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Memorable Motorcycles Honda CB1300A

Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Memorable Motorcycles - Honda CB1300A
The Honda CB1300 is modeled directly on the iconic CBR1100R - the all conquering production racer of its day.
There is always a danger in looking at memories too closely. A couple of months ago, I was shopping with my wife at the giant outlet mall we occasionally visit. Walking towards us was a lady who looked vaguely familiar. It was not so much her appearance being as I remembered it, but more that she had the styling cues of a girl I used to know, and lust after, at college.

Forty years ago, this young lady had a bottom which made any healthy young man go blind thinking certain thoughts and she habitually wore a skirt the length of which was best measured with a pair of Vernier calipers. Now, she had two grandchildren in hand and wore a thoroughly sensible, near ankle length dress.

My wife made a tentative introduction and the styling cue lady from my past looked just as disappointed as me. Who was this wrinkled bloke with a bald patch? Certainly not the long-haired hippie who told her jokes on the way to English lectures!

Memorable Motorcycles - Honda CB1300A
The new CB's gearbox is one of the sweetest in the motorcycling world and the clutch is light and fuss free.
The Honda CB1300 has the potential to fall into the same trap of past memories being disappointing today. Even Honda admits that the 1300 is modeled directly on the iconic CBR1100R which was the all conquering production racer of its day. You can read the full story of the CBR1100R in an earlier edition of Memorable Motorcycles, but in essence it was the biggest, baddest, bare knuckle fighting road bike of its day. Even today, the “R” is a totally awesome, two-wheeled beast of a thing and is still one of the greatest motorcycles ever to leave Honda.

The problem is that the CBR1100R was a very exotic motorcycle with lots of race-orientated parts - and a pricetag to match. It not only had a limited production run, but an equally limited sales potential because, in the real world, there were relatively few customers who wanted, or who were able to pay, a premium price for a race-winning road bike.

However, there were a lot of potential customers who remembered Wayne Gardner and Ron Haslam sliding the CBR round the tracks with the rear wheel trying to pass the front. What these customers wanted was a tribute to the “R” - not a modern replica of the original.
Memorable Motorcycles - Honda CB1300A
The new CB is water-cooled, with a 1284cc DOHC delivering ample power on the street.

There was another factor. Fans of the CBR1100R were not as young as they were in 1981, so “Big H” needed a bike which reflected this fact. The CB1300 had to be a tribute to its street brawling ancestor - but a well-behaved one. The new CB1300 was the little brother who did his homework and went to college - and only partied sensibly at weekends - rather than the older sibling who poured Jack Daniels on his breakfast cornflakes.

The heart of the original CBR was the stonkingly powerful motor and so it had to be with the CB1300. The passing of the years meant that an air-cooled engine fed by carburetors was simply not an option, so Honda came up with one of the very, very, very few water-cooled motors which actually looks visually attractive. It is a walloping great 1284cc, DOHC four, equipped with four 36mm fuel injectors, and is a seriously formidable power-plant. Making 85 lb-ft of torque at only 6000 rpm the CB1300 launches away from stop lights, or any other bit of the planet for that matter, like a ground to air missile. Hills are flattened and overtaking anything other than Nicky Hayden’s Desmosedici MotoGP bike is merely a case of opening the throttle and hanging on.

The CB1300 does come equipped with five ratios in the gearbox but, in truth, two would be ample. “Low” would take you from stopped to 20 mph and “High” would deal with every other situation up to 120 mph: the motor is that flexible. As it happens, the gearbox is one of the sweetest in the motorcycling world and the clutch is light and fuss free. For its intended purpose, Honda could not have done better.

Memorable Motorcycles - Honda CB1300A
The twin shocks out back give the CB1300 that retro racer look nostalgic bikers crave.
The chassis is also absolute dead center in the target zone. Naturally, being a retro-classic there are twin shocks at the back and a massive, alloy, swinging arm. I really like the swinging arm because it looks as if it has been made in the garage of a really talented specials’ builder rather than being a production item.

The handling is surprisingly aggressive and modern in its feel and maybe this is where Honda just slightly lost the plot. For the customers who buy the CB1300, and the way they ride the bike, I think that more trail, giving neutral handling traits, would result in greater relaxation. As things are, the bike can be flicked - as much as anything weighing a shade under 550 lbs can be thrown about - into corners with total confidence.

