View Full Version : (review) Honda CBR1100XX Blackbird Fi 2001

29-10-2008, 02:52 PM
Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird

February 2002The XX Files Story and Photos: Ken Wootton
http://www.bikepoint.com.au/bikecontent/amcn/HondaCBR1100XXa.jpg Has Honda's latest Blackbird been attacked by the bureaucratic cat? Our 4000km test reveals all.
Catastrophe, to give it the correct definition from my Collins English Dictionary, means a sudden, extensive or notable disaster or misfortune.
It certainly applied to bushfire-ravaged New South Wales between Christmas and New Year. That's the time I chose to ride a 285kmh motorcycle from Melbourne to Queensland, and return, while the usual NSW double-demerit police blitz was in progress.
My route was northwards along the Newell Highway through central NSW and return along the coast - radar traps aplenty, police patrols every few kilometres around Cunninghams Gap, seven cop cars between Ballina and the Queensland border, and many towns on the major highways sporting 50kmh zones.
Yep, catastrophe just about sums things up nicely for the unwary.
But that heavy police presence is just one of the traps awaiting the long-distance traveller at Christmas time.
When you're a hayfever sufferer, getting caught behind a hay-carrying truck for three kilometres as the temperature soars past 40 degrees is pretty catastrophic. Well, it is if you're the helmet visor!
As is spending more on Gatorade than you do on Premium Unleaded. It's a strange country we live in when a litre of petrol is cheaper than 500ml of drinking water. Yep, that's catastrophic.
Or finding that the tar on the road has got so hot that it's melted, and you're suddenly sporting a 'retread' on your BT57 radial as you peel into a corner. Don't laugh.
Or grabbing a bottle of drinking water from the XX's tankbag, only to find it's hot enough to make a cup of tea, and you've got a mouth that feels like the bottom of a cocky's cage, with lips so dry you could peel them off and sell them as a dead cicada shell.
But if you want real catastrophe, travel to Germany. Those 'lucky' Germans score the detuned G-type version of Honda's latest fuel-injected CBR1100XX sportstouring flagship - the one with a whopping 24ps loss in ponies compared to the 1996 carbed model, and in a country with no speed limits on their fabulous autobahns. And all because of the addition of a catalyser exhaust. Now that's a real catastrophe.
Well folks, Australia isn't immune from the cat invasion on performance motorcycles either, and the CBR1100XX has sported one of Honda's HECS3 clean-air systems for over 12 months now. It's just that the fact hasn't been widely publicised.
Mind you, I can understand why. Although not as restricted as the German version, the 2001 Aussie CBR1100XX shed 12 of its original 164 claimed ponies - and that can be an important marketing peg in a category where power and speed can be big selling points.
Don't try and tell me that Kawasaki's ZX-12R (the world's most powerful mass-production motorcycle) and Suzuki's Hayabusa (the world's fastest) don't pick up sales because of their reputations, irrespective of how 'practical' they are as sportstourers.
However, all is not lost for Honda. Although the Aussie-spec XX has dropped 12ps to a claimed 152ps in its '01/02 guise due to the addition of emissions equipment, I really didn't think it would be all that noticable in the real world.
The best way to find out was to grab Honda's big sportstourer, and do some big sportstouring. In fact, just over 4000km worth.
First up was the prep of bike and rider for the trip - choosing the right gear and packing the basic 'get out of jail' items should there be a puncture or emergency out the back of beyond. It's not much fun being 100km from a town with a flat tyre on a motorcycle (refer to the panels on this page).
One complicating factor was that with an MV Agusta F4S Evo2 to sample at Queensland Raceway, I had to take my full leathers and race boots, as well as my normal 'touring' attire. Hence the ungainly stack of bags on the back of the XX.
I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to strap everything down via the XX's numerous attachment points - and how nothing moved around on the broad seat. There are three take-off points for ocky straps each side, as well as the strurdy pillion grabrail. Storage under the seat is limited.
It pays to protect the sidepanels on either side of the pillion seat and the tailpiece with some duct tape, something I also did with the fuel tank. I used good quality, sturdy US-made Gaffa tape (it's quite thick), available through most major hardware chains such as Bunnings.
Being of the nose down, bum up variety I've never had cause to use a tankbag in my 29 years of motorcycle riding. That's right - never. Now I know what I've been missing.
The expandable magnetic tankbag I used was sensational - storage of camera gear, drink bottles, maps, sunscreen, hat, etc was oh so convenient. And I didn't have to wrestle with my ocky straps every time I wanted to take a photo.
The tankbag didn't budge at all over the 4000km, and it was a simple quick pivot forwards to get at the fuel cap.
http://www.bikepoint.com.au/bikecontent/amcn/HondaCBR1100XXb.jpg BASIC PREP
Other prep was pretty basic. The tyres copped 42psi rear and 36psi front for sustained high-speed running in hot conditions, and the chain got a dose of lube at the first fuel stop (while it was hot).
Speaking of which, the XX has an easy-to-use centrestand, so chain-lubing is a one-person job.
It was then simply a case of thumbing the starter, pointing the XX's aggressive snout northwards and heading off.
My chosen route of the Newell was for two reasons - firstly, to detour around Sydney's ring of fire, and secondly to get to Queensland by the quickest possible route.
I've done Melbourne to Brisbane comfortably in 19 hours this way, although that was cosseted in an airconditioned, CD-equipped, cruise-controlled, four-wheel conveyance. It's much harder to keep up those sort of speed averages on a bike, especially as you have to stop more often for fuel - and particularly when the weather takes on blast-furnace proportions.
By the time I hit West Wyalong things were getting uncomfortably warm, and from Parkes to Dubbo, Coonabarabran and my overnight stop at Narrabri it was a matter of keeping up the fluid levels - and trying to keep out the heat.
