Church Of MO – First Look: 2008 Honda CBR1000RR

Troy Siahaan
by Troy Siahaan

Reminiscing on Honda's then-new literbike king

With the announcement of the new Honda CBR1000RR SP and SP2 at Intermot, as well as the standard CBR1000RR at EICMA 2016, we haven’t been this excited about Honda’s flagship literbike since, well, 2008, when the now outgoing model was first introduced to the world. So, for this Church of MO installment, we’re going back in time to October 2007, when we got our first look at the then all-new 2008 Honda CBR1000RR; a sportbike we’d grow very fond of over the years. For more pictures, be sure to check out the photo gallery.

First Look: 2008 Honda CBR1000RR

More than just another pretty face.

Photos by Brissette, Palaima, American Honda

It’s that time of year again when bike makers barrage us with new and updated model info in attempts to get us primed for when their new machines hit dealer floors. Thus far for 2008 we know that the liter wars are shaping up nicely. For all intents and purposes, we have four new bikes from the Big Four.

Last year Yamaha and Suzuki got the jump when they brought in a revised R1 and GSX-R1000, leaving Kawi and Big Red resting on their venerable laurels. Losing ground to the competition usually doesn’t sit well with Japanese business philosophies, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when Kawasaki revealed their heavily revamped and trim-looking ZX-10R a couple of weeks ago. Now we have the final player, Honda, bringing their A-game with a ground-up make-over of the CBR1000RR.

The 2008 CBR1000RR was invited to American Honda’s Torrance, CA, headquarters to get a first-hand look at the 2008 CBR1000RR. Though appearances are a subjective matter, in this writer’s opinion this is one beautiful sportbike. The new CBR has shed the angular edges of the previous incarnation in favor of smooth lines that draw you in with hypnotic power, beckoning you to run your hands across its fluid, understated shapes.

This new look is something of a departure for the conservative maker of many things with an engine, but the leap in styling may pay untold dividends. Assistant Manager of Motorcycle Press for American Honda, Jon Seidel, told that reaction from dealers during the annual dealer convention recently held in Anaheim, CA, was quite favorable.

Swoopy and smooth lines are intended to make the new CBR1000RR recognizable as distinctly Honda, according to American Honda’s Jon Seidel.

“More than anything, what we were hearing was how excited dealers were about the looks of the bike,” Seidel remarked. He also said dealers cited the reality that comparable performance levels between today’s sportbikes often leaves styling to be the deal maker or breaker. Especially so for the younger “impulse” buyer.

No matter how much image dominates motorcycling, looks will only get you so far. On the surface it would appear that the CBR can walk the walk. The 16-valve inline-Four gained 1cc in volume this year with its 76mm x 55.1mm bore and stroke resulting in 999ccs, making it slightly more oversquare than last year’s 75mm x 56.5mm. This, along with the switch to lightweight titanium intake valves, enables a higher rev limit, although what that is remains a mystery at this point. The inlet valves are also larger this year, up to 30.5mm. Additionally, the intake ports were cleaned up with a new shot-peening process that’s claimed to improve power and torque, and the compression ratio has increased incrementally to 12.3:1 (12.2:1 in ’07). The removable cylinder block’s Nikasil-coated cylinders are sleeveless, and the forged-aluminum pistons are said to be thinner and stronger.

Fuel delivery is via Honda’s Dual Stage Fuel Injection system with 46mm throttle bodies and 12-hole injectors of similar spec to last year’s model. New features include an idle-air control valve (IACV) and the new Ignition Interrupt Control system. The IACV, first seen on last year’s CBR600RR, is there to minimize “torque reaction” and smooth the transition between open and closed throttle “through gradual reductions of air and fuel intake.” As for the Ignition Interrupt Control system, Honda tells that it is not a traction-control system wouldn’t elaborate about specifics quite yet. It’s aimed to make the bike more rider-friendly, and more details will be revealed next month. Further induction enhancements can be found in the new MotoGP-derived ram-air intakes that blend seamlessly with the shape of the new line-beam headlight.

This photo doesn’t do justice to how jewel-like the new Honda wing tank badge is. It should appeal to both older and younger riders.

What’s left of the fuel mixture gets blasted out through an all-new compact mid-muffler located underneath the bike. In order to meet stringent Euro III standards, Honda engineers employed some type of valve and a catalyzer in the exhaust. We here at are now calling these mid-mufflers the new standard in sportbike exhaust systems. If you haven’t noticed, these things are showing up everywhere.

