The Perfect Line

All Things Motorcycle
All Things Motorcycle
Illustration for article titled Best Budget Used Naked: Honda 919 Hornet Review

In 2012 my 2002 Honda 919 took me on an unforgettable journey down HWY 1 on the Oregon and California coast to Santa Cruz, and then up through the desert of Nevada and into Yellowstone National Park. It was my first long distance motorcycle trip and thanks to the versatility of the Honda 919, a whole new world of motorcycling unveiled itself. The Honda CB900F, aka 919 in North America, aka the Hornet in Europe is a naked standard, produced by Honda from 2002 – 2007. It was replaced by the radically different CB1000R super-naked. The 919 didn’t have great showroom sales during its production years, but has developed quite a cult following and has a great community of riders. The owners have a strong presence on wristtwisters.com where current and prospective owners can find loads of great information. The bike gets my unwavering support as one of the best, if not the best used budget naked bikes on the market.

I bought the bike used in 2011 from a student attending university in Minneapolis, meeting in a Target parking lot in Duluth. MN. It was a cold winter day and we had the next day booked for snowboarding at Giants Ridge. While talking with the then current owner my buddy throws a leg over the bike and hits the start button. Before you know it he is helping himself to a little test ride around the lot. Seconds later, there was a loud screech, the bike is sliding on the pavement and my buddy is lying on the ground. I guess that was the moment I knew I was buying the bike. That story is not really relevant to the review; I just wanted to remind him about that as he reads this. It did make for a good laugh in his Best Man speech at my wedding and he made good on the parts.

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The Engine and the “Stink”

The focal point of the bike is the 919cc fuel injected inline four. The DOHC engine was transplanted from the CB900R Fireblade, a badass bike in its own rights, and tuned for the street, producing around 100 hp and over 60lb-ft of torque. The engine is known to be bulletproof and my personal experience was that I never encountered a single issue. The basic operation was change oil, start, ride and repeat. The engine truly is its strongest asset. It has loads of power for when you want it, yet it’s tame enough to ride around in city traffic without any frustration. It stands today as the best engine I have owned in a bike, and was a perfect balance of power and rideability (is that even a word?). Some engine buzz was noticeable at freeway speeds, but generally speaking it was pretty refined.

All bikes have their quarks and the 919 is no different. Many 919 riders will tell you all about the exhaust stink the bikes produce. Hornet riders have closets full of riding gear and clothing that smell like an oil refinery. Whether it is the position of the exhaust pipes or aerodynamics of the bike, you can really notice the smell. One simple and cheap way to deal with this is to run regular gas vs premium. The bike runs great on 87octane and reduces the stink.

Suspension and Brakes

The sticker price for a new 919 in the USA was just under $8k. It was on the lower end of the price spectrum for a liter naked, and generally the less expensive bikes like the FZ09 show their true colors with cheap suspension and braking. That only rang half true on the 9er. The brakes work very well considering the cost of the bike. Some 919 riders opt for upgrading their brakes; however I feel the stock dual front and single rear are capable enough for 95% of the riders who will own this bike.

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The suspension on the other hand will leave you with a sour taste in your mouth. The early versions (‘02 & ‘03) have non-adjustable front forks. The ‘04+ models have adjustable (pre load) 43mm forks up front, but they still left much to be desired. The suspension setup is simply too soft for canyon carving and aggressive riding. Serious riders tend to upgrade the suspension, with many aftermarket options along with parts from other bikes being successfully adapted.

Illustration for article titled Best Budget Used Naked: Honda 919 Hornet Review
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Versatility

The upright seating and comfortable handlebars make the bike great for community. Despite the lacking suspension, the power and thrill you get from the engine makes it an excellent choice for weekend fun on the twisties. And with very little work and a few inexpensive add-ons, the 919 can be a capable sport-touring machine. Some cheap bar risers, a generic windscreen and some affordable soft luggage took me on a 21 day journey in the Western States that I will never forget. I toughed it out on the stock seat, and the now slightly older and wiser rider (more older than wiser) would have sprung for an aftermarket saddle. That being said I was also on the ground in a tent without a sleeping pad and a balled up Alpinestars hoodie for a pillow, so the seat didn’t seem so bad.

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The bike is pretty primitive. There is no digital dash, fuel gauge, no half faring, and no bells and whistles at all really, but that’s what draws people to the bike. The 919 is said to be a revival of the Universal Japanese Motorcycles that were produced in the 70s, the kind of bikes that you could do anything with, and that really rings true.

In short, the 919 is a really capable road warrior that can be had at an affordable price. Ride it down B roads, carve the twisties on pristine pavement, tour the country, or ride it to work. Just don’t ride it in a Target parking lot in the dead of winter.

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Thumbs Down

  • Suspension
  • Fuel Range is not great, especially for touring

Thumbs Up

  • Can do it all when it comes to On-Road Riding
  • Super Affordable in the Used Market
  • Awesome engine
  • Reliable

Who Should Buy It?

Its immediate competition is the Z1000 which is a great bike. But the bottom line is that if you are looking for used true-naked bike for a good price, capable of long distance touring every so often, look no further than the 919.

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Gear and Accessories Used

Luggage:

Saddle Bags: Rapid Transit Saddle Bags

Tail Bag: Rapid Transit Tail Bag

Tank Bag: Joe Rocket Manta

Drysack: Outdoor Research Airpurge Dry Compression Sack

Bike Accessories:

Windscreen: Slipstreamer S-06 tinted

Handle Bars: Renthal Ultra Lows on 1-1/4”Bar Risers

Cruise: Vista Cruise

Exhaust: Yoshimura SS Dual Slip ons (back to stock for touring)

Crash Protection: T-rex Frame Sliders (mounted to frame not engine)

Mirrors: eBay Mirrors with Integrated Turn Signals

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GPS: Garmin Nuvi in a Cheap eBay Waterproof Case

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Gear:

Helmet: Icon Mainframe (Now the Alliance)

Jacket: Tourmaster Transition 2

Pants: Tourmaster Quest Pants

Gloves: Teknic Leather Gloves and Mechanix Wear Gloves

Boots: Road Krome Men’s SP1 Fusion Boot


Photos: All are own.

Contact: theperfectlinemc@gmail.com

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