New Honda Bikes : 2018 CB1000R Neo Sports Cafe

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The 2018 CB1000R elegantly combines more with less. It gives its rider a huge amount of usable engine performance, with the control of a cutting edge Supersports machine, while the innovative, minimalist styling injects it with a whole new attitude.

Its four-cylinder engine has been tuned to make 16% more peak power at just over 10,000rpm and 5% more torque right through the mid-range, where it’s most useful – and most fun. It is also 4% shorter geared, to extract even faster acceleration from the power-up. In fact through the first 3 gears, up to 130km/h the CB1000R rides harder than the CBR1000RR. An assist/slipper clutch adds control.

With the increase in output comes Throttle By Wire (TBW) with 3 preset riding modes plus a USER setting. Power (P), Engine Brake (EB) and Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC) work together across the presets to offer optimum benefit to the rider dependent on conditions. The exhaust transmits a raw-edged howl as revs rise.

The 2018 CB1000R is 12kg lighter than the outgoing design, making for a 20% improvement in power to weight ratio. It’s also smaller, yet has a more relaxed riding position. And supporting the radical new look is a box section mono backbone steel frame, with Showa Separate Function Fr Fork Big Piston (SFF-BP) USD suspension up front and a Showa monoshock at the rear. Radial-mount front brakes, ABS and a 190-section rear tyre complete the chassis’ upgrade.

The 2018 CB1000R’s styling takes a bold – and distinct – new direction that deliberately marks it out of the Naked bike mainstream. Every aesthetic detail of the CB1000R has been finessed, and the overall design, its style and powerful stance, merge retro minimalism with the elevated performance package of the engine and chassis.

Its proportions are now much more compact, with a trapezoid silhouette. The overhang of the distinctly-styled round headlight is 90mm shorter and the swingarm-mounted rear numberplate/mudguard unit (a first for Honda) allows for an extremely short, sculpted aluminium tail unit incorporating neat under-slung pillion hand holds.

Conspicuous by its absence is plastic – there are only 6 exterior parts constructed from that material, the largest being the svelte front mudguard. By contrast, what really makes its presence felt is the use of premium metal finishes throughout the machine, drawing on the long, café racer tradition: parts such as the burnished aluminium radiator shroud and airbox cover, the machined engine cases, cylinder head and sprocket hub, and the lustrously painted flangeless steel fuel tank.

All lighting is LED and the thin round headlight (with its metal-tone painted rim) employs a horseshoe-shaped light ring as well as distinctive two-bar light signature. The rear light is also a semicircular light bar that fills in solid when the brakes are applied. The T-shaped instrument panel – finished in the same metal-tone paint as the headlight rim – integrates into the top yoke, minimising bulk and the ignition switch is positioned at the front of the fuel tank.

The CB1000R has a new a mono-backbone steel frame. It uses split-tightening aluminium pivot plates – which save 2.5 kilograms - to grip the signature single-sided swingarm, which is 14.7mm shorter at 574.2mm.

Rake is set at 25° with trail of 100mm. Wheelbase is 10mm longer at 1455mm with wet weight of 212kg – 12kg lighter than the outgoing model. Weight bias is 48.5%/ 51.5% front/rear. Helping the CB1000R’s side-to-side agility, the crank centre height is 5mm higher.

The rider triangle is relaxed, with a ‘natural crouch’ afforded by the 12mm wider tapered aluminium handlebars sited 13mm higher than the previous design, matched to a seat height 5mm taller at 830mm. The flangeless fuel tank too is broad-shouldered but heavily cut-away to allow plenty of knee room.

The adjustable front fork is a Showa Separate Function Fr Fork Big Piston unit (SFF-BP). It contains all the damping function in one leg, reducing weight, while delivering compliance, comfort and control across a broad range of riding conditions. The Showa rear shock adjusts for spring preload, compression and rebound damping.

Up front dual radial-mount four-piston front calipers bite 310mm floating discs, matched to a twin-piston caliper and 256mm rear, and 2-channel ABS. A 190/55 ZR17 rear tyre sits on a 6.0-inch rim, replacing the 180/55 ZR17. The front tyre remains a 120/70 ZR17.

A ‘CB1000R+’ version will also be available, with even greater aspirational appeal. It comes with quickshifter, heated grips and a range of premium accessories that flesh out the CB1000R’s styling: metallic meter visor and seat cowl, front fender panel, hugger panel and radiator grill

The 2018 CB1000R’s 998cc DOHC four-cylinder engine – which shares its architecture and layout with the CBR1000RR Fireblade – has been re-worked to provide a healthy increase in both power and torque: 107 kW @ 10,500rpm and 104Nm @ 8,250 rpm compared to the outgoing model’s 92 kW@ 10,000rpm and 99Nm @ 7,750rpm. Bore and stroke remain 75mm x 56.5 mm but compression ratio is up 0.4 to 11.6:1 and the pistons are now forged (rather than cast) like the CBR1000RR SP.

The engine has also been tuned to deliver its torque with strong character especially in the 6-8,000rpm range, where it bulges significantly, generating an exciting and engaging riding experience. It’s also a useful aid for rapid roll-on acceleration in real-world overtaking conditions. The redline begins at 11,500rpm and the rev-limiter cuts in at 12,000rpm.

Development concentrated on improving gas flow into, through and out of the cylinder head. Valve lift is higher with inlet at 8.5mm and exhaust 8.1mm (as opposed to 7.9/7.8mm). A 44mm diameter throttle body (up 8mm) feeds larger diameter inlet ports; the shape of the combustion chambers is also revised. The airbox, ducting and air filter are also brand new and present a much more simplified and smoother route for airflow into the engine, reducing pressure loss all the way from the outer ducts to the throttle body.

Allied to the boost in outright performance numbers is an important 4% reduction in gear ratios, which greatly improves acceleration through the gears between 30-130km/h. The new assist/slipper clutch is lighter at the lever and helps manage hard downshifts.

A new exhaust also adds to the CB1000R’s mid-range muscle and weight reduction. It’s a 4-2-1 design, feeding via 4 short catalysers into a main chamber, which then feeds a dual chamber muffler. A link pipe joins the 2 main pipes just before the catalysers, boosting torque from 5,000rpm up. At 11.2kg it’s 4.5kg lighter. The exhaust note has been tuned internally, meaning that as the revs rise past 5,500rpm it takes on a significantly deeper, more raw tone.

Throttle By Wire (TBW) has also been added. This allows the rider maximum control over what is a powerful engine wrapped in minimalist motorcycle, via 3 preset riding modes plus 1 USER mode (selected from a switch on the left handlebar).

There are three levels of Engine Power (P), Engine Brake (EB) and Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC) available; HSTC can also be switched off.

Three riding modes offer different combinations of each parameter.

RAIN mode employs the lowest Power setting, medium amount of EB and high HSTC. The lower levels of power and torque are focused on the first 3 gears.

STANDARD mode uses the middle setting for Power, HSTC and EB. It knocks a little output out of first and second gear, and uses a power curve that sits just below that of SPORT mode, with reduced torque at partial throttle openings. It also allows for small rear wheel slides and the front wheel leaving the ground.

SPORT uses high Power and lowest levels of EB and HSTC to deliver 100% power through all six gears, maximum torque at all throttle positions and minor intervention from HSTC.

The USER mode allows the rider to choose between the 3 settings for each parameter and save the setting for future use.

Other information available to the rider is a shift-up indicator on the top right corner of the dash, which either flashes white with increasing frequency as rpm passes the preset value or goes yellow-amber-pink as a visual guide to change up. Further functionality options in that space are an ECO riding indicator, gear position indicator and riding mode indicator.