Wheelies have always been...
Wheelies have always been extra easy on the big CBR, and the midrange punch makes this sort of stuff feel second nature.
Honda stuck to its guns with the redesign of the new CBR1000RR. Instead of massive horsepower and electronic gizmos it focused on what it knows best: style, handling and usability.
Exactly twenty years ago I attended the very first CBR900RR intro. Held at the stunning Phillip Island race circuit in Australia, this 900cc bike's debut press event blew all the assembled journalists away. It was an amazing bike.
Put simply, Honda created a new class by serving up superbike performance in a package the size and weight of a 600. It's hard to believe that was two decades ago.
Fast forward twenty years and here I am at another CBR intro, this time at Portimao race circuit in Portugal. The keen-eyed will have spotted that the capital 'B' from the middle of the bike's name (Fireblade) has now been replaced with a lower case version (Euro models). This is a mark of respect to the bike's original designer Baba San, who recently retired.
The new dash sports a fully...
The new dash sports a fully digital display. The older model's analog tach had a special look to it and was the focal point, but the new sweeping tach is pretty cool in its own right too. The new BPF make their arrival obvious with bright blue caps.
'Total Control' has been the mantra of CBR development since the early nineties and the 2012 model's development team, headed up by Fukunaga San, used the same brief. Fukinaga San is as passionate about cigarette smoking as Baba before. 'Tobacco is particularly wonderful to help you think through the blockages,' he told me. He must have put away quite a few packs during this redesign...
For the 'Total Control' reason, the new CBR1000RR doesn't adopt a traction control system. Instead, the engineers have sought to make the 2012 model easier to ride, more forgiving and more predictable.
The fueling is one area Honda has concentrated on. Honda has worked hard to clean up the small throttle (up to quarter turn) and low rev fueling. It shows. There's a predictable and reassuring throttle response across the entire rev range. This was vividly displayed by a really 'green' track surface caused by days of heavy rain and very low temperatures. In these conditions, the last thing you need is messy response. Fuel efficiency is improved by a claimed 10 percent as a result of these changes to the mapping.
It's status quo for the stubby...
It's status quo for the stubby low-exit exhaust, swingarm and brake caliper, but the new wheel is as stylish as anything the aftermarket has to offer. Considerable weight has also been shaved off the rim versus the previous model's, which means faster acceleration and quicker turns. Nice one Honda.
Lighter, prettier wheels, big piston front forks and a heavily reworked rear shock are aimed to improve ride quality. The other notable update is the LCD dash - a big improvement on the older model's analogue arrangement. Much of it is customer programmable so you can tell it how you want your shift lights to appear and for how long. The integrated lap timer will be useful for keen trackdayers.
But the most important aspect of all these updates is that Honda has not spoiled the legendary CBR balance - the near perfect ergonomics and the famous "do-everything-well" flexibility. There may be sportbikes out there with more technology, more power and more bragging rights, but there aren't many bikes that flatter a rider's skills quite like the CBR. With its big, fat, controllable rush of midrange torque it's an easy bike to ride very quickly. It's just the sort of power delivery you need when you're riding an unseen road. Thankfully the 2012 model is the same and even better in this respect.
And of course there's the sharpened, tightened styling; a pointier nose, tighter side panels and a sharper tail. In the flesh it looks even better than in photos.
If a bike needs a lot of electronics to make it function then there might be a problem at its heart. I don't really desire ABS, power modes or traction control as much as midrange punch and general ridability, making the CBR1000RR my first choice for a 1000cc sportbike on the road.
2012 Honda CBR1000RR
Engine: 999cc l/c, inline four cylinder
Horsepower: TBD, 155 est
Wet weight: 441 pounds