This is my long overdue review of my 1990 Honda CB-1.
I have not ridden the bike regularly in about two months, having bought a 1994 VFR 750 and switched it into my insurance plan in place of the CB-1. Now that I have ridden the VFR for a while, I also have something to compare the CB-1 to, it having been my first bike. As a first bike, the CB-1 is just about perfect. It will do anything you ask it to, happily, but there are times when you will wish for a little more. A little more power, a little more wind protection, a little more tank range - or at least, those were the things I was wishing for. Speaking of power: it actually has adequate power for just about anyone - "adequate" meaning that you'll out-accelerate just about any car on the road, and the bike will maintain a decent pull even two-up going uphill. When it was all I had, I thought it was damn fast. I hate to say it, but after riding my VFR for two months, I get back on the CB-1 and wonder where all of the power that I remembered went. I guess that it's whatever you're used to. I remember when I used to sit in some *cars* and feel like they had pretty good acceleration (snicker, snicker). The power delivery of the CB-1 is extremely smooth. It's an inline four, and a pretty small one, meaning that all of its parts are small and there aren't alot of weighty pieces of metal beign thrown around. As a result, it's easily the smoothest motorcycle I have ever ridden (comparing it to a '94 VFR, '92 CBR600, '94 Suzuki GS500E, etc). When I first bought it I noticed a distinct buzz through the handlebars between 5500 and 6000 RPM, but either I got used to it or it went away because after about six months I couldn't notice it now matter how hard I tried. You can give it full throttle or partial throttle at 2,000 RPM or 12,000 RPM and it is equally smooth; the only difference is that there's quite a bit more power on tap at 12,000 than 2,000. The CB-1 is a unique motorcycle. Living in the San Francisco bay area, I see more bikes on the road than most people will see in other places in the US (but still not many compared to the vast swarms of cars we have out here), but in the year and eight months that I've owned the CB-1 and have been on the lookout for others, I have only seen another CB-1 on the road four or five times. Compare this to countless numbers of CBRs, VFRs, GS500s, UJMs, other sportbikes, and cruisers. It's a good feeling to know that you're riding something so unique. When I ride highway 9 and see six other VFRs in one afternoon I don't feel quite so special. It's also very inexpensive to insure. I was paying only $300/yr for full insurance plus extra coverage, and I have a very bad driving record. So bad, in fact, that my VFR would cost me $2500/yr to insure if I had full coverage on it. And if you think 400s are by definition slow, well ... I still managed to get 4 speeding tickets in one year riding mine :( ... Here are the good things about the Honda CB-1: * Smooth engine * Classy looks * Very light * Very, very "flickable" * Decent gas mileage - 42 mpg minimum * Decently easy to work on - no plastic to remove, everything is laid out well * Inexpensive to insure * Unique Here are the bad things about the Honda CB-1: * So small and light that a passenger really overloads it * No wind protection * 9,000 RPM on the highway (it'll do it happily, but it is a bit tiring) * Expensive parts * Very small tank range - 120 miles if you run it dry The CB-1 is light and low and I think it would be ideal for any motorcyclist in the 5'4 to 5'8 range. It's a great sporty beginners bike. It's also the kind of bike that you could keep indefinitely (I know I would have been happy keeping mine until it died) and be reasonably satisfied. Mechanical history ------------------ I bought my 1990 CB-1 in August, 1995 with 3,185 miles on the odometer. I had to have a friend drive me to Reno, NV (four hours away) just to find one for sale, and I drove it back by myself, despite having never driven on the highway, having only a learner's permit, and knowing that the bike could not be registered in California until it had 7,500 miles on the clock (by CA law). I was determined to own this bike, however; in 1991 I was coaxed into accompanying a friend to a Honda motorcycle shop despite having no interest in motorcycles whatsoever - and while my friend looked around I sat on a CB-1, having nothing better to do. I liked it, and was terribly impressed by the tachometer that had the redline at 13,500 RPM. I made a mental note that if I were ever to buy a motorcycle, it would be a CB-1. So four years later I got one. The title was originally from Ohio (an interesting coincidence, considering that I was from Ohio originally and that the CB-1 I had sat on was in a dealership in Niles, OH), and stated that the original owner had bought it new in 1993. I felt somewhat sheepish to learn