1980 Honda CBX Road Test - page 2

The CBX's six Keihin carburetors have also been given attention in the interest of reduced emissions, and the result is not all bad. Where mixtures are concerned, leaner is cleaner and since the 1980 CBX meets future smog limits, you can guess how little fuel is allowed to mingle with air. The accelerator pump's squirts take the hesitation out of the CBX's throttle response, but the overall mixture has been weakened and so has the engine. Honda also re-engineered the CBX muffler baffles, allowing the system's backpressure to complement the altered cam timing and carburetor jetting.

Stepping back to catch a complete view of the '80 Super Sport allows you to fully determine appearance changes. For starters, Honda reversed and blackened the aluminum ComStar wheel spokes, leaving their edges highlighted in silver. Red and black are the available colors; last year's silver and black combination has been discontinued. The all-black CBX coachwork and running gear showcases the immensity of the powerplant, which has no flat black detailing.

Bringing the six "up-to-date" are an airfork, a stronger swing arm that pivots on needle and ball bearings, a frame with more substantial gusseting, a wider rear rim, and Showa FVQ adjustable-damping shocks. All these component changes add to the Honda's high-speed handling capabilities, but the single most enjoyable components are the FVQs. Since they offer 30 different damping/spring preload combinations, a setting can be arrived at to please most everybody, and most all ride requirements.

The shock absorbers have 14mm shafts and provide for 3.9 inches of travel at the rear axle. Rebound damping can be adjusted by turning the three-position ring-dial at the top of each shock absorber with a special spanner; the compression damping can be varied by moving a two-position T-bar at the bottom of the shocks. These adjustment-controls move perforated discs inside the damper bodies. As each disc is turned, it brings successively larger or smaller holes into alignment with (compression or rebound) oil passages; in this way the oil flow rate is controlled, and the damping rates changed. Additionally, relief valves allow oil to bypass the galleys if the shocks are compressed or extended very rapidly.

None of the external adjusters, including the usual spring preload collars, can be turned easily by hand, and so those riders who want to experiment with the settings will use the spanner tool frequently. Beware of the compression damping T-bars and shock spring collars: all are very close to the mufflers, and the mufflers get hot. A convenient way to adjust the compression damping is to pull the T-bars with one end of the spanner wrench.

CBX owners who want to fiddle with shocks will discover that these units can be real learning tools. With a motorcycle that's as muscular and heavy as the CBX, you can tell the difference a couple of clicks in rebound damping makes. Even with the spring preload collars set up, when the shocks are dialed on their softest rebound setting, the rear tire spends a lot of time in light contact with rough pavement at 60 mph. On the other hand, when the shocks are set on their stiffest rebound position, the tire spends far more time in serious contact with the pavement. The differences which the settings make in the operation of shocks are quite apparent from the saddle.

Start whipping the CBX along a weaving, bump-laden road and you'll want maximum rebound damping. In the first place, the rear wheel will chatter much less under heavy braking. Furthermore, without the spring preload collars turned up and the rebound damping set on stiff, you may be treated to some incipient or minor wallowing in corners, especially on trailing throttle. On a very bumpy, winding road with considerable and sudden changes in elevation, the CBX was taut and stable, tracking well with good wheel control, when the spring preload collars were in the fourth (next to highest) positions and the rebound dampers were set on stiff. Regarding compression damping, we could detect no significant difference in the two positions, given our preference to riding with substantial spring preload.

Since backroad scrambling isn't everyone's idea of a fun time, many CBX owners who like to cruise the interstates will simply use the minimum spring preload with the lightest compression damping. In this mode the CBX gives the most luxurious ride it can manage. That's tolerably good - and a far cry from the early version's harsh freeway ride.

Cycle's first encounter with the CBX back in February 1978 left the staff underwhelmed by the original shocks. We said then that the things didn't belong on such a motorcycle; the new adjustables, thankfully, do. So too is the new air fork an improvement over its predecessor, which staffers regarded as a bit light-duty for a 600-pound motorcycle. Like the original version, the present model has 35mm stanchion tubes - hardly impressive considering that the 548-pound Suzuki GS1000 has 37mm pipes. Still, despite appearances, we couldn't detect any behavior on fast street rides that could be traced to fork flex.

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