We ride the Honda CBX, Benelli 900 Sei and Kawasaki KZ1300 Sixes

4 Apr 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on We ride the Honda CBX, Benelli 900 Sei and Kawasaki KZ1300 Sixes
Benelli 750 Sei

Three Tenors – When Six-Cylinder Superbikes Were King A look back at the Honda CBX, Benelli 900 Sei and Kawasaki KZ1300 Sixes.

Photography by Marc Urbano

They were the Big Sticks of motorcycling in the Seventies and Eighties, future-is-now exercises in engineering prowess that didn’t just toe the waters of excess but went in like giant, 500-pound velvet cannonballs. They were six-cylinder bikes, wearing their long crankshafts across the frame and exclaiming their difference with a sextuplet of chrome header pipes sweeping back under those monumental powerplants.

It’s a rare opportunity these days to get to ride one of these bikes, much less three of them back-to-back. But thanks to Chicago-area car and bike collector Joe Bortz I got to fly back to take a spin on his 1981 Benelli 900 Sei, 1979 Honda CBX and 1979 Kawasaki KZ1300. Added bonus was meeting up with Peter Egan and his old touring buddy Chuck Davis to make it a group ride.

Egan was working at CW when these bikes were rolling down the highways of America and was even lucky enough to do the road test of the CBX in ’81. Egan’s “Three Tenors” feature in the December, 2009, issue recounts his history with these bikes when they were new and how it is to revisit them three decades later.

For my part, it was a completely new experience. Aside from riding a Honda Gold Wing GL1800, I’d never tried a Six before. It was pleasantly surprising to find these bikes of such an amenable size.

Rather than being big and brutish, they were really quite in line with current expectations for motorcycle size. Which might be a sad commentary on how big our modern motorcycles have become! Actually, the Kawasaki KZ1300 is closest to being a brute and is a genuinely big machine. It grunts like a gorilla off the line and its square-shouldered styling gives it the largest road presence.

The Benelli Sei, on the other hand, was quite diminutive—almost smaller-feeling than a Norton Commando—and very easy to ride. In fact, it was sort of shocking for an Italian bike of this era how light the controls were and how supple the suspension was in reaction to bumps. The Honda CBX split the other two in size and feel.

Further, the CBX carried itself most like a modern motorcycle, with light control feel, nimble steering and faultless, turbine-smooth running qualities. All three were incredibly vibration-free, but the Honda was tops.

It was quite a symphony of sound as our chorus of 18 cylinders whirled and whooshed down the road. Both Cycle World and Cycle did multiple road tests on these bikes, so we went into the archives to share some of the period photos of the various models. Check out the gallery for some very smooth time travel, plus more photos from our modern-day cruise on these wonderfully complex six-cylinder motorcycles.

Benelli 750 Sei
Benelli 750 Sei
Benelli 750 Sei
Benelli 750 Sei

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