1981 Honda CBX Road Test - page 5

The saddlebags are another convenient design. In keeping with the sport image of the bike, they are not exactly cavernous but provide enough space for most of the things people need to carry on a weekend trip. They can be loaded or unloaded on the bike, hinging downward from double locking clasps, or easily removed by unlocking a small retaining rod on each side and sliding it backward. A folding carrying handle is built into the top of each bag. The finish on all the color-coordinated accessories on the CBX is first rate, and except for the pop-off locking compartment, the bags and fairing pockets were handy for running all kinds of errands around town, as well as traveling. Another standard add-on, a set of chrome case guards (we don't call them crash bars anymore) for the engine, is probably a good idea. Owners who have priced a set of crankcases will probably sleep better at night.

Pro-Link system on rear of CBX is a rising rate monoshock suspension; upward movement decreases leverage advantage of aluminum swing arm on pressurized coil spring and shock unit, increasing stiffness near and of travel.
The CBX handlebars, as in past years, are not really handlebars at all, but forged aluminum I-beams, one for each side. Though a bit higher than the bars on most sport-touring machines, they are fairly comfortable in relation to the seat and rearset footpeg position. A variety of sizes and shapes of riders tried the bike and none had any real complaints. Which is good, because you can't just lob another set of $19.95 bars on the bike. The individual handlebar beams have limited adjustment fore and aft, but their height is fixed.

The good-looking instrument panel has aircraft-like tach and speedometer faces, and voltmeter so you can see how the battery is feeling if electrical problems develop -- and the usual collection of idiot lights with that new member, the RR SUSP AIR PRESS light added. Handlebar controls are standard Honda, and no one had any trouble finding anything. Throttle pull is remarkably light, especially considering the chorus of valves being opened and closed.

The controls, fairing, bags and general styling of the bike all blend together in a unified, highly finished look. Smaller details like the aluminum footpeg brackets, the pegs themselves, the molding around the tailpiece, the black brushed aluminum grab handles beside the seat, the vaned brakes and a lot of nice engine detailingall show a polish and aircraft-like attention to material finish. We are told the styling work on the bike itself was done by Pete Nakano at Honda Research in Torrance, California. Nakano also did the styling on the 750F and the CX500 Custom. The fairing and saddlebags were designed in Japan, with cooperation from Nakano, and blend in with the basic style as well as you could hope for with accessory add-ons.

Casting techniques developed in Honda's automobile division provided knowhow for new ventilated stainless steel discs, clamped by dual-piston calipers. Air valve under right sidecover pressurizes ProLink monoshock with 28 to 57 psi. Air pressure provides large percentage of rear springing and is critical to rear suspension function.
Rear damping is adjusted by push-pull knob under right sidecover, with choice of three levels of rebound damping. Triple-tube backbone is wide and heavily braced; solidly mounted engine is a stressed member. Air cleaner and battery are easily accessible under seat.
Headlight beam is adjustable by knob inside fairing.

These added features, of course, all have weight. They represent extra pounds on a bike that was already struggling to keep its weight in the vicinity of 600 lb., mostly through the use of the lightest possible chassis components and magnesium pieces wherever possible in the engine. (The engine itself weighs about 240 lb.) The touring fiberglass, Pro-Link system, wider wheels, new brake discs, heavier fork tubes and a variety of other small changes have all driven the weight of the CBX up to 662 lb. with half a tank of gas, as compared with 605 lb. on the unfaired 1980 model.

While handling hasn't been hurt by the changes -- the new bike handles better, if anything -- but of course quarter mile times and top end are down compared with the bare bones version. The '81 CBX ran through the traps in 12.13 sec. at 109.84 mph with a speed after one half mi. of 124 mph. Our 1980 test bike did the quarter in 11.93 sec. at 114.06 mph and ran out to 129 mph.

In the real world of riding that isn't much of a loss, especially measured against the chassis improvements and the utility of the touring package. No owner of a new CBX is going to climb off the bike and shake his head, mumbling about the sorry lack of power and excitement. The bike can count itself among the small handful of machines capable of transporting a current license plate from one point to another about as fast as you would possibly want to go.

Quarter mile figures are not the end-all here. Few bikes can pass a slow-moving train of cars, trailers and campers on an uphill mountain road with such total impunity, then brake hard and dive into the next corner with such self-assurance. The combination of turbine-like power and effortless high speed handling allows the CBX to sift through slower traffic on winding roads with almost casual ease. In this sense it is a true GT machine. It will deliver its rider to his destination in reasonable comfort, regardless of straight or meandering pavement, minutes and hours sooner than the other poor mortals on the road have come to expect from their own, lesser machines.

The trade-off here is the undying attention and devotion of men who drive squad cars, the pain of transfering $5495 from savings to checking (or worse, from the Friendly 18½ percent Loan Co. to the dealer) and the pleasant confusion of attracting a small crowd wherever you park the bike.

But for the person, or persons, who like to travel quickly with a particular flair and style the cost of a radar detector, the loss of mere dollars and the occasional explanation of the bike's virtues are all worthwhile penalties for enjoying the sweet road music of six cylinders.

Previous page     Next page
PAGE: Home Tests 1 2 3 4 5 6