This all-rounder from Honda oozes Seventies chic, but its performance is very up-to-date

Specifications

Specifications

Engine: liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, 16-valve DOHC, 1,284cc
Max power: 114bhp at 7,500rpm, 87 lb ft at 6,000rpm
Colours: pearl white with red or darkness black metallic
Price: £6,999 with ABS, HISS and fairing

Honda's CB1300 range is crafted to resemble the motorcycles my generation lusted after in the late 1970s. Then, riding to school on a provisional licence, I owned a very used CB200 twin, and my heart ached for a four-cylinder CB750. Those days, the 70bhp they developed felt like jet propulsion.

So imagine my reaction when I was introduced to the 2005 CB1300S. It manages 40bhp more and comes with ABS and Honda's HISS anti-theft system.

Nostalgia engulfed me. I could hear Cheap Trick's Live at Budokan playing in the school common-room and see spotty boys in cut-off denim jackets sporting Led Zeppelin runes. I could almost smell the acrid blend of Brut and Embassy Regal that persuaded my female contemporaries to source their boyfriends elsewhere.

The CB1300S is an exercise in visual nostalgia. The small fairing that provides welcome protection at motorway speeds is modelled on one fitted to the 1981 CB1100RB. A large petrol tank, flat handlebars and ample seating for two add to the impression. It's aimed at the hearts of returning motorcyclists anxious to recapture youthful joys.

But there's nothing old-fashioned about its performance. Any rider who manages more than a few thousand miles a year will have noticed that things are changing. The fun of pure sports performance has been reduced by obsessive speed restrictions. Unless you're going to ride it on a race track, a modern superbike represents a phenomenally fast way to lose your licence. Makers have begun to respond with machines designed to make you feel good when ridden within touching distance of legality.

The CB1300S fits snugly into this class. It's charmingly nimble on winding lanes, and has the instant mid-range power surge to leap past caravans. But the ace is its versatility. It is economical enough to use as a daily commuter, and it is totally happy in urban traffic. But on the motorway, with a pillion passenger and luggage, it invites you to abandon air travel and ride to Greece instead.

It's surprising to find a machine that began life as a pure fun-bike transformed into a capable tourer, but the CB1300S makes the grade with something to spare. The relaxed, upright riding position is ideal for all-day travel, and the fairing does its job well as 70 mph rises to speeds that are, sensibly, legal on most motorways between Calais and Athens. The tank is big enough for 140 miles between fill-ups. The passenger is unlikely to suffer; the saddle and suspension offer good comfort, as do the smooth gearbox and clutch.

Compared with the old-school machines on which its looks are modelled, the CB1300S is devastatingly quick. It is capable of hitting 140mph, and secure under braking. A lighter bike will turn faster, but the big Honda carries itself very easily. A surprisingly short wheelbase helps, as do brakes that made stopping easy even when the kerb weight was augmented by my own 15 stone and a large, male, pillion passenger.

Outright performance is not the objective, but it takes bravery and skill to approach the CB1300S's limits. This all-rounder can thrill. I followed an expert police rider through some testing bends, and the Honda felt utterly dependable. If 2,000 miles a year on dry roads is enough to satisfy your riding urge, this motorcycle has infinitely more than you need. If you want a practical ride that exceeds expectations in every type of road riding, book a test.

Poseurs often deride Hondas as the own-brand baked beans of the two-wheeled world. But they are very well built and come with features that cost extra on many marques. This one has a secure storage space under the saddle, five-spoke cast-aluminium wheels, pale blue backlighting on its instruments and ABS. The HISS system means it can only be started with one of the original pair of keys.

The CB1300S is an exciting motorbike with tremendous looks and truly useful power. It will leave sports cars for dead and carry a couple 700 miles in a day. It's a contender.

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