2006 Honda CBR 1000RR
Get the Flash Player to see this player.During the lunch break, Honda fitted the CBRs with Bridgestone BT-002 Pro race tires. This tire swap helped me to figure out how much of the new bike's skittishness was attributable to the stock BT-015 tires and how much was chassis revision. Like most modern sportbike tires, the stock 015s are really good. However, they seem to have a bit too much flex in their carcass, which amplifies the new bike's responsive handling. On the sticky race tires, the chassis seems a bit more stable and forgiving and the added grip makes it easier to exploit the sharper handling and harder acceleration.
Indeed, I loved the connected feeling from the 1000RR on race rubber and had a ball threading the CBR faster and faster through the most technical sections of Buttonwillow. Last year's CBR couldn't hang with the competition of race rubber. However, this year's bike feels like its laptimes will fit right in with the latest crop of Japanese Superbikes.
When the day started, I was a bit put-off by Honda's willingness to sacrifice stability for lap times. Indeed, my overall impression is that the new bike has lost some of the signature Honda friendliness and given up its biggest distinguishing trait; its approachable nature which allows a rider to immediately feel at home on it.
As a motorcycle reviewer, I think it's my duty to point this out to the reader, since the majority of buyers aren't going to be racing these things at an expert level. For those buyers I'm worried that the new bike's responsiveness will manifest itself as an intimidating tendency to overreact to rider inputs resulting in a rider who's less-relaxed and even less likely to extract the most from his/her riding abilities.
Of course these are just my opinions, and I seem to be the only journalist who feels this way, so it's quite possible that I'm mistaken. By the end of the day, my initial reservations were replaced by my usual post-track euphoria and speaking with the other fast guys in attendance, I quickly realized they all felt the new bike was a vast improvement over last year's stable sweetheart.
Of course, they're right when speaking in context of expert club racers and AMA pros. However, as the euphoria fades, my brain keeps telling me that this bike isn't as well-suited to the average buyer and I still believe that the majority of canyon carvers and track day participants will be faster on last year's bike. But "average" riders aren't really what these 1000cc Superbikes are all about. Though we can't control who buys which ride, these bikes are truly meant for racers and the fastest and most experienced of the street crowd. Mixed as my opinion of the new CBR may be, there's no denying that Honda totally nailed its goals with the '06 CBR. They wanted faster lap times and they got them, by making the CBR quicker to change direction and quicker to accelerate. An accomplished rider can use these traits to easily outpace their laptimes from an '05 CBR. Indeed, once the '06 was fitted with sticky BT-002 Pro race tires, I found myself giggling and having a ball. One quick flyby from a sideways Doug Toland was all it took to convince me of the basic competence of the bike and the more laps I put on the bike, the faster and more care free I felt.
"The new CBR is definitely faster than the old one and feels right on par with the other bikes in its class."
After a day spent lapping Buttonwillow Raceway, I can attest that the new CBR is definitely faster than the old one and feels right on par with the other bikes in its class. It is also more exciting to ride and arguably more "fun" for experts. However, I honestly think that less experienced track day participants would be faster and more relaxed on last year's bike. To be fair to Honda, I had an issue during my first few sessions, where the front brakes were hanging-up and dragging through the corners. This would cause the bike to feel more nervous than normal and may have set the tone for the rest of my time with the bike.
Couple that setup issue with my near loop and we could have a tainted impression. Indeed, the more I rode the bike and the faster I went, the better I felt about it. Does this mean it isn't as well suited to slower riders? Or, is it simply a combination of events which made me feel the bike is a step-backwards for average riders? This question will be answered shortly, when the rest of the MO staff rides all four Japanese 1000s back-to-back in our '06 Open Supersport Shootout.
Big changes for the short of attention:
- Much quicker steering, not twitchy, but definitely livelier.
- Accelerates noticeably harder than last year's 1000RR and revs quicker in general, thanks to those lightened internals and slightly shorter gearing.
- Honda's ultra-trick HESD system has more work to do this year, due to the steeper geometry. It wasn't hard to initiate a cyclic wobble through the bars, but the HESD did a good job of calming things down after a wiggle or three.
- The Ram Air inlet has been moved to a hidden spot below the steering head, which gives the fairing a slightly cleaner look and caused several journalists to ask if ram air had been deleted. The new intake sounds like it's a bit louder or more aggressively tuned than last year's, this gives the new bike a very pleasing sound from 8,500RPM to Redline.
