Honda CBF1000/600 launch

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Costa heads down to Georgia to sample some of Honda’s new 2010s. For our first instalment, let’s take a gander at the updated CBF1000 and new-to-Canada CBF600.

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Words: Costa Mouzouris. Photos: Bill Petro, Rob O’ Brien, Costa Mouzouris, Honda
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CBF1000 isn’t on the U.S. website.

Not many motorcycle manufactures can claim to offer more models in Canada than their counterparts in the much larger market south of the border. But Honda Canada can easily make such a claim by importing several Euro-spec models directly from Japan, instead of the usual route of piggybacking orders with American Honda.

Where Honda Canada sets precedent is in the number of Canadian-market models it imports; a visit to American Honda’s website reveals several omissions when compared to Honda Canada’s digital showroom. You won’t find the CBR125R, the Varadero, the CBF1000, or even the newly released CBF600 in the U.S.

I recently had the opportunity to ride both new CBF models around the streets of Savannah, Georgia, as well as at the Roebling Road Raceway, and I can say that both machines will complement Honda’s line-up quite nicely.

BIG BROTHER

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2010 sees a complete redesign.

The CBF1000 has been in Canada since 2008, but is completely redesigned for 2010.

The 998 cc CBR1000RR-derived engine has been mildly retuned from last year’s model with a slight bump in compression ratio and a resulting increase of nine horsepower, now rated at 106 hp (still well down on the RR).

Though I found engine power to be more than adequate, litre-bike junkies will suffer as the high-rpm, adrenalin-inducing charge of an open-class supersport has been subdued to a more relaxed, entertaining stroll across the rev range.

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Not the most powerful litre bike, but there’s enough for sport touring duties.

Although it doesn’t have the Bandit 1250’s brute bottom-end force, there is more than enough power for everyday chores like commuting or two-up sport touring (which will be easily accomplished once the accessory saddlebags are installed), with a broad, flat powerband and buzz-free cruising.

Shifting through the six speeds will put minimal wear on your left boot toe, as gear changes were light and positive, and the moderately light-effort clutch released smoothly with wide engagement.

Revised styling includes a frame-mounted half-fairing with a more aggressive nose that hints at the bike’s CBR1000RR heritage, and a four-position adjustable windscreen that can be adjusted while riding, though the owner’s manual clearly states you shouldn’t do this.

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Old steel frame is dumped in favour of lighter aluminum jobbie.

Replacing the previous model’s steel frame is a lighter, rigid aluminum piece (saving five kg), onto which pivots a 41 mm telescopic fork and a single-shock swingarm made from rectangular-section steel. Suspension adjustments include front and rear preload, and new this year is rear rebound adjustability.

Suspension settings are on the firm side, which provided exemplary control at the fast, flowing Roebling circuit, but the trade-off is a slightly choppy ride over broken pavement.

High-speed handling at the track was remarkably settled, which came as a surprise after experiencing the bike’s effortless steering on the street. Steering effort was naked-bike light and neutral (thanks to the use of a 160-series rear tire), but the machine dove to maximum lean and held its line with the determination of an English Pointer.

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Not a track-day bike, but it will lean.

Footpeg feelers touched at maximum lean, though nothing else – not even the centrestand. Of course, stickier rubber will probably allow hard-part-grinding lean angles, but this isn’t a bike I’d use at track days. Its racetrack handling was commendable, but it’s not a point-and-shoot type of bike, and kamikaze-diving to the apex is not its strong point.

Weighing in at a claimed 245 kg (540 lb) wet, the CBF1000 is nine kg less than the ABS-equipped Suzuki Bandit 1250 but 25 kg more than the Yamaha FZ1. At $12,999 it undercuts the FZ1 by $200, though the Fizzer doesn’t have ABS, while the CBF1000 has combined ABS as standard.


SIBLING RIVALRY

If a litre-class machine is too much for you to handle, you can opt for the CBF1000’s little brother, the CBF600.

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Not as much a leap from a 125 as you may think.

Honda Canada has been aching to offer CBR125R owners an upgrade, only to see Kawasaki move in quickly to capitalise on the gap with their Ninja 250R.

According to Honda Canada’s Warren Milner, he’d have preferred a less intimidating, smaller displacement motorcycle than the CBF600 as a step up, but offering a 400-500 cc machine exclusive to Canada would have cost as much to import as the CBF600, and that cost would have put off potential buyers.

