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Honda CB900F Hornet - review and obituary

Discussion in 'Bike Reviews, Questions and Suggestions' started by Loz, Feb 1, 2007.

  1. I did about 45,000k on my CB900F2 before highsiding it straight into the bin last month. I look back on that bike with fondness.

    When I first test-rode it at a HART tryout day, I was already sold on a VFR or CBRXX. The squat ugly bastard naked thing over in the corner just hadn't been booked for a test ride that session and I managed to nab it for a lark after sweet-talking the stand babe.

    I came back from that test ride in a terrible dilemma; I hated the looks of the bike, and found it deeply undesirable, but it fit me absolutely perfectly and I knew immediately that it was going to be my next ride. I swore at my misfortune and muttered my way off to bikesales.com.au to pick up a second hand example.

    I found a beauty - it had all the expensive bits I'd have wanted to add (centrestand, screen, oggy knobs, staintune exhausts) and was brilliantly cheap for the mileage.

    The guy I bought it from told me he was a HART instructor who rode it down the freeway to work each day. It took me over a year to discover he hadn't been entirely truthful; I saw my number plate on the back of a press biatch test bike in an ancient AMCN I was thumbing through on the crapper. The poor girl would have had a pretty tough early life at the hands of the road testers.

    What constantly impressed me about the bike throughout the time I had it was its ability as an all-rounder.

    - I toured tens of thousands of k's on it without incident.

    - I took it to the racetrack and made bitches of a couple of superbikes (in the novice group ;)).

    - I stoppied it on the approach to every red light, and wheelied it at the slightest whiff of opportunity, to the applause of slack-jawed young kids and the disapproving grimaces of boring c*nts in four different states.

    - I commuted on it daily, splitting lanes and dodging cars with a low-speed agility that sportsbikes just couldn't match.

    - I throttled the bollocks off it around my favourite scratching roads, leaving trails of sparks as the peg feelers, then the pegs themselves, ground away.

    - I occasionally took it offroad, including one afternoon spent jumping and sliding it around a BMX track for shits and giggles.

    Every road bike is a compromise, but I'd be hard pressed to name a better all-rounder than the CB900. For the price, it's an amazing deal. The engine is just so easy to use, smooth and powerful from 2 grand to the redline, predictable and with none of those annoying flat spots you find down low on an FZ1.

    It steers reasonably quickly and easily (especially with the forks raised through the triple clamps about an inch), beats any car to 100 by a mile, and is devillishly cheap to insure. It comes standard with an immobiliser (even though you have to press an annoying button if you want the little lght to flash) and is as deeply undesirable to thieves as a TDM900. It is an excellent bike for taking pillions on in comfort, which is a good way to learn how to wheelie.

    There's the good bits. Here's what I didn't find so great:

    1) Ground clearance. This is what eventually brought me to grief on the black spur. When you're really pushing on, the pegs just go down too early. The tyre has plenty of lean and grip left in it, but you can't get over any further because the pegs are folding up and squashing your feet. Fitting rearsets and losing the centrestand would obviously solve this issue, albeit at the expense of the bike's wonderful ergonomics.

    2) Suspension. It almost goes without saying that a budget japanese bike like the CB9 will have sloppy, shitty suspension, particularly when it's designed in japan and sold to fat punks like me in countries where they give whales bike licenses instead of harpooning them. I had my Hornet on the way to being sorted by upping the spring rates in the front and rear, adding washers for preload and heavy fork oil for damping in the forks, and having the shock revalved, regassed and rebuilt by the guys at www.promecha.com.au. The difference was quite wonderful, and cost me a total of around $600, although I did some of the work myself. With these mods, the bike suffered a lot less from weight transfer under braking, and it lost its original tendency to wallow around corners and feel like a rolling waterbed at full lean. Having said that, I'm 115 kilos and I tend to punish suspension in silly ways like doing wheelie jumps over speed bumps. I shouldn't complain too much, for the price.

    3) Brakes. These just don't have the bite and feel of the higher spec Hondas. Again not a surprise, and they'd be adequate for most uses but when you're looking to stand the bike on its nose, you'd better be damn sure the tyre is warmed up because you don't have much feel to work with through the lever. I shouldn't complain, for the price.

    4) EFI snatch. Off-on throttle response is snatchy, which is pretty disappointing but a feature of most injected Hondas from 2002 that I've had a crack at. You can take some measures to address it - http://www.theridersvoice.com/forum14/181-1.html - but most people won't. It's annoying in traffic, and I'm sure it contributed to shortening the life of my poor tortured chains, already battered by ham-fisted wheelies. While I'm whingeing about the EFI system, why the hell can't Honda take Suzuki's lead in realising that virtually all owners will fit aftermarket exhausts - and give us the ability to modify the fuel mapping without having to buy a power commander? Suzuki's +/- system is crude but workable, I'd love to see it catch on.

