In 1978 Honda lit the touch paper and stood well back by introducing the CBX1000 six cylinder, and the motorcycling world made sounds such as “oooH” and “Arrrgh” and quite rightly so. Contrary to popular belief, it was not the first production six cylinder motorcycle; Benellli beat them to it by about five years with their 750cc Sei. Honda was making a firm statement, telling the world that the British motorcycle brands were dead and it was also a rebuke to the American motorcycle journalists who had dubbed Honda boring. For many years, the Americans had looked at Honda as an innovative, inspirational brand, especially from their days of racing in the 1960s. But they had appeared to rest on their laurels after taking the world by storm with the CB750 in 1969, which was still in production. I will shortly write another article detailing more of the heritage of this behemoth of a classic motorcycle that shook the motorcycling world to its core.
There were two models of the CBX1000, the Super Sport, twin shock and the Pro-Link with a single rear shock. I have owned a CBX1000 Super Sport for over two years and can only talk about that model, as I have never ridden a Pro-Link. The engine! The CBX1000 is all about the engine and a good job it’s about that massive lump, because there isn’t much motorcycle to write about apart from that engine. It’s enormous, the rider’s legs are completely shielded by that humungous block. It produces around 105 BHP, at the crank, and when it comes on song, it sounds like nothing on earth, howling from about five thousand revs onwards. The power delivery is super smooth, being a six, but must be treated with the utmost respect, or you will be flying down the road, watching sparks fly from your beloved beauty and watching the destruction of obsolete parts you’ll never be able to replace.
The handling is a complete disgrace and for good reason. The forks are not that much bigger than those from a soggy Honda Super Dream 250. The thin, pressed Comstar wheels are Honda Super Dream 250 items and they cost a fortune to refurbish. They also only allow a delicate sliver of tyre to come into contact with the road. These beasts weigh 450 Kilos, so they need a rigid frame, but just don’t get one. In fact, they don’t really get a frame to speak of at all, the engine is used as a stressed member, which means there is no down tube and no lower cradle. The engine is suspended from a flimsy cradle below the petrol tank. What frame there is, twists and turns in protest at every horse power it has to contain and when you lean into a corner, it feels like a one legged elephant. It’s very clear that this motorcycle does not forgive anything. It will give the rider no warning at all before pitching them off at the first sign of cornering over-exuberance. A Kawasaki Z900, if pointed at a a corner too quickly, can be wrestled round it and forced to stay upright, but a CBX1000, cannot. It will throw the rider off and slide on its side without any warning. I don’t know if the Pro-Link model is any better, but I doubt it.
Although the CBX1000 has twin front discs, they too are from the SuperDream 250 parts bin. At 450 kilos, they struggle to stop the bike, fade rapidly and would certainly benefit from braided steel. But that engine! The engine is sublime and pulls from tick over, provided the carbs have been balanced properly. The engine also requires a lot of attention to keep these motorcycles on the road. Oil must be changed every thousand miles and oil filter every two thousand, or one of the two cam chains will break. Carbs need balancing regularly and it is a tough job, due to lack of space. It took me a day to do mine and, as the engine has to be hot when balancing the carbs, I burnt the skin off the back of my knuckles, as it is so tight in there, that the back of your hand hits the camshaft covers, as you adjust the carbs. You also have to make a tool to do the job. Tappets, all twenty four of them, need to be kept within tolerances. Second gears are very weak and it’s best to avoid trying to pull wheelies, unless you enjoy rebuilding gearboxes, or you are a masochist who loves being peeled off the road having been used as a crash bobbin by your pride and joy.
It sounds like an awful motorcycle. The brakes are rubbish, the engine, although massive, smooth and powerful is enormously needy and it handles like a hippo on a pogo stick. Yet I love my Honda CBX1000. It’s a great motorcycle. Everywhere I go crowds form and I love riding it. That engine is incredible and the sound of it when it comes on cam is like nothing on earth. If you find a CBX1000 with a standard exhaust, you may well find that the ends of the silencers have been drilled to make it howl more and to squeeze a few extra horses out. The last owner did that to my lovely original exhaust. Also below the battery breather on the right hand set. there is some corrosion, completely normal for these motorcycles and infuriating too. However, David Silver Spares do an excellent replica set of pipes for about a thousand pounds and I must say that they look and work beautifully. I have got the original set too, so they can be repaired, which very few of these come with. In fact finding one with an original set of pipes is very hard indeed and finding a second hand original exhaust system, is not just costly, but almost impossible. So if you’re lucky enough to find one with and original set of pips, take them, wrap them in plastic and store them in a warm and dry environment, just like I did. That way, you have a great standard looking set f pipes and also a set of originals for the purest. Just don’t ride it around with the standard pipes on, as they’ll deteriorate and corrode before your eyes.
I love my Honda CBX1000; it’s a joy to own. You just have to hold back on corners, leave enough room to brake and stay on top of the servicing. All of which are trials, because that engine just begs you to ride the bike, rather than work on it, and to spank it to within an inch of its life on every bend and at every hazard. However, restraint and respect are the order of the day when owning such a rare piece of motorcycling history. These classic motorcycles are incredibly rare, as they were expensive when new and the Super Sport was only made for two years. Parts have become very, very hard to find for them and are incredibly expensive. I know someone who paid six thousand for a rough one on eBay and spent a further sixteen thousand pounds restoring it, plus four years of their life, for which they were not paid. So these are incredibly good value classic motorcycles at today’s prices and are certain to rise rapidly in price. As always, it’s far more cost effective to buy one in excellent, original condition.