There is a feeling you get when you are riding the new Honda, a sort of high, knowing that you are riding possibly the most capable sportbike on the road. But just as the high of a drug comes with a side effect, the new CBR1000RR also came with a side effect. It was turning me into the arrogant, snobbish motorcycle rider I had always despised. Each time I was at a stop light I couldn\'t help but look over at the bike next to me and give a slight chuckle, knowing I was on a superior machine.
So what is it about this motorcycle that can turn normally humble, low-key riders into high-and-mighty, elitist riders you ask?
Well let\'s start with the chassis. While the previous generation Honda was a very stable, capable chassis it was a little on the heavy side and not the most flickable of the liter-bikes. The CBR1000RR now has an all-new chassis highlighted by a frame that\'s over 5 pounds lighter thanks to Honda\'s Hollow Fine Die-Cast manufacturing process that allows for a narrower wall thickness and less welds. The new frame is significantly stronger, lateral rigidity increased 13 percent, torsional rigidity up 40 percent and vertical rigidity up 30 percent.
Honda also made huge savings in unsprung weight with their hollow-section, triple-spoke, cast aluminum wheels. A total savings of 240g in the front and 310g in the rear helps with both overall ride and handling. Weight savings were also found in the radial-mount front disc brakes, calipers, brake lines and rotors both front and rear.
While the chassis may be the first thing we see on the new CBR, the motor is what makes most of us hunger for a liter-bike and the Honda does not disappoint. The CBR1000RR features a lighter and more compact powerplant than the previous CBR1000RR. There is a completely new cylinder head, lighter camshafts and new larger-diameter titanium intake valves. The new engine has a larger bore and shorter stroke to create a higher-revving power output and the pistons, although 1mm-larger diameter, retain the same weight as the pistons they replace. Compression increases from 12.2:1 to 12.3:1.
The 2008 CBR1000RR has a new low-mount exhaust system which replaces the previous under-tail exhaust. I have heard a fair share of negative comments on how the new Honda exhaust looks but I think it\'s a huge improvement over the 2007 CBR. Of the current crop of liter-bikes I think it\'s the cleanest and best design of the bunch.
The changes to the 2008 CBR1000RR are immediately felt on the road. The new CBR1000RR feels extremely light and compact. Although the Honda felt like a proper racebike on the track during the intro at Laguna a few months ago, it feels equally at home on the street and is actually quite comfortable. The new chassis lends to a very natural, upright riding position. The handlebars are slightly higher and farther forward and the footpegs do not leave the legs feeling cramped. Longer rides on the new CBR should not leave you sore and cranky.
One look at the new CBR and you can see the bodywork is clearly slimmer and more compact. With the turn signals located in the mirrors there is little to disrupt the clean lines of the Honda. While some may find the simple lines of the Honda somewhat uninspiring, I like the bike’s clean uncluttered look. The graphics are very simple also, helping contribute to the classy look of the CBR. The front of the CBR is quite stubby and the tail section is almost non-existent leading the CBR to share a strong resemblance to Honda\'s current MotoGP bike. Honda claims the drag numbers on the CBR1000RR are close to approaching numbers common on 250 GP bikes thanks to the new bodywork, narrower front-fork span and a slimmer, taller radiator.
The gauge cluster is an easy read and the Honda cockpit is uncluttered and easy to navigate. My one complaint is the lack of gear indicator, which having ridden bikes equipped with them, I cannot live without. Ok, so maybe I can, but counting what gear I am in with my fingers makes it hard to get on the throttle. The mirrors do a surprisingly excellent job of helping you watch your backside. They manage to provide a view around your shoulders and are probably some of the most useful mirrors on any current sportbike in the market.
Out on the road I soon fell in love with what seemed to be the perfect motor to put the fun in a street ride. The linear power delivery with an awesome midrange punch is intoxicating and will have you looking for any excuse to go for a ride. Every dip in the road seems like an invitation to power wheelie seemingly in any gear. If you are looking for the perfect street motor with a useable midrange that will never feel mundane, look no further, this is where the Honda reigns supreme.
