Motorcycles that are nice to look at are rarely nice to ride. Concept bikes straight off the exhibition floor are meant to perform on the stage and not on the road. So it was a surprise to find that the Honda’s CB1000R Neo-Sports Cafe was a real motorcycle. One that backs up its looks with performance to spare.
The neo-sports concept means a short, stocky profile with hard edges and exposed metal. The classic round headlamps are updated with modern LEDs. Contrasting matt-finished silver on the radiator shroud, headlight nacelle and exhaust, as well as the machined edges on the blacked-out engine is a pure industrial art-deco. The retro-look is given a refreshing Japanese manga-edge update.
The front 120/70 ZR17 front tyre is allied to a cast-aluminum, single-sided swingarm which showcases the new 10-spoke rear wheel shod with a 190/55-ZR17 tyre. Front suspension is a adjustable 43mm upside-down Showa SFF-BP (Separate Function Fork-Big Piston) with rebound and compression damping on the left and preload on the right side. A rebound and preload-adjustable Showa shock handles the rear suspension duties. Braking is taken care of by excellent twin Tokico radial calipers squeezing 310mm discs and a 256mm disc at the rear end. The 2-channel ABS is standard but is not switchable.
The CB1000R may look like a concept vehicle, but it has the stability and agility to match a sportsbike. It turns in with poise and S-Turns are dispensed with easily. The CB1000R mainly keeps its cool, but the rear shocks sometimes lose the plot (more time to adjust the rear suspension would pay dividends). It pays to be smooth with the throttle and anticipate road surfaces in advance. If you are familiar with the road, the CB1000R can be ridden spiritedly like any sportsbike. Weight-saving measures and a new steel mono-backbone frame mean the CB1000R weighs just 212kg and this probably contributes to its good handling.
The liquid-cooled, 998cc DOHC four-cylinder engine produces 143hp @ 10,000rpm and 99Nm of torque @ 8,250rpm, is a big change from the donor’s characteristics, the CBR1000RR Fireblade. The gearbox has been tweaked with a 4 per cent reduction in the overall gear ratios to produce greater acceleration. The low-rev ceiling and the gear ratio reduction mean that the CB1000R accelerates very hard. Wheelies? I wouldn’t know, officer...
The throttle-by-wire management means the engine generates power smoothly and the 6-speed transmission is aided by an assist-and-slipper clutch that reduces lever effort. Regardless of riding mode — Sport, Street, User and Rain — the CB1000R’s power delivery is always linear and predictable. Each mode comes with preset levels of throttle response, engine braking and traction control, which you can switch off. “User mode” allows you to customise these presets. For your information, the rev-limiter cuts in at 12,000rpm. Keep the bike revving above 7,000rpm and not many sportsbikes can keep up with it. In fact, the CB1000R out-accelerates its sportier sibling up to about 170kph. Nary a downshift is needed for overtaking (unless it is a Suzuki Hayabusa that you are trying to overtake) duties.
The CB1000R’s ergonomics are typical Honda, which means they are almost spot-on. A little forward bend to reach the handlebar and fairly flat, comfortable seat. The “almost” part due to the bike’s fairly high footrests. Older motorcyclists may find the pegs a little too high for their liking. However this means this means greater ground clearance. The other ‘almost’ is also due to the motorcycle’s seat height, which is 830 mm. However, the CB1000R’s comfort level is outstanding as long as you keep speeds down below 170kph. I have no doubt that the accessory windshield will be a popular addition for buyers if long-distances are part of their regular riding. The bike’s simple dash layout is informative and the colourful shift indicator is a delight. It goes from yellow, amber to pink, and it flashes to encourage you to shift up. Asides from the usual indicators, there is an ECO light and a gear position indicator.
This is one motorcycle that is great to ride as much as it is great to look at. The CB1000R’s myriad details, such as the rear taillight design and brushed metal accents are superbly crafted and are of the highest quality. In fact, there are only 6 plastic parts on its bodywork. CB1000R Neo-Sports is a cafe racer done right and the icing on the cake is the performance on-hand. At RM74,999.00, the CB1000R is just about the only “concept bike” that works as advertised.