    5) Looks. While they grew on me a lot over the life of the bike, I could never argue that this squat little brute is a good looking bike. It's also a bastard to clean, especially the header pipes - which is why mine was always filthy.

    6) Standard gearing. This was a purely personal thing, I thought there was one too many teeth on the front sprocket. Fit a smaller one on the front and the front would lift on power alone in second, and in third on crests in the powerband. Now thasssss what I'm talkin about. Without a fairing and with lardarse here on board) it wouldn't make it past about 230kmh on standard cogs anyway. I say downgear it and enjoy the sensation of bouncing off the rev limiter in 6th.


    Bear in mind that the cons listed above are in comparison to much more expensive, sports-focused bikes that the Hornet's not really competing with anyway.

    So yes, after many happy miles on the road, I munted the poor girl by highsiding her into oblivion and beyond. Here's what it looks like now (doesn't look so bad but it's completely written off): http://cejay.zenfolio.com/p637708962/ (thanks Cejay).

    By the time I let her go, I had evolved from a grudging dislike for the ugly duckling to a decent respect. I thought many times about upgrading, but I couldn't figure what I'd trade her for. A Z1000? Nicer engine, chassis and brakes, but a good deal more expensive to own, run and crash. A Fireblade? I have so little self control on a 100hp streetbike, I have no business in owning a 160hp racer. Super Duke? Abso-f*cking-lutely, but then there's the purchase price and hair-rasing tank range. FZ1N? If only the power curve was sorted.

    The Hornet 900 does what it's designed for - everything - very effectively. I'm sad to see mine go, and if it wasn't for my "never holiday in the same place twice" mentality I'd be very interested in buying another. Goodbye old lass.

  2. No-one does ride reports/bike anaylses like Mr L Blain.....
    A joyous but sad summary of the mighty red Hornet, Loz :).
  3. Good report, Loz.
    Sorry to hear about the stack......
    I was considering the CB900F (for about 2 min) and ended up buying an 04 Z1000.
    Glad I did.
    If you want a ride of mine, let me know.
    Daz. :wink:
  4. Great to see such love for one's bike. Thanks for the read!
  5. ... but bring your earplugs... :LOL: :wink:
  6. Nice write up. RIP the horny one! :grin:
  7. Nice write up Loz, and sorry to hear you bike is gone.

    Your reasons for liking your Hornet (and your faults) seem almost like my list of likes and dislikes with my Bandit 1200 (well except I don't suffer from the fuel injection issues) :LOL:
  8. Yeah the Z is on the list for a test ride, I'll definately take you up on that Daz. Cheers.
  9. Oooooh, don't go there mate! I can hear Movin cackling from here! I didn't get along too well with the Bandit 1200, couldn't deal with the handling and I've been in a constant shitfight with Ken ever since. ;)
  10. Contemplated a Speed Triple?
  11. Hyosung GT650?? :LOL:
  12. :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:
  13. K5 or K6? The K6 is a fair bit different.

    You are always welcome to take my K6 for a spin :)
  14. Srteet fighter a zx9 and im sure u will be happy, Maybe see robsalv for a good deal :grin:
  15. welcome to my world.....what the hell do I get now?!?!?!?!?!
  16. Good to read about the Hornet, sounds like you got your money's worth :cool:

    Thought Vic would have chimed in about a VTwin - are you a fan Loz??
  17. You're in Flemington, yeh?
    Let me know when you're keen and I can cruise to your place.
    Mine might not be a good example of one, as it's got the Muzzy, K&N and PC3....... :?
    Either way, the offer's there. :wink:
  18. I've ridden a few twins - V-strom junior and senior, VTR1000, a few cruisers and a bunch of 250s - and to be honest I've never been inspired by any of those engines, however nice the rest of the ride has been.

    I have however been putting in a solid campaign of sniffing around Cejay's ankles to get a blurt on the Tuono, which might change my opinion of twins significantly.

    I'm always willing to be convinced, but I do likes me some wind-up-and-woohoo! 4cyl action!
  19. East Malvern at the moment (staying at me mummy's), so not far from your place at all Daz. Drop me a line anytime you've got a bit of time - I'll try to find a lid somewhere. That would be awesome.
  20. A cheap, slightly munted ZX9R would be absolutely spot on. I'd be happy to make a ratbike fighter out of that engine, it's a stomper. I bricked myself the first time I rode a ZX9, when it started to power wheelie at 200kmh. Whoooo yeah.