Honda CB1100 Designers talk

A beautiful synthesis of an artisan machinery.
A design that tells us about the origins of Honda

The history of Honda motorcycles began 60 years ago, at which point Honda’s work in the pursuit of the best performance began.

In its effort to achieve the best quality and the best comfort for the driver, Honda has faced – and overcome – a huge variety of challenges.


Honda approach to motorcycle design


The constant evolution of Honda motorcycles for decades would not have been possible without Honda’s exclusive approach to motorcycle design. For example: in its search for optimal engine performance, Honda went from air cooling to liquid cooling for its engines, eliminating the cooling fins previously considered essential.

In addition to improving engine performance, Honda also works to increase stability and handling. The style and design of the motorcycles will be marked by the tendency of the motorists to adopt a forward inclined position to negotiate the curves in a more fluid and easy way, in addition to the incorporation of fairings to improve aerodynamics.

At the same time that Honda’s bikes reach new levels of performance, their designs also become more refined and elegant. Both in performance and design, Honda has always advanced to the times, facing tough challenges to produce such revolutionary models as the NR750, the CBR900RR and the RC211V. These are just a few models that have characterized Honda’s innovation over the years.

As a feature and also as a design element, small fins cover the air-cooled engine of the CB750 Four Dream 1970, increasing the surface of the engine that is in contact with the air.
The CB1000R, the high performance naked bike, so popular in Europe, incorporates a liquid cooling engine, so that its surface does not have cooling fins.
The design of the 1992 NR750 has a presence that immediately attracts attention – even in a parking lot with thousands of motorcycles.
With the highest performance required on a sports bike, the CBR900RR combined a large displacement engine with an extremely compact design. Honda faced a great challenge to make the commercialization of this model a reality.
The compact fairing of the RC211V, a racing motorcycle designed to compete in the elite MotoGP, gave a complete overhaul to the conventional design of racing bikes.

Simply, it had to be an air-cooled engine


Instant acceleration has its appeal, so does a modern style that expresses the speed of the machine. But there is much more in the way of the evolution of the motorcycle. I found myself thinking about this for the first time when I returned to Japan, after several years in Europe. It was also at that time that I took a pencil and quickly began to draw the sketch shown on this page.

Tires Engine. Chassis. Deposit. Seat. I thought about giving a beautiful shape to all these necessary elements and combine them in a perfect and harmonious set.
A simple and efficient double-cradle chassis surrounds the air-cooled 4-in-line engine, affirming Honda’s reputation as a pioneer of the 4-cylinder and creator of the CB750 Four and the CB400 Four.
Continuing with pride this tradition, the approach of the new motorbike seeks beauty, originality, simplicity. In other words, I wanted to create a beautiful motorcycle with an artisanal personality that was also affordable and easy to drive.

“Why do you use air cooling in this new engine, when you know that performance may be lower? You’d better have a pretty convincing explanation!
This is the kind of thing that people said when we started the development process. I understood this kind of reflection. Using an air-cooled engine could seem “retro” to the people of Honda, who have long opted for liquid cooling systems in search of maximum performance.

When they asked me to explain my choice, I could only say:
My only reason is that many customers like air-cooled engines.”

I like the metallic sound of the engine when it cools … A motorcycle engine should have oil inside, and not water … simply, looking at the cooling fins of the cylinders inspires me … There is something in relation to an air-cooled engine – a feeling that a water-cooled engine, of a high-performance motorcycle, simply does not transmit. For me, motorcyclist and motorcycle enthusiast, a future without air-cooled engines I do not like or like it. And he was right, he was not the only one who thought that way!

Based on my schemes, this “motorcycle that defies logic, and simply asks to be driven”, became a reality. We showed the CB Four conceptual model at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1999, and the enthusiastic response it received there was very rewarding. In 2007, determined to create a bike that would fill even more the expectations of the fans, we showed a new conceptual model in the Tokyo Motor Show, the CB1100F. Eventually, this conceptual model has become a serial model like the CB1100.

This is the sketch that the designer drew after his return from Europe. Based on it, the CB Four conceptual model was born.
Shown at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1999, the CB Four conceptual model celebrated the 30th anniversary of the CB 4 motorcycles online. With its exclusive and emotive design and functional aesthetics, it was a naked motorcycle for elegant motorcyclists.
The conceptual model CB1100F, shown at the Tokyo Motor Show, in 2007, followed the path of the conceptual model CB Four of 1999. This model also paid homage to the CB motorcycles of 4 cylinders cooled by air. With 17-inch tires, front and rear, this bike was quite sporty compared to the CB1100.

Our mission: design – no styling


In coping with the design of the CB1100, the team and I agreed that our goal was design – not style. These words tend to be confused between them, but deep down they mean very different things. “Styling” refers to establish the aesthetics that the vehicle needs, add ornaments, and also enhance its appearance. On the other hand, most of the elements of “design” can already be found in the sketches of the machine, establishing the authentic origins of the shape of the vehicle.

Unlike a car, a motorcycle is not covered by a body, so there is no clear division between the exterior and the interior. Rather, the visible mechanical parts serve as exterior decoration. For this reason, we needed to keep our focus on elements of pure design, giving each mechanical component the most beautiful form possible. To create beautiful and functional components, we use the features of many different materials, including metal, plastic, leather and rubber. This approach is pure design and lets the designers demonstrate what they are really capable of doing.

The objective is to design each component that forms the motorcycle so that it is functional and beautiful.
Even the footrest brackets reflect the designer’s meticulous attention to detail.

Buscando belleza y diversión más allá de las cifras

The cooling fins that cover the surface of the air-cooled engine of the CB1100 are quite different from the fins used to decorate a liquid cooling engine, or the ribs used to reinforce it. Instead, they fulfill the essential function of increasing the surface of the engine and give the nude engine an imposing appearance that will surely attract admiring looks when the motorist gets off the motorcycle.

