First Impression: 2012 Honda CBR1000RR

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THE YEAR 2012 will mark the 20th anniversary of the Honda. CBR1000RR family of supersport machines. First intro- duced as the CBR900RR for the 1993 ...

First Impression

latter utilizing Honda’s trademark Unit ProLink rear suspension system. But the 2012 RR has received seven key changes designed to enhance its smooth character, and a new fork yet and shock are among the biggest of them. The RR now comes equipped with Showa’s latest 43mm Big Piston fork up front and a new Showa Balance-Free shock out back. First introduced on the 2009 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R, the Big Piston technology increases the surface area of the piston and does away with the internal slide pipes required in a cartridge fork for increased bump control, a more direct road feel and easier fine-tuning via the compression and rebound screws located on the fork caps. Preload adjusters are relocated to the bottom of each fork leg. The Balance-Free shock is designed to offer a more linear transition between extension and compression as the shock cycles through its stroke. Similar in theory to Öhlins’ MotoGP-grade TTX shock absorber, the new Showa features a twin chamber design. The piston itself has no valves, and damping forces are handled by separate circuits for compression and rebound damping. Honda says that the system allows pressure changes in each direction to be controlled more smoothly via a larger volume of oil for better bump response, more control and improved traction sensation to the rider. Like the fork, the shock’s compression and rebound adjusters are located side-by-side on top of the shock body. Assessing the RR’s engine performance, Honda engineers revised the mapping of its Keihin Dual Stage Fuel Injection system (DSFI) to increase smoothness and response at small throttle openings, while leaving the RR’s quartet of 46mm throttle bodies unchanged. Honda has also refined the CBR1000RR’s Combined Anti-lock Braking System (C-ABS) braking system for 2012. The system still links the RR’s brakes front-to-back and back-to-front, but Honda engineers have made it even less intrusive for racetrack use by reducing the front braking bias when the rear brake pedal is applied. More visible changes to the 2012 RR include a patented-design, layered fairing that is said to create a larger pocket of still air around the rider, improving aerodynamics. The fairing also helps to draw more air through the cooling system, and its integrated chin spoiler is designed to reduce aerodynamic lift at high speeds. Honda also swapped the CBR’s three-spoke wheels for 12-spoke cast alloy wheels with more consistent rigidity to provide more consistent road feedback to the rider. The new wheels are heavier than the old ones, but a Honda spokesman told us the extra mass is in the hub, mitigating any noticeable increase in gyroscopic effect that might influence the RR’s steering. Last but not least, an all-new, multi-function LCD instrument panel replaces the 2011 model’s large-faced analog tachometer and LCD combination unit behind the RR’s fairing. The 2012 model now features a bar-graph tachometer and offers multiple functions, including a lap timer and a five-level shift light, a gear indicator, speedometer, coolant temperature gauge, odometer, two tripmeters, clock, mpg, average fuel consumption and reserve fuel indicator. A low-fuel LED light and shift-indicator light are located above the display.

BRIAN J. NELSON PHOTO

2012 Honda CBR1000RR New suspension and more create the best RR

by Scott Rousseau

T

HE YEAR 2012 will mark the 20th anniversary of the Honda

CBR1000RR family of supersport machines. First introduced as the CBR900RR for the 1993 model year, Honda’s open-class inline four-cylinder repli-racer has not only been a consistent top seller for the company, with more than 445,000 units produced since it first hit the streets in 1992, it has arguably also been one of the most consistently performing. That’s no surprise when you consider that the “Fireblade,” as it is known everywhere but in the U.S., has had the same key personnel on its development team since the beginning. First conceived by Honda engineer Tadao Baba, the Fireblade program has been in the capable hands of Hirofumi Fukunaga since Baba’s retirement in 2004. An original member of its design team, Fukunaga and crew have continued to refine the RR, guided by Baba’s “total control” vision of an open-class supersport that strikes the perfect balance between everyday street use and all-out racetrack capability. Baba’s original concept, based on a 750cc inline four-cylinder engine, was conceived during an era of increasingly overweight open-class sportbikes. Extensive research led Honda to realize that far greater flexibility could be achieved with a platform that combined the compact size and lighter weight of a 750 with the muscle of an additional 150cc displacement. Thus the hyper-handling CBR900RR was born, and it revolutionized the open class. But times have changed, and flyweight 1000cc repli-racer sportbikes with 170+ rwhp and traction control have fast become the rule rather than the exception. While Honda officials admit that the RR’s 150 rwhp may be lower than its latest class rivals, they still insist its powerband is the most useable among the current crop of 1000cc supersports. Thus, rather than injecting the RR with a street-lethal dose of raw horsepower harnessed by a sophisticated traction control system for 2012, Honda has simply enhanced the 1000RR via several improvements.

