2004 Honda CBR 1000 RR - Motorcycle.com

Sean Alexander
by Sean Alexander

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"Not a wiggle." There you go, end of review, that about sums up the new 2004 Honda CBR 1000RR. This bike is simply planted when ridden hard over less than ideal surfaces. Yes, it's also 152+ Hp fast, Superbike nimble and great looking, but the overwhelming impression is one of stability and confidence.

I think credit for this goes not only to the new HESD steering damper, but also to the excellent Pirelli Diablo Corsa tires and slightly higher curb weight that the CBR carries around.

Believe me; I'll gladly trade that extra 25Lbs of weight, for a bit more confidence through a rough Angeles Crest transition.

The CBR's outstanding stability is evidenced by this one-handed 90mph pass through a rough decreasing radius corner

After the street ride, MO was lucky enough to sneak a CBR back to our dyno. Though it didn't break the MO dyno record, the CBR 1000RR did tie it, with 156.4 uncorrected rear wheel horsepower.

However, due to varying meteorological conditions, it's SAE corrected number was 5Hp shy of the current 157Hp record set last spring by a stock GSX-R1000. On the street, I can assure you that you and I both would be faster on the Honda, due to the vastly different way in which the two bikes deliver their power. If the GSX-R is a cannon, making no attempt to soften its blows or make itself easy to wield, the CBR is a 44 Magnum, not quite as intimidating, but far more effective to use in a civilian setting. Sure, that was a silly analogy, but after spending time on both bikes, there is no doubt the CBR is at a higher level of refinement and effectiveness than last year's open class king.

Sean gives her a quick twist up to 195mph.

Honda's goal was to make the 1000RR more manageable, by adapting the lessons learned from the RC-211V.The extra long swingarm, Unit Pro Link rear suspension, and extreme foreward packaging of the engine, exhaust and radiator all serve as evidence to this fact. It's all stuff we saw on last year's CBR 600RR and it seems to work as advertised.Cosmetically, the 1000RR is even closer to a 211V than the 600RR was, just check out the relationship between the leading edge of the fairing, the radiator and the back of the front tire. It's some very attractive origami indeed. Ergonomics are a tad bit tight in the seat-to-peg relationship, due to the racy rearsets, but the seat itself is quite comfortable and the reach to the clip-ons is moderate enough that wrist pressure never became an issue for me.

...some very attractive origami indeed.

Freeway droning wasn't unpleasant, but the racing orientation of the engine and chassis does come through loud and clear, via the buzzing that's transmitted through the handgrips. If you happen to get bored on a long freeway drone, an 80mph downshift to 2nd and a feathered clutch will spice things up, with the easiest and most graceful wheelie you've ever seen (not that we'd ever condone such behavior). Yes indeed, an honest to god 152+ hp at the contact patch can turn any situation into a party. Of course, such parties can quickly land you in the pokey or worse.... Thankfully, the radial mount 4-piston calipers and 310mm front disks are set up with outstanding feel and offer plenty of bite for bringing such crazy festivities to a controlled stop.

Freeway concerns are quickly dispatched, once you are on the twisty and narrow. The chassis, HESD, suspension, brakes and tires work together in such a well-integrated way, that you can devote most of your focus to situational awareness, line selection and the day's lunch menu.

All black CBR 1000RR makes for a very clean looking design.

As I was slicing up the Crest on a beautiful 70-degree So Cal winter day, I found myself quite relaxed and for some reason I noticed more of the surrounding scenery than usual. I've experienced this same effect, when riding cruisers, but on this occasion, I was probably going faster than a cruiser could hit in free fall, off the cargo ramp of a C-141 Starlifter. Honda's HESD (Honda Electronic Steering Damper) isn't simply a case of tech for tech's sake; it works spectacularly well and will probably be copied by every manufacturer and aftermarket company in the business. The Unit Pro Link rear suspension, coupled with the long swingarm and grippy rubber do a fantastic job of transmitting all that torque through the contact patch. It is so effective, that I was less worried about highsiding the 1000RR than I was on most of the 600s I've ridden.

Of course, If you want to wheelie, just ask and the big CBR is more than happy to oblige.

The CBR's long swingarm and forward weight distribution also enable it to accelerate very hard, without wheeling. Of course, If you want to wheelie, just ask and the big CBR is more than happy to oblige. We'll have to wait and see whether or not the new CBR's added stability offsets it's extra weight, when pitted head-to-head with the lighter and equally new ZX-10R, YZF-R1 and carry-over GSX-R 1000 on a racetrack. However, I suspect it'll do fairly well. Stay tuned, I hope to be able to answer this very question for you in the April timeframe. What I can answer for you today is: "What's it like in the Real World?" To be truthful, it's pretty freaking spectacular. It strikes all the right Superbike chords, with terrific traction, stellar steering, mondo motor and lovely looks (sorry, I couldn't resist). If all of Honda's new bikes are this good, then I'm sincerely glad to be back in their good graces.

The Steering Damper Comes of Age

Introducing the Honda Electronic Steering Damper (HESD)

Steering dampers are not new to the motorcycling scene. For decades, riders have resorted to using steering dampers, most often for extreme-use high-speed racing conditions in off-road competition as well as road racing. Regardless of the application, steering dampers help reduce excessive steering movement by incorporating a damper connecting a motorcycle’s fork and frame. Some units use simple friction dampers, while others are of hydro-mechanical design.

Sean Alexander
Sean Alexander

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