The Honda CB Hornet 160R is an absolute stunner, but its beefy tank is what really manages to steal the show. Not to mention that sleek-looking tail section that sports the ‘X’-shaped tail-light and a nice chunky rear tyre. But beneath all those chiselled looks, the Hornet is essentially a slightly sportier version of a commuter motorcycle. It’s light, pretty compact and easy to manoeuvre, and has been quite handy in getting me through my daily office commute. The brakes and tyres offer a decent amount of traction at all times.
Once you get a move on, the first thing that becomes apparent is the lack of mid-range grunt. The first gear is rather short, so you end up shifting into second and suddenly notice the lack of power. Holding lower speeds in second gear will have the engine knocking. So pulling away from speed breakers in second gear becomes almost impossible; you end up shifting into the short first gear again. A lot of gear shifting while squeezing through peak hour traffic is not really something to look forward to.
Where the engine really starts to come alive is towards the top end, but by then it’s almost screaming. The power starts to kick in almost near the redline, and that’s probably the only place the engine really starts to feel comfortable. Sure, on a race track that might make a lot of sense, but out on the street you really don’t want to be pushing the motorcycle that hard all the time.
So I decided to get the Hornet out for a short highway run to see how well it performed. One thing I cannot comprehend is why manufacturers position the gear and brake foot levers at such awkward angles. Sure, they might feel fine for shorter riders, but for tall riders, the foot position feels unnatural and starts to get painful after a while. That being said, the Hornet feels nimble through the corners and holds its lines decently well.
You could hold speeds of 90-100kph all day and the engine doesn’t feel very stressed. On one downhill straight, the speedometer read about 123kph, which is not entirely bad for a 160cc mill. The suspension also soaked up high speed bumps fairly well. But here’s where I had the luxury of choice; I had a fellow rider on a Suzuki Gixxer and decided to switch things over for a while just to compare notes.
The Gixxer felt much more relaxed than the Hornet on the highway in every way. The engine felt less stressed and the seating position felt way better. I was actually a bit reluctant to switch back onto the Hornet when the time came. So aside from its stellar good looks, Honda may need to refine the Hornet a little more. It’s not that it’s a bad motorcycle, it just needs a few tweaks to make it better. And the addition of a kill-switch would go a really long way.