While some early-20th-century motorcycles could handle triple-digit speeds, the first superbike coined as such was the 1969 Honda CB750. It wasn’t the first four-cylinder bike, or even the fastest bike at the time. However, it offered features never-before-seen on production bikes, let alone ones at that price point. But by the late 70s, it was starting to fall behind compared to bikes like Kawasaki’s Z1. So, to fight back, Honda released the six-cylinder CBX 1000.
Honda CBX 1000 specs and features
The 1979 Honda CBX 1000 wasn’t the first production six-cylinder motorcycle, Mecum reports. Italian brand Benelli beat the Japanese company to it with the 1975 750 Sei. But it wasn’t Honda’s first six-cylinder bike, either. Honda had made a name for itself in the 60s with six-cylinder motorcycles like the RC166. And the Honda CBX borrowed technology and knowledge from those racers, Motorcyclist reports.
The Honda CBX’s 1047cc six-cylinder delivers 103 hp, Motorcyclist reports, thanks to 6 carburetors, 24 valves, and dual overhead camshafts. Interestingly, a similarly-sized but noticeably lighter four-cylinder engine Honda tested at the time only made 5 hp less.
However, Honda’s engineers and management liked the appeal and sound the six-cylinder produced. Some have compared it to old-school Formula 1 car exhaust. It also let the Honda CBX top out at 135 mph, Iron & Air reports. That made it the fastest production motorcycle in the world, at least until the Suzuki Katana came out.
1981 saw the Honda CBX go from a standard into a sports-tourer, Rider Magazine reports. The resulting Honda CBX 1000 Super Sport came with an extensive wind fairing, hard-sided saddlebags, and an adjustable rear mono-shock. It also had upgraded brakes, with new calipers and, in front, ventilated dual discs. The front fork was also adjustable, using a special air pump that came with the bike.
Was the Honda CBX a genuine superbike?
In terms of straight-line speed and engineering complexity, the Honda CBX was a superbike. While the six-cylinder wasn’t exactly fuel-efficient, it was extremely smooth and sounded great. However, even considering its range-topping status, it wasn’t a sales success.
Part of the problem was the weight. With fuel and fluids, it weighed 600 pounds, even with several aluminum and magnesium components. Early models had it worse, Motorcycle Classics reports, due to a faulty ignition part that cut output to 85 hp. But though the problem was fixed, the CBX nevertheless earned a reputation for being heavy and unwieldy. The latter was due to its frame’s lack of rigidity, which Motorcyclist reports became especially apparent during American testing.
However, while the Honda CBX intimidated period riders, with modern suspension and tires, it’s fairly easy to ride, Motorcycle Classics reports. It can keep up with modern touring bikes, even on twisty roads. Jay Leno bought a 1981 example brand-new, and still owns and enjoys riding it. Plus, although the engine has a lot of moving parts, its air-cooled nature makes it relatively simple to work on. The trickiest part is keeping the carbs synced and cleaned.
Pricing and availability
When it was new, Hagerty reports, the Honda CBX 1000 retailed for the modern equivalent of $14,200. And for a time, the sports-touring superbike was extremely cheap. Just a few years ago, you could buy a good-condition one for less than $7000.
Unfortunately, those days have passed. Today, the average Honda CBX 1000 Super Sports costs $10,000-$15,000 on Bring a Trailer. A 1982 model still in its factory crate sold in May 2020 for $21,500. Another sold in 2018 for $28k, Hagerty reports. But as of this writing, there’s a 7000-mile 1982 model listed on BaT for $7500.
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