This is Honda’s “bread and butter” street model too and the latest rendition addresses a couple of points raised by racer and street guy alike and a likely response to the other competitors within the class. What we all wanted to see was better suspension (read inverted-forks), less weight and the now class standard, radial brakes. So what we have here is a better suspended, lighter and quicker braking 2005 model. Nothing unexpected, shocking or radical, just the Honda style of refinement in-between model years, as per request.
Like the Yamaha R6 revisions, change forces change, what looks like the same frame is actually a completely new part that was cast with thinner walls but re-engineered to retain the previous rendition’s excellent rigidity. The frame alone makes up for 3.6lbs of an overall reduction of 9lbs, that’s a significant figure my diet happy two wheel freaks. Further weight savings were gained with the redesign of many other components including the subframe, swingarm, exhaust, axles, side stand, rear shock and the gull-wing top triple-clamp - in fact almost no part was overlooked in that 2005 Jenny Craig plan.
Further subtleties were applied toward the engine too. The 05\' gets a revised dual stage fuel injection with new injectors injecting. The motor features reshaped ports with a narrower venturi section to accelerate cylinder fuel fill. New mapping caters to that and exhaust changes too and power is up, particularly in the midrange. A nice kick in the pants around 8-grand sees you well on the way to redline in short order. Keep the thing up in the rev range and real estate starts to look really blurry, with or without pharmaceutical help. By the way, it’s great to see Honda (and others) address the midrange issues on smaller displacement bikes because that will attract buyers quicker than free crack at the bus station.
Our venue for testing this bike was the West course at Buttonwillow and although fairly short it offers a variety of corners and blind rises to maintain your attention and interest. Handling-wise, the bike is similar to the last model. I thought the ‘03 bike was fairly “tippy” and this bike still needs a little more effort than perhaps an R6 on turn-in but the upside is rock hard stability whilst on its ear. The transition from left to right, especially at Buttons’ right-left-right-left part of the track, inspired confidence with only a minor wiggle that was dialed out for me after some input from Honda’s product evaluator (and ex World Endurance Champ), Doug Toland. I believe they just slowed the rear rebound down a tad to take care of my obvious hallucinations and fat boy style.
One thing I also noticed too, was the ability to run deeper into corners on minimal braking due to the fantastic stability of the new front end. I don’t remember any issues with last years bike, but this year’s just feels better. The new 41mm inverted forks are obviously smaller than last year\'s 45mm and offer a saving in unsprung weight. They feature Honda’s own HMAS cartridge internals and have the usual compression, damping and rebound. These bikes were optimized for us by fast Doug and bearing in mind my extra poundage in the bum, belly and head department, I couldn’t make them misbehave.
The new brakes too garnish praise from my good-self. These new Tokico radial-mounted calipers offer nice feel and were quite powerful too. Typical for radial calipers there’s something that’s hard to put the proverbial finger or two on. It seems such a minor change to the front brake set-up but the pay back is great. I’ve ridden bikes back to back with and without these type of brakes and you can feel the difference, from Supermoto to Supersport. These particular brakes were very progressive with not too much squeeze effort needed to work. With this combination of 310mm floating rotor, forks and brakes, deep trail braking into corners is a breeze and will quite obviously offer you a quicker way around your favorite race track.
The back end of the bike features the MotoGP derived Unit Pro-Link and has a redesigned swingarm. The shock linkage is now incorporated into the design of the swinger, rather than a few separate cast pieces and the whole kit and caboodle is lighter and more compact. Another upside is easier access and fewer parts to deal with. It’s a handsome swingarm set-up and very purposeful looking especially with no exhaust covering it up. Although the Unit Pro-Link works very well, I’ve had a bunch of mean mail from “Honda-haters” who don’t buy into the “frameless shock mount” theory but the simple fact is, it does work. Our day started pretty wet and the rear hunkered down and found me the traction to keep me feeling comfortable - so no complaints here.
Walking around the outside of the bike, you can’t help notice that the new bike is better looking than the old one. Again the differences are very subtle with revised aerodynamics and an even more pronounced RC211V look. The rear seat unit also has a slightly slimmed down look, again very subtle, but groovier. Paintwork is typical Honda glossy good with my particular bike having a tribal wing design that looked fresh and up to the minute. If you’re not into graphics, but into black, there is a blacked out graphic-free bike for your enjoyment. I quite liked all the paint options that Honda have to offer on the CBR-RR (old and new) as the Honda wing logo really suits the slabby bodywork on the newer CBR range.
Although it looks similar, instrumentation is new too, again more dieting with a nice slim clock design. The look is all business too with that large tachometer dominating your eye and a couple of LCD screens offering a mixture of speed, gas, coolant temperature, petrol gauge, and dual trip meter’s digitized within. Similarity seems to be the name of the game here, in fact, the only way I could really tell between the old and new bike was the fact that the new bike had a smaller exhaust hole - I do wear glasses though, and you’re all much smarter than me anyways.
One of the factors of this test was the Dunlop tires used at this event. The bike comes stock with the 218 and worked really well especially on this cold (and wet in the morning) track. The afternoon session saw a 208GP up front and a new 208GP-JLB (Jointless Band) rear. The tread pattern is familiar but with the front enjoying a stickier compound and the rear re-engineered to incorporate a lighter carcass with a reputed zero-growth. The footprint is both flatter and fatter and is less affected by heat cycles - a clubmans dream. They worked well with it’s rounded less aggressive profile, but then I was riding a little shy for reasons mentioned.
I had a chance a couple of weeks after the intro to re-familiarize myself with the ‘05 CBR and a chance to back to back the older ‘04 version. The trip saw me accompanied fore and aft by Doug Toland and Honda’s PR nice-guy, Jon Seidel. After peeing in a cup and checked for needle marks, we headed out to the Malibu canyons for a jolly good Sunday morning style thrash. This trip cemented my view as the Honda being probably the best streetable supersport available. This was a trip that I can remember especially as I got to experience the bike on real world roads. Stability at street speed is first class and running into unfamiliar corners held no fear.
The weight difference was felt between the two, with the new bike feeling lighter and livelier than the ‘04. Ergo’s were comfortable for me too, especially factoring in that I was still aching from Crash-fest 04.
So, as it stands this is the only middleweight that I haven’t high-sided yet (don’t ask). That makes it a great bike in my battered and bruised book.