Finally, just like the exhaust, Honda must’ve known it was time to get on board the slipper-clutch train. Honda being Honda, the clutch is unique in that it uses center-cam-assist mechanism to decrease effort at the lever. According to Big Red their slipper is different from typical slippers in that it “moves both the center cam assist and the pressure plate to provide additional slipper action.”

The new mid-muffler exhaust certainly follows current trends of centralizing mass and keeping weight low, but it also was important in meeting tighter emissions standards.

Many of the high-tech goodies we see on Honda sportbikes find their way onto theCBR600RR first. For example, starting way back in 2003 frames were made with the Hollow Fine Die-Casting process which allowed Honda to reduce wall thickness from 3.5mm to 2.5mm. In ’07 the 600 received an upgraded frame that utilized the advanced casting technology that also saw a reduction in the number of welds in the frame, from 11 to four. An added benefit was a 1.1-pound weight loss while being stronger and more compact. Lucky for all of us, the 2008 1000 gets the same treatment. The big bike also gets a new subframe that’s easily removed, and the swingarm is also new.

Other chassis improvements included GP-derived spring rates and settings for the Unit Pro-Link shock that has its upper mount on the swingarm rather than on the frame. This, claims Honda, reduces “negative suspension energy” from being transmitted to the frame. A bonus to this is a lower fuel tank which adds to the overall theme of mass-centralization. New wheels are lighter (3.5″ front; 6″ rear), and the front carries 320mm full-floating discs that get the squeeze from new radial-mount mono-block four-piston calipers up front, while the rear rotor is 220mm. Speaking of wheels, a quick peek revealed that tire dimensions are sportbike-typical 190/50 x 17 and 120/70 x 17. But more interesting, Seidel informed that beyond the Bridgestones (Battlax BT015R) spooned on the bikes we saw, the other brand Honda will use on the ’08 CBR1000RR is Dunlop.

This is the limited-edition Black/Metallic Grey for 2008 that will see a run of “less than 500” units. Cost for the scheme is only $200 more than the $11,599 standard colors.

Again like its 600cc sibling, the literbike also gets the next generation HESD (Honda Electronic Steering Damper). Not only is this updated damper even more developed than what’s on the 600, Seidel says that Honda engineers improved slow-speed feel to the point where a rider won’t even notice a damper exists.

Minimally reduced rake (23.3 degrees in ’08; 23.45 degrees in ’07) and trail (3.8″ in ’08; 3.9″ in ’07) will hopefully compliment the marginal increase from 55.2 inches to 55.4 inches in the wheelbase. The 32.3″ saddle height is apparently unchanged even though sitting on the bike gave me a sensation that I was sitting in the bike rather than on it like on the previous model. My seat-of-the-pants assessment aside, according to press info a rider will sit 10mm lower one way or another on the ’08. Not as perceptible as the seat height was an additional 10mm shrinkage in the reach to the clip-ons that are 6.5mm higher and 2mm forward.

The much more modern-looking instrument cluster cleans up the cockpit. Can you find the HESD? You can’t see it, because it’s tucked neatly out of sight under the fuel tank shell.

It’s interesting to see that fuel capacity has decreased by a small amount, going from 4.8 gallons to 4.7 gallons, a result of the downsized nature of a sleeker CBR for 2008.

Attention to detail isn’t only in the things we can see – like mirrors with integrated indicators, a simplified and much more modern-looking instrument cluster, aluminum kickstand and the beautiful tank badge – it’s also found in more practical areas. For example, the maintenance-free battery only weighs 2.2 pounds, the AC generator pumps out 400 watts, a smaller and lighter ECU runs the show and the minimalist license plate holder/indicator mount removes quickly for track time.

We don’t have specifics as to many of the changes and additions to the CBR because even American Honda staff haven’t been given all the details. Expect a full release of all the inner workings and design principles to come in November.

What we do know is that for all the revisions this formidable bike picked up, MSRP has increased (drum roll please!) a paltry $100 over last year’s $11,499. And if you’re willing to part with another two hundred you may be lucky enough to get your hands on one of the special-edition black models that will be limited to “less than 500” bikes.

Even though technology drips from every pore of the big CBR, one thing that Honda staff wanted to make known was that no matter the performance gains found in this bike, the rider was a very important component in its development. We’ve recently heard a similar tune sung by Buell about their new 1125R, saying that the bike was designed “from the rider down.” It’s nice to know that someone is listening and not forgetting that fast lap times and race wins mean little if nobody wants to ride the bike after Sunday’s glory is long gone.

