Tanshanomi's Snap Judgments

Honda CBX

Fri, January 8th, 2010

Click image for larger view.

1979-1980 Honda CBX
It was never the undisputed heavyweight champ, and any modern 600cc sportbike will leave the Big Six wheezing in their dust. Even a mid-sized bike as unremarkable as BWM's utilitarian 800cc twin has comparable power and 100 lbs. less heft. But the CBX remains a legitimately impressive engine, smooth and refined by even modern standards without benefit of liquid cooling or fuel injection.
The stock bike handled okay for its time, but was let down by throughly conventional suspension components, including spindly 35mm for tubes that were never up to the task of the engine's mass or power output. The '80-'81 sport-touring models got beefier legs and a monoshock out back, but had even more mass heaped up top in the form of fairing and saddlebags. Combined with skinny tires, will not inspire confidence in modern riders.
The engine is breathtaking sculpture, and the original naked bike's chassis is the perfect frame for it—understated bodywork and no downtubes to clutter the view.
Worthy of Honda's reputation of reliability, and less fussy than anybody else could have made it, but not nearly as overbuilt as its contemporary four-cylinder liter-class bikes were. Rods blow if pushed beyond their limits.
That a 24-valve six was ever practical at all is remarkable, but still a very complex engine to maintain, and all those glorious valves and cylinders are now thirty years old: surviving examples should be considered show ponies, not draft horses.
The CBX inspires a sense of awe most superior bikes lack, but would not be my choice of daily driver.
Mystique and panache that transcend its hard numbers make the CBX oh-so-special. But ultimately, I want to gaze at it in a gallery or museum, not put one my garage.