Without doubts, it’s fair to say that the folks flying aboard the mighty big wing were fairly late to the modern retro bike boom. This is ironic considering that Honda was solely responsible for modernising superbikes through its legendary CB750 back in the late sixties – a piece of its history certainly worth revisiting.
Honda finally got to it when the base CB1100 was released in 2013, and updated later in 2017 whereby the sportier RS version pictured here was spawned alongside the base bike – now designated the ES. Only the RS version landed locally in early 2019, and it had a very established crop of rivals to square out against.
Under these circumstances, it was only natural for many to ponder if this Honda had a place in this segment at all. Having spent close to a week in its rather comfy hot seat recently, this Japanese alternative still has something to offer against its dominant Italian, German and British rivals despite its delayed arrival.
On the surface, the CB1100 RS is quite the looker to say the least, especially in the eyes of budding retro bikes enthusiast. In our tester’s case, the way its stealthy matte black base and contrasting chrome brightworks merge together in one elegant and muscular package sets its off rather well.
The 795mm-tall seat is welcoming and surprisingly comfortable to be on. Life behind the large 16-litre tank is pretty straightforward too as all the controls are where you’d expect them on the left and right of the bars. A sense of occasion – and perhaps nostalgia – kicks in with the way the analogue dials stand out front and centre.
Thumb the start button on the right and this modern retro’s ‘modern’ bits finally come to prime.
The electronic ignition and fuel injection system is the most obvious of which, followed by the essential readouts on the tiny digital screen that separates the analogue rev-counter and speedo dials, as well as the all-LED lighting.
Apart from this and its modern chassis hardware that we’ll get to in a bit, this Honda makes do without much of the electronic wizardries that many of its rivals pack. It is devoid of things like selectable ride modes, multi-level traction control or even a cruise control feature, thus making this a rather simple bike overall.
As you can probably guess, the CB1100 RS is no featherweight of a bike either, its hulking 252kg kerb weight is obvious as we got it in gear and going. Thankfully, the air-cooled 1,140cc in-line four encased within the chassis scaffolding isn’t a slouch, offering generous low-end grunt to get itself going in relative ease.
In urban conditions, the CB1100 RS can be a handful with its size and weight. Despite the grunty low-end, the four-banger does run out of puff in the higher rev band. Clearly, this isn’t a mill that wants to be pushed hard, favouring steady throttling and cruising above all else.
If cruising is your forte, then the good news here besides the powertrain’s nature for it lies in the suspension the CB1100 RS rides on. The Showa Dual Bending Valve (SDBV) front forks and gas-charged twin-tower rear shocks felt sublime for this task, both offering excellent damping and a fairly comfortable ride.
However, should things get a little twisty as they probably would on the Karak Highway, said suspension setup doesn’t feel too out of place either. In fact, the CB1100 RS can still be hustled through twisty B-roads leading up to places like Janda Baik if you wanted to, so long as you keep the pace moderate, of course.
Besides the suzzies, what adds to the CB1100 RS’s mild corner-carving talents are its anchors. This amount of heavy metal warrants something equally meaty, and it comes in the form of capable Tokico dual front discs and a Nissin single rear disc setup, not forgetting an ABS suite tying both together.
Weight aside, there are a few other niggles to live with, like the absent wind protection for a start. One recurring annoyance for us was the excessive glare reflecting off the chromed components, especially in the instrument panel’s surround. Arguably, this is all dismissible as part of this retro’s style and nature.
Above all else, what will put the CB1100 RS in the favour of any budding retro enthusiast is its rather accessible RM75,999 base price tag. Though not as tech-laden as the bulk of its rivals, this Honda’s straightforward and simplistic approach to this genre does hold its own draw, especially amongst those seeking true retro riding essences.
Cool looks, comfy ride and decent equipment list
A tad heavy and perhaps not the liveliest in segment to ride
RM75,999 (base price)