There’s no argument that the CB1300 is not a lightweight machine - nor is it intended to be. There is a big, five-gallon fuel tank and lots of room for both rider and pillion passenger. This means that stopping could well be a challenge, but it isn’t. Those apparently innocuous Nissin four-pot calipers used to live on one of the earlier Fireblades and are well up to dealing with the CB1300’s weight and speed.

Memorable Motorcycles - Honda CB1300A
Honda added a bit of modern technology to this tribute bike's brakes with ABS and Nissin four-pot calipers.
The brakes are also equipped with ABS and, to be wholly honest, I wouldn’t have known. I was braking seriously hard and there was no sign of the ABS kicking in, so I can only assume that it starts working just before the front wheel is about to leave you embarrassed, hurt and with a big repair bill. If this is how modern ABS performs, then I’ll take it.

And then we come to the looks. Maybe I should have started here because an awful lot of CB1300 owners buy the motorcycle for its show bike appearance. Hondas are generally well finished but the CB1300 really is at the top of the tree. The paint is lustrous and the polished alloy impeccable. Best of all, the red and white color scheme is a real tribute to the CBR1100R. Not a direct copy but clearly the efforts of an “R” fan in the styling department. Apparently Honda produces a black CB1300 too - and have probably sold three examples world wide to colorblind bikers.

My only regret about this test is that we did not have the half-faired version of the bike, which is even better looking than the naked bike. Apparently, it is also nicer to ride because the fairing removes the wind buffeting from the rider.

Now here is the really confusing part of the story. If ever a bike was designed for the American market it is the CB1300. It is powerful - in the style of a 5.7 liter Dodge Durango - looks gorgeous and is both ideal for Sunday riding in the canyons, vacation cruising on the freeways or a trip down to the shopping Mall. It also provides ample, luxury accommodation for Mr. and Mrs. America rather than having them both squeezed onto a sportbike. In fact, it ticks every box in terms of being the perfect recreational all-rounder for America. Regardless, a collection of suits in the Honda marketing department deemed it unsuitable for the US market.

Memorable Motorcycles - Honda CB1300A
While the CB1300 isn't an exact copy of the CB1100R, its as close as you'll get without the high price tag of a restoration.
So here’s the final question. Is it worth going to the trouble of personally importing a bike from Britain? In the case of the CB1300 the answer, currently at least, is definitely yes. The pound sterling is weak against the dollar so imports into the US are cheap. The CB1300 seems to meet all US emission regulations, so putting the bike on the highway legally should not be a problem and the speedometer is in mph. The only modification needed would be to exchange the left-hand dipping headlamp for a US bulb.

Cost of a new CB1300 is around $12,000 - but US customers can claim back the sales tax, so this falls to something in the region of $10,000. Better still, mint second hand CB1300s are selling in the $6,000 range.

Our thanks to Knutsford Honda for the loan of the test bike and hospitality.
Honda CB1300A Photo Gallery
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aaponacire   March 9, 2012 12:42 PM
Hey! I looked into importing one of these beauties... It looked to be a daunting amount of paperwork (EPA, Customs, DOT - oh my!) with shady-characters providing 'DOT' conversion services to bring it to the US specs. So I sent a letter to US Honda, they were nice, and called me back, but absolutely no help. It's a shame, really.. as Honda will bring bikes like the DN01 and VFR1200 to the US - but ignore a perfectly good ride like this (that is sold *everywhere* BUT the Americas). It would be a pure profit play for Honda.. I just don't get it..
Seany -looks like my ZRX  November 25, 2009 02:45 PM
Love the look of this bike. Naked is the best way to run around! Looks almost just like my '99ZRX which has a round bobber headlight instead of the stock square w/ bikini fairing. I wish bikes like this were sold state-side. Everything is power-ranger over the top styling anymore. I must be getting old.
Gunther -Nakeds ftw  November 25, 2009 03:52 AM
Agree with Dave, did test drive some of the big nakeds and found the zrx to be the best. But all these big nakeds are great machines. They have the power to make riding easy and fun, easy to do the maintenance, look great and you can strap some luggage on them too. (with dual shocks you get a cargo hull under the seat)

