This time last year, we got our first gander at the CB4 concept, a retro/futuristic Euro-look styling exercise by Honda's design team. For this year's EICMA expo, the Design Studio team has taken the CB4 in a different direction with the CB4 Interceptor concept.
Another sharp dresser, the Interceptor bears no relation to the old VFR bikes that bore that name from the early 80s onwards. Instead, this thing takes the retro idea of the cafe racer and fires it forward into the future with a super-sleek and very cool design.
Let's start with the frame. There doesn't really appear to be one, or if it is, a lot of it has been very cleverly hidden. There's a small structural unit behind the engine block, to which the subframe, footpegs and gorgeous single-sided swingarm appear to mount. But the engine itself seems to be responsible for some of the heavy lifting on the way up toward the steering head.
Perhaps some load bearing is also handled by the upper bodywork and tank, or concealed beneath it.
As a concept, there's no commercial practicality required. So this thing's fitted with black and gold Ohlins suspension and a fairly serious looking set of Brembo brakes. There's no mirrors, indicators or license plates, the seat appears to be trimmed in Alcantara, and there's an angel eye light ring around the weird turbine-shaped headlight.
The tail section's interesting too. The 4-into-1 exhaust system that defines the lower shape of the bike in profile snakes up into the tail behind the rider's seat, only to poke out the back a few inches later. LED pattern brake lights look great, but we're not sure why this bike has "1000R" written on it when it uses the 4-cylinder, 399cc engine from the CB400
Wacky. But not as wacky as this: "The front of the bike features a fan used to convert the motorcycle's kinetic energy to power the touch-screen located on the tank." How is that more efficient than running it off the bike's regular electrical system?
Speaking of the touch-screen, it's supposed to handle navigation, connectivity and entertainment, but I can't work out where it actually is – maybe that glossy black central strip on the tank is actually the screen itself.
Regardless, mark me down as a fan of this design. I think it looks great and they'd sell by the truckload in today's image conscious market. But the whole exercise really raises a big question for me: if Honda's got people capable of designing bikes that look this good, why don't they? Personal preferences here and all that, but look at the current CB series naked bikes. They're competent little machines, but yikes, you'd either want to put a paper bag over their headlight while you're riding them, or put one over your own head in case you get seen.
I only complain because I care. My first two bikes were Hondas, and I still carry a quiet fondness for the brand, despite not having ridden much in the last 10 years that rings my bell.
But perhaps there's good news coming. The CB4 concept from 2016 appears to have driven some of the design language behind Honda's new CB1000R, which, while it's probably not going to win too many beauty contests, is certainly the best looking production Honda naked in some time – and with the use of a 145-horsepower detuned Fireblade motor, it seems to be packing some grunt to boot. So maybe this Interceptor concept will bear children down the line and Honda can get some stylish bikes on the road. Only time will tell.