While the Gold Wing is Honda’s flagship motorcycle, the roots of its success in the U.S. and abroad reside in the CB series of bikes that were launched in the 1960s, primarily the 1969 CB750, which was heralded by many as the first superbike. Today the CB prefix is carried by Honda’s retro CB1100EX and its naked sports machines, and at the top of that heap is the CB1000R. Although designed primarily for the European market, the light and minimalist bike has proven equally good at commuting, slicing up back roads and even riding track days here in the U.S.
For 2018 the CB1000R gets a radical restyling inspired by the Neo-Sports Café Concept machine showcased at the Tokyo Motor Show last month. Engine changes offer more performance, and electronic enhancements like throttle by wire open the door to four riding modes (Standard, Sport, Rain and User), as well as adjustable engine braking and Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC, or traction control).
New all-LED lighting is capped off by the bike’s spacey horseshoe-shaped light ring inside the round headlight, which has 3.5-inch shorter overhang, while a swingarm-mounted rear mudguard (a first for Honda) contributes to a more compact silhouette. A burnished-aluminum radiator shroud and airbox cover plus machined engine cases, cylinder head and sprocket hub are new, and Honda says the flangeless tank provides plenty of knee room through cutaways. The riding position is more relaxed due to a higher, wider handlebar, and the mono-backbone steel frame uses split-tightening aluminum pivot plates to save 5.5 pounds. A Showa Separate Function Fork Big Piston unit (SFF-BP) up front offers reduced weight, and the CB1000R wears a 190/55 ZR17 rear tire vs. the 180/55-ZR17 on the previous model. Total curb weight is reportedly down as well.
For 2018 the CB1000R’s 998cc DOHC four-cylinder engine shares same architecture and layout as the previous-gen CBR1000RR, with forged pistons rather than cast. Higher valve lift, larger valves (8.5mm intake and 8.1mm exhaust), larger-diameter inlet ports and a new combustion-chamber shape improve gas flow and offer improved torque in the midrange. A 4-percent reduction in the gear ratios improves acceleration, and an assist/slipper clutch offers light lever pull and helps manage aggressive downshifts. A new 4-2-1 exhaust system boosts torque at 5,000 rpm and above, saves 10 pounds, and gives the CB1000R a deeper exhaust note.
In our last test of a 2011 CB1000R it made about 112 peak horsepower and 65 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheel, so if these changes deliver more urge and less weight the 2018 CB1000R should be an exciting ride indeed. It will arrive in dealerships summer 2018.