No matter, however, because the CBF600 is about as intimidating as Pee Wee Herman – and much less disturbing! Of note to CBR125R owners: with the CBF’s three-position adjustable seat (770-800 mm) set at its lowest, seat height is 10 mm lower than the 125’s.

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Friendly ergonomics go with friendly motor.

Its 599 cc mill traces its roots to the CBR600F4i, but was mellowed to produce 76 hp and 43.5 lb-ft of torque. That puts it in the ballpark of the F650GS, FZ6R and Ninja 650R. At 222 kg (489 lb) wet it’s a bit heavier than those bikes, though it does carry 20 litres of fuel, which is more than any of them and should offer a good range.

Its street manners are very composed, with light controls and novice-friendly handling. At the racetrack, the CBF600 exhibited the same confidence-inspiring handling characteristics of the 1000 – only things happened slower.

I did one complete session following fellow journalists Bertrand Gahel (on another CBF600) and David Booth (on the CB1000R naked bike). Gahel and I were pinned trying to keep pace with Booth on the more powerful bike. He’d pull away on the front straight then we’d catch him in the twisty bits.

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More fun than you’d think on the track!

Riding the CBF600 flat out was an exercise in line choice and momentum control. It was not unlike riding 125s, only much faster and as much fun. Losing just a bit of the drive out of a corner would have you scrambling through the next few turns to make up the lost ground.

The CBF handled Roebling’s fast, sweeping corners without a hint of instability, planted on a line until the rider chose to change it. The flowing course wasn’t conducive to hard trail braking, and under those conditions I think the CBF would have suffered.

As with the 1000, cornering clearance was ample for the racetrack and more than abundant for street riding; only the footpeg feelers bore the brunt of our on-track shenanigans.

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Both models come with optional bags which will set you back a little over a grand.

Suspension compliance was on the firm side, though on Georgia’s smooth pavement, this helped handling. Longer time in the saddle on our roads will put the suspension to the ultimate test.

One drawback of having models exclusive to Canada is that they will be slightly more expensive than the direct competition. Honda Canada’s asking $9,899 for the CBF600, which puts it in the price range of Euro-bikes like the Triumph Street Triple, Ducati 696 or BMW F650GS.

You’d think it should be more in-line with the Kawasaki Ninja 650R, Suzuki GSX650F or Yamaha FZ6R, which are all about a grand cheaper, though only the Suzuki has standard ABS but in a non-linked system.


COMMON DENOMINATORS

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What’s that then? I know I’ve seen one before but it was a while ago …

A comfortably upright riding position reinforced both these bikes’ all-round demeanour and was unmistakably reminiscent of the once popular UJM. A once-popular feature included on the CBF1000 is a centrestand ($239 option on the 600), and both bikes come standard with combined ABS.

Both machines have adjustable seat heights and windscreens (though tools are needed to lift the 600’s screen) and large, 20-litre fuel tanks. Suspension adjustment is limited to front and rear spring preload, though the CBF1000 adds rear rebound damping adjustability too.

Instruments are attractive yet spartan, offering minimal information – neither bike has a gear indicator.

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These are not high-tech, high-performance rocket ships; they’re back-to-basics standards with highly satisfying performance at a reasonable price.

But then why bring these bikes to Canada when you can maintain the status quo, save a few bucks and leave big gaps in your line-up?

Because Honda Canada needs to fortify its line-up with accessible, easy-to-ride machines on which to build a new, younger customer base — and with these new CBFs, the company is several steps ahead of its American counterpart.

SPECIFICATIONS


Bike
Honda CBF600S Honda CBF1000A

MSRP

$9,899
$12,999

Displacement
599 cc 998 cc

Engine
type
Four-stroke dohc inline four,
liquid-cooled
Four-stroke
dohc inline four, liquid-cooled

Power
(crank – claimed)
76 hp @ 10,500 rpm 106 hp @ 9,000 rpm

Torque
(claimed)
43.5 lb-ft @ 8,250 rpm 71 lb-ft @ 6,500 rpm
Tank
Capacity
20 litres 20 litres

Carburetion
EFI with 32 mm throttle bodies EFI with 36 mm throttle bodies

Final drive
Six speed, Chain drive Six speed,
Chain drive

Tires,
front
120/70ZR17 120/70ZR17

Tires,
rear
160/60ZR17 160/60ZR17

Brakes,
front
Dual 296 mm discs with three-piston
calipers; combined ABS
Dual 296 mm
discs with three-piston calipers; combined ABS

