1981 Honda CBX Road Test - page 4

The CBX's cornering clearance is much better than the imposing width of the engine might lead one to suspect. Most big Fours have cylinder heads that are 4 to 6 in. narrower than the CBX's 23.5 in. head, but they are wider at the cases. The GS1100 Suzuki, for instance, has a cylinder head only 18 in wide, but the crankcase is only a fraction of an inch narrower than that of the CBX. The CBX, with its cylinders tilted forward at 33°, carries its crankshaft plane fairly high in the frame, and beneath it the sump tapers downward toward the centerline of the bike. This, along with a set of very tucked in mufflers and rearset footpegs, lets the bike lean over hard without grounding anything. When things do touch down, the footpegs hit first, and these have replaceable acorn nuts screwed to the bottoms of the pegs to take up the wear from dragging.

Saddlebags clip over bottom rail on bike-mounted frame and lockable sliding pin fastens them at top. Bags are rugged and nicely finished.

Most of the frame changes on the new CBX have been made to accommodate the Pro-Link suspension. Various attachment points were also changed for the redesigned seat and sidecovers and to fit a larger tool box under the seat so an air gauge for the suspension could be included. The tools, by the way are a step up for a Japanese bike; the wrenches now have polished heads, an actual box wrench is included, and the tools are stored in a leatherette bag. The swing arm is aluminum this year, rather than steel as before and the chain guard, for some reason, has been changed from black plastic to chromed steel. In a small detail improvement, the sides of the airbox are padded for knee contact, these pads probably intended mostly as heat shields, as the air box can get quite hot in traffic with all that heat being wafted back from the wide Six.

The triple disc brakes on the CBX use Honda's dual-piston calipers, and the front discs are a first for Honda; ventilated stainless steel rotors. Using casting techniques reportedly perfected by Honda’s automobile division, each disc is actually two thin discs joined by a web of inner cooling vanes. Whether or not they actually work any better than solid steel or cast iron rotors for the demands of the sporting street rider is open to dispute; the point is, they look trick, Honda figured out how to make them, they are the fanciest discs around, and therefore they belonged on the company's $5495 flagship.

Stopping distances from 60-0 mph were not exceptional for the CBX, though firmly in the ballpark for a bike of this size and weight. But in everyday riding they feel good and work very well. Only moderate lever pressure is needed to haul the bike down smartly for tight corners, and both lever and rear pedal have a solid, progressive feel, as though nothing is moving or flexing but the brake pads. Unfortunately, our front brakes developed a squeal after only a few hundred miles. The brakes were silent during really hard use but squealed under light lever pressure at moderate speeds and when easing to a complete stop. Honda has had brake squealing problems on a number of other models, and we were hoping that the CBX with its fancy new rotors might be immune.

We also hoped for a better seat. Hard unpadded seats are a traditional part of the sport bike ethic; the idea being you ride the bike on race tracks or tortuous roads where constant movement in the saddle is required, preventing any one spot from going numb. That, or you are supposed to be too preoccupied with cold sweat and looming disaster to pay much attention to the state of your bum. The CBX seat works beautifully as a sport saddle, allowing you to shift your weight easily and quickly in rapid switchbacks but on the long straight haul it begins to feel overly firm. Not outright painful, but just a bit too narrow and hard. (This criticism directed to the rider's portion; passengers had few complaints.) The seat is the single spartan element in the CBX's personality that prevents the Touring fron being 100 percent Grand.

Unless you mind the fairing. How much you like the CBX fairing will depend on past experience and point of view. Riders accustomed to full-coverage touring fairings, like the Windjammer or Gold Wing Interstate's, may find it a bit skimpy, while those raised on bare sport bikes or bikini quarter fairings will pronounce it a marvel of gas flow dynamics and Pullman car comfort. As sport fairings go, the CBX provides good coverage, but the windscreen is fairly low and streamlined and a good part of the deflected air passes through the vicinity of the upper helmet. Not a serious problem with a full-face helmet or secure face shield, but the wind will probably dry the eyeballs of those who like to ride in sunglasses and it tends to rattle the rivets in a loose visor or face shield. When the weather or air temperature becomes truly intolerable it is possible to slouch neatly out of the airstream into a pocket of tranquility behind the screen.

Revised cam timing, ignition give Honda's big Six better midrange for touring duties. Chrome case guards are standard. I-beam handlebars, air forks, handlebar-mounted fuse block, and easy-to-read instruments fill front end. Lockable fairing compartment cover on right side fell off when jarred by harsh bumps.

An unexpected bonus in air flow comes at the handgrips. Though they appear to be unprotected by the fairing, the grips get little blast because the built-in mirrors, though a foot or more away, seem to deflect air away from the hands. During the road test we were caught in a mountain snowstorm at 7000 ft. and survived without the usual frozen claw routine.

The fairing lowers also work very well to hold the engine heat around the rider's legs. And there is plenty of engine heat. Enough, in fact, that riders in warm climates may want to remove the lowers, especially when a lot of stop and go city riding is required. But for moderate-to-cold riding they are a welcome accessory. The upper fairing has a couple of nice convenience features. There is a headlight adjusting knob on the inside of the fairing, just to one side of the steering head, which can be reached when seated. The fairing also has two sidepockets with removable covers; one opens with a knob and the other is lockable, so valuables can be stored on the bike. Unfortunately, the lockable panel on our bike refused to stay locked and popped off the fairing twice when we hit bumps in the road. Fortunately we caught it both times before it slid off the fairing. Under each cover is a tray insert, so small items can be kept handy, rather than rattling around lost in the forward hold.

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