Whenever motorcyclists gather for a session of bench-racing, comments aimed toward big-bore sportbikes often carry a bit of arm's-length awe: these are potent, high-powered machines and not for the faint of heart. However, such tales have arguably helped build the reputation of Honda's CBR1000RR, a full-on sporting literbike that shatters class stereotypes with its surprisingly accommodating manners. Thanks to its magnum-level performance along with a near-perfect blend of streetability, versatility, rider feel and balanced character, the CBR1000RR has for years held high the class standard for well-rounded capabilities. Of course, it helps greatly that the CBR1000RR is sized and weighs in alongside 600cc-class sportbikes, but that's a longstanding family trait.
It barely seems like the blink of an eye, but it was 20 years ago that Honda ushered in the modern era of big-displacement street-going sportbikes with the CBR900RR. Back in 1992, the concept of "light makes right" produced a lightweight and compact CBR900RR that quickly established its standing as a wonder in its time. The CBR900RR not only delivered big-time power in a middleweight-sized package that begat exemplary handling, it also provided a heretofore-unknown level of overall balance that gave the rider a direct, connected feel with the motorcycle.
The motoring press and sportbike enthusiasts alike lavished praises on this first iteration of what grew to become an ongoing series, and the accolades continued flowing as successive models advanced that basic concept, which was-and continues to be-so capable and rewarding. We now see these endearing and enduring qualities carry forward to this day, embodied in the 2012 CBR1000RR. In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the CBR-RR and in keeping with the original concept, the 2012 CBR1000RR continues to supply exemplary liter-class sportbike performance, pumping out huge midrange horsepower and torque for class-leading real-world muscle in a great-handling high-performance package unmatched by the competition in its overall balance.
Changes to the CBR1000RR for 2012 focus on sharpening what is arguably the most critical component in a motorcycle designed for sporting use: chassis performance. Granted, big-time horsepower always holds its own attractions and the CBR1000RR pours out huge quantities of horsepower and torque right in the midrange where literbike aficionados want it to be-after all, what's the point of having a peaky big-bore bike? However, it's the ultra-responsive middleweight-style handling that truly allows this large-displacement sportbike to shine.
Starting with a tried and proven four-piece Fine Die-Cast twin-spar aluminum frame, Honda's development team focused their efforts on incorporating innovative chassis components, specifically a new-concept rear shock, Big Piston Fork, plus new 12-spoke cast aluminum wheels that provide even more rigidity. In doing so, they were able to markedly expand the CBR1000RR's handling prowess and enhance its braking and traction characteristics. In addition, newly designed bodywork following the layered fairing concept aids aerodynamic flow to create a large still-air pocket around the rider while also helping draw air through the cooling system. An integrated chin spoiler in the nose also reduces aerodynamic lift at speed, thereby improving handling, and the overall package lends a more aggressive appearance.
Newly refined EFI settings make the engine even more manageable, with smoother throttle response specifically at smaller throttle openings. New LCD instrumentation communicates everything from gear position to coolant temperature and speed. The cockpit display now incorporates a digital bar-type linear tachometer that offers four selectable modes for style of readout. Other instrumentation includes gear position indicator, five-level shift indicator adjustable for sequence interval, clock/four-mode lap timer, coolant temperature, speedometer, trip meter/fuel efficiency/fuel consumption, low-fuel warning light and odometer/numerical tachometer. At the bottom of the display are lights for headlight high beam, neutral and turn signal functions. All in all, these changes make the rider/machine interface smoother and more rider friendly.
The main objectives in the further development of the CBR1000RR's suspension setup included: smoother suspension action, improved rider feel, and increased grip and traction. To achieve those goals, the 2012 CBR1000RR rear suspension system still features Honda's acclaimed single-shock Unit Pro-Link® configuration, but now it introduces the first Balance-Free Rear Shock on a production motorcycle, an advancement developed in conjunction with world-leading suspension specialist Showa that has patent protection pending.
In place of the conventional single-tube shock configuration, the Balance-Free Rear Shock design incorporates a double-tube design featuring a damper case plus an internal cylinder. The damper piston does not feature any valves; instead, the damping force is generated as displaced oil passes through a separate damping component. In conventional rear shocks the damping force is generated in two places, the main and sub damping valves. In the Balance-Free Rear Shock, however, this action is handled in one circuit, allowing pressure changes to be controlled more smoothly by a larger body of oil. The net result is more responsive damping and a smoother, better-controlled damping action, particularly during the transition from compression to rebound. As a result, the Balance-Free Rear Shock delivers more consistent damping over the duration of a ride, track session or race, improved shock absorption and greater traction since contact is more consistently maintained between the rear tire and the road or track surface. In addition, the adjusters for compression and rebound damping settings are placed prominently on the top of the shock body for quick and easy access.
To complement the Balance-Free Rear Shock, the front suspension system now features an inverted 43mm telescopic fork incorporating Showa's Big Piston Fork technology. This new fork uses a unique construction with a larger damping volume to effectively reduce the hydraulic pressure generated as the fork legs compress and extend. The result is more precise action during the initial stroke and smoother damping action, which the rider perceives as improved handling, enhanced front-end feedback and a more solid feel during hard braking.
As before, CBR1000RR owners can also opt for Honda's advanced electronically controlled Combined ABS braking system, which offers the confidence of antilock braking while remaining so unobtrusive that it satisfies even the most committed sport riders. Updates to this system result in a modified front-brake effect better suited to sport riding: now when the rear brake pedal is actuated, there's less initial braking application from the front brake compared to the previous-generation setup, followed by more-progressive front-brake application as brake pedal pressure increases.
The CBR1000RR has stood alone as the top-selling liter-class sportbike in Europe for a number of years, a market filled with extremely discriminating sportbike riders who really give their bikes a thorough workout. The CBR1000RR remains exceedingly popular with this highly demanding crowd thanks to its inherent soundness-a purity of purpose, if you will, that continues to reward the most sophisticated sport riders. The 2012 CBR1000RR possesses an extreme versatility that makes the machine a genuine pleasure, whether it's time for a quick afternoon ride, a week's exploration down twisty roads or a weekend spent at the track.
Which is not to say the CBR1000RR isn't amazingly potent; witness the efforts of John McGuiness at the Isle of Man races in July 2011, where he set a new course record aboard the previous generation CBR1000RR. This awe-inspiring example of racing capabilities on the most extreme of road courses stands as bold testimony for a machine designed from the get-go with both a sound concept and strong execution-no need for the interventions of traction control or harsh-onset wheelie control used in other machines. The CBR1000RR rewards riders who appreciate this machine's unparalleled feeling of transparent connectedness, and who prefer to rely on their own skills as a method of traction control. Time and time again in comparison tests the world over, the CBR1000RR posts laps times quicker than its competition equipped with electronic interventions, and the reason is simple: Fast laps on a track, like good times on the street, have more to do with a machine's overall balance and rideability than anything else. That's the secret to the CBR1000RR's long-time popularity.
In the end, the CBR1000RR imparts an uncanny connection between rider and motorcycle thanks to its extraordinary balance, all-around performance and remarkably integrated feel. For 2012, Honda's engineers have further honed and sharpened these characteristics, offering riders the opportunity to step up and open the next chapter to the motorcycle that's become a living legend among sportbikes.