It’s strange that Honda’s big bruiser can seem so forgotten alongside the likes of the mean green Kawasaki ZRX family and the pukka air-cooled Yammy XJRs, but they’re still great bikes! We took a look back at Honda’s CB1300.
You really shouldn’t call a bike ‘The Big-1’ should you? After all, what would your mates think down the pub? Picture the scene, if you will, it’s 1993 and the bike has just arrived on our shores and you’re in your local:
“Yeah, I’ve got a Blade, what do you have?”
“Me? Oh, I’ve got a Big-1.”
Rumour has it the name ‘The Big-1’ was soon dropped for the bike, as it was a registered trade mark of an American brand of toilet cleaner… Thank goodness for that, but the bike itself was pretty darned good, using as it did the motor from the CBR1000 and the overall look of a naked UJM. As good as it was, it didn’t really catch on over here, even with a new name the ‘Super Four’ and by 1997 the CB1000 Super Four was deleted in the UK.
For 2003 in came the CB1300, a bike itself that had been around in Japan since 1998. And the omens must have been good, as the project leader was Mr. Hara-san who had been with Honda since 1971 and therefore knew these bikes the first time round. He was also project leader for the CB1000 Super Four/Big-1.
The motor came from Honda’s (poor imitation) V-MAX, the X4. While the X4 was ‘quirky’ to look at, the CB1300 used the motor in a much more traditional looking plot all together: think CB750/900 on steroids. In fact, the colours often copied Honda’s former machines, too. With 2003’s UK launch, the bike got some upgrades ready to slot into the big retro naked marketplace alongside the Kawasaki ZRX1200R, Yamaha XJR1300 and Suzuki GSX1400.
In comparison to – say – the ZRX, the CB1300’s 1284cc lump may have lacked 10 or so bhp, but the instant grunt was there in spades. Meanwhile, Honda’s chassis engineers had done a brilliant job with the handling, knocking spots off the competition and hiding the CB1300’s 224 kilos with ease.
For 2005 Honda refined the CB1300 still further, adding the CB1300 S/A version, which gained a useful half-fairing with pockets and the reassuring option of ABS. Within a few years the original naked model was gone – which was a shame – and only the S model soldiered on. By 2010 (yup, a decade ago) the S model cost a whopping £10,375 new – a far cry from the 2003 naked bike’s price of £6649 on the road… Today’s contemporary CB1100EX (air-cooled) will cost you £9799. What price a CB1300 today? Well, let’s check out how it performs, first!
The big CB did seem to do things a little differently compared to its peers in the early noughties. Kawasaki could shift the R model ZRX all day long – especially in Eddie Lawson green. Like the CB, it was liquid-cooled but that didn’t put people off. It had the power on all its rivals, but you had to rev it in comparison and it sold well. Yamaha’s XJR was air-cooled and it too harked back to earlier models while Suzuki’s GSX1400 was a big bike but the handling was a bit off. All told, the Honda had the edge on them all…
Sadly for Honda, outright handling and performance wasn’t what drove people to buy these sorts of bikes it was often simply styling, or comfort, colour schemes or brand loyalty…
Overall the CB1300 is very reliable – it’s a Honda – but they are thirsty on fuel but this can be improved with a few dyno runs and a Power Commander. They also respond well to a full exhaust system or an end can. You’ll not only save a few pounds from the huge standard can going but it sounds so sweet… The bike did have a recall for an electrical issue that could cause engines to cut out or brake lights to fail and a couple of bikes had gearbox issues, but they are rare. Some owners would complain of numb hands due to a vibration issue too, similar to early fuel-injected Blades.
Despite being based on the original, simple naked sportsbikes of our youth, you got quite a lot on the CB1300. The analogue clocks had two LCD displays which included two trip meters, time, date, ambient air temp, stopwatch and fuel gauge. From 2005, the CB1300 had self-illuminating dials with trips, total trip meter, count-down trip, distance travelled, engine temp, stopwatch, ambient temp as well as date and time and a date reminder! Why? For the 2005-on SA half-faired version, two litre-sized pockets – of which one was lockable – added to the standard model’s impressive under-seat storage space of 12.4 litres which could hold plenty of stuff. With the CB1300, there’s also been space under the seat for U-locks, too. All of this made the bike pretty practical for a big naked.
Performance wise then the bike goes well and handles brilliantly. 110bhp even today is plenty to have fun with (and more than the air-cooled 1100cc Hondas we see today.) The motor redlines at just 9000rpm but you don’t need to go that high as it’s the chunky 86lb-ft claimed of torque kicking in at just 6000rpm which is what you’re aiming for.
If you’ve got the naked model then a fly-screen is a must for motorways – but we all know that’s not where the bike is destined to be. But it does help with neck strain above 80mph! Showa suspension is capable and the Nissin brakes came straight off the FireBlade of the time so were superb.
For those short in the leg department an update came in 2005 when the bike was released with slimmer side-panels which did help the shorter rider. Later a scalloped seat was 30mm lower to help still further. Engine feel was also improved in the lower rev-ranges thanks to timing and fuel-injection settings.
If we had to choose a version we wouldn’t – we’d look at two! The first nakeds were pure in form (and cheapest) and the later S/A model aped the colour scheme of the Honda CB1100RB of 1981, complete with red frame and gold wheels… lovely!
So what would we be willing to pay for a big chunk of CB love? Well, with prices of new bikes being what they are and with the likes of the ZRX still holding strong values, this is even having a knock-on effect with the CB-series.
You can find the first nakeds for as low as £2500, but they will more than likely have big miles on and will have needed plenty of TLC to survive a Blighty Winter or 10. Nearer £3000-£3500 sit the better bikes but the later half-faired machines with lower miles are still sitting around £4000 to £5000. Pricey, but still half the price of the current CB1100EX and better performing than the sexier 1100RS (£9999) and a third of the price of the fun and funky limited-edition CB1100RS ABS 5FOUR, of which only 54 will be sold at a price of £15,554. You pays yer money…
Honda CB1300 specification
- Engine: 1284cc, liquid-cooled, 16-valve, five-speed, inline four
- Power (claimed): 116bhp @ 7500rpm
- Torque (claimed) 86lb-ft @ 6000rpm
- Tyres: Front: 120/70 -17 Rear: 180/55 -17
- Suspension: Front: 43mm telescopic cartridge forks adjustable for pre-load only. Rear: Twin Showa piggyback reservoir shocks adjustable for rebound and pre-load only.
- Brakes: Front: Twin 310mm discs, with Nissin 4-piston calipers
- Rear: Single 256mm disc, Nissin 2-piston caliper
- Wheelbase: 1515mm
- Seat height: 790mm
- Wet weight: (dry claimed): 224kg
- Fuel capacity: 21 litres