Retrospective: Honda CBR1000F Hurricane: 1987-1988

(This Retrospective article appeared in the April 2006 issue of Rider Magazine.)

When this big Honda appeared in 1987, it swept through the motorcycle world like a Category 3 hurricane sweeps across Florida…sorry, could not resist.

With more horsepower, more speed than any previous liter bike, it ratcheted the whole performance concept up a notch.
Yes, 600s and 750s may have been important in the racing categories, but the 1000 class was the playground of the truly competent. The game was new, with 10,000 rpm, liquid-cooled engines and serious aerodynamics in the bodywork. Suzuki had opened play with its GSX-R1100, admittedly a little large at 1052.5cc, followed by the Kawasaki Ninja 1000R (997.8cc) and now the 998.4cc Honda, with Yamaha’s FZR1000 (989.6cc) being presented right after the Honda introduction. Note the constant R (for Race?) designation, the hot letter to have, even though these were not intended as track bikes.

Competition was awesome, but what impressed the go-fast motoring crowd was not just Honda’s dyno-tested 110 horsepower-plus at the rear wheel, nor the slickness of the fairing, but that the bike was so rideable. If you were going to put in a couple of hours at the racetrack, comfort be damned. But an all-day ride, that was something different.

A few words on the name. Back in the middle 1950s many British motorcycles had rather pallid names, or merely alpha-numeric designations, and American importers wanted more excitement. In 1957 the Matchless/AJS importer decided to rename the 600cc Scrambler Twins, virtually identical ma­chines which were known rather cryptically as either a G11CS (Matchbox) or a Model 30CS (Ajay). And what should that name be? A Hurricane!

1987 Honda CBR1000F Hurricane headlight.
1987 Honda CBR1000F Hurricane headlight.

Soon the 600cc Scrambler single was a Typhoon, and the 250 version was a Tornado. Not to be outdone, Ariel renamed its 650 Huntmaster Twin the Cyclone. The Hurricane name disappeared a few years later as the British bike industry slowly imploded, remaining unused until 1973, when Craig Vetter labeled his delicious redesign of a BSA triple a Triumph X75 Hurricane. That brilliant exercise in styling did not last long, unfortunately.

The Honda company had been slow to denote its models with fancy names, but by 1980 the marketing office appreciated that motorcycling types, especially in the United States, liked to have slick monikers for their machines…like Interceptor. It should be noted that name was first used on a motorcycle in 1962, on a Royal Enfield 750 twin. The Inter­ceptor concept, of fast fighter planes, took the public heart with its sense of speed. So why not the power of one of Mother Nature’s wind­­storms?

The Honda Hurri­cane 1000 came along in 1987, re­placing the Interceptor 1000. One has to admire old Soichiro, a brilliant and forceful businessman. He would have been a heckuva poker player because, among his many virtues, he knew when to fold a hand. Like the V-4 Interceptor models. Yes, the name and V-4 still exist in the VFR800 Interceptor, but not like they were touted 20 years ago.

1987 Honda CBR1000F Hurricane.
1987 Honda CBR1000F Hurricane.

Mr. Honda had put the motorcycling world on its ear when he introduced the CB750 in 1969, an in-line four that was powerful, reliable and inexpensive. Then he decided to trump his own ace, so to speak, when he rolled his 750cc V-4 Sabre and Magna models onto the stage at Marysville, Ohio, late in 1981, followed by the Interceptor 750 a year later. These had twin overhead camshafts, four valves per and, lo and behold, liquid cooling. Soon 500 and 1000 Interceptors joined the fleet, and Honda was waiting for everybody else to copy him.

Except the Interceptors had teething problems, acquired a bad reputation, and were re-engineered to fit into the sport-touring category.

In 1987 the Hurricanes, both 600 and 1000, were the new bad boys on the block, using the liquid-cooled in-line four design that had debuted on Kawasaki’s Ninja 900 in 1984. Nothing radically new was presented in the 1000 Hurricane’s engine, just that in typical Honda fashion, a great deal of R&D effort went into its development. The new motor was a very compact, narrow design, smoothed out by a balance shaft running at twice crankshaft speed. With a 77mm bore and 53.6mm stroke it was the most oversquare of the Big Four’s liter engines of 1987, with big 38mm carbs feeding lots of gas through big valves into big combustion chambers.

1987 Honda CBR1000F Hurricane.
1987 Honda CBR1000F Hurricane.

The en­gine was essentially a stressed member of the chassis, being bolted securely at five points into the hefty box-style steel perimeter frame, minimizing the possibility of flex. By today’s standards, the suspension was not very sophisticated. The 41mm Showa front fork’s only adjustment was the air pressure, although it did have a hydraulic anti-dive mechanism. The single-shock rear, also Showa, had ad­just­able spring preload and rebound damping. All quite rudimentary by comparison to today’s CBR1000RR (with three Rs!). Six gears were in the transmission.