Ten Questions with Sean "Dirty" Alexander
- How is the motor different from last year? First of all, it's better. Significantly so, and that's what you need to know. Details: the internal weight reduction has paid off -- it revs noticeably faster, and my seat of the pants dyno says it'll easily out-accelerate previous CBR models.
- Is it on par with the GSXR and ZX10R now? Yes, it should be very close in laptimes and its overall feel has become less "Honda" and more "Typical Japanese Superbike".
- Is there any difference in rider comfort? No, it feels comparative to last year's bike.
- Can you feel the difference in weight? Yes: you can always tell when a bike is lighter, and 17 pounds is very obvious. Additionally, the steeper geometry makes the bike feel even lighter.
- What about this bike helped you punk some journalist clowns? In the last right-hand sweeper before the esses, the CBR's new-found ability to make rapid line changes allowed me to weave my way through them like so many rolling traffic cones.
- Is it pretty? If yes, did you feel cool riding it? Do you care? Come on now, sportbikers care! Yes, but I only feel cool when I'm figure skating with Brian Boitano. Do I care if I look cool? Would I admit to my admiration of Brian Boitano if I wanted to look admirable myself in front of the teeming MO masses?
- Were you able to tune-out some of that nervousness with suspension adjustments? It's a 1000cc so it's hard to make it twitchy or nervous -- and it has that great steering damper, so nervous isn't the right descriptor. Did I adjust it to be more confidence inspiring? No, the problem I was having wasn't a suspension problem. The difficulty is the wheelbase is shorter, the rake steeper, the trail lessened, these things can't be tuned out with suspension sag and/or damping adjustments.
- Put yourself on record speculating what a tire swap to (your favorite tire) would do. The CBR was a lot nicer once we took off the OEM Bridgestone BT-015 and went to BT-002 Pro medium compound race tires, which are a heavier-steering tire than the OEM rubber, and squirm less. This made the bike feel more settled and confidence-inspiring. If these were the OE tires, yes, I would've had a slightly better initial impression of the '06 model, but regardless, I still recommend the stability of the '05 for the vast majority of our readers.
- I guess it wheelies well? Did you need that change of underwear? I'll say! The thing came up so fast it took me a moment to realize that I was looking straight up at the atmosphere, and not down the racetrack.
- Overall, and probably most important for our readers, are the changes made for '06 enough to justify buying a new one or changing how it stacks up against the competition? That depends on who you are and what you want. If your intention is to race competitively, the answer is yes. But, my beef with this bike is that it sacrificed user friendliness for the rest who aren't pro-licensed racers. Even for those who pretend to race -- from track-day veterans to canyon crazies -- I think it would be easier to go faster on last year's model.
** Specs Provided By Honda **
|Engine Type||998cc liquid-cooled inline four-cylinder|
|Bore and Stroke||75.0mm x 56.5mm|
|Valve Train||DOHC; four valves per cylinder|
|Carburetion||Dual Stage Fuel Injection (DSFI)|
|Ignition||Computer-controlled digital transistorized with three-dimensional mapping|
|Transmission||Cassette-type, close-ratio six-speed|
|Final Drive||#530 O-ring-sealed chain|
|CHASSIS / SUSPENSION / BRAKES|
|Front Suspension||43.0mm inverted HMAS cartridge fork with spring-preload, rebound and compression-damping adjustability; 4.7-inch travel|
|Rear Suspension||HMAS Pro-Link single shock with spring-preload, rebound and compression-damping adjustability; 5.3-inch travel|
|Front Brakes||Dual full-floating 320.0mm discs with four-piston radial-mounted calipers|
|Rear Brake||Single 220.0mm disc with single-piston caliper|
|Front Tire||120/70ZR-17 radial|
|Rear Tire||190/50ZR-17 radial|
|Trail||100.0mm (3.9 inches)|
|Seat Height||32.3 inches|
|*Claimed* Dry Weight||TBD|
|Fuel Capacity||4.8 gallons, including 1.06-gallon reserve|
|Emissions||Meets current CARB and EPA standards. California version differs slightly due to emissions standards.|
|Available Colors||Black, Candy Blue/Yellow, Red/Black, Silver/Metallic Silver|
|FACTORY WARRANTY INFORMATION||1 year|
Transferable, unlimited-mileage limited warranty; extended coverage available with a Honda Protection Plan