Orgasmic. That’s how my editor described the CBZ, in print, when it was launched almost two decades ago. Even accounting for creative license this tells you how starved of performance we were back then! Those were the days where everybody was talking fuel efficiency, two-strokes were effectively dead and performance-minded bikers pored over reports of the Kawasaki Bajaj Caliber because it had ten more cee-cees than the Splendor. Thank god we’re not in 1999!
Of course the CBZ didn’t do for Hero Honda what the Pulsars have done for Bajaj Auto, but you have to give it to the big H (which H, you decide). After crafting a bikini fairing onto a 100cc commuter – in the process creating the world’s largest-selling motorcycle – they also found mind space to design and engineer a 150cc bike for India, a bike that would go on to lay the template for TVS, Bajaj and everybody else to build on.
The one I’m riding here is the CBZ Star, the update that came a full five years later, in response to the Pulsar tsunami. And what did it get? New graphics! That’s how it went down in the 2000s! Marketing wanted a new bike so design slapped on a set of stickers, and engineering found time to tune the carburettor for better fuel efficiency, never mind this was supposed to be a performance-oriented motorcycle.
Small wonder it never sold in big numbers. But one thing is for sure, these bikes last forever. This example has done over 110,000 kilometres and the engine hasn’t been opened even once. The exhaust looks a bit rusty but it is the original piece. The only work done to the bike is a new front disc brake after the original got whacked (that was another first on the CBZ, a disc brake along with electric start). The longevity is perhaps the most endearing quality of the CBZ, as it is with every Hero Honda to be honest. Despite our roads, our fuel, the ham-handedness of our riding, nothing goes wrong – something that can’t be said of its rivals.
While performance is nothing to write home about, the motorcycle still feels current; not something made two decades ago. The engine is smooth, gears shift without a problem, it brakes like you would expect any disc-braked motorcycle to and is probably orgasmic round corners. Except the tyres on this bike have been changed only once in its lifetime and I’m quite happy to accept the words of my editor at face value.