Beauty is something subjective that can not be expressed by figures or explained by logic. While we valued the way the air passed through the fins, so that they could play their essential role in dissipating the heat of the engine, we also value a lot – like motorcycle enthusiasts and those who like machinery – emotions that the appearance of the fins could produce, and we gave them shape with the corresponding care.

Meeting the requirements of beauty and function resulted in a cooling fins that are only 2 mm thick – the thinnest of any model in the Honda range. Produce such fins commercially is difficult and, at the beginning, the factory told us it was impossible. But we developed a new production process to make it possible, and the cooling fins became a part of the bike of which we are especially proud.
The two camshafts – of which it has often been said that they look like eyes – can not be too close together, or the engine would not look cool. Putting them at a greater distance may not help maximize performance, but it helps to give the impressive proportions suitable for a large displacement engine. At the same time, the required performance figures influence engine dimensions such as height, width, valve angles and others, and all these measures tend to determine the size and shape of the engine by themselves.

In this, the engine of the CB1100 was no different and, at the beginning of the process, an engineer asked me:

“What level of benefits do you have in mind?
“Eh uf – you asked me! – I thought.”

The amazing thing about Honda engineers is that once they have established a goal they do not stop until they have achieved it. If the objective had been the horses, there would have been no problem at all. For us, in the quest to offer real fun to the customers of the CB1100, there were more important things than horses.

Not too far, not too close: the design team paid special attention to the position of the two camshafts. Freed from the need to maximize power, they were able to set the impressive dimensions appropriate for a large-displacement motorcycle.

Buscando belleza y diversión más allá de las cifras

This hand-drawn sketch of possible engine shapes reflects the trial and error process that was required to create a truly beautiful engine.
For this reason, I answered the engineer’s question: “Let’s decide after driving it. If it’s fun to wear, then it will be what we need. ” Taking into account that, like beauty, fun is a concept that can not be expressed numerically, the colleagues responsible for designing and testing the engine had difficult times to satisfy this particular requirement.

Thus, freed from the need to maximize power, the designers worked as a team and created an air-cooled engine that not only offered a decorative surface appearance, but an authentic beauty based on the essence of the molded shape. I think this was a huge achievement.

The fuel tank is another piece that, like the engine, besides functional has a great impact on the external appearance of the motorcycle. On most sports bikes, such as the CBR range, the tank is molded so that its front faces down for an aerodynamic look, and often has highly curved surfaces for a 3D look. In the CB1100, however, the tank extends horizontally in relation to the engine and is natural in all details, including the recesses that help to offer a comfortable position for the knees. What is also extremely important, when sitting down, is that the rider can see the cylinder heads of the first and fourth cylinders of the main attraction of the motorcycle: the engine.
The shape of the fuel tank is determined by the molding process, and from the beginning we decided not to use more graphics than filleted stripes to highlight their shapes. As we did in the RC211V, CBR1000RR and VFR1200F, we put the Honda wing logo on a medallion. It is a small medallion, but many possible positions were considered with pinpoint accuracy, looking to get the point where it complements perfectly the side view of the bike.
I insisted on telling the team that it was not necessary to give the tank any particular, distinctive aspect, but I think that in the end we did it, with a form that, although simple, offers the lasting impression of authentic Honda style.

Meticulously designed, the fuel tank medallion plays an almost as important role as the engine in the overall image. The designers searched with pinpoint accuracy until they found the perfect position for the medallion

Beautiful and functional pieces in a beautiful silhouette

While designing the functional components of the CB1100 to give them maximum beauty, we always had another thing in mind: the silhouette. What is the silhouette? It is the essential shape of the bike that is still there when you remove the engine, the tank, the seat and any other detail.

What makes a motorcycle look good depends on the purpose for which a particular model was created. The silhouette of a super sports bike should be low on the front – like a crouched animal, ready to attack. On the other hand, the silhouette of a cruiser has a low center of gravity and a relaxed feel in general.

The silhouette of the CB1100 can best be described by the word “majestic”. It is not forced or tense, nor is it soft or relaxed. Rather, it is straight forward, with an upright position. The shape and dimensions of the frame create this silhouette, which is complemented by the precise positioning of its beautifully designed functional components, including the engine, fuel tank and seat. In this way, we created the beautiful and universally attractive design of the CB1100.
Without the gas tank and the seat, it is easy to see the silhouette of the CB1100. While many types of motorcycles have been leaning forward with the passage of time, the CB1100 has an upright, dignified and majestic image.
With only a few changes, the silhouette can offer a very different impression. A
Initial sketch reached the clay prototype stage. It turned out to be too tense and the designers went back to the drawing board. The difference between that and the final CB1100 is shocking.

Built according to Honda’s origins. Polished to perfection

Although it offers sporty driving, the CB1100 is not a sports bike. It’s a great motorcycle to go on a trip, but it’s not a tourer or a cruiser. Despite its good touch and behavior zigzagging through the streets, the CB1100 is not a city bike either. Centered only on the elements that make a motorcycle a motorcycle, we built the CB1100 based on the origins of Honda and improving them to perfection. The result in the archetype of a “cool bike”.

It is a motorcycle that does not need great occasions or desires to say Let’s go for a spin !. Rather you can think: “Good weather – Where do I go? and take your CB1100 for a relaxed walk. It is a motorcycle that will soon become a friend and ally of confidence.

Honda motorcycle designers will continue to look for new design and performance possibilities. At the same time, building our motorcycles according to the origins of Honda and polishing them to perfection, we will seek to offer real fun to fans of motorcycles everywhere.

Always on, expecting great things from Honda!