Let’s be real for a second here: Honda’s always taken the über conservative route with what we now know as the CBR1000RR, and this dates all the way back to the CBR’s origins with the CBR900RR. When compared against its peers, the consensus usually goes “The Honda is a really good bike, but it’s not great.” The reason is because Honda’s tried to toe the line between racetrack performance and streetable useability because these are road-legal motorcycles after all. And as much as any investor will tell you how important it is to diversify, in the sportbike world, this simply isn’t the case anymore.
Since the 2021 CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP was announced in November, we’ve been eagerly waiting for Honda to release horsepower figures for the U.S. market, hoping it wouldn’t be far off the 215 hp claimed for the European-spec model. Thanks to VIN documentation Honda submitted to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, we can now report the American-spec CBR1000RR-R will only produce 188 hp.
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.
It’s official now: Honda’s evolutionary but not quite revolutionary new CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP “will carry Honda’s sport motorcycle lineup into the future while also bolstering its racing efforts in series including the FIM Superbike World Championship.” Now adorned with the Fireblade monicker it’s always carried in other markets, as well as four capital “R”s, the bike is said to be packed with all manner of Honda Racing Corporation MotoGP trickle-down trickery, and is “focused on outright track performance.” Packing a more compact yet more powerful engine into an all-new frame, the new bike also gets the latest in aerodynamic and electronic aids – and looks pretty swell in its HRC Tricolor paint scheme as well. Price TBD. Our very own Troy Siahaan was at the U.S. unveiling of the new CBR1000RR-R, where he came back with a few notes:
American roadracer Jake Gagne has signed on as a rider for Honda’s Red Bull Superbike team to contest the 2018 FIM Superbike World Championship. Gagne, 24, joins the team full-time after filling the seat vacated by the late, great Nicky Hayden as a wild-car rider three times in the 2017 WSB season. His best results were a trio of 12th-place finishes.
For those who’ve lapped up every word, expression, and metaphor of the performance novel that was our 2017 Superbike Track Shootout and Superbike Street Shootout, the heir apparent is as obvious as the bike coming in last place. For those still wallowing in anticipation, unable to decipher our MOrse code, you can take a breath because, without further ado, we give you…
A few days riding seven of the most powerful sportbikes available on public roadways without incurring a single speeding ticket is next to miraculous. Johnny Law, wildlife, tourists, and sharing hotel rooms with one another are only a few of the occupational hazards we navigated when conducting our 2017 Superbike Street Shootout. The street-centric comparison may be representative of the actual lives most of these motorcycles will lead in the real world, but for us it’s a necessary precursor to where we prefer to be and where these bikes should actually be ridden: the racetrack.
As Bob Dylan wrote, the times, they are a’changing. All you need to do is take a look at our latest superbike shootout to see that technology is playing an ever-increasing role in how we ride motorcycles. What about simpler things, like instruments? Well, superbike instrumentation has been changing, too. Of our seven superbike contestants, only one has an old-school, swept needle tachometer. The remaining six count on some kind of bar graph. Three of the bikes have LCD screens delivering at least some of their information while the remaining four utilize color on TFT screens. So, we thought we’d ask our loyal *MO*rons what they thought about the instruments. Vote for all the instruments you like, and we’ll figure out which is the best.
It’s been two years since we summoned together the superpowers of the sportbike world. In that time the Aprilia RSV4 RR, Honda CBR1000RR, Kawasaki ZX-10R, and Suzuki GSX-R1000 have either been heavily revised or completely overhauled. These changes beg a reinspection into the pecking order of world’s premier street-legal superbikes. Can Japan wrest away the literbike crown from the European OEMs, Aprilia and BMW, that have dominated the class since 2010?
We’re getting a little giddy around here as we begin to gather the gamut of new superbikes for our most intensive shootout of the year! We’ve got a fabulous two-day street ride to begin our testing, stringing together some of our favorite twisty roads on an overnight trip to begin our superbike shootout. And then the hardcore performance testing will take place over two days at Auto Club Speedway with our friends at Fastrack Riders. If you can be near Fontana, California, May 26-27, you should sign yourself up for a fun day at the track with us!
As far as 2017 is concerned, this might be the year we remember as the one that saw the entire liter-class field go electric. No, I don’t mean like that. I mean electronic rider aids – every major player in the field has them now. Honda and Suzuki, with their CBR1000RR and GSX-R1000, respectively, had held out on introducing riding aids (beyond differing power modes in the Suzuki’s case) until this year. Meanwhile, the rest of the competition has leap-frogged ahead, introducing highly advanced traction control, wheelie control, launch control, slide control, and all kinds of other controls previously only seen on MotoGP machines.
The big news in the sportbike world for 2017 was the introduction of not one, but two heavily revised iconic literbikes – the Honda CBR1000RR (and CBR1000RR SP) and Suzuki GSX-R1000R (and GSX-R1000). The previous versions of both models had languished for a number of years without any major updates, most notably in the electronics department, but also in the engine bay. Meanwhile, their competitors, both in Japan and abroad, had made significant gains with their flagship liter-class sportbikes, producing some of the fastest, most powerful, and advanced motorcycles we’ve ever piloted.
Honda pulled out all the stops for its fresh, ground-up redesign of the CBR1000RR. And it’s about time, too. However, instead of searching for power like most of its competition, Team Red’s mission was to make the new CBR as light as possible. All in an effort to give the rider Total Control – the same design ethos given to the original CBR900RR 25 years earlier. To that end, Honda lightened everything it could; using magnesium engine covers, a titanium exhaust, and titanium fuel tank (for the SP model, anyway). It even made the frame walls – and fairings – thinner!
Cresting the top of the steep incline leading onto Portimao’s main straight, I’m committed to keeping the throttle on the new 2017 Honda CBR1000RR to the stop. With fifth gear clicked, the front wheel starts to reach for the sky. Unfazed, the throttle stays pinned, ready for the wheel to eventually come back to earth. The wait feels like forever, and my view is increasingly filled with sky instead of tarmac. I can’t wait for the Honda’s wheelie control any longer, so a click to sixth gently brings the front Bridgestone back to the ground. The Fireblade flexes its muscles, tickling 180 mph down the straight. Then it’s time to scrub speed down the hill before hitting the dip signaling the apex of turn 1. The short chute to reach turn 2 is quickly gobbled up before a moderate amount of brakes are applied to navigate through the hairpin. From there, it’s another flick to the left, and we’re driving uphill towards the crest of turn 3, knee on the ground, rear tire spinning ever so slightly.