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Honda CBF1000 – Call It What You Want (Review)

Do knobbies and remote country an adventure make? Well, of course. But, there are other kinds of adventure, for which Honda says its CBF1000 is eminently qualified. 

Please bear with me here as this is going to take some explaining. According to Honda Canada, the formerly Euro-only CBF1000 you see here is an adventure bike. Yep. The new CBF even shares a dedicated web site ( filled with ride suggestions and all sorts of traveling tips with the also-new-for-Canada Varadero. The thing is, most of us just don’t see an adventure-class motorcycle in the CBF1000. Warren Milner, Honda’s head of all things motorcycles for our country, makes his case.

“You don’t absolutely need what’s now commonly called an adventure bike to go on a motorcycle adventure,” he says. “Pick a destination on a map, even one that’s across the country and involves some bad or unpaved roads, and the CBF1000 will take you there. Comfortably, reliably and pleasantly. That also qualifies as an adventure.” Milner has a point: you don’t have to cross Africa to call your ride an adventure. But, the fact is, the kind of riding he describes is supposed to define BMW GS, Suzuki V-Strom or Honda Varadero territory. Not CBF or Bandit excursions. Still, he insists the CBF will do it. Well then, there’s only one way to find out, isn’t there?

TO DEMONSTRATE WHAT BOTH ITS NEW-FOR-CANADA (AND SOLD JUST through Powerhouse Honda Dealers) Varadero and CBF1000 are capable of, Honda called the country’s motorcycle press to Mont Saint-Anne, Québec, which happens to be my backyard. From there, we’d head a few hundred kilometres away to Hotel Sacacomie, a unique and splendid log cabin-style resort nestled between lakes and mountains. While mostly comprised of bumpy secondary roads, our itinerary also included some unpaved sections, on which I fully intended to ride the CBF.
Even though I’d never even sat on one before, the CBF1000 somehow felt familiar and comfortable right from the get-go. Easy to sit on because of its relatively low (and three-way height-adjustable) seat, light, compact and generally looking as intimidating as a garden chair, the CBF1000 seems like the embodiment of the unassuming, reserved and function-driven do-it-all motorcycle. That’s because it’s what Honda intended it to be in the first place: the CBF1000 is a model purpose-built for the European market where it’s sold as a user-friendly, all-around, no nonsense, real-world conditions litre-bike. It’s built mostly from existing and established components, such as the frame, which is very similar to the CBF600’s and the engine, which is a heavily retuned version of the 2006 CBR1000RR’s.

Producing a few horsepower short of 100, the inline-four’s whine and eagerness to pick up revs will feel very familiar to any CBR1000RR owner. But the way it delivers its power is totally different.With the CBF1000, it’s all about low- to mid-rpm torque, not just about high-rpm rush. Redline is set at 10,000 rpm, down from over 12, 000 rpm on the CBR, putting even more emphasis on low revs. Which is just fine as this engine is without doubt one of the torquiest 1000cc inline-fours ever produced.Too often, “retuned for low-end torque” just means less power with barely noticeable low-rev improvement. Not so in the CBF1000’s case. Strong acceleration is available as soon as the clutch is released, with a really fun push starting as low as 2,000 rpm. Each graduation of the tach brings even more satisfaction to the rider and by 5,000 or 6,000 rpm, the CBF’s engine flat out impresses with its strength. With power flattening out somewhere above 8,000 rpm, there’s no real benefit in stretching gears all the way, especially as the engine is pleasantly smooth in the lower two thirds of its rev range, but becomes slightly buzzy approaching redline.

As much as Honda got it right with the spread of power, it also nailed the accessibility of the CBF1000. We’re talking about a litre bike that could as easily be recommend to an inexperienced rider as it could to a lifelong motorcyclist.In terms of absolute numbers, full throttle acceleration isn’t stellar on the CBF1000, but the bike more than makes up for that with extremely friendly and usable power, which means satisfaction for the more experienced riders and accessibility for the others.Physically, everything seems to fit the rider well. The riding position is sporty but never extreme. Legs are reasonably bent, the torso is straight and the rider’s hands bear no weight. The CBF1000 adds to that welcoming environment with a wonderful chassis that seems to make any maneuver an instinctive exercise. Whether it’s making your way through congested city traffic or dissecting a twisty back road, everything feels easy, solid, precise, sure, and without any of the nervousness often inherent to full-on sportbikes. Combined braking, along with standard ABS, work impeccably.

Doin’ time aboard the CBF1000 is just as easy. While not exceptional, the seat is very good. Taking a passenger along is perfectly doable without fear of conflict 10 km into the ride. Wind protection is well thought out, featuring a screen that can be adjusted in two positions. Suspension is really impressive—aside from a slight harshness at the the back on severely damaged roads, the CBF1000 soaks up just about anything. With winter and frost barely behind us at the time of the launch, a huge portion of the roads we rode on were very bumpy—enough to make any sportbike rider want to avoid them completely. The CBF was essentially as rideable in those conditions as the Varadero, which is saying a lot. Speaking of rough conditions, I did check Honda’s claims and took the CBF1000 for a few kilometres on a dirt road. On hard-packed sand, rocks and dirt, I have to say it more than held its own against the Varadero, which, again, is saying a lot. Lower and lighter than the Varadero, the CBF at times felt even easier to ride than the “real” adventure model. This being said, the CBF1000 is obviously not a dirt bike and repeating the experience in a muddy or rougher environment would quickly expose the bike’s off-pavement limitations.

SO, DOES THE CBF1000 TRULY QUALIFY AS AN ADVENTURE BIKE? Well, that all depends what you call an adventure, doesn’t it? If you need knobbies and uninhabited territory for your ride to be an adventure, then the answer evidently is, no, the CBF1000 won’t do it for you. But if adventure just means leaving home to discover a new place or a new road, and if this means riding for a whole day or a whole week, then the CBF would indeed be a mount of choice. Of course, the argument could be made that if this is true for the CBF1000, then it is also true for a number of other “streetbikes.” And it would be a very valid argument. In the final analysis, the bike Honda brought to the Canadian market is an extremely competent, polished and friendly do-it-all motorcycle. Whatever you want to call it above that is fine with me.

Bertrand Gahel, Canadian Biker 2008

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