Way back when big, naked fours were called standards, or just plain motorcycles, a handful of fresh-face engineers at Honda R&D were dreaming up something different. Something they wanted to ride. Working after hours and weekends without adult supervision, they called that bike the Big One. Senior management liked the idea, which evolved into the 1992 CB1000. When it came to America two years later, everyone with an aversion to cruel ergonomics and acres of plastic bodywork liked it, too. And unlike the average mid-’90s standard, there’s nothing standard about this one...
Forged-aluminum triple-clamps carry meaty, 43mm Showa cartridge forks, which hold the front axle in hinged, quick-release clamps. Twin Showa shocks came with natty remote reservoirs. A pair of über-rigid, 40 x 90mm extruded-aluminum main beams formed Honda’s most massive swingarm yet. Meticulously refined and exquisitely finished, the CB1000 is more than a stripped-down CBR1000 and a whole lot less as well, starting with the engine.
Though blessed with the same basic architecture as the 998cc four in its plastic-wrapped brother—oil-cooled alternator, gear-driven balance shaft and so on—the naked version got slightly less compression, milder cams and 34mm constant-velocity carbs in place of the CBR’s 38s. It also came with five speeds in its gearbox instead of six. Bolted into a double-cradle steel frame, the 582-lb. result is at least 30 lbs. lighter than an equivalent CBR1000F with 5.8 gallons of fuel on board, though it makes an underwhelming 97 ponies at 8500 rpm. Dead-smooth up to 100 mph, pure acceleration is disappointing. Our testbike’s 11.6-second quarter-mile at 113.6 mph was lackluster, even by mid-’90s standards. But if that doesn’t put you off, the rest of the bike is nearly flawless.
The 32-inch seat height is a bit tall if you’re not, but rider accommodations are exceptionally roomy. Suspension and brakes are superb when they’re fresh. It takes some muscle to stuff this much motorcycle into a tight corner, but precise steering and bank-vault stability add up to an XXL good time in the twisty bits. The big guy puts freeway gas stops 230 miles apart if you’re frugal. Maintenance chores are a snap: Screw-type adjusters make setting the valves every 8000 miles easier than the shim-under-bucket alternative.
Avoid one with obvious signs of abuse. Calamitous valve clatter can mean the cam-chain tensioner is going or gone. Hard starting or dim lights say the electrical system has seen better days. Beyond that, it’s as reliable as a summer sunrise all year long. MC
Typical Honda fit and finish, stellar chassis and brakes.
Atypical lack of thrust for a big Honda four.
Obvious abuse, valve-train noise, clogged carbs, feeble electrics.
Sixteen years after its passing, the Big One is still notorious.
1994 | $2750
1995 | $2980
2003 | $3500
Smaller and less elegant than the Big One by any measure, the 919 is a little quicker and a lot less visually appealing. But finding a clean used one is easier. And as a no-frills liter-class commuter, the 919 is also hard to beat.
2008 | $7700
And now for something completely different: Basically a naked ’Busa in tights and a cape, the King delivers superhero performance with each and every handful of throttle. It’s also capable of 10.1-second quarters at 139 mph. Introverts beware!
2003 | $3750
Call it the best naked bike of 2003. We did. The first-generation FZ1 looks big and dated parked next to the latest model. So? It’s more comfortable, more practical and a much better all-rounder, especially if you travel two-up.