In the era of late 1970’s to early 80’s superbikes Honda was leading the way by continuing to improve on their innovative designs. In 1980 Honda released the CB900F using a race inspired 901cc DOHC engine (which was a step above the previously released dohc CB750F) with its longer stroke and hotter cams which made 84BHP @ 8500RPM, offered in the USA only in 1981-1982. Then in 1983 Honda released the bike to trump both of the previous models, the CB1100F. Using hotter cams, larger pistons, and redesigned combustion the CB1100F produced 108BHP @ 8500RPM. Honda also increased the rake and added a 1/4 fairing for a bit of wind deflection and style. These 1100F were the pinnacle of the Honda motors company at the time and the only other bike to really rival it in that era in terms of notability and impressive looks would have certainly been the just slightly slower but larger than life Honda CBX. The DOHC air cooled, six cylinder engine was a 1047cc short stroke unit, with a compression ratio of 9.3:1, topped off with an awesome 24 valve head (4 for each cylinder). Six 28 mm carburetors with accelerator pumps fueled the engine which produced 105 BHP at 9000 rpm. Both bikes would be a rather impressive addition to any modern day speed enthusiasts stable of motorcycles and we were lucky enough to find one man, Steve Hoy out of Brownsburg, Indiana who just so happens to own both. The blue version of the only 2 one year CB1100F models and the Silver Grey CBX “Pro Link” sports tourer which Honda reconfigured in 1981, it’s third year in production. We sat down to talk with Steve at his home shop about both bikes and why he has grown so fond of them for their distinct characteristics that make them stand out from each other in terms of looks, fitment and performance.
Well, I guess lets just get right down to business and ask the first question that is probably on everyone’s mind, which one is faster?
I would say the 1100F is faster just by weight probably. The CBX is 1050 cc and they are definitely fast but the 1100 is just much lighter with a few more cc’s and in my opinion smoother and faster. They stopped making the CBX right around the time they began making the 1100. I put about 600-800 miles on the 1100 when I first finished the restoration on it and it really is an amazing bike. Side note too, those are actually the two newest bikes that I own. I have always liked the 60’s and 70’s bikes much better but these have such a great history behind them.
So, what is the year of both of the bikes just to give us a little more insight.
The CBX is a 1981 which was the 3rd production year for that bike and the 1100F is of course a one year only which was 1983.
That is really cool, so both that same era for Honda motors coming into the sort of “muscle bikes” of the 80’s.
For sure, same era, and in fact if you look at the pipes they are very similar looking as well. You can tell it’s that same 2 or 3 year style they were producing at the time, and especially if you look at the pipe ends. Also to add the ones you see here on both bikes I own are original to the bikes. The “black chrome” seen on the 1100F is actually what came on those from the factory. It’s rare to see them with the original black chrome pipes. This bike had only 4700 miles on it when I found it. It sat in a barn for over 30 years if you can believe it.
Well tell me a little more about the CB1100F then. How did you find it? It was apparently originally part of your search for 3 different bikes I believe you said before?
I had bought one 6 years ago in pretty bad shape and I thought I was going to completely take it apart and restore it and as busy as I was with projects at the time I just knew I wouldn’t get to it so I ended up letting it go. I had always been in search of a nicer one ever since then and then I ended up finding a lead on not only one but two for sale up in Goshen, Indiana. They only made them in two colors, a red and a blue and this man had both of them in a barn. So I bought both at the same time and by the time I had even got home with both of them I already had the red one sold to someone else. I decided to keep the blue one as my favorite and the rest is history.
Tell me a little about the paint on this because it’s really in excellent shape.
All of the paint on that bike is actually original except for the tank which I had to have color matched because the original that came with the bike was just too roached. I had to search out a whole other tank and have it painted. The guy who had these had actually taken the tank off the bike and just set it somewhere bad. You could literally poke holes in it with your hand, you could just poke right through it, just completely roached. I found another tank and the painter did a phenomenal job. It’s just ever so slightly off but you really have to look at it to see where ya know. The side covers, fairing and tail are all original paint though.
It is pretty impressive though. That couldn’t be an easy color to match.
