Retrospective: Honda CB1000: 1994-1996

1994 Honda CB1000
Year/Model: 1994 Honda CB1000; Owner: Duncan Smith, Providence, Rhode Island.

Take a casual glance at the motorcycle in the picture and one might mistake it for Honda’s latest retro-bike, the CB1100. Nope, we’re going back 20 years to what Honda was advertising as a “standard”—a street bike without fairing, a.k.a. “naked.”

1994 Honda CB1000
1994 Honda CB1000

In 1993, Kawasaki and Suzuki had big, naked standards, the ZR1100 and GSX1100, with Yamaha offering the half-faired FJ1200; Honda had no model in that category. These nakeds were intended for the rider who liked a bit of wind in his face and was not interested in tearing around closed courses on track days.

While the CB1000, nicknamed “Project Big 1” by the factory, did not appear in the U.S. until 1994, the Japanese and the Europeans had it from 1992. Some enterprising engineer had made the suggestion that if the company was looking for new models, without spending too much money, why not detune the engine from the fully faired, very sporty CBR1000F and bolt it in a naked bike. And give it a retro look, like a 1980 superbike.

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However, the American Honda sales people did not think that sales of this large standard would justify the expense of bringing it in. Importing any new model is an expensive proposition, having to go through a lot of DOT/EPA testing, as well as training mechanics and providing a goodly supply of spare parts.

1994 Honda CB1000
1994 Honda CB1000

Americans were mainly into image rather than practicality, the big divide being between cruisers and performance bikes, with Honda’s marketing department in Los Angeles figuring that the sporting clientele was much more important than the “standard” buyer. In the big H’s 1994 U.S. catalog was the new RC45, the 750cc V-4, properly homologated and appealing to the seriously competitive crowd, or at least that small part of it which had a lot of money ($27,000). For the more cash-conscious buyer who wanted to sport around the twisties on a fully faired machine, there was the $7,500 CBR1000F, with a claimed 130 horsepower at the crankshaft, about 20 less at the rear wheel. This was competing with the likes of the FZR1000, GSX-R1100 and ZX1100.

The naked CB1000 was ticketed at a pricey $7,000. This in-line 4-cylinder engine had debuted in 1987 in the 1,000cc Hurricane model after Honda dropped the VFR1000—since that V-4 was not selling worth a damn. The in-line four was very UJM, albeit with liquid cooling through an unobtrusive radiator. The one-piece head had four valves per cylinder operated by a pair of chain-driven overhead camshafts; the cams were new for the CB, as was the valve timing. Screw-type adjusters were on the tappets, a blessing for every home mechanic. Four 34mm constant-velocity Keihin carburetors fed the cylinders, a good deal smaller than the 38mm carbs on the CBR version. And the compression ratio was lowered, too, from 10.5:1 for the CBR to 10:1 for the CB. The mods changed this engine from a supersport to one with slightly less torque and a dozen fewer horsepower—but still with the race-bike breeding. The rear-wheel horses maxed at 97 at 8,200 rpm.

1994 Honda CB1000
1994 Honda CB1000

A gear-driven balance shaft was used to keep the vibes down, which was not a total success, as minor vibration did appear above 5,500 rpm. However, the factory felt that the CB buyer was going to spend 90 percent of his time below that level.

1994 Honda CB1000
1994 Honda CB1000

Straight-cut gears moved the power back to a wet clutch and a 5-speed gearbox. Sensibly, Honda left out a gear in the transmission, with the CB having five speeds as opposed to the CBR’s six. Sporty riders are always stirring the gearbox, whereas the CB was intended more for those who liked a bit less toe action.

All of this was bolted into a double-cradle steel frame, with a 43mm non-adjustable cartridge fork having a modest rake of 27 degrees, trail of 4.4 inches. Bolted onto the box-section swingarm was a pair of Showa shocks with preload adjustability and sexy remote reservoirs. Suspension travel at both ends was said to be 4.6 inches, enough to provide a pleasant ride. The rear wheel was an 18-incher with a 170/60 tire, the front, 18 inches and a 120/70.

