In its day it was the fastest production bike on the planet with a top speed of over 180 mph. The CBR1100XX Blackbird, named after the legendary SR-71 aircraft, was a testament to Honda's abilities and its answer to the reigning top-speed champ, the Kawasaki ZX-11. In the summer of '96 the US market was put on its head when the first double-Xs hit the shores. A technological marvel for its time, noteworthy features included wind tunnel designed bodywork, ram air induction and an 1137cc motor good for 150 hp at the wheel. While it was great on paper it was even better when the throttle was held wide open. The big Honda was good for low 10-second passes in the quarter-mile while still friendly enough for cross continent touring. Simply put, nothing could touch it.
The Blackbird reigned supreme for several years, and to reinforce its place at the top it received an update in '99 with fuel injection, more efficient ram-air and a host of other upgrades. While power rose to a claimed 164 hp, that same year saw the introduction of the new top-speed champ-Suzuki's Hayabusa. Though the CBR1100XX was relegated to the second fastest slot in hypersport bikedom, it shined some light on its admirable traits that had been otherwise overlooked.
While the Blackbird was mostly known for its speed, the double-counterbalanced mill, ample wind protection and comfy ergos made for a great cruise missile. If that wasn't enough, add in the linked braking system and long fuel range and you've got one killer mount.
Unlike most sportbikes, the big CBR1100XX has aged gracefully as it's faded from the high-speed spotlight to the "ton-up tourer" group-known for super speed with maximum comfort. Despite the softer reputation it's garnered in recent years, owners still praise the buttery smooth motor for its punch and won't bat an eye at a cross-country jaunt. If one thing is evident in talking with owners it's the versatility of the big CBR. Whether they're hitting the open road, cruising to bike night or polishing skills at a track day, owners take their Blackbirds everywhere.
Honda's answer to the Kawasaki ZX-11 was the CBR1100XX. It was good for over 180 mph, nearly 150 hp at the rear tire and low 10s in the quarter. Add in the sophisticated ram air, slippery wind-tunnel designed bodywork and all day comfort, and it made for one righteous rocket.
Honda updated the Blackbird in '99 with fuel injection, more efficient ram air and a few other noteworthy upgrades. Power climbed to 164 hp, but the introduction of the Hayabusa stole the CBR's thunder. Nonetheless, the bike has become a respected mount in the industry and still holds a dedicated following.
Mods: Akrapovic slip-on exhaust, Galfer rotors and stainless steel braided brake/clutch lines, Lockhart Phillips rearsets and tank bra, Clear Alternatives signals and taillights, Speedohealer, Illumiglo tach insert, Sportech chrome windscreen
Best Upgrade: "The Galfers definitely. The feel of the stainless lines combined with the rotors gives an unparalleled feeling."
Favorite Aspect: "The power at the twist of a wrist and the comfort on long rides."
Miles Done: 37,000
Mods: Port/polished head (intake and exhaust), Yoshimura RS-3 full exhaust, Stage 2 jet kit
Best Upgrade: "Exhaust-the power gains and the awesome sound."
Favorite Aspect: "Comfort. For being such a powerful motorcycle, it is very comfortable. I've ridden my XX on several long trips and I do not suffer as I have riding other bikes. I have only had the bike for 2 years now and have logged 30k miles so far and planning many more on this bike."
Miles Done: 60,100
Mods: Ohlins rear shock, Double Bubble screen, bar raiser, sculptured seat, single seat conversion, Blue Flame mufflers, stainless steel brake and clutch lines, Pazzo levers, Supersprox Stealth sprocket, clear brake and signal lenses, Carbon cover, HID headlights, lowered peg mod
Best Upgrade: "The custom paint job."
Favorite Aspect of The Bike: "It's quick, reliable, can tour on it, can commute on it-everything!"
Miles Done: 12,000
Mods: "Stock and lovin' it."
Favorite Aspect: "Would be the torque...you can drop to an idle in 6th gear and power away smoothly. The 11:1 compression is obvious."
Mods: Blue neons, grips, radar detector/jammer, Zero Gravity windscreen, decalsBest Upgrade: "Probably right now, the neons."
Favorite Aspect: "Everything! The power and the comfort!"
Mods: Yoshimura slip-ons, K&N air filter, Factory Pro jet kit, Heli-bars, white-faced/blue gauges, de-linked brakes, lowered gearing
Best Upgrade: "Probably the Yosh slip-ons and the blue gauges because they sound great and look so good."
Favorite aspect: "Definitely the motor, you get that thing singing through some back roads and it's pure bliss. That and the comfort to drive a couple hundred miles to get to those elusive deserted back roads."
Hood riding...country style?
Mods: Gilles Variobars, Throttlemeister cruise-control, Veypor data device, Zero Gravity windscreen, mirror extenders, smoked signal lenses, reworked forks with Ohlins springs, de-linked brakes, Goodrich stainless steel brake lines, rear brake line ran inside the swing arm, single-sided VFR swingarm, Penske rear shock, chromed rims, Power Commander, K&N air filter, Yoshimura full exhaust with carbon fiber can, larger-bore master cylinder, Mototek undertail, Blackbird hugger reworked to fit the VFR swingarm, Corbin seat and smuggler, CBR decals from Australia, custom linkage and dogbone made by me
Best Upgrade: "Single sided swingarm. I don't see any other Blackbirds like it."
Favorite Aspect: "It looks stock unless you know what you're looking at."
Mods: Yoshimura exhaust system, stainless steel clutch and brake lines
Best Upgrade: "The Yoshi exhaust because it sounds sooo nice."
