Honda CB1100R RB: Retro Ride
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Honda CB1100R RB: Retro Ride

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By JeffWare - 21 December 2020

Words & Photography: Tony Wilding & Jeff Ware

In 1980 Honda had an obsession with winning production bike races, and still has for that matter. Back in the 80s they needed to build a bike to fulfil that goal and the CB1100R certainly did that. With the various rules and regulations in place restricting what could be done to a standard production bike, Honda set about the very expensive task to build a race bike that would not only meet those rules but push them to their limits, right off the showroom floor.

At 235kg, the CB1100RB was no lightweight despite exotic materials used throughout

To be eligible for racing, 500 CB1100R’s needed to be made – Honda exceeded this by producing 1050 of the first CB1100R ‘B’ models, with a limited number being built for the Australian market with no fairing, as is the case with this bike. The result of this new race-built bike was Honda literally blew the competition clean into the weeds.

Early Australian models had no fairings and are very rare
The unmistakeable ducktail and tank of the CB1100RB

The bike was based upon the CB900F, which at the time was Honda’s supremo model. The 901cc 16-valve motor was bored out to 1062cc as well as a massive increase in the compression ratio, from 8:8 to a very high (for the time) 10:1, which gave the CB1100R 115 ponies to play with. Even by today’s standards some 40 years later – 115hp is impressive…

1050 of these were built, with a limited number coming to Australia

The in-line four-cylinder motor was coupled with four 33mm Keihin carburettors that produce extremely smooth power and plenty of torque, especially in the mid-range where it was most needed. 

Bore out to 1062cc, the CB900 engine was a proven winner
33mm Keihin CV carburettors gave super smooth fuel delivery

With all that power on tap, the engine internals needed to be strengthened to take the stress. This included new crankcases, a wider primary chain, stronger conrods, forged pistons, race camshafts and an upgraded close ratio gearbox.

Four-into-one mild steel race exhaust system

Honda used the CB900’s existing chassis as a base but used a better-quality steel, they also made the frame one-piece, to improve torsional strength, as opposed the CB900’s removable down tube, which made servicing easy.

The big 1062cc air-cooled, four-stroke, four-cylinder, DOHC, 4 valve-per-cylinder donk
Magnesium engine covers to save weight were serious kit
 

The front forks were pretty trick and featured large 37mm legs, you could also fine tune the air pressure in the suspension for better handling, with both forks being linked via a small hose to balance the air in each leg.

Air assisted forks were very popular in the early 1980s
 
Fully adjustable twin rear shocks were something very rare in the period. Trick stuff…

At the rear, the CB1100R was treated to state-of-the-art shocks, which had compression and rebound damping, as well as a remote reservoir to reduce the heat build-up, from overuse in race conditions.

The brakes were a ground-breaking first for Honda with the use of twin-piston calipers; these were squeezed onto large 296mm rotors.

The brakes on the bike were sensational and needed to be as the CB1100R was no lightweight at 235kg dry, and this was with magnesium side casing and the extensive use of alloy around the bike, such as the fuel tank.

The brakes had an upgrade in 1982 to include anti-dive
Very loud muffler, this looks like a Tranzac pipe of the era

The brakes were a ground-breaking first for Honda with the use of twin-piston calipers; these were squeezed onto large 296mm rotors. At the back a single twin-piston caliper was used to complete the setup. By all accounts, the overall effect was impressive to say the least.

This bike was a true production racer available for the streets

The bike went on to become a classic milestone for Honda, not only was it the fastest bike in production at over 230km/h, it was also one of the first true mass-produced homologation bikes by a major manufacturer and had great success here in Australia…

Six speed close-ratio gearbox and alloy footpeg mounts
85kw[115hp]@9000rpm and 98Nm[72-lbs]@9000rpm

RACE VICTORIES

1980: Castrol six-hour race (W Gardner/A Johnson)

1981: MCN Street Bike series (Ron Haslam),

1982: MCN Street Bike series (Ron Haslam), Castrol Six-hour race (W Gardner/W Clark)

MODEL UPGRADES

1982 RC (1500 made)

  • Full fairing for better high-speed stability
  • Upgraded forks for improved handling – larger tubes and anti-dive
  • Wider wheels, vented rotors and braided lines
  • Red, white and blue in colour
Aluminium fuel tank with a whopping 26L fuel capacity for racing

1983 RD (1500 made)

  • Modified top fairing to meet new race regulations
  • Engine covers gloss black
  • Upgraded clutch
  • Rectangular steel swingarm
  • Matt black exhaust
  • Pearl Red, White and Blue
Conventional cable-actuation wet clutch for reliability

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Obvious race damage, such as repaired fairings, re-welded frames and scraped side casings. Also look for engine wear like low compression, blowing smoke and rattly cams

COST OF LIVING

New price: $5699

Used price: $10,000 to $25,000

The CB had a top speed of 230km/h, incredible for the era 

SPECIFICATIONS

Colours: Red/White (Red/White/Blue RC and RD models)

Engine: 1062cc air-cooled, four-stroke, four-cylinder, DOHC, 4-valve per-cylinder

Claimed power: 85kw[115hp]@9000rpm

Claimed torque: 98Nm[72-lbs]@9000rpm

Dry weight: 235kg

Fuel capacity: 26L alloy tank

Chassis: tubular steel

Suspension: 37mm telescopic air adjustable forks, rear: twin adjustable shocks with compression and rebound

Brakes: Dual 296mm rotors with twin-piston calipers

The Gold engine covers are a trademark of the gorgeous 1100

THE BAD

Very rare and hard to find, most likely been thrashed and crashed. Parts are hard to find.

THE GOOD

Very desirable

Still an affordable collector’s bike

Good performance and great brakes

Perfect historic racing bike

Protect your motorbike. Call Shannons Insurance on 13 46 46 to get a quote today.