For braking purposes, there were two discs on the front with 4-piston calipers, a single at the back, with a 2-piston squeezer. Wheelbase was 60.6 inches, 1.5 longer than the CBR, while the CB’s weight (520 pounds dry) was 30 pounds less than the CBR. All that fairing plastic and mounting hardware must have weighed a bit.

1994 Honda CB1000
1994 Honda CB1000

The seat was moderately stepped and almost 32 inches high. Short-legged folk learned to use the footpeg as an assist. The bars were flat, which gave comfortable ergonomics, while a set of risers could elevate the bars if desired. Analog instruments and idiot lights sat above the isolated headlight in this pre-digital era. The gas tank held a generous 5.8 gallons, and even with a heavy hand on the throttle the bike would go 200 miles with no problem.

Everybody liked it. However, the $500 difference between the CB and CBR, and the appeal of the super-sporty difference, seemed to doom sales. In two short years the CB was gone, while the CBR continued on to 1996. Apparently the marketing guys in Los Angeles had been right: Standards didn’t sell.

(This Retrospective article was published in the May 2014 issue of Rider magazine.)

47 COMMENTS

  1. I have a black one in my garage with only 5000 miles, just kinda quit riding after I had kids. Thinking about selling but it’s so old now maybe just keep.

  2. Hi I have a 1993/4 CB1000F Naked bike, imported from the USA to New Zealand, I am after the following items, Radiator Guard, Engine crash bars,
    Any help appreciated
    Thank you
    juice471nz

  3. Well I just bought on December 1st 2014 a 1995 CB1000 (Big one), just coming up to 20 years old and with a FSH and a genuine 9,000 miles from new, it looks like it just came out of the show room! FYI I paid £2,000 for it (About $3,500 I guess depending on the current xchange rate), and it is just great, awesom acceleration with a top speed of about 130MPH, way beyond any thing legal in the UK so I guess I’m unlikley to max it out.

    Having started riding in 1968 on a Honda 50 (YES they did make motorcycles then…. ) I have progressed through various marks including a Honda 250K5, a CBR600F and a Shadow VT750DC and more latterly a Varadero. This came up at a decent price when you consider, having stored it lovingly for 10 years the owner decided to sell and for the price included a full re-commissioning service with a British MOT and a brand new, but never fitted, bikin fariing that I’m still deciding if I want to fit, or not.

    I’m just hoping that at 62 I havn’t bit off more than I can chew.

  4. “Apparently the marketing guys in Los Angeles had been right: Standards didn’t sell.”

    As a past owner of a 1994 CB1000, the marketing failure of most standards can be traced back to one glaring root problem, lack of power. I was disappointed with the anemic power and the lack of a tall sixth gear. I sold it to buy a V-max that had a great engine but I have always missed the style and comfort of the CB.

    Most standards are visually designed to emulate bikes that were the pinnacle of performance in their time but are tuned down and in the process loose appeal to the very buyers they target. Having bought new a GPZ 550 and a Eddie Lawson replica 1000R I love the look of these bikes. Honda missed the mark not importing the 1300 version that was sold in Europe as did Yamaha with the XJR 1300.

  5. Just came across your website when doing a search on the cb1000. I have 2 big one’s and love them. Might be lacking power but for the older guy that appreciates this type of bike they are perfect for low money. There’s a good website by a guy in England that’s worth checking out, it covers many things and if you want to convert to 17″ wheels, will save on type replacement as the 18″ are expensive. WebSite http://www.cb1000.co.uk.

  6. If anyone else has a 94 CB1000 in their garage please let me know. I have been looking for one in good condition for a while now. I am on the East Coast but will travel for a good one.

  7. in the article, Front wheel is 18″ not 17″. and next about brakes, rear caliper is single piston. I have it.
    So, you may edit.

  8. Personally I love my CB1000 ! Just sold my Ducati 1098S but kept the Big One (or Super Four, depending on where you’re at..) It fits me like a comfortable pair of shoes.. always dependable, powerful enough for fun and carves the curves just fine.. I don’t think I’ll ever sell it. I just wish I could find a new exhaust 4 into 1 to replace the aging stock one.

