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.
Just as we suspected, Honda today unveiled its much anticipated 2017 CBR1000RR at Intermot in Germany. We first reported on the new CBR last month as spy photos started to come out, but Honda still had a few surprises in store with this announcement. Two, actually. First, Honda decided to release its up-spec model, the CBR1000RR SP, ahead of the standard edition (Honda says to expect an announcement on that one come November). And second, there would be a second, limited-edition model, the CBR1000RR SP2, homologated strictly for racing purposes (more on that later).
In spite of protestations from various peanut gallery season-ticket holders who claim disinterest, our mostly annual Superbike Comparison remains MO’s single biggest deal of the year when it comes to clicks and comments. Apparently, many people who don’t have much interest in owning any of these motorcycles are still really interested in riding them vicariously, which is fine by the MO staff; we’re willing to make the sacrifice, for a few weeks anyway. Whether you lust after one or not, it only makes sense to be interested in them, since this is where the new performance stuff turns up first, as motorcycles, like everything else, grow more sophisticated.
From the unchained environment of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, where performance is the sole consideration for victory in our 2015 Six-Way Superbike Track Shootout, we move to the confines of public roadways to determine which superbike renders the best street-legal exhibition. As tight as our track test results were, the street shootout was just as close with a half-percent separating second from first place. If the MO offices were located in Florida, I’d demand a recount.
Rejoice, sportbike fans, as 2015 is bound to go down as the year of the liter-class superbike. After riding this latest crop of superbikes at their individual intros, your respective MO editors all came back gushing, proclaiming the bike they just finished riding is a viable contender for top honors in the class. Of course, with statements like that, pitting them all together and settling the score was the natural thing to do. And here for you now, we bring you the epic showdown you’ve long been waiting for, pitting five all-new or significantly revised superbikes on the racetrack against the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, winner of our 2012 Japanese Literbike Shootout. Stay tuned next week for our street impressions.
This is a difficult position to be in for both me and Honda. We’ve a superbike shootout pitting the CBR1000RR SP against the likes of newer, technological-laden weapons from Aprilia, BMW, Ducati, Kawasaki and Yamaha, where the CBR is predisposed not to win that competition. But yet I’m about to give the bike a fairly glowing review with an individual score that may be higher than its shootout score.
For some riders the top of the line isn’t enough, and Honda wants to give these folks what they deserve. So, this week for EICMA, Honda has just announced the 2014 CBR1000RR SP. What does the SP stand for? Suitably pimped? Super Powers? Specially Produced? Regardless, Honda will be releasing a limited number of CBR1000RRs that have been given this exclusive once over by Honda’s engineers.