Motorcycles

Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird - buying used

Honda Blackbird - click for larger image

The King is dead, long live the King... Which king? The holder of the world's fastest production bike title, the Honda Blackbird, now that the Suzuki Hayabusa has whipped past with an extra 20kmh up its sleeve.
However the 'Bird still has a hell of a lot to offer anyone looking for a quick and civilised sport tourer.

History
In 1994, word slipped out that Honda was in the throes of putting together a monster road bike ? something pitched at booting Kawasaki's awesome ZZ-R1100 off the top of the performance hill.

It wasn't until 1996 that the bike saw its international launch at the Paul Ricard GP track in the south of France ? it took till 1997 to reach our shores.

Certainly the straight line urge was there, with 164ps claimed at 10,000rpm to punt along a relatively slim 223 kilo lump.

We got to see the one and only upgrade model last year (1999), when the bike picked up some minor cosmetic changes, altered linked brake system, redesigned air intakes and fuel injection in lieu of the previous carbs.
There's no official word on a Blackbird replacement, however there have been rumours of a V6 in the near future.

On the road
Late last year (1999) Australian Motorcycle News ran the injected Blackbird and the current Hayabusa down an airstrip for some top speed runs. With a modest tail wind, the Honda scored 287kmh and the Suzuki 311kmh, measured with properly calibrated radar gear.

In the real world the Honda is the smoother of the two bikes and better finished. It's also a big step ahead of the ZZ-R1100 when it comes to the chassis.

The linked brakes are a bone of contention. Some like them while others are much happier without. In the switch-over to the 1999 model, the brakes went into their third generation and became unobtrusive to the point of being almost undetectable.

Power is ample by any standard, though the carbureted models suffer a stronger than expect dip flattening off in the midrange delivery. A stage one Dynojet kit can do a lot to reduce that tendency, while it was mostly eliminated with the introduction of injection.

Overall the bike is very comfortable, with a particularly smooth powerplant, relatively plush suspension and a ride position that offers sufficient room for tall people without resorting to a high seat. It's pretty hard to beat as high-speed solo backroads cruiser. Pillion legroom is not the best, thanks to the mufflers.

It's less adept on the track, where the linked brakes are a hassle and the machine runs out of cornering clearance. Lower fairing panels will scrape, along with the usual underpinnings. A Fireblade would be a better proposition if track days are your thing.

In the workshop
The layout of the Blackbird is reasonably conventional. Perhaps the best news for prospective owners is that the machine has recommended 24,000km valve shim service intervals that are now typical of big Hondas.

That means it's as long time between visits to the workshop so long as you are prepared to change the oil and filter yourself, plus keep an eye on things like coolant and brake fluid.

Getting to the oil filter is fiddly, requiring removal of a couple of a fairing panel and access to a very small oil filter wrench. If, like me, you don't have the right wrench, you can spear the old filter with a screwdriver and spin the new on by hand. The latter assumes you have the strength to tighten the filter by hand. There's nothing technically difficult about the whole operation, but you do need to be patient.

The extensive bodywork means that many such relatively minor tasks can take time, though. Fortunately access to basics like rear suspension adjustment is easy.

So far the powerplants have proven robust. They should remain that way so long as the oil is kept up to them, as there aren't many places where you can cut loose their full performance potential.

Which model?
This may depend on your budget. The 1999 X model is undoubtedly a better thing, although it's about $3000 more than the first model.

The carbureted machines are the choice of the few nutters who have gone in for serious engine modifications.
Listed at $12,800 by Glass's Guide, a good example of the first model offers an awful lot of performance for the money.

Improvements
The Dynojet conversion on the carbureted bikes mentioned earlier seems worthwhile. From there we'd keep it to a minimum.

Yoshimura, Two Brothers and Hindle are among those who make performance pipes for the carbureted model, though we'd be checking for dyno results before buying. Frankly, we wouldn't bother as the stock pipes are stainless steel and the existing performance is more than ample.

Suspension upgrades are worth considering as the miles build up, given the machine's performance. We're hearing good things about Goldtech front end upgrades and have always liked WP Racing fork spring conversions. On the rear, a decent rebuild should be fine, or look for something from Koni, WP or Ohlins, depending on the budget.

The black bike in these pics is sporting a set of Corbin panniers from the USA, Blackbird with Corbin Pannierswhich are distributed by Kenma Agencies and retail for around $1500. They're good bags, though substantially more expensive than the boxy Honda offerings.

Useful contacts
South Africa hosts a brilliant Blackbird resource at http://www.blackbird.co.za We can recommend joining the Honda Riders Club of Australia (via your local dealer) for its regular sponsored ride days, newsletter and rally.

Quick specs
Engine:  Liquid cooled, dohc, 16-valve, 4-stroke 
Capacity:  1137cc 
Power:  164ps@10,000rpm
Dry weight:  223kg 
Tyres:  Front: 120/70x17, Rear: 180/55x17 
Seat height:  810mm
Fuel capacity: 24 litres (injected), 22 litres (carburettor) 
Detailed Specifications

GLASS'S PRICE GUIDE 

1997 - $12,800(V), 1998 - $13,500(W), 1999 - $15,200(X). New $17,090 + ORC 

(Note: Glass's used values are a guide only, assuming a machine in good average condition for its age. (Note: all prices were current in early 1999) 
Guy Allen


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Article by Guy Allen

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