2019 Honda CB1000R Review

In the City – Los Angeles freeways don't suffer fools. Life comes at you 100 mph, last-second dashes across three lanes of traffic are a given, and ride to survive is more than just a catch-phrase.

The 2019 Honda CB1000R rockets up to freeway speed in two quick, seamless shifts. It’s Inline-Four responds blink-of-an-eye fast to the slightest throttle input, and the more aggressively you twist, the harder it hits. The CB1000R’s engine does, after all, carry CBR superbike DNA, albeit a generation or two removed, but thanks to forged pistons, increased valve lift, larger valves, and bigger diameter inlet ports than CB predecessors, it’s a lively platform. The powerplant has a sweet spot around 6,000 rpm in the middle gears and spikes again between 8,000 – 10,000 rpm. In 6th gear the CB1000R settles into its 6,000 rpm happy place traveling at a touch shy of 85 mph with plenty of roll-on at the ready. Navigating the matrix of LA’s 405, having the power to shoot gaps is reassuring as I soar through traffic like the Silver Surfer on the 2019 Honda CB1000R.

The crush of traffic inevitably grinds to a halt, a sea of red brake lights six-lanes wide stretching as far as the eye can see. Between the OHV and fast lanes a tunnel forms between cars, just wide enough for motorcycles to filter through. With my eyes focused on the distant horizon I aim the CB for the light at the end of the tunnel and sense the flow of traffic, hyper-vigilant for the hint of a front tire turning in or a car driver craning their head to look back. The CB1000R is ideally suited for splitting lanes, thin and compact, the only thing wide its 190mm backside. Two fingers are all the front brakes need to occasionally scrub off speed as the four-piston Tokico calipers are quick to respond and the front brake is plenty strong without being overly aggressive. The CB1000R’s riding position cants me a touch forward but upright, providing an advantageous vantage point as I knife through gridlock. The going’s relatively straight-line but on those occasions when a swerve is needed the bike is light, agile, and dodges side-to-side with nominal input at the bars. The gears have a wide range of power so I’m able to stay in 3rd for the most part because it easily picks back up from low rpm without lugging which serves me well in the grind of the 405.

Oregon Mountains and Green Springs Highway -

While the agility and power of the 2019 CB1000R are tailor-made for staying alive in LA traffic, I couldn’t wait to get it back to southern Oregon and let Honda’s streetfighter stretch its legs unencumbered in the mountains of my home turf. The CB1000R cuts through big sweepers like butter as Green Springs Highway winds its way up the mountain.  The motorcycle’s tapered handlebars and seating position make it easy to leverage the Honda into turns. Tucked in at a 24.7-degree rake angle, the front end is aim, point, and shoot. Big sweepers give way to tightly stacked blind turns and the 43mm Showa fork keeps the 17-inch front wheel tracking true. The CB1000R runs Showa’s SFF-BP front end (Separate Function Fork – Big Piston with rebound and compression damping in the left leg and preload in the right) with a healthy 4.3 inches of travel which does an admirable job keeping the Bridgestone pressed against the highway’s broken joints. Seasonal rains and snow often undercut this stretch and as the ground settles new cracks are prone to appear every time you ride, even in the summer. Near the top there’s a series of dips and S-turns that feel like a roller coaster and the combination of the bike’s stiff steel mono-backbone frame and firm rear suspension gives riders an intimate connection with the back end as it rolls over the dips. The CB’s footpegs sit plenty high and touch down only on the tightest switchbacks and even then they barely skirt the ground. While I don’t use the back brake often, when I do the brake pedal is small and sometimes it’s challenging to find. Used independently the single twin-piston caliper on the rear is a bit spongy. Luckily, the 2019 CB1000R has an extra safeguard in the form of two-channel ABS which is part of the standard package. As well-suited the CB1000R is in the city, its handling shined even more in the mountains of Oregon.

Touring the California Coast –

You learn a lot about a motorcycle on a road trip. When it came time to return the 2019 CB1000R to American Honda in Torrance, California, I opted to take it on a scenic trip down Highway 1 instead of shooting straight down Interstate 5, an adventure I chronicled here (Highway 1 Revisited: California Cruising on a 2019 Honda CB1000R). While I’ll defer to that article for this last segment, there are a few talking points to touch on. As light rains fell around Mount Shasta, the Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S21 felt a little slippery, particularly the front. The winds of NorCal whipped me all day long and I took a good bit of wind to the chest coming over the bars. Between the slightly forward lean of the ergonomics and the shape of the seat, it pushed me forward into the tank and by the end of the day I was a bit sore between the legs. Speaking of the 4.3-gallon tank, I got an average of 38.77 mpg and was gassing up around the 100-mile mark because the readout on the fuel gauge drops to a bar or two even though I had more than a gallon left. This resulted in me paying the highest price ever for a gallon of gas. Be sure to read the travel feature to find out how much! On a side note, mileage probably would have been even better if I hadn't strapped the CB down like a pack mule.

Small grievances aside, the CB1000R was a pleasure to ride. It’s got plenty of what you’d expect from a Honda, from its easy-to-modulate clutch to its slick-shifting gearbox. On the flipside, the CB1000R also has a bit of an attitude, from its raspy exhaust to the sporty single-sided swingarm to its sweetly styled flangeless tank. Its manageable power is a defining trait because it can be Dr. Jekyll smooth and Mr. Hyde unruly at a moment’s notice.