The most innovative aspect of the Hurri­­cane was the visual—the fairing. No Japanese motorcycle had ever been covered up to this extent, and only the Ducati Paso was more prudish in its effort to con­-ceal what lay beneath. But this was not for looks as much as performance, or, narrowing that down, for top speed. Be­ing able to boast of having the highest top speed for a production motorcycle was con­sidered important to the marketing types, and the aerodynamics of this fairing were excellent. Several testers man­aged to push the Hurricane over 160 mph—to­tally impractical for the average purchaser.
It was the comfort that the customers liked. The handlebars were neither too narrow nor too low, the seat was a pleasure to sit on, and the ergonomics as a whole were fit for a normal human being. Add a pair of throwover saddlebags and a tankbag, and a thousand-mile weekend was a pleasure.

1987 Honda CBR1000F Hurricane tailight.
1987 Honda CBR1000F Hurricane tailight.

However, the U.S. economy was a bit depressed, sales were lagging, and for 1989 the CBR1000F Hurricane was off the list. Only to reappear in 1990—without the Hurricane name. Rumor had it that with just an alpha-numeric such as CBR1000F the bike would be more insurable, but that a name like Hurricane denoted recklessness and immorality, and brought with it unaffordable rates.

Now you know what’s in a name.

1987 Honda CBR1000F Hurricane.
1987 Honda CBR1000F Hurricane.

11 COMMENTS

  1. I own a 1987 honda hurricane 1000 I’ve owned it for 3 years enjoy riding be real nice if they come out with a new hurricane in the future and finding parts parts is really hard to do. And this is Rebecca I have just recently started riding and the hurricane is the first bike I’ve ever rode and I love riding the hurricane

  2. I bought a Honda Hurricane today. A 1987, It was a good 100 mile ride home, on the Island Highway, so had to get used to it quick 🙂 good thing I been riding over 30 years, but was rusty cause it’s been 12 years or so, It is a great bike, not supper take off like today’s 1000’s or should say 1100’s or 1800’s touring models but still plenty powerful enough, never took it over 150 kmh, ( In Canada ) so that’s about 90 mph or so. Runs like a charm, never thought about parts but don’t care if they break the Collectors plate requirements so might make it easier when needed.

  3. I bought a grey Hurricane 1000 in 1987. My Honda dealer practically forced me to test drive his. I rode it once and bought the one on the showroom floor immediately, trading in my 1986 VFR750 Interceptor. While the VFR was technically cooler (aluminum frame, V-4 engine, gear-driven cams, etc.,) the Hurricane had an absolutely plush ride (even though it handled beautifully.) It would soak up bumps even when leaned way over in curves. It also had phenominal acceleration. Way better bike than the Interceptor, in my opinion. I then put the Metzler Comp K tires on it, and it was even better.

  4. Got one also an ’87 1000 and am having trouble finding a fuel petcock for it tho. Got two but they both leak at the lower rivet/screw on petcock. Any tips? Anyone? Will a 600 Hurricane’s fit a 1000? Any sort of info would be greatly appreciated.

  5. I hit a vehicle on interstate 294 just outside Chicago on my 1988 black Honda Hurricane 1000. I broke almost every bone in my body and just barely survived. … I was traveling in the fast lane at over 150mph when a van abruptly switched lanes directly in front of me… I broke my arms back and legs with 17 different skull fractures. I was in the hospital for almost 6 months. I loved the hell put of that bike and would love to own another one.

    • Yeah that van must not have noticed you were doing 150 in the freeway. Shame on him. Glad you made it thru though.

  6. I’m looking forward for the new hurricane1000f may it brake the record if u think the St 1300 is just like just a little different make no sense rebuild nighthawk the hurricane was the fastest at that time lest rebuild the hurricane in make it the hurricane.yea I miss the hurricane got a Harley soft tail I’m pissed Harley can’t run with the hurricane before u get one u my need to check HP that’s a plus n Harley Davidson just don’t have the HP for the money they suck in that Hp to just get 150hp out of it u looking at $7000 or$10,000 when u can buy I Honda in ride with 135hp to 150hp no extra so do ur spec before u get a motorcycle because u do need hp I mean 67hp I was on 135hp damnit in why Harley Davidson so damn high they are the same shit nothing changed way so damn high what kind of dope was they smoking to jump 10,000 too35,000 just check it out before u buy where is the HP

  7. I would never buy a Harley if I just would looked up spec on it first Honda got Harley Davidson can’t touch hurricane1000f all the see is tail lights

  8. Bought a 1000 Hurricane in 1989, and took it to Europe with me, where I lived for the next two years. That bike did love the no-speed-limit autobahn. I hit a max of 265 once when racing a ZX-10 – he was a little faster, and got away from me when I braked for traffic ahead, and he continued lane-splitting at some ridiculous speed. Got pulled over at about 250 once – the polizei just wanted to make sure my tires were rated for the speed I was doing – once they saw the W rating, just waved me on. Then took it to Arizona for a few years, many fun miles on desert highways. A great bike for its day, and still compares well for power / speed / acceleration, but suspension technology has advanced so much that compared to newer bikes (I now ride a K1200s), it kind of handles like a pick-up truck in the twisties. But comfy, fast, reliable, stable at high speed, good for pillion, and great for long-distance trips and fast sweepers.

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