It really is amazing, I mean that bike sat for 30 years.
So touching on that more, when you found the 1100F, what kind of condition was in it?
This one along with it’s red twin were sitting in a barn, covered in dust and animal droppings. It even had a nest in the airbox. We had to detail and go through the entire bike.
So being that part of your business at Hoy Vintage Cycles (who we previously covered in a full Old Bike Barn feature) is preserving certain eras of vintage motorcycles, why did you choose this one specifically for yourself?
The first time I rode one of these 1100F’s its just like, you know how you pick up a set of gloves and they are just the perfect fir? Well this bike was just the perfect fir for me. Riding style, comfort, you name it. The power is always nice and the way it looks is always nice but it just fit me like a glove. When I sold the first one I had I thought well maybe I’m just gonna find a similar one so I tried on of the Nighthawk’s, the 1985. It looks similar but it’s a 700cc, the wheel base is smaller and it felt like my knees were coming up way high and so I just had to sell it and keep searching for the 1100F. Now the 900F is basically the identical bike in many ways, it’s just a 900 but I wanted the 1100 cuz it was specifically a 1 year only bike. It was just more rare and harder to find a nice one. So the main reason was really fitment and the second was I just love the red white and blue.
It does have sort of an American feel to this very classic vintage Japanese bike. It’s almost like what you would picture a superhero of that era riding, if a superhero had a motorcycle. I mean I guess you could say that for either bike though, the CBX or this one but this definitely screams American superhero.
It’s like Captain America could ride it. It’s just such a stylish bike and they only made it for one year and I don’t really know why cuz it was so well liked.
You know it’s sort of like with some movies that come out that are so classic and they just did them so well that, why make a sequel?
Yep, so true.
So, I see your speedos on both bikes go to 150 mph? What is the fastest you have gotten either one?
I would say around 115 mph on the 1100F….and it feels like you were going about 70 mph. It’s just that smooth.
So with the suspension because I know for instance the suspension was revamped on the CBX that year, and the 1100F had pretty good suspension did that take part in it feeling so slow at high speeds?
I think it does handle exceptionally well but it just runs so smooth even at those speeds, it just makes it feel like its so smooth you couldn’t be going that fast. The 1100 also corners really well with its wheel base. Honestly I will probably have no problem taking it on the tail of the dragon this year in 2020.
So lets shift gears since we have talked a lot about the 1100F and get a little more insight about the CBX. What can you tell us about that?
The CBX is a 3rd year production 1981 that came in silver that year with the fairing and bags, unlike the first two years where they did not have the option for those. The 82 would have been a pearl white and this 81 was the grey silver. An interesting fact about the back story on the CBX in general, an engineer who worked for Honda in the 60’s building race bikes built the 6 cylinder RC166 that was a 250cc six cylinder, 24 valve, 4 cam, predecessor to CBX. If you look at the engine on one it looks just like a CBX. They sound ridiculous too cuz they ran open pipes on them.
(Side note- One of their initial challenges with the CBX in production was the sound being incredibly so loud that it was bad for marketing, they also had to design the motor at a 30 degree tilt to make it work with the rest of the bike)
So, last thing before we go, I heard that there is something wild about CBX carbs that was a design challenge as well? Care to elaborate?
To change or service the carbs on a CBX you actually have to disconnect the entire engine from the frame. Loosen it at the bottom, completely remove the exhaust and then the engine can swing forward and drop down allowing you to pull the carbs off. The carbs on this bike are actually in a V formation. This engine though IS the frame of the bike in the front. As soon as you take this out there is just a huge cavity. Most bikes have a downtube on the frame but these did not.
(Side note- A part of the design put forth by the build team headed by Soichiro Honda to get the motor tilted that extra 30 degrees to make the incredible 2 foot wide engine to work in the final layout of the bike included this final measure to make the engine actually part of the frame of the bike)
Well, the final take away from all of that is, definitely take good care of your CBX carbs cuz otherwise you’ll have a fun time getting access to them.
Well, we enjoyed spending some time with these great legends of vintage Japanese speed and we cant’ thank you enough for letting us share a little bit with our readers.
Words and Photos by – Mike Vandegriff