No, it won't beat a racer on a track, and it won't tour as comfortably as the latest beemer, but these bikes can do it all pretty well!
Shaun -CB1300  November 25, 2009 12:06 AM
Its a great bike , I have the half faired one , its my daily ride , its a great city bike ( wide bars , slick gearbox and heaps of grunt ) and a great open road two up bike as well. The US bike marketing machine needs to get over cruisers and sport bikes. Surerly a market as big as the mighty "US of A" can squeeze some more UJM's into showrooms as well .
Dave -CB1300  November 22, 2009 10:16 AM
Its a very nice bike indeed, but i will stick with my ZRX1200, which peforms better in almost every way. If not by a huge amount, but its definitely a difference. Faster acceleration, top speed, and even roll ons. The ZRX also has sportier handling, and I have to say, i think it looks better, espc in green Eddie lawson colors. Best looking naked engine out there. I have ridden the CBR1300, along with the Suzuki 1400 and Yamaha XJR1300, as i have a home In Ireland as well as living here in the USA. They are all good bikes, and some people just prefer certain marques to others. The Yamaha is considered the most authentic retro having the essential aircooled motor from the original FJ1200, and the big Zook is the biggest and torquiest, not to mention most blingy !!! The Honda will totally satify the Honda fans, of whom there are lots, but the Kawa has all the looks of Eddies ELR, but with very modern performance. It also sounds great, like most Kawasakis. There are lots of good ones for sale in the 2001-5 vintage, for smallish money. $3500-6000. The bike is still produced for the home market in Japan, and now has fuel injection, as does the XJR. The Suzi 1400 is no longer sold, having been replaced by the new Bandit. I think my final comment has to be that the Honda is a bit bland to ride and listen to, in that typically honda way, whereas the kawa is a more satisfying bike to ride, and much more of a visceral experience.
Tom -Nakeds rule!  November 21, 2009 03:11 PM
Yes, this could describe the bandit. And the bandit is absolutely a worthy contender is the absolutely sweet 'naked' class. And you won't get better value/money than a bandit.

But this honda absolutely shines, and is still one step above the bandit. (I live in Europe, so no availability issues here, luckily). As has been said: heritage, style, character, sublime engine. Bit more expensive indeed, but hey... what a bike.

Don't you get the yamaha XJR1300?? Sort of the same bike, with the same throwback to the popular inline 4 nakeds of yore (i like nostalgia, with modern flavour and high tech stuff, think CB1300, XJR1300, guzzi griso...) This is heritage and nostalgia I can appreciate and respect (not those harley nonsense, maybe with the exception of the V-rod)
craig -the cb1300 in article  November 21, 2009 09:26 AM
i'll buy one in a second. failing that i'm gonna' get the suzuki 1250s, but would MUCH prefer the big naked honda...less weight, better heritage, better looking by far, and huge COOL factor.
wmemmler -why not buy a Bandit  November 20, 2009 12:46 PM
this could be discribibg a Suzuki Bandit, which you can buy, which I did, and I could'nt be happier
Tim -CB1300  November 19, 2009 12:56 PM
I'd buy one in a heartbeat! Especially with a the half-fairing. Add an aftermarket slip-on (that muffler's gotta weigh a ton) that sounds good, perfection! Honda has a BIG seller. That thing has American Market written all over it! Come on Honda!?!
Eric -CB1300  November 19, 2009 08:19 AM
Guys - face it.. if you want a "naked" bike you have a full line of bikes from Harley Davidson from which to choose. Oh, and the Suzuki Bandit/VStrom (Thanks Suzuki! I bought the V-strom :-) Pretty much any other bike out there (919 included - sorry RoadBurner1) is designed for thin people under 5'9" with good joints in the knees and hips. Alas..the CB1300.. Wish it were here :-( I speak from experience - I had the 94 CB1000 - a great bike that never sold well because of three words.."Tuned for Torque" Oh, and Honda screwed the pooch on the transmission as well. But - she was **comfortable** and offered room for a passenger. So Eric - if you want a powerful "naked" why didn't you get the B-King or the V-Max? Because YamaZuki put those really cool air-scoops on the sides.. that hit my knees, and made the bike awkward for my 'dorky' frame (come on Japan, Inc - get some full size Americans to test your bikes! :-) PS.. I checked some internet shipping co's to see what international shippin costs.. OUCH - like $2,500 .. Oh well.. My V-Strom is pretty comfy, and is looking better all the time :-) Ride safe my brothers :-) E-
Frank Melling -Never Explain - Never Complain  November 19, 2009 01:01 AM
Never Explain - Never Complain: that’s the standard adage for anyone who gets paid for making public statements. However, MCUSA readers deserve an explanation in the case of the two CBs. The original CB1100R was made for people just like me.We were the ones who would drive $200 cars - as long as they would tow the bike trailer to the race track. We were the ones who wore jeans full of holes - providing our race leathers were perfect. We were the ones who would happily spend four hours in the workshop for every hour of riding. We thought, and still do think, that the CB1100R is one of the greatest motorcycles ever built. We love its agression, the challenges of riding it quickly - and its exclusivity Compared with “R”, the 1300 IS dull and porcine. Have a look at the “R” story in the Memorable Motorcycles' archive and you will see what I mean. The problem is that for every member of my gang, there are 9999 mainstream riders and economic sense indicates that Honda should make the CB1300 for these customers, not produce a barely road legal race bike for the fanatical few. Having been balanced and reasonable in agreeing that the CB1300 is by far the better bike for 99.99% of riders, and riding situations, I still wake up in the middle of the night dreaming of racing an “R”- something that the CB1300 will never achieve.
Keith -My bad -  November 19, 2009 12:10 AM
Just noticed Frank linked to article himself.