What’s New Radically revised in 2008, the CBR1000RR’s liquid-cooled, fuel-injected DOHC inline four-cylinder engine is basically unchanged, as is its die-cast aluminum frame and swingarm, the 30

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Tracking The Changes Honda invited us to sample the revised CBR1000RR during a two-day introduction in Novato, California, just north of San

Honda’s revisions to the C-ABS are impressive, too. Now, all but the most finicky racers are unlikely to notice that when the rear brake is applied there is also a measured application of the front brakes, for instance, when a rider might apply the rear brake to settle the rear end in a bumpy corner.

Life On The Road

BRIAN J. NELSON PHOTO

If not for the RR’s racer-replica hunched seating position, one might find bliss with the CBR1000RR in daily use. Our 70-mile loop aboard brand-new tires on rain-slickened roads confirmed what we had learned on the track, that the CBR1000RR’s refined charm is equally as at home on the highway and between stoplights as it is on the racetrack. Once again, the suspension improvements and smooth throttle response were noteworthy, especially on poorly kept county two-lanes, which really tested the suspension’s rough pavement compliance. Fast or slow, the 1000RR’s agile geometry; 55.5" wheelbase, 23° 3' rake and 3.8" trail, don’t adversely affect the CBR’s stability. Just as on the track, the RR simply goes where you point it without hesitation or headshake. Much of the credit is due to Clockwise from upper left: The 2012 CBR1000RR’s new features include a 43mm Showa Big Piston Fork, revised C-ABS brakes, an the RR’s MotoGP-derived, speed-sensitive Honda Electric Steerall-new digital instrument panel and a Showa Balance-Free shock. ing Damper (HESD) working behind the scenes—located under the front of the RR’s 4.7-gal. fuel tank. But despite its revised bodywork and fairly comfortable seat, Francisco. The first day intro included multiple track sessions at the RR’s low handlebars, crouched seating position and lack of Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, and the next was on some of Marin wind protection won’t win it any fans on trips much longer than County’s twisty backroads for a brief evaluation of the RR’s our road ride. Its street performance may be nicely balanced with street manners. Honda even brought along a six-pack of 2011its racetrack competence, but its ergonomics are no-compromise, model RR’s to provide us with side-by-side comparisons. racetrack-only, although that’s to be expected. Never having visited the fast Infineon track but for a brief trip to its dragstrip for a rained-out event over 20 years ago, the idea of riding the CBR on a damp and fogbound circuit with several Final Thoughts blind curves left me a little anxious, a sense that was confirmed Its improved technology and performance notwithstanding, when former Daytona 200 winner Jake Zemke, the man Honda perhaps the best part about the 2012 CBR1000RR is that it isn’t brought in to show us the hot line around the track, slipped and much more expensive than the 2011 model was. With an MSRP crashed at less than 45 mph in turn three on the very first sightof $13,800 for the standard model and $14,800 with C-ABS, a ing lap! After a brief delay to wait for the fog to burn off and the buyer will get all the aforementioned improvements for a mere sun to come out, the dozen journalists on hand were treated to a $300 price increase over the 2011. Even if a 2011 owner solicited dry racetrack with excellent visibility. the aftermarket to re-map the fuel curve and modify the suspenThe first few laps aboard the CBR bore testimony that Mr. sion components to match the 2012’s better performance in these Baba’s vision of a user-friendly open-class sportbike is still relareas, that cost would be considerably steeper than 300 bucks. evant whether or not it is capable of winning races in top-level While the 2012 CBR1000RR may not be the world beater that it competition. The smooth and zippy output of the CBR’s motor once was, it’s surely the best version yet, an exhilarating open-class isn’t intimidating, and it never feels as if it needs a traction consportbike with polished performance worthy of its heritage. In a trol system. The motor’s user-friendliness made it easy to concengrowing class of 200-hp, traction-controlled specials, we hope that trate on learning the track without the fear that any misjudged there will continue to be a place for a sportbike like this RR. throttle input would spin the rear tire and invite disaster. Upshifting is smooth as silk, and downshifting is equally so, aided by the CBR’s excellent slipper clutch. Even more noticeable, the 2012’s revised low-speed throttle mapping makes the 2011 feel abrupt by comparison, especially in on/off throttle transitions. It’s a safe bet that those familiar with just how smooth the 2011’s throttle response is will be duly impressed by the difference. More than just the mapping, however, the 2012 RR’s fork and shock action really separate it from the 2011. The Big Piston fork responds much better to bumps and other road chop than the 2011, allowing a tighter line through the braking ripples created by all the sports cars, especially in the fast downhill left-hand Turn 6, aka, “The Carousel.” Ditto for the Balance-Free shock, which feels far more composed than the 2011 when accelerating off slow curves such as the chicane at Turn 9A and the hairpin Turn 11, the final corner. It was here that wheelspin was still a possibility under heavy acceleration on the 2011, but the increased traction provided by 2012’s new shock and the revised mapping will allow you to get on the gas harder and sooner in similar conditions—and just about everywhere else. Visit us at WWW.MCNEWS.COM



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