In my early days of motorcycling I rode a CBR 400F. I loved that bike. To modify it I had installed clip-ons, a Yosh pipe and jet kit, and a set of rear sets that put my knees above my head. That bike was cool. It made me cool.
This little Honda, though, is lightyears better than my old 400F even without having any modifications. Oh alright, it\'s only 22 years better but in bike years I think that translates out to be about 186,000 years, so there. This new little Honda has conventional forks, an aluminum frame, and a reinforced aluminum swingarm. It has all the stuff that big sportbikes have, just all a little smaller. In many ways this bike is a baby twin brother to the CBR 900RR.
The CBR 400RR is as nimble as one would expect such a small bike to be but it is also very precise in its steering and is rock stable. My old 400 had the first of those features but very little of the second one. Going 100 mph on the old thing was an attention grabbing experience whereas that speed on this bike is of no event. Modern lightweight frames are designed to take giant horsepower loads of big bikes so it was no problem for the Honda engineers to make this bike\'s frame smaller, lighter, and still flex free.
The frame of this 400RR is so small that the rear shock had to be mounted on a steep angle, reaching up underneath the gas tank. By mounting the shock in that position they were able to maintain a low seat height which, with the bike\'s light weight, contributes to making the package so nice for women.
The neatest thing about this bike is that the redline on its inline four engine is at 14,500 rpms. At first it took me a little bit of encouragement to convince myself that going to that rpm wasn\'t doing a naughty deed, but once I broke myself of my self-imposed rev limiter, it was hard not to go there in every gear at every opportunity. What a great sound. It got me to thinking that this bike would be even more fun with a louder pipe. But I guess that might be a guy thing.
The gauges are mounted with the tach in the more prominent position which adds to the bike\'s sporting attitude. All of the controls are as usual for a Honda, which of course puts everything in the right place.
There are ram air intakes on the bike\'s upper and snorkels running down each side of the frame to the carbs, but they\'re there just for looks and are not part of a functioning system. It is just a 400 after all. On the practical side, there is an almost cavernous trunk underneath the passenger pad.
The detail on this bike that gets the envy of every sport rider out there is that the passenger pegs are retractable. Everyone knows how uncool it is to have passenger pegs when you don\'t have a passenger. With these things the bike looks like a single seater racer. Not only are they hidden from view to make the owner of the bike look cool to his biker friends, but when one of your buddy\'s mom asks you for a ride, you get to act like you\'d love to oblige but there aren\'t any passenger pegs.
The pegs have a little lock tab that is barely in view and, to lower the pegs, the tab is pulled out and then swung down revealing a peg. The peg then swings out into position and that\'s that. It takes about two seconds to deploy them.
This motorcycle is as fast as you\'d expect a 400cc bike to be and for many riders that might be enough -- it was for me once. The bike\'s taut steering and smooth power band make the thing one of the friendliest bikes I\'ve ever ridden. What it doesn\'t have in acceleration it makes up for in its quick and light handling and brakes that stop the thing like time was halted. It would be a blast to take this thing to a really tight road and leave the big boys behind. A really, really tight road maybe.
There weren\'t many curves where I rode the bike on the north side of Lake Ontario so, since I was in a foreign country on a borrowed bike it only seemed right to see how fast the thing would go. No? I wound the little bugger out in every gear as I came down a gently grade past a brick farm house, and just after I shifted into top gear at about 190 kph the engine died. Uh oh, I thought. I\'m in trouble now. The engine popped back into life after a few seconds so I decided I should return the bike before something worse happened.
After I returned I was talking to one of the people from Honda who mentioned that the bike had a high speed cutout switch at 190 kph. Ohhh. I admitted I had found it. For you Yanks, that comes out to 120 mph. If you\'re wondering why a 400 cc machine has a cutout switch and an 1100 machine doesn\'t, that\'s because this bike is built for the Japanese market and that\'s part of the regulations. Over there, riding a bigger bike requires a big bike license.
There isn\'t much to compare this bike to in North America because the manufacturers don\'t tend to bring in their little bikes. That\'s because nobody buys them. I liked this bike very much, a number of women like it, but that doesn\'t really add up to a market. Nearly every manufacturer has been burned trying to bring little bikes into our continent. But keep your hopes up, it\'s not the end yet.