I found it better to zip my jacket up fully, limiting the effect of the super-heated air off the road surface around my chest and neck. Likewise, keeping my visor fully locked down was far more comfortable.
Lifting it up was like being hit in the face by a hot-air hairdryer cranked up to max.
The XX was feeling the strain too, its digital temp gauge recording engine temps of 101C on occasions, rather than the more usual 85. And at fuel stops the rear tyre was so hot it was practically impossible to touch it without burning my hand.
Crikey it was hot. However, the XX's performance seemed to suffer little, the silky smooth powerplant ticking over at just 3200rpm at an indicated 100kmh. And it would pull from as low as 2000rpm in top gear through the towns, making gear-changing nearly obsolete.
And that's just as well, because after around 100km in the saddle my legs were in no condition to be searching for the gear lever.
At 187cm tall I like a bit of legroom on my long-distance rides, but with just 440mm between seat and footpeg, the XX isn't overly endowed in this area.
In fact, it's only got 10mm more legroom than my RC30 - and I sure wouldn't want to ride that the 1800km or so up the Newell. Suzuki's GSX-R1000 also has 430mm, as does Aprilia's RS250, so there's a strong case here for Japanese sportstourers to start offering some adjustability in their ergonomics a la BMW. How Guido lived with the XX's 440mm has me stumped.
Sure, I can live with some compromises for shorter usage, but if I'm forking out $18,490 on the latest XX, I'd like to tailor it to suit me.
Hey, for $13,990 I can get a drive away, no more to pay, small Korean car with adjustable seats (fore and aft, as well as backrest angle) and adjustable steering wheel. Yet motorcycle manufacturers seem to think one size fits all, from 155cm tall to 195cm.
It's simply not good enough these days (especially in the sportstouring and touring sectors), and for $18K there should be a choice of seat heights, bar positions and footpeg location to allow buyers to tailor their chosen steed to suit.
And that criticism applies equally to Suzuki's $18,490 Hayabusa or Kawasaki's $19,390 ZX-12R (admittedly the latter has more leg room than either the Bus or Bird).
It seems manufacturers prefer us to shop for a bike that fits, rather than choose the bike we want and then fine-tune it to suit. You don't see Loris Capirossi having to ride a NSR500 with the same handlebar, seat and footpeg positions as Valentino Rossi. I rest my case. There, I've got that off my chest. Pass the valium please...
Otherwise, the 2001 version is still basically the same lovable Super Blackbird that first brought supersonic two-wheel travel to us back in 1996, before undergoing a fuel-injection revamp a couple of years back - AMCN's comparo test of the carbed model appeared in Vol 46 No 14.
The 1999-model's fuel-injected 1137cc engine developed its peak power of 164ps 500rpm earlier than in the previous carbed design, with claimed torque of 12.7kg-m at 7250rpm (the injected model was first tested in Vol 48 No 18).
New for '99 were the two ducts under the piggyback headlight. Previously only used to direct air on to a small oil-cooler, these now force-fed air into the 9.5lt airbox.
The new ram-air system fed a bank of 42mm throttle bodies rather than four 42mm semi-flatslide CV carbs, and that was the main reason for the improvement in the XX's low to mid-range power.
There were other changes back then too. The gearbox on the '99 bike featured a damping system that softened the initial clunk during gear selections, while the hydraulic clutch action was made 15-percent lighter.
The '99 injected XX also carried the third generation of Honda's D-CBS, with a set of three Nissin three-piston calipers controlled by two independent hydraulic systems. The two outer pistons of the front calipers are controlled by the front brake lever, and the two of the rear are controlled by a servomechanism-actuated secondary master-cylinder mounted on the left front fork slider.
The centre pistons of all three brake calipers are operated directly by the foot brake pedal, which also features a delay valve to minimise front-end dive during low-speed manoeuvring.
I've no doubt it's the best version of the system to date, and most of the time I didn't even think about it. But is it needed?
After going for a too-energetic dab of the rear pedal in a sandy carpark on the Gold Coast, I could have done without the 'surprise'.
And so to the latest Bird. The changes introduced on the 2001 model (as tested here) have continued over on to the 2002 model, and include a 30mm taller screen, all-new digital dash with large central analogue tacho, HISS anti-theft system and the HECS3 catalyser system.
It's the latter which is responsible for the claimed power output of the XX dropping by 12ps over the '99/'00 model and a reduction of 0.6kg-m in peak torque. I can't say I noticed that drop in real-world usage, and I've got no complaints about fuel consumption - an impressive 18.0km/lt average. But I still find it hard to believe how the simple addition of a cat can sap that many ponies.
There's the usual Honda build quality and attention to detail, from the classy fairing fasteners to the quality alloy welding to the deep and lustrous paintwork.
During my three weeks of 'ownership' and 4000km-plus over all manner of road surfaces nothing vibrated loose.
My return route was south along the coast-hugging Pacific Highway to Sydney, then the drone along the Hume to Albury, before meeting up with an old mate for an enjoyable 440km final day through the backroads to Melbourne - Tangambalanga, Dederang, Myrtleford, Lake Buffalo, Cheshunt, Whitfield, Mansfield, Yea and Whittlesea. There's 25km of gravel road between Lake Buffalo and Cheshunt, but it's worth it for the spectacular scenery and the twisties.
It was a route which allowed the XX's strong points to shine through even more, rather than the long, straight and mind-numbing 110kmh stretches of the Newell and Hume.
Powerful, stable over the rough stuff, good brakes, firm but compliant suspension - and the lack of legroom I'd complained about after my earlier long stints in the saddle wasn't noticeable.
Mmm, sounds just like the attributes a bike needs for a quick trip through the 'unrestricted' Northern Territory. Now that would really allow the XX to shine...