Timberwoofs Motorcycle Page
BMW R1100GS and Honda CB-1 Comparison
Why would anyone want to compare these two motorcycles? They very different bikes: The GS is heavy boxer-twin enduro while the CB-1 is a light UJM sportbike. What do they have in common? I owned a CB-1 and I have a GS now.
I only have my Honda CB-1 to compare to, so that colors my impressions. The GS is better balanced, which means that in corners it stays in the line I put it in. It doesn't need continuous pressure on the bar to keep it in the curve. It's slower to respond than the CB-1, but it's a bigger bike. On the other hand, the other day I got surprised by an object on the freeway, and I swerved the bike out of the way without any drama.
The CB-1 gave me a backache. Because I had to put weight on my wrists, the bike was not happy in corners. (I could have fixed that by strengthening my back so I did not have to rest my weight on the handlebars.) The GS, on the other hand, lets me sit up straight and put no weight on the bars. My back is balanced and happy. And because I'm not stiff on the steering, the bike steers better. A lot of journalists like to diss the funky BMW turn signals. I got used to them. Big deal.
The Telelever is way cool. The GS (and all the BMWs with Telelever) just don't dive under braking. Okay, it dives a little bit, but nothing like any motorcycle with conventional front forks. And it's not a gizmo like tightened damper valves under braking or stiff front springs. It's just a revised suspension geometry. The thing works.
Braking is excellent. On my CB-1 I replaced the front brake hose with a steel-braided one. This improved the feel and strength of the brakes a lot. The GS doesn't have steel brake lines, and the brakes don't feel as hard as the Honda ones did, but they are definitely stronger. When it needs to, this bike stops. I feel no need to put in steel brake hoses. The ABS is good to have. Because of the Telelever, braking on a bumpy road is painless.
It's a different kind of power than the CB-1 has. With its 400cc DOHC inline four, that bike is a screaming ban-sidhe of a race-pony. The GS, by comparison, is a big, strong Clydesdale. He doesn't have to stomp you ... but he knows he can. This bike goes. My brother would say it has some serious low-end grunt. People talk about axle tramp and shaft jacking that BMWs do because they're shaft-driven. I'm afraid I don't know what they're talking about. I can't feel those effects.
I've had my GS for 24000 miles now. Other than replacing a few bits from dropping it in the mud, I've had only two warranty fixes: a warped brake pad and a leaky cylinder head bottom gasket. There's a GS mailing list (see www.micapeak.com) where they talk about these issues.
It's a tightly engineered elegant machine which, if you follow the required maintenance, will behave itself very well. It's more refined and finicky than its R100GS predecessor, so it will probably not handle the kind of abuse that those bikes deal with. Owners of earlier 1100s say that they do hold up over time. Parking lot? Around here (San Francisco) they let you ride all aroundjust be back in 45 minutes, okay? Try another dealer. Lay out a test course ahead of time, one with some curvies and some bumpies. Try some braking on those bumpsI think you'll be convinced.
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