Hardly sounds like the same bike though.

(also, damn the captcha system...)
Keith -From article about the cb1100 by same author:  November 19, 2009 12:06 AM
"You can currently buy what Honda bill as a tribute to the CB1100R in the CBR1300: only it's not. Instead of a charismatic racebike the CBR1300 is dull, porcine and built down to a price. It is also makes less power, is slower and almost the same weight as the CB1100R. In all, not much progress in 24 years."

Mike -Bring it and they will come  November 18, 2009 06:40 PM
I had a CB1000 back in the 90's and it was a great bike, although somewhat underpowered. More than anything else, I think that's what killed it in the US market. Look at the V-Max for cryin' out loud. This 1300 could solve that power issue and, if nothing else, see if there is a market for a UJM. I think there is, particularly for those neither interested in or tired of the current focus on cruisers and race bikes that continue to expand on new, questionable, style. This is a bike that can do it all and do it economically. Honda needs to take a chance. I would, in a heartbeat, buy this bike.
randy -CB1300  November 18, 2009 05:11 PM
I've been calling and writing Honda for years to bring this bike over here,sadly its not gonna happen.Another lost sale Honda.
AM -TO AMERICA  November 18, 2009 05:06 PM
Can you teach us how to bring it from England?
Roadburner1 -CB 1300  November 18, 2009 03:37 PM
You CAN buy this bike in the U.S., it's called the 919 and at 150 lbs
lighter, (at least mine is) it's probably just as fast.
Chris -A viable alternative  November 18, 2009 02:23 PM
I love this type of bike too and the great news is that Suzuki is offering a naked version of their Bandit 1250s next year. I'm hoping to ride the Bandit this year at the Cycle World International Motorcycle Show.
ducatisto -CB1300  November 18, 2009 01:15 PM
i'd take one in blue please :)
Tim B -Bring us Americans high performance naked bikes!  November 18, 2009 01:01 PM
I think it's the manufacturer's fault, at least partly, that American's don't love naked bikes. The consumers are so used to getting watered down, slow, ill-handling tanks instead of comfortable scalpels. I for one love naked bikes! And this one is very nice looking except for the paint scheme. I'd take mine in black...and I'm not colorblind. I did a double and triple take when I saw what looks to be a metal chainguard. Oh the good ol' days when everything wasn't plastic!
MotoFreak -More Please  November 18, 2009 11:14 AM
I love to see the bikes back when I was in college. Please do more; 1991-1993 GXSR 750 and 1100 as well as CBR 600 F2 and 900 RR. The colors and graphics on the bikes back then were great. Thank You.
Ken -CB1300  November 18, 2009 11:04 AM
Personally, I would be very happy to be able to purchase Honda's newly-developed, air-cooled CB1100 in the U.S.