Brakes,
rear
Single 240 mm disc with single-piston
caliper
Single 240 mm
disc with single-piston caliper

Seat
height
770-800 mm (30.3-31.5″) 780-810 mm (30.7-31.9″)

Wheelbase
1,490 mm (58.7″) 1,495 mm (58.9″)

Wet weight
(claimed)
222 kg (489 lb) 245 kg (540
lb)

Colours
Black Pearl amber

Warranty
12 months, unlimited mileage 12 months, unlimited mileage

1 COMMENT

  1. I too have an 08 model. I have that buzz in mine also,through the grips and pegs, seat, everywhere, had it back to honda several times with no satisfaction or fix, told its common on 4 cly bikes, apart from that great bike, no other issues apart from stated buzz.

  2. I had a 2008 CBF1000, sold now. Great bike, but two things bothered me. One was the “burned out headlight” look, and the other was the soft front forks…….none of which have been addressed in the new model. Bought an FZ1 Yamaha and love it.

  3. I have a 2009. It is a nice bike but as time wears on there are a number of issues that people looking at the 2010 should look at…

    Search the internet and you will find many owners lamenting about buzzing fairings and failing alternators on the 2006-2009 model years. It is unclear if these problems have been addressed but do some homework before your purchase.

    The other concern, specific to Canada, it is very difficult (and therefore expensive) to find aftermarket parts for the bike. The aftermarket is dominated with US models. All most all good aftermarket places (mostly based in the US) haven’t heard of the CBF. Before buying the bike try searching for accesories for the bike – you’ll find most plastic pieces are available only in the UK. ($$$)

    Travelling in the USA is not without its challenges. Honda USA never heard of the bike and doesn’t have access to service information for the bike. Truthfully, getting aftermarket parts for a Triumph or BMW would be much easier.

    Do your homework. The CBF is a decent bike and does fill a gap in the line-up but it does have its thorns. Be sure you can live with them.

  4. So how does a bland, half-faired, “old-man’s” touring bike become a step up from a fully faired, brightly coloured sporty bike? I’m 43 and find the CBF too boring.

    I sympathize with Mr. Milner, but Honda has been using that line for decades now. Kawi, Suzuki and Yamaha can offer affordable, attractive, sporty bikes in the 500-650cc range. Honda, It’s time to bite the bullet and get a sporty looking 500 class bike on the roads in North America. Update the old NightHawk 450/550s with modern CBR bodywork and they’ll have a winner. Sounds simple to me. :grin

  5. :upset Stupid head light design. My “05 Yamaha FZ6 has the same type of head light style and it’s the only thing that I hate about the bike. Only one side comes on at regular illumination and both sides at the “high” setting. The problem is that you get about 2 or 3 people on every bloody ride telling you that one of your headlights is burned out. It’s frustrating, not to mention that it just looks wrong asthetically.

  6. I applaud Honda for its move to import the CBF line, but still don’t understand why the would leave the XL700V Transalp out of its lineup. This bike would be a perfect match to battle the Kawasaki Versys and Suzuki V-Strom 650, yet it’s missing. It would also provide a entry into the adventure touring market from which people could move up the the more expensive Varadero. Right now, spending $12000-14000 is a bit of a steep entry price into the sport, just to give it a try. Sometimes it seems the marketing guys don’t quite understand the market as well as they think the are.

  7. I think it’s supposed to be gold, but I can’t say it’s my first pick for a colour, either.

    I don’t know – I’ve got the new bike itch but I can’t quite decide which way to go. This bike is in the running, but its power output sort of underwhelms me. Not to say that it’s not realistically completely adequate, but sometimes you want more than adequate, y’know? The new FZ-8 has as much power and is lighter and cheaper. Decisions, decisions…

  8. Stupid question: why does the 600 have its left light on and 1000 the right one?

    That yellow colour on the 1000 is awful in person and there is no other choice either.

  9. I was one of the people waiting for a meaningful upgrade from my CBR125. This machine might be appealing to some, but not to me. Also 10K MSRP is just too much of a jump from the 3K. I am glad I didn’t wait for the upgrade to come (I had my doubts that anything below 600cc is coming), ended up with a different brand. :sigh

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