In the late 1970s, Honda was struggling in motorsport, with long-distance racing being its only real area of competitiveness. However, one form of racing that was becoming more and more popular at that time was road bikes that had been modified. The company realised that this could be a form of racing where it could be successful.
It developed the CB1100R from the CB900F with the intention of creating a model for production-class racing. As such, it would need to sell a certain number of bikes to the public and these would have to be as close as possible to the specification of the bikes they needed for racing, hence ‘homologation special’.
So, in 1981, Honda released the CB1100R, the R denoting ‘Racing’. This was, fundamentally, a road-legal race bike; it used a 1062cc bored-out version of the air-cooled inline four cylinder motor from the CB900 it evolved from. It produced 115bhp and 72lb·ft of torque – not bad for the early 1980s. But it was the way it wore it that made it so special – the engine red-lined at 9500rpm and loved to rev yet developed excellent mid-range performance. It was mounted in a conventional steel chassis with front right-way-up front forks with air damping and twin shocks at the rear, with gas dampers and remote reservoirs to prevent the oil from overheating. Both ends were, of course, fully adjustable. The CB1100R was also the first Honda to use twin-piston front brake callipers, a development necessary for the track and it also featured an anti-dive system to maintain the bike’s attitude under braking.
There were three models of the CB1100R produced; the 1981 RB, of which just over 1000 were produced. The RC was introduced in 1982 and the RD in 1983, each with a run of 1500 necessary to qualify for showroom-class racing.
The bodywork was pure racer; the RB came with a round headlight, a ¾ length fairing and a single seat. The RC in 1982 came with a pillion seat but with a removable cover to hide it from sight and a full-length fairing to help high-speed handling. It also featured a square headlight, which carried over to the RD, though the fairing was cut short. It too kept the removable pillion seat cover and foot-pegs and was supplied in pearlescent paint with an aluminium fuel tank.
It was no surprise that, as a bike bred for racing but allowed on the road, it was a delight to ride. Handling was sharp, the bike cornering eagerly and nimbly and holding a line perfectly through bends yet allowing mid-corner adjustments as necessary. Its riding position was undoubtedly race rather than touring but many agreed that it was surprisingly comfortable for longer journeys.
Hot off the back of Honda’s CB750, the world’s first super-bike, the CB1100R was a huge hit and became one of the most desirable homologation specials of the era. It achieved considerable success, including wins in the Castrol six-hour race in Australia and production series across Europe.
This bike is one of an estimated 200 brought in to the UK and was originally sold to its first owner in St Hellier, on the island of Jersey, in 1983. It resided there for four years until it was brought back to the mainland, where it lived in Peterborough in Cambridgeshire, and was only ever used on the road. The current owner bought it at auction in early 2018, as it was; “The bike he wanted when he was 21”.
He immediately had the bike re-commissioned, including a full engine and chassis service, new tyres and re-fitting the original exhaust system. He then took the bike to the 2018 Isle of Man Classic TT races in August, one of the main reasons he wanted this particular bike and describes the CB1100RD as… “perfect for the trip. It rides so well for a 40-year-old bike – it's fast, it handles well and it brakes.”
He has used the bike for numerous other shorter trips – several a year – while the remainder of the time, it lives in his garage. Understanding the bike’s provenance, it is only ridden in the dry but at 6’2” and with arthritis in one knee, the owner now finds the riding position – not full sports-bike but more sports than touring – too cramped and cannot ride more than 100 miles without incurring significant discomfort.
As a result, he is reluctantly offering the CB1100RD for auction, to allow another rider the opportunity to enjoy its unique potential.
Not surprising for a bike of this nature, there is a significant amount of paperwork. There is, of course, the V5 document in the current owner’s name and attesting to just two owners prior to him. There is the bike’s original Owner’s Manual, a large stack of previous MoT certificates (an online check reveals it has not failed a test in the available history since 2006) and a significant number of bills and invoices demonstrating its service history throughout its life.
The CB1100RD’s bodywork is in excellent condition. It is, as the owner describes, a very nice original example and has not been overly restored. There are elements of its life and character about – stone chips on the leading edge of the fairing, for example and flaking anodising to the gold engine casings – but none that cannot be perfected should the new owner wish for a concourse example of the breed.
The fairings are intact and do not show signs of damage or replacement and, as the 1983 ‘D’ variant – the last of the line – it is finished in candy white paint, as opposed to the flat paint of its predecessors. The rear-seat cowl is in excellent condition and the pillion seat itself, like the rider’s seat, is undamaged. The owner suggests it has never been used and it would appear, from the amount of sun-fading on the rider’s seat compared to the colour of the pillion, that it has rarely, if ever, been uncovered.
The bike is currently fitted with white extended mirrors but the owner confirms he also has a pair of chrome-finished narrower versions and that he is unsure which of the two is the original specification. The new owner could, of course, choose which they prefer.
The bike is finished in the original Honda racing livery of red, white and blue and wears its original gold wheels. The CB110R Owner’s Club sticker is from the previous owner of the bike; the current owner is not a member.
Mechanically, the bike is in excellent condition. The owner confirms that everything works exactly as it should and that it is ready to be ridden immediately. It is presented with a current MoT – it is not quite exempt but will be in two year’s time.
The engine starts, idles and runs perfectly with no smoke while the – wet - clutch does make a rattling sound; apparently this is a very common feature of all Honda clutches from the era and it disappears as soon as the lever is pulled in. When the owner got the bike, it was fitted with what he describes as a “horrible” four-into-one exhaust system but he has retro-fitted the bike’s original four-into-two system with twin silencers and the bike now sounds original again.
The suspension works as it is designed to, with adjustable damping front and rear and a relatively low air pressure in the front forks to control the oil and remote reservoirs at the rear. The bike was fitted with new sports-touring tyres recently and these have only covered some 300 miles.
The battery was also replaced and the bike is connected to a battery charger/conditioner when stored in the owner’s garage. All dashboard and electronics work, as does the central oil-temperature gauge. There is a stick-on ‘Honda’ branded digital clock mounted to the inside of the fairing but this is simply on a small adhesive pad and can be easily removed. The bike is also supplied with its original toolkit intact, underneath the seat.
This is a motorcycle from a particular era built for a particular reason and both make it extremely special. It is one of only 1500 that were built and supplied worldwide and, according to the owner, just 200 that were originally brought into the UK. According to howmanyleft.co.uk, which uses government data, there are now less than 40 remaining in the UK; just seven are currently taxed, of which this bike is one and 31 models are SORN’d.
Not only is this an incredibly rare bike, it is also one with exceptional provenance; it is one of the few remaining road bikes that were not raced and crashed or blown up. It is no museum piece though its new owner could invest some time in perfecting it. If a concourse example is their desire, then some minor work would bring it up to that standard.
But life in a museum is not what this bike should be used for – just like the current owner, it should be ridden, probably to events just like the `Classic TT or similar, by riders who know how special it is and wanted one when they were new.
The only issue, of course, is that backs, knees and wrists are likely to be older than the bike and while it is ready to go immediately, the rider might need a little more limbering up.
** The photos in this listing have been provided to us by the seller **
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