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Bike Reviews - Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird
There is something just so utterly intoxicating about the way Honda's Super Blackbird blends such enormous raw power with such velvety-smooth refinement.
By rights, 152 claimed horses – which still equates with over 130bhp at the rear wheel – should make the 223kg Blackbird a big handful, yet somehow Honda's wizards have managed to break those horses, and train them to perform a synchronized ballet that would be the envy of Spain's famed dancing stallions…
Then there's the fact that some 10 years after its introduction, the Blackbird is still on the pace despite receiving very little in the way of modifications or upgrades.
Released late in 1996, the CBR1100XX went from carburettors to electronic fuel injection in 1999, and then received a catalytic converter and updated headlights, instruments and screen in 2001 – throw in the odd change in colour scheme here and there, and the Blackbird has really undergone very little in the way of tinkering.
And really, why would it? Pointing the bike down Victoria's Great Ocean Road recently, it showed it can still hold its head high, with a formula that really hasn't dated since its inception.
The Blackbird's turbine-like four-cylinder engine develops big torque and big power, with crisp fuel injection that places both at your beck and call. There are no flat spots to speak of, in fact there's nothing but bulk oomph pretty much throughout its entire rev range, from just off idle to its indicated 10,750rpm redline.
On the road this translates to a pure delight, although it's perhaps not as involving as other less-powerful machines, as even on a road with quite a variation of turns you can simply pick a gear and stick with it.
The Blackbird was the world's fastest production bike when it first hit the streets, a mantle it retained for over two years until Suzuki introduced the GSX1300R Hayabusa in May of 1999.
While it's not quite as strong as the 'Bus or Kawasaki's ZX-14 or even ZX-12R, there's still plenty here to keep you entertained, and you'll need to watch that right wrist like a hawk if you want any chance of retaining your license…
Stopping is a particularly important issue on a bike like this, and the twin-disc, three-piston Nissins are right on the money. Honda's Dual Combined Brake System (DCBS) is employed, which won't please everyone but will be appreciated by others. If you're not looking to break lap records at Phillip Island, it shouldn't be an issue – and if you are you should really be looking for something lighter anyway, like a Fireblade.
The suspension, though relatively low-tech, does a beautiful job, but tends towards the plusher end of the spectrum, at least in terms of sportier hardware.
The 'Bird's on the money in the comfort stakes too, with a firm but supportive seat, a good screen and slippery bodywork to allow you to scythe through the air. Those on the tall side may find legroom a bit wanting, but there's still enough there to ensure multi-day tours will still be on the agenda, aided further by the 'Bird's optional factory panniers ($1750).
So what exactly is the Blackbird's focus? At 223kg (dry) it's too heavy to be a pure sportsbike, yet it's too fast and has too sporty a ride position to be a true tourer.
Really, it's a power-packed all-rounder and a hyper-tourer on the open road – provided you can find roads on which you can actually explore its potential (try Germany).
But even at legal speeds, that engine will always see you coming back for more. Happy birthday Blackbird – may your reign in the Honda stable continue for many years more.
SPECS: Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird
Engine: 1137cc, liquid-cooled, four-stroke, DOHC, 16-valve, inline four-cylinder
Bore and stroke: 79 x 58mm
Fuel system: electronic fuel injection
Power: 152bhp @ 9500rpm
Torque: 119Nm @ 7250rpm
Frame: alloy twin-spar
Front brake: twin 310mm discs with three-piston Nissin calipers
Rear brake: single 256mm disc with three-piston Nissin caliper
Front suspension: 43mm forks, non-adjustable
Rear suspension: Pro-Link monoshock, adjustable for preload and rebound
Wheels: three-spoked alloy
Tyres: Dunlop D205 Sportmax; 120/70ZR17 front, 180/55R17 rear
Seat height: 810mm
Claimed dry weight: 223kg
Fuel tank: 24L
Price: $18,790 plus ORC
Colours: Iron Nail Silver Metallic or Darkness Black Metallic
Warranty: 24 months/unlimited kilometres
Contact: (03) 9270 1111
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