Beautiful, practical, well made bike, in search of some midrange power
Radiator was leaking when I bought it, but managed to get a cheap brand new one from Hong Kong. Quality is not OEM, but neither is the price.
Fuel tap leaks on the outside if set to reserve.
Rear shocks were spewing oil, and have been replaced with low mileage Hagons lifted from my Z650.
Rear brake needed dismantling and cleaning.
This CB400SF Project Big One is a very well made and intelligently designed motorcycle. Most everything is easy to access for maintenance or repair. Only fitting the rear wheel is a bit of a struggle, as keeping the spacers and brake stays in place, while getting the rear axle through, is tough when working alone.
This particular bike has lead a very hard life, being used all year with little care. The salt has left traces of corrosion and destroyed the radiator, but overall the bike has survived the abuse amazingly well.
The forks are pitted and leaking, but I will attend to this over winter. Smoothing down the pits with an emerald stone and fitting new seals will do the trick. Fork springs are entirely too soft for heavy Europeans, but a cheap fix is to up the oil level for a much more progressive spring action.
The stock rear shocks are if possible, even softer, but the Hagons made for the old Kawasaki Z650 work very well, offering a comfy ride with more control than the shot stockers. Cannot say how the stock units would have worked as new, but chances are they were much too soft even then. Thanks to the softness, bump compliance is fantastic.
Despite the distance on the engine, it doesn't use a drop of oil. The engine is also very smooth, with just a hint of tingle coming through the tank and bars here and there.
Power is soft at all RPM, although it is faster than it feels if kept between 8000 and 12500 RPM. If you shift by ear, you will change up at around 7500 RPM when the engine starts to sound quite mad. Pulling to the red line doesn't feel natural, but is required for quick passes or making progress on a winding back road. Top gear acceleration is rather lame, but slightly better than on my VT500 Ascot.
Handling is good as long as you remain smooth; the soft suspension protests if you try to manhandle it. Stay smooth, though, and there is plenty of cornering clearance, and the steering is precise and fairly light. Stability is excellent, as long as you are smooth and relaxed.
Brakes are very good up front. This is not a one-finger brake, but I like to be able to use a bit of force without having to use a death grip. Modulation is great. The rear brake is poor however, going from little stopping force to lockup without warning.
Rims are wide enough to run radials, what with a 3.00-17 front and 4.00-17 rear.
The big tank is a blessing, and will allow at least 300 km / 190 miles of riding between fill-ups. Ridden gently, you can add 50% to that. And the bike offers comfort enough to use it all. The legs are bent a bit too much for my old and sore knees, but for a healthy individual, the seating position is nigh on perfect, with superb balance and control. Seat is comfy as well for the rider. Passengers will be fine if they are light and short, but for 6 footers, it will soon grow old due to thin padding and tall placed pegs.
If the bike had a 650 twin with the same 52PS output, but alas much better mid range power, it would be close to the ideal bike for me. I'd add an inch of foam to the seat for a bit more leg room, that's all. I love the look of the bike, one of the best looking ever, and it is just overall excellently made. But the busy engine is not my cup of tea. Which isn't a big concern, as I bought it for my son to use primarily.
Would you buy another motorcycle from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 19th October, 2012