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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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 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.
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…
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)
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
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
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
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
Very rare and hard to find, most likely been thrashed and crashed. Parts are hard to find.
Still an affordable collector’s bike
Good performance and great brakes
Perfect historic racing bike