Honda’s highly anticipated sporting flagship is a complete ground-up redesign that has the Honda faithful salivating and its competitors curious, if not outright worried.The 2017 CBR comes in three flavors: The RR (standard version) with Showa suspension and optional quickshifter; the SP with an industry first titanium gas tank, some lightweight parts, and semi-active Öhlins suspension; and the SP2 racing homologation version that has more magnesium components, a different cylinder head with bigger valves, and forged wheels. We spent the day aboard both the standard RR and SP versions at Algarve International Circuit, Portimão in Portugal.
1. The 2017 Honda CBR1000RR is much lighter than the original CBR and it feels like it. The bike weighs a mere 424 pounds (verified by us) with a full tank of gas, and that’s around 35 pounds lighter than the previous edition. The light weight and Honda’s mass-centralization philosophy translate to an incredibly intuitive machine to ride. Even heading down the pit lane the first time, I realized I could focus on the unfamiliar track and not worry about what the bike was going to do.[Visit 2017 Motorcycle Previews]2. The new electronics package has five user presets. The first three are defined by Honda and are labeled Track, Winding, and Street. Each one has an engine power delivery (three levels), traction control (nine levels), and engine braking (three levels). The SP also has semi-active suspension (three presets named A1, A2, A3). The final two presets of the five are left blank, so users can define their own settings.I started the day in Winding (Power 2, TC 5, Engine Brake 3), which is designed for twisty roads. I was shocked at how fast, yet controllable, the CBR1000RR felt. In Track mode (Power 1, TC 2, EB 3) the power is slightly snappier, but not overly so.3. The new engine is amazingly powerful and smooth, with ride-by-wire fueling. The 2017 Honda CBR1000RR puts out about ten horsepower more than last year. Hitting the straight for the first time, the motor picked up and the CBR1000RR felt very fast, yet controllable. The motor produces no real vibration that reaches the rider at any of the touch points.4. The new CBR1000RR’s exhaust note is incredible. I have no idea if the US-bound bikes will come with the same pipe, but I hope they do! Listening to the RRs going past the pits on the straight, I couldn’t believe how loud (and throatily cool) they sounded for a stock Euro4 compliant system. (fly-by below–and yes, it’s the completely stock exhaust)
5. The gearbox is buttery smooth. Even without a quickshifter, gears select smoothly and with minimal lever effort. With the quickshifter fitted, up- and down-shifts are effortless and precise. Coming off the straight, I could hit the brakes hard and click down two gears (into third) with zero attention paid to it, allowing me to focus on my braking. Needless to say, make sure you get the quickshifter option if you buy the standard RR.6. Brakes are exemplary, whether the Tokico calipers on the standard version, or the Brembos on the SP. Although cornering ABS is fitted, you can buy the standard RR without ABS and save $300, but I think that’s a false economy. There wasn’t a significant difference between the feel of either brand of front brake; both work impeccably and have plenty of linear power. The initial bite isn’t grabby at all, just smooth, strong, stopping power. The ABS is great insurance to have especially if you overcook a corner and have to turn in while still braking hard.7. The Showa suspension on the standard model is excellent, but the semi-active Öhlins dynamic suspension on the SP model is a must-have. Three modes (A1, 2, and 3) actively adjust the suspension multiple times in each corner, and around 60 to 80 times a lap. The suspension algorithms work based on the four parameters of the CBR1000RR’s behavior: Braking, Cornering (mid-corner), Acceleration, and General. A1 mode is for track, with modes 2 and 3 designed more for comfort on the street. The default settings are awesome, but if desired, those four parameters can be adjusted plus or minus from default.8. Customizing the parameters makes a real difference. I was feeling some chatter when hard on the brakes coming off the front straight—by going to +2 on the braking parameter, it almost totally fixed it. Just to experiment, I tried going to +4, which eliminated too much dive, so I went back one to +3 and the bike was perfect. Öhlins and Honda have gone to great lengths to make this super-simple to understand and change if desired. No need to worry about old school suspension damping clicks—just feel what the bike is doing at any given point on the track, and tweak the setting slightly. The changes are very noticeable.9. The 2017 Honda CBR1000RR has intuitive handling that goes quickly and easily to max lean angle. Despite how quickly the bike turns, it never feels nervous, so rider confidence is always good. Portimão is a tough circuit to learn, and in the early sessions I would get a corner wrong and have to adjust my mid-corner line accordingly—with no drama whatsoever.10. The wheelie control is not independently controlled. There are three levels of wheelie control built into the nine levels of traction control, split equally into thirds. So, level 1 wheelie control (least intervention) is part of TC setting 1, 2 and 3. Level 2 wheelie is part of TC settings 4,5, and 6; and so on.The wheelie control does not use pitch (back and forward motion) data from the IMU—it merely detects the change in front to rear wheel speed. Wheelie control doesn’t have much effect at all in level 1 and I could wheelie the 2017 Honda CBR1000RR with impunity. Coming on to the front straight, I learned to drag the rear brake a little to keep the super-high speed wheelie to a minimum.11. The HESD electronic speed sensitive steering damper worked fabulously. Even when landing slightly crossed up high-speed wheelies, the front stayed planted with zero handlebar flap.12. Ergonomics err towards comfortable. Compared to its predecessor, the CBR1000RR is nearly an inch narrower overall, about 3/4 of an inch narrower in the middle, and just more than a half-inch narrower at the knee point. As a superbike, it is still committed. However, there is a short reach to the handlebars and the rearset footpegs are not overly high, so the rider triangle was very natural—relaxed even—for my six-foot frame. The only downside is the footpegs are low enough that I did scrape them occasionally in some corners; however, it wasn’t bad enough that I’d want to change them.13. On board, the bike is quiet. The minimal fairing does a great job of keeping wind blast down and noise out of the cockpit.14. The color TFT display is gorgeous and easy to understand. It has both street and track readouts, adjustable to preference.15. The 2017 CBR1000RR is a typical Honda. It’s incredibly user-friendly and everything on it just works—and works beautifully. It is astonishingly powerful and very smooth. It has light and precise handling and, although it feels amazingly responsive, it does it without being nervous or twitchy. The electronic suspension takes an already fabulous bike to another level. The semi-active suspension works well and the bike’s behavior can be smoothed out with customization, even by riders who know nothing about suspension.The new 2017 Honda CBR1000RR is a quantum leap over any of the previous models. A superbike for every man, this motorcycle will dramatically improve every rider’s confidence.Riding Style
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This week, in the first segment Editor Don Williams talks to us about the new Kawasaki Versys 650 LT. It’s the middleweight ADV style machine that uses the same 650 parallel twin motor as the Ninja 650, so it’s an excellent performer in a user-friendly, good looking package.
In the second segment, I chat with one of my dearest industry friends—now retired Honda PR executive, Jon Seidel. Jon’s fascinating career spans some 30 years with Big Red, and gave him some great experiences with some incredible machines. I was fortunate enough to be invited on many of the press launches that he organized. His new project is documenting and saving many of the old archives from years gone by—and incidentally, if you have anything that may be of value to the project, please contact us by email at email@example.com and we’ll pass it all on to Jon.
So on that note, from all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we hope you enjoy this episode!