Favorite Aspect: "Best, smoothest and nicest sounding bike ever."
Mods: Power Commander II, K&N air filter, Scorpion slip-on, Zero Gravity screen, lower front foot pegs, Throttlemeister, Corbin seat, HIDs 6000k, Clear Alternative signals, carbon fiber front fender
Best Upgrade: "I would have to say that the front lowering pegs, Corbin seat and the HID's. The lowering pegs and Corbin reduce fatigue on longer rides and the HID's provide better night vision and increase the odds of me being seen when I ride."
Favorite Aspect: "The 'Bird has the capability to do it all. Hit the twisties, long cruises and comfort with style. It's in its own element."
Miles done: 25,000
Best Upgrade: "The helmet keeps me safe."
Favorite Aspect: "It's a great bike that does everything well-it's fast, reliable, comfortable...and did I say fast? I also enjoy the fact that it was a short-production cycle bike which means you won't ever see a lot out there."
Miles done: 62,000
Mods: VFR handlebars, Secdem flip-up windscreen, peg lowering brackets, Penske rear shock and stiffer fork springs, Corbin saddle, Pazzo levers, crash 'shrooms, mirror extenders, Pyramid rear hugger and Fenda Extenda, Givi luggage system, GPS mount with Garmin Zumo 550, Bagster tank cover and bag
Best Upgrade: "The combination of the peg lowering, VFR bars and taller screen make the XX a very comfortable long distance bike. The Corbin is probably the biggest single improvement for me though. I hated the stock saddle plus my wife sits comfortably and safely on the back with the Corbin backrest installed."
Favorite Aspect: "I love the reliability and timeless design of this bike. After nine years on the road and 62K miles, some people still think it's a current model! This bike fits me and my motorcycle needs perfectly, I hope it lasts me another decade."
Miles done: 24,000
Mods: Power Commander III, K&N air filter, integrated taillights, seat cowl, undertail, chain guard, red LEDs, frame plugs, grab rail inserts, APE cam chain tensioner, frame sliders, 12-volt outlet, windscreen and bar end spikes, tag relocator,-1/+3 sprockets, custom gel seat, powdercoated parts, headlight mesh, mirror extenders, smoked windscreen, carbon fiber Two Brothers exhaust
Best Upgrade: "Replacing the sprockets. She moves now!"
Favorite Aspect: "The bike is now more comfortable thanks to the gel seat. Although the bike is heavy, she is nimble and fast. I love the straight-line performance and the sprockets really brought this bike to life."
Miles done: 50,000
Mods: Superbike bar, bigger shield, sticky tires
Best Upgrade: "Racing tires-they stick like hell."Favorite Aspect: "Runs for years, no problems yet!"
Blackbird riders don't let a little precipitation ruin a ride.
Miles Done: 78,500
Mods: Two Brothers mufflers, HID low beam, HeliBars, Pro Oiler, Power Commander, Buell X9 pegs, Throttlemeister, GIVI wing rack and hard bags, Hyperlight three way indicators, Wilber rear shock and Progressive front springs
Best Upgrade: "Throttlemeister, which enabled me to enjoy the XX during the 6,000 mile trip crossing the US to attend NEXXT (North East XX meet) and see other XX riders. I also like the HID low beam, its great light performance enables a higher degree of safety when the sun goes down."
Favorite Aspect: "The bike is smooth as silk, does everything well whether it's doing a track day or back-to-back 900 mile days! It's bulletproof, as I've only swapped a CCT and adjusted one exhaust valve at 73K. Other than that it has been as reliable as can be."
Allan "Buzz" Smith
Miles Done: 17,500
Mods: Upgraded front and rear suspension, Baglux seat, HID dip and main beam lights, XX LED taillight, Double Bubble screen, custom paint job
Best Upgrade: "HID lights, because standard lights are wank and these babies light up the world."
Favorite Aspect: "It's so effortless, it'll pull from 30 to warp factor 9 in 6th gear, two up and fully loaded. It's ballistic, the Honda motor is bulletproof and will run at high speeds all day long without ever missing a beat."
Miles Done: 21,200
Mods: Chrome windscreen, Corbin Gunfighter and Lady seats, Blue Flame exhausts, miscellaneous carbon fiber, Pimpbike.com undertail with custom license plate mount, polished frame, Clear Alternatives signal lenses, custom paint and graphics
Best Upgrade: "Hands down it's the Blue Flame duals. They give the XX a deep tone that demands attention."
Favorite Aspect: "The Bike is the best of both worlds. It has more than enough speed, but the comfort to go hundreds of miles without a sore muscle."
Miles Done: 19,000
Mods: Puig screen, Corbin saddle, Two Brothers slip-ons
Best Upgrade: "The slip-ons-the sound they added is incredible."
Favorite Aspect: "Everything!"
Mods: Carbon fiber hydro dipped graphics, intake and exhaust
Best Upgrade: "The carbon fiber because it looks amazing. It's an awesome, one-of-a-kind bike."Favorite Aspect: "Great bike to do just about anything on!"
Miles Done: 37,500
Mods: Slip-ons, Power Commander III, fork rework, Penske rear shock, Corbin "Gunfighter and Lady seat
Best Upgrade: "Penske rear shock, because the stock Blackbird shock is junk. The Penske made a huge difference in handling."
Favorite Aspect: "It's the perfect 'do everything' bike; it's a great all day tourer, great two up tourer, very good in the twisties (for a big bike, anyway) and has plenty of power."