Once in a blue moon, Honda likes to flex its muscle and remind everyone that it’s Honda, and when its team of engineers and designers want to, they can produce cool motorcycles capable of completely blowing your socks off. Bikes like the RC35, RC45, RC51 (arguably), the oval-piston NR750, and who can forget the road going MotoGP bike, the RC213V-S? And though we haven’t ridden it yet, the CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP promises to carry on that tradition, at which point those same designers and engineers can go back to their usual business of coming up with things like the DN-01 and NM4.
The bike you see here is not the Triple R. It’s a 2019 CBR1000RR. That’s double R. We’re still dreaming of riding the Triple R, actually, and while the world is doing its best to ride out this Coronavirus wave, we recently got our hands on this tasty example of a CBR-RR and put some miles on it before ducking this zombie apocalypse ourselves. Here, then, are 5 things you need to know about the 2019 Honda CBR1000RR.
Lost in the attention being given to the new RR-R SP is the fact the Double R will continue on in 2020’s American market as a $16,499 base model alternative to the $28,500 Triple R. For the price, you still get one hell of a good looking motorcycle, complete with a 998cc Four-banger, electronics package, and analog Showa suspension. There’s still a lot of room for improvement, but it’s not a bad starting point. Unless you have to have the Triple R, this isn’t a bad alternative.
The CBR chassis is surprisingly nimble and agile, which is a bright point that complements its svelte 428-lb curb weight well. Whether riding on track, on a twisty road, or just slogging it down the freeway, having a responsive motorcycle can’t be seen as anything but a positive. This Double R continues Honda’s tradition.
The good news is that the CBR has a Bosch IMU-based electronics package that includes the important stuff like traction control, wheelie control, and ABS. Other electronic features include selectable power modes and engine braking. All relevant information is displayed on a clear, albeit small, TFT display, and the features work well enough (though not as well as more contemporary electronics packages, which shows how fast progress is being made in this area).
The annoyance I found was how confusing it was to make any changes to the settings. I’m used to figuring out which buttons need to be pressed, held, or both, to achieve desired results on the various motorcycles we test, but the Honda proved a little more difficult than I anticipated. The buttons, and the sequence they were pressed or held, wasn’t ultimately intuitive to me. Nonetheless, we eventually changed the settings we wanted to change and were on our way.
Granted, this isn’t any fault of Honda’s, but when we put the CBR on the dyno it sounded awfully soft when it reached redline. Turns out there’s a glaringly obvious flat spot from 10,500 rpm all the way to its 13,500 rpm rev ceiling. As in, the Honda’s power literally plateaus in this 3,000 rev window. The only reason we could see for something like this is this is Honda’s attempt to please government regulators who have rules and regulations in place about noise and emissions. Our test bike “only” cranked out 149 horsepower, but it’s plain to see there’s more potential once the CBR can breathe freely.
On paper, the CBR1000RR doesn’t have any singular line item to really separate it from its competition. However, in typical Honda fashion, the CBR succeeds as a sum of its parts – especially on the street, where outright performance isn’t a big deal. It starts right up into a smooth idle once you push the button, the clutch is smooth and engages right where you want it, and even though the transmission is truly analog (not even a quickshifter for upshifts), clicking through the gears the old fashioned way is silky smooth. As far as sportbikes go the ergonomics are manageable (I still hate riding sportbikes on the street), and there’s no engine or exhaust heat roasting your nether regions, either. Then, of course, you have the literbike power to scoot you right along quicker than you probably should – as evidenced by the speeding ticket I got on it…