that the original owner had paid $3,300 for it brand new, and I had bought it from him for the same price two years later. Anyway, the only mechanical problem that the CB-1 ever had that I didn't cause myself was, I believe, due to the low number of miles that the original owner had ridden it in those two years. I'd be willing to bet that the guy didn't properly drain the gas from the carbs and prep it for long term storage, because the carbs started giving me lots of trouble a few months after buying it. In fact, come to think of it, when I bought it it immediately needed a new fuel petcock, as the original had a leak in it; if the gas had eaten through the rubber gaskets in the original petcock, I imagine that it must have done some damage to the carbs too. The basic problem I had was that the #4 carb would leak gasoline if the bike sat for any length of time. I would park it at night and in the morning would find a dollar-sized puddle of gasoline on the ground underneath the engine. And of course there would be lots of smelly gas all over the engine also. I tried all manner of things to fix the carb - I tried cleaning it, adjusting the float, taking it apart and putting it back together, but nothing worked. Finally I decided to buy a replacement float and gasket kit, and if that didn't work, to buy a whole new carb (several hundred dollars from the Honda shop!). Thankfully, replacing the float assembly and gaskets did the trick. All was well until about eight months later when ... *another* carb started leaking. I thought it was the #2 carb, so after a few weeks of putting up with smelly gas everywhere, I bought another rebuild kit and did that carb. Ooops. More leakage, but I guess I did the wrong carb, as I noticed that it was definitely the #1 carb with the problem. So a few weeks later I got my act together and ordered another kit, (each kit costs about $40, by the way), and did the #1 carb. By this time I was an expert at removing the carbs, so it was easy. Bingo. No more leaky gas. By now I've rebuilt three of the four carbs in this manner, and if the fourth one decides to leak, well, then at least I've only got one more to fix! Apart from the carbs, all work that I've done to the bike has been routine, or due to crash damage. Yes, I dropped the bike twice, once on either side. The first time was in March of 1996, on a sunny Saturday morning after a long spell of rain had stopped. The sun was out and I decided to ride up into the Santa Cruz mountains to take some photos of the bike in scenic spots with my new camera. Everything was going great until, while rounding a right-hand bend on a slow and twisty back mountain road at a very slow pace, my front tire hit mud. There had been a little mini land slide and the road was covered in mud, just around this corner. I was unable to see the mud until I hit it, and as soon as I did, the bike went down instantaneously. It was a strange feeling to be sliding through mud at about 5 mph, watching your bike slide away from you down the road. I was pissed. The bike and I were covered in mud. I was so angry that it had happened, in fact, that after getting the bike upright and checking to make sure that it and myself were OK (and after watching a SUV come around the same corner and come within five feet of sliding into me as I checked up on the bike), I hopped back on and determinedly headed for the same corner, just to prove to myself what a stupid mistake it was, because I should have had no problem keeping it up under those conditions. And of course, as soon as my front wheel hit the mud, I went down instantly once again. I rode the rest of highway 17 on the way home very frustrated as the caked on mud dried into hardened dirt on me and my bike. The second time I dropped the bike was taking a left hand bend too slow ... my friend had just bought a Miata and I had wanted him to buy a motorcycle instead so I stupidly set out to show him how much faster my motorcycle was, just to make myself feel better ... He had left a few minutes before to take a friend for a ride in his new car and I hopped on my bike and followed. I had to drive fast to catch up with him through a semi-deserted industrial area and I finally got him within my sights up ahead, about to make a left hand turn at a T in the road with a light just turning yellow. I gassed it and made it to the light just as it turned red; I hit the brakes hard and leaned over for the turn but my rapid deceleration did not jive to well with my leaning and I managed to just sort of fall over at the apex of the turn. I was probably going 10 MPH at this point, and I felt very stupid picking the bike up as people in cars had to wait for me to get out of the way. My jeans were a little ripped and I had a skinned knee but I was fine. However, I had bent the shifter, and scraped the left engine cover up pretty well. [to be continued]