Honda created a series of incredible six-cylinder racing machines in the mid 60’s such as the RC166 250cc machine which represented a technical tour de force when tracks were still resounding to the mellow beat of single cylinder race engines.
The visceral howl of the RC166 is still said by many to be the ultimate Grand Prix soundtrack.
Getting back to road bikes, it came down to Honda and Kawasaki to joust for six-cylinder bragging rights in the late 70’s. Kawasaki created the Z1300, a naked sport tourer with water-cooling, shaft drive and a kind of Rolls-Royce approach – Honda went the Bentley route; still refined but more showy and performance oriented with all the engine on display by choosing air over water cooling and suspending the motor from a spine frame.
The 24 valve, double overhead camshaft Honda was not overtly complex, it was just that there was “more of everything” and reports of its smoothness in operation were not exaggerated- it was certainly a silky express. Sadly, as is often the case, the simple formula was “refined”, and twin shocks gave way to Pro-Link and parts of the machine were obscured with cowlings on later models while U.S emission laws dictated less aggressive camshafts with power dipping below 100bhp. Weight up / Power down – you do the math!
On top of that suzuki created the simple, brutal, and super effective GS1000. Suddenly the CBX was outgunned by a faster, more powerful and easier to maintain machine. The CBX went from “lead role” to “walk on part” and motorcycling moved on. Happily, Honda’s seminal six is more fondly remembered than Romero’s Knightriders and the mythical monster that is the CBX will surely live forever in motorcycling folklore.
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issued: Wednesday, March 03, 2021
updated: Wednesday, March 03, 2021
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