  9. Davo here .. Just purchased my CB1000
    for 2990 a couple of weeks ago .. Awesome
    reliable machine .. Comfort plus and a great cruiser…Honda you have to re release these
    beasts for certain clientele .. I’ve had Z50
    Xr80 klx250 yz80 . Rm250 Zzr600 Two vtr1000 firestorms and just sold zx14, but I
    Would part with this for double the price .

  10. I leave in Portugal, and I have a black 1993 CB1000 Big One for more then a year, now. It came with amazing upgrades, such as a single shock absorber in the back (Extremetech), instead of the two OEM ones,
    93 VFR 750 forks and fender, with Ohlins fork springs
    17″wheels from a 1992 CBR 900RR, with a 180 tyre wide in the back,
    CBR 1000f swingarm,
    a CB1300 (2012) tail light,
    Hornet 2002 headlamp, (now in black),
    crash protectors,
    ZXR 750 1993 rear fender and chainguard,
    the whole engine is painted in black and dark metallic grey.
    I add low profile mirrors, new small clocks, a Renthal low bar, small ( but decent) turning lights, etc….it looks amazing! And it rides really really good.
    It got me…I love it and I’m convinced this bike is the perfect blend of power and smoothness, of comfort and discomfort, it’s affordability is not matching the pleasure you can take from her (yes, her). It’s sexy and gentle like a kitty, but when it’s teased it releases a tiger’s burst of power that’s still controlable, like a tamed beast. When you go into town, the kitty shows himself again, purring through the traffic, light and easily.
    The 17″ wheels made the bike lower, easier to slow manoeuvres.
    If you have one think twice about selling it, in case another ride is still in your mind sometime.
    Oh, by the way, my bike before this one was, for 8 years, a 2006 MV Agusta F4 1000R full of upgrades, reaching a breathtaking 318km/h ( around 200 mph). So the Big One had a challenging task of convincing me it was worth the swap…
    I am in the right place, now, thank you Honda, and thank you guys for reading this testament aha.
    Greetings to all
    Ed

  11. I have a 1994 CB1000 (black)with 28T miles and in mint condition. Willing to sell or trade for a smaller Honda. Location is in St. Paul, Minnesota.

    • I own a’94 cb1000 but looking for a real nice original one. I also own a mint ‘89 Honda Hawk with only 6000 miles on it I could trade. I live in North Saanich BC Canada which could be an issue. Let me know.
      Rennie.

  12. I live in Belgium and had a Black 1993 CB1000, but sold it after “winning” 4 speeding tickets in less then a month.
    What a fool i have been…(on selling it)
    Good memories kept me longing for another one and 4 years ago i finally found a Dark Red 1998 model in mint condition with only 15 k miles.
    Happy ever since.
    John

  13. i live in london ontario Canada and i have a red 1995 CB1000F for sale with 6000 miles.

    extras include:
    factory Honda fork mount fairing from a CB1000F T2
    corbin gunfighter seat ( + stock seat )
    Yoshimura slip on ( + stock slip on)
    K&N air box filter
    progressive front fork kit
    dynojet kit
    V&H ignition advancer
    renthal bars

    ( includes all stock parts)

  14. Great bike.Love the great looking engine being out in the open. Plenty of power for normal use. Had 1800 when I bought it used and have only had to replace the fork seals and changed the oil. Very sturdy. Great country road cruiser. Just have to watch for vultures eating in the drainage ditches on a curve that fly up in your face.Glad they can fly out of the way before they impact your head! Wild life can definitely be dangerous.

    • Hello. I just purchased a 1995 CB1000 Big One yesterday and have only put a few miles on it. I’ve owned a 2014 Honda CB1100 since 2016. At 6 foot 1’” tall, the 1995 Honda fits me better than the 2014 model. I feel many similarities between the two despite the newer bike being fuel injected. The 1995 bike has a small fairing on it which might help it be a better tourer plus it has a much larger fuel tank. They are both beautifully made bikes and the 1995 one qualifies for vintage insurance coverage which will save me hundreds of dollars per year.

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