The top-end rush on the Honda may not blur your vision quite as much as the GSXR or ZX-10 but it is still quite strong and I would undeniably give up a little top-end speed for the sweet power spread on the Honda.
One thing that is notably missing on the Honda is Road Buzz. I was impressed by the lack of vibration at the bars in comparison to some of the bikes I\'ve been riding lately. My hands tend to fall asleep quite easily but it was not a problem even on the longer rides with the CBR1000RR.
The new chassis is the standout of the CBR1000RR. I felt immediately comfortable on the well-sorted, extremely nimble CBR. No need to do that extra set of reps at the gym, the Honda is extremely light and flickable and truly deserving of the comparison we often hear of "feeling like a 600". While turn-in on the Honda is extremely quick, it is also composed and does not suffer from being twitchy. The Honda holds its line well and gives ample feedback to what is going on beneath you. The combination of lightness and stability makes for a confidence inspiring ride that will not leave you tired after a long day in the saddle.
Much of the Honda\'s composed feel can be attributed to the Honda Electronic Steering Damper (HESD). While having little effect at low speeds, the HESD kept everything inline when coming down from wheelies slightly crossed-up or skimming the front wheel over sketchy pavement while hard on the gas.
Holding up the new CBR1000RR are 43mm inverted cartridge forks and a MotoGP-derived Unit Pro-Link rear suspension system with adjustments for preload, rebound and compression damping.
The suspension and damping settings on the CBR1000RR seemed well suited to both freeway commuting as well as carving in the canyons. The CBR was plush enough to soak up the rough freeways around L.A. while not feeling overly soft charging through the canyons or while being aggressive.
If you are looking to ride aggressive, the brakes on the Honda CBR1000RR will do a sound job of getting things stopped when aggression surely morphs into bouts of stupidity. Lever feel is good and stopping power from the radial-mounted four-piston calipers makes my preferred method of one-finger braking a breeze.
While one-finger braking may be preferred, the time will surely come when you are in need of some five-finger braking and maybe a few toes stomping on the rear pedal as well. While Honda does not provide you with extra fingers (unfortunately, since I am one finger short on my braking hand) they do offer a new slipper clutch to help you out. While we often think of the advantages a slipper clutch provides on the race track, it can be equally as appreciated on the street when arriving at a corner with a little more than the desired speed. While circulating a track you usually have a few laps to get your shifting points and gear selection in order. On the street you don\'t always have that luxury and it can be easy to come into an unknown corner too hot or in the wrong gear. The addition of Honda\'s new slipper clutch, which incorporates a built-in mechanical assist system to keep lever feel at the clutch light, helps to eliminate any of the rear wheel hop that could spell disaster on the street should you get it all wrong on corner entry.
Shift action was smooth and precise throughout my 2 weeks with the CBR1000RR with no abundance of false neutrals to report.
Honda proves you can make a race winning machine (as Jake Holden has shown in AMA Superstock competition) that is not compromising on the street. The Honda feels as light and nimble as a GP racer on the track but remains comfortable and civilized for the street. I find this almost as intriguing as the modern thermos flask which keeps your cold drinks cold and your hot drinks hot. How does it know? Well, if Honda ever decides to build a thermos I am now thoroughly convinced it will be the best on the market.
So what gripes do I have with the new Honda then? None really, other than my minor complaint that I would like to see a gear indicator and maybe a touch more top-end speed.
I have yet to ride the 2008 ZX-10R which will likely be Honda\'s main competition for the crown this year. Like the Honda, the Kawasaki ZX-10R is all new for 2008. It will need to make huge strides from last year’s model to compete with the 2008 CBR1000RR.
Honda has to be feeling pretty confident however, and just like me during my two weeks with the bike, maybe feeling just a little cocky.