Bikes that make you go hmmm….Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird

Honda CBRX1100 9998 EngineCB-Net loves the quirky, weird and downright wonderful, so let’s have a retrospective look at Honda’s X11

We’re really going ‘hmmmm’ here at CB-Net today while we discuss the positives (or otherwise) of Honda’s X11…

Quirky is a word that could have been coined for this very machine. But what is it? Put simply, it’s a Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird with the later ‘centre pivot’ frame, minus the fairing and a fair few horses. It’s still got the linked brakes that puzzled road testers and divided owners of the original CBR1100XX and even the later CBR1000F, but – by removing the stylish Blackbird fairing – you’re making the bike itself not only a lot less functional, but fairly ugly, too.

But all is not lost: ‘handsome is, as handsome does’ as some people say. If that’s the case, then it did things well enough. The motor was a peach. You’ll get more vibrations from this four-cylinder than you do from the 1100XX (one less balancer shaft) and the power is down to around 120 ‘real’ bhp but that’s fine when you’re fairing-less and a gear short of the Blackbird.

Riding comfort was dependant on rider size. Some felt the clocks did a half-decent job of deflecting barely-legal motorway speed wind, while taller riders found it a bind, having their noggin blown about by the airflow. Likewise the bar/peg ergonomics are either ‘not bad’ or ‘wrist-achingly awful’ dependent on how long/short in the arm and leg department you were.

It handled OK – but the forks were modest affairs that today can be improved with thicker oil/new springs – and those linked brakes still confuse/disappoint/delight depending on your riding style and whether you even bother using the rear brake.

Honda CBRX1100 9998 front endWe’ve called the bike a real ‘hmmmmm’ machine as Honda must have too. It only lasted for a few summers before being kinda replaced by the much more attractive Honda Hornet 900.

More attractive? We’d say so and here’s where the X11 suffered compared to the opposition. Released in 1999, this was a time of some very attractive naked big bruisers. Think of the likes of the Bandit 1200, ZRX1100 and Yamaha XJR. In comparison the X11 was neither one nor the other: it wasn’t a retro like the XJR and ZRX, but then it wasn’t a parts-bin special using older tech (GSX-R1100 motor) like the Bandit 1200 did.

Looks weren’t helped by the bloated middle, where the beam frame had to wrap around the 1137cc motor: up front sat a bulky radiator with a strange vent at the top. The clocks were simple affairs:  red-faced (why?) with a single trip meter on it, actioned by a small, square and cheap-looking rubber reset button. Even a clean, simple single headlight couldn’t save the looks from being described as anything other than mundane.

Despite saying all this, if you’re the right size for the X11 or don’t want to do motorway miles and like the strange looks, then it could be the bike for you. It’s typically Honda ‘bullet-proof’ although some fasteners/bolts do suffer thanks to that lack of a fairing, especially if you ride in all weathers.

Honda CBRX1100 1999 cockpitPrices are surprisingly firm. While we’ve seen some for as little as £1600, most (with between 20 to 40k on the clocks) go for around £2500. Weirdly, you will see some fitted out with screens, luggage and heated grips – which begs the question ‘why didn’t the owner just buy a Blackbird?’

But, perhaps they just loved the X11 more? Find one, try one, perhaps it will work for you?

Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird Specification

  • Price: £6629 (Sep 1999)
  • Engine: 1137cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 16-valve four-stroke four-cylinder
  • Power: 140bhp (claimed) @ 9000rpm.
  • Torque: 86lb.ft @ 7000rpm
  • Front suspension: 43mm telescopic fork.
  • Rear suspension: Monoshock, with seven-step adjustable preload only.
  • Front brake: 2 X 310mm discs, Dual Combined Braking System equipped, three-piston calipers
  • Rear brake: 256mm disc, three-piston caliper.
  • Kerb weight: 253kg (claimed)
  • Seat height:  795mm
  • Fuel capacity: 22 litres.
  • Top speed: 155mph (est)
  • Colours: Yellow, Blue, Red or Black