|GS1100 vs CBX - page 8|
Presumably any large displacement street bike will serve time as a tourer, eating up miles on the wide-open super-slab and gliding along little-used back roads. Both the CBX and the GS1100 have more than enough power and torque to launch themselves effortlessly past slow- moving trucks, even when touring with luggage and a fairing. As we'd already found out at the dragstrip and on the back roads, the Suzuki has a slight edge in acceleration and torque, but both these superbikes can pass as quickly as anything on the road.
However, there's more to touring than how fast you can get around laboring moving vans. Other considerations on those day-long jaunts or month-long cruises include comfort, fuel mileage, maintainability and reliability. On our long cruises on Southern California highways, we soon realized that neither of these machines has first-class accommodations for the long-distance road rider, although the Suzuki is better. Within 50 miles on its hard saddle, the CBX had us squirming around, wishing for more padding. The Suzuki's saddle was better; it took about 100 miles before we began to shift around, trying to put the pressure on different parts of our buns. The 1100's seat is not nearly as good as the seat on the GS1000 or GS850. Thankfully, neither the CBX nor the GS1100 has a seat with a big step, so riders of different sizes can all find seating locations which fit their builds.
We had no complaints about footpeg location or handlebar bends. In the case of the CBX, you'd better like the handlebar shape since it doesn't use conventional handlebars. Instead it has alloy forgings which clamp around the fork tubes like clip-ons but above the top triple clamp. These bars' locations are fixed by pins, but there is some leeway for adjustment. If you don't like the bend or height of the stock bars, there's only one expensive alternative: the lower European bars available from Honda dealers in the GP kit. We know of no one making replacement CBX bars.
The two bikes are about even in vibration. Some vibration reaches you through the CBX's handlebars when cruising at steady speeds, but it is much smoother than the 1100 during acceleration and at high rpm. The GS1100 is smooth at cruising speeds but buzzes noticeably during acceleration and annoyingly above 6000 rpm.
The GS1100 had a definite edge in ride quality. When set up with its softest damping and preload settings, it insulated us from the constant bump-bump-bump of the seams in concrete slab superhighways and from other small road irregularities. However, even with stiffer settings the Suzuki's rear suspension did bottom occasionally on large bumps, especially when carrying a passenger or during cornering. The CBX's suspension never bottomed, but it did transmit all the small bumps to the rider, even with the softest suspension settings. This becomes uncomfortable after a while, especially with the hard seat.
Neither bike has any noises to irritate you or any odd bulges to prod you. Both have light throttle return pressures for long hauls, accurate 85-mph speedometers for the sake of your driver's license and bright H-4 headlights for night riding. However, the pattern cast by the Honda's round beam seems superior to the Suzuki's rectangular beam.
We averaged about 39 or 40 mpg while touring on the CBX and about 44 mpg while cruising on the GS1100. That means that the Suzuki (at about 220 miles) offers about ten miles more range during steady-speed touring, despite having 0.3 gallon less fuel capacity than the Honda. Suzuki says they may offer the European GS1100 tank, which holds an extra gallon, as an option. The CBX has a conventional reserve system, but the Suzuki has no reserve. In fact, it doesn't really have a petcock. The 1100 has a vacuum-operated valve in place of the old petcock. There's no handle on the petcock, but inserting a screwdriver blade into a slot and turning to the "pri" position allows fuel to flow to the float chambers if the bike has been out of use for a while. Suzuki has followed the path of Volkswagen, introducing a fuel gauge and retaining the reserve system for a couple of years thereafter. Now there's just a fuel gauge. If you don't trust that, you can always use the old slosh-and-listen technique.
Both bikes have chains, which may worry some potential buyers who want to go touring frequently. It wouldn't worry us. The massive 630 chain on the Suzuki didn't stretch significantly in over 1000 miles of strenuous use. Honda says their 530 chain, which replaces the 630 used on previous CBXs, is stronger than the old chain, thanks to better materials, as well as being lighter and quieter. It didn't stretch either.
Since both bikes have electronically-triggered ignitions, you won't have to check timing on long hauls. CBX valve adjustment requires shims, but no parts are needed to adjust the GS1100's valves. The 1100 also has eight less valves to worry about during maintenance. Honda boasts a bigger, stronger dealer network it you ever have on-the-road problems. The only problem we had with our CBX was a low-speed miss on one cylinder, apparently caused by a stuck float. It cleared itself up about the time we were getting ready to investigate. That's one of the drawbacks to six carbs - there's that many more chances to have a carb problem.
The Suzuki confronted us with several small problems in addition to the grabby front brake. One of its fuses blew, disabling the turn signals and headlight. This was easily repaired since it was one of the fuses in the regular fuse box under the left side panel. (There's also two in-line fuses in the headlight.) Getting at the GS1100's fuses is slightly easier than getting at the CBX's, which are on the top triple clamp under a screwed-down cover.