Honda ups their game for ’08, and with this revision gives us what is essentially four new bikes in the literbike war.

Other Honda Streetbike News

CBR600RR Graffiti

The 600RR Graffiti scheme wants to bring out the bad in you.

Building on the success of the CBR600RR, Honda introduces a new paint scheme for 2008. Called the Graffiti, this new paint scheme is black to the core with various “urban” inspired images tastefully infused in the paint across the majority of the bodywork. There’s not necessarily any rhyme or reason to the images other than to evoke a sense that the bike was born on the wrong side of the tracks, and as a result of an unfortunate childhood it now wears a mish mash of skulls, pistons, spray cans, gears, etc. like black tattoos. If you’re the rider that Honda says doesn’t want to be like everyone else, than you can score the “sinister” Graffiti for $300 above the $9,599 MSRP of the standard colors.

919 and CBR600F4i Off The List For 2008 learned what may be seen by some as unfortunate news about a staple of the Honda streetbike line. Honda Motorcycle Division Press Manager Jon Row told us that the CBR600F4i isn’t in production for 2008. He was quick to point out that the bike isn’t necessarily “dropped” from the line-up, explaining that if Honda “has have an overstock of a certain model” they’ll simply hold back production rather than spend resources creating “BNG” (bold new graphics) for what is essentially an unchanged model.

But don’t hold your breath for a valiant return two years down the road. Asking Row what constitutes a bike truly being dropped from the line-up he said, “Typically, if a bike doesn’t reappear after two years it probably won’t come back.”

That’s rather unfortunate for such an excellent and highly refined bike that often garnered year-end awards and rave reviews when it debuted. In a similar vein, the competent but uninspiring 919 is suffering the same fate as the F4i.

2008 CBR1000RR Specifications

Engine Type: 999cc liquid-cooled inline four-cylinder

Bore and Stroke: 76mm x 55.1mm

Compression ratio: 12.3:1

Valve Train: DOHC; four valves per cylinder

Induction: Dual Stage Fuel Injection (DSFI)

Ignition: Computer-controlled digital transistorized with three-dimensional mapping

Transmission: Close-ratio six-speed

Final Drive: #530 O-ring–sealed chain


Front: 43mm inverted HMAS cartridge fork with spring preload, rebound and compression damping adjustability; 4.7 inches travel

Rear: Unit Pro-Link HMAS single shock with spring pre-load, rebound and compression damping adjustability; 5.4 inches travel


Front: Dual radial-mounted four-piston calipers with full-floating 320mm discs

Rear: Single 220mm disc


Front: 120/70ZR-17 radial

Rear: 190/50ZR-17 radial

Wheelbase: 55.4 inches

Rake (Caster angle): 23.3°

Trail: 96.2mm (3.8 inches)

Seat Height: 32.3 inches

Fuel Capacity: 4.7 gallons, including 1.06-gallon reserve



Black/Metallic Grey†

Black/Metallic Silver

Pearl Yellow/Black

Candy Dark Red/Metallic Silver

Curb Weight*: TBD

*Includes all standard equipment, required fluids and full tank of fuel– ready to ride.

† Limited color run, less than 500

Meets current EPA standards.

California version meets current CARB standards and may differ slightly due to emissions equipment.

Troy Siahaan
Troy Siahaan

Troy's been riding motorcycles and writing about them since 2006, getting his start at Rider Magazine. From there, he moved to Sport Rider Magazine before finally landing at in 2011. A lifelong gearhead who didn't fully immerse himself in motorcycles until his teenage years, Troy's interests have always been in technology, performance, and going fast. Naturally, racing was the perfect avenue to combine all three. Troy has been racing nearly as long as he's been riding and has competed at the AMA national level. He's also won multiple club races throughout the country, culminating in a Utah Sport Bike Association championship in 2011. He has been invited as a guest instructor for the Yamaha Champions Riding School, and when he's not out riding, he's either wrenching on bikes or watching MotoGP.

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Join the conversation
  • Born to Ride Born to Ride on Nov 13, 2016

    The Candy apple red and silver model is my all time favorite sport bike from an aesthetic standpoint. The MV F4/F3 is the only thing that comes close.

    • Mahatma Mahatma on Nov 14, 2016

      I liked the 2004-07 models with underseat exhaust in black.That looked like a proper tool.The 2008 was a better bike as those having tried it says,but it just didn't do it for me aestetically.