles and break up damaged bikes for parts.
Typical Honda issues, iffy regulators and cam chain tensioners are the common issues, both are cheap to beat. There’s various aftermarket regulators on the market, most are bigger than the inferior Honda item, they are quick and easy to fit. Cam chain tensioners are another weak point, many owners dump the Honda item and fit a manual cam chain tensioner for extra piece of mind.
Beyond these blights it’s a solid machine, usual wear and tear issues really. The only other area that owners meddle with are the linked brakes. They can be unlinked, it’s a fairly straight forward job if you enjoy bleeding brakes, you’ll need all new hoses too, so it’s not a cheap job.