The Honda CB900F
A classic Honda motorcycle worth the wait
The Honda CB900FZ - the European version we didn't get. In addition to different paint, it came standard with lower bars, rearsets, and a few other minor differences from the U.S. version.
Photo by Roland Brown
Years produced: 1981-1982
Total production: N/A
Claimed power: 89hp @ 9,000rpm
Top speed: 139mph (period test)
Engine type: 901cc, air-cooled four valve per cylinder inline four
Weight (w/ half-full tank): 256kg (568lb)
Price then: $3,495
Price now: $1,250-$3,000
Americans have their share of bad traits. The French have forever been labeled as rude, and the Irish aren’t exactly known as a quiet bunch. But here in the U.S., we can complain more effectively than few other groups out there. And what’s wrong with complaining, anyway? Well, in some cases, nothing at all. Case in point: the American arrival of the Honda CB900F in 1981.
Motorcycle manufacturers produce all kinds of bikes that never make it to U.S. shores. In recent years, Yamaha puzzled American enthusiasts by introducing the FJR1300 in 2001, then not making it available on our side of the pond. What happened? The collective two-wheeled “we” sent e-mails and whined to their local dealers until the suits at Yamaha headquarters buckled. At first you had to put down a deposit and special order an FJR, but eventually they made the bike available to anyone here with enough disposable income (or at least good credit). And while this doesn’t happen often with a foreign-spec bike many of us would love to have, it has happened before.
In March of 1979, Cycle World ran a story about the Honda CB900FZ, a 901cc bruiser that looked and rode like a faster, more powerful version of the then new DOHC Honda CB750F. “The argument against selling the CB900FZ in America is that the CBX six is the 1000cc big gun for Honda and a similar bike would fuzz its marketing,” said Cycle World. And yet, the CBX was available in Europe, where this new CB900FZ was being introduced, without worry of marketing issues, but those wanting the nine here were left waiting.
The funny thing going on was that the Honda CB750F that America received and the Honda CB900FZ that Europe received were developed alongside each other, but Europe didn’t get the CB750F and America didn’t get the CB900FZ. European Honda fans weren’t happy either, and complained for the Honda CB750F. Both sides, of course, thought the other was getting the best deal because they got more power or we got a better suspension.
Finally, when the 1981-model year rolled around, the Honda CB900F made its way to the U.S. Now, Americans aren’t the most patient folk either, but the fact that it took a few years for this bike to get here did have its advantages. When it arrived, we got a finished bike. This wasn’t a first-year design full of early-production bugs. This was a model that had already been thrashed on the curvy roads of Europe, and Honda had some of its early kinks worked out. It had more power, a better suspension and a less flexible chassis than the earlier European models.