While not an all-new model this year, and still relying on the previous generation CBR1000RR for its powerplant, the late-release 2018 Honda CB1000R does enjoy significant updates with a focus on rideability and ease-of-use over cutting-edge performance.1. Honda took the existing CB1000R inline-4 motor and retuned it for more power. Wide-mouth 44mm throttle bodies replace 36mm units—a huge bump. Honda smoothed out the airflow by replacing the airbox, ducting, and air filter. The flow through the cylinder head is improved with higher valve lift for both the intake and exhaust valves.
There are new high-compression forged pistons replacing cast units. The new 4-2-1 exhaust has a link pipe to improve midrange torque production, and the entire exhaust system is 10 pounds lighter than the previous iteration. Riding the CB1000R reveals that these changes had real-life results.2. The 2018 Honda CB1000R’s powerplant is docile down low, with a serious midrange punch. This power delivery works great for the canyons and in urban conditions. When you want to cruise around at lower speeds, the CB1000R doesn’t have an overly aggressive demeanor to make that impossible.Yet, when the engine speed hits about 5500 rpm (half-way to the rev limiter), things start happening in much more of a hurry. From there, the motor willingly spins up to the 11.5k redline, with a 500 rpm over-rev range. Acceleration is also enhanced by a four percent drop in overall gearing.3. There are three preset power modes, plus a user configurable mode thanks to ride-by-wire, and these are critical to getting the most out of the Honda CB1000R. The Sport, Standard, and Rain mode names give you a relative idea of what they do. When selecting each mode—easily and intuitively done without stopping—the efficiently compact dash shows you how much power, engine braking, and traction control is dialed in (three levels of each).This is helpful to the less technically oriented rider, as the differences are impressively significant, and they will teach the rider to design his own perfect User mode.4. Sport mode predictably provides the most exciting ride. Power is at the maximum, with traction control allowing some front wheel lift, and engine braking at the minimum so rear wheel slides are possible.That allows for a highly dynamic ride with full power in all gear and throttle positions. Wheelie control is embedded in the traction control—Honda calls the system Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC)—and is still present in the Sport mode. Regardless, the 2018 Honda CB1000R experience is definitely more dynamic in Sport mode.5. The Standard mode intrudes on the power, and does smooth things out a bit. At lower rpm in lower gears, the Sport mode’s throttle response can feel a bit snatchy.Standard fixes this for the most part, as the power is dialed down, especially in first and second gears. If you’re willing to trade away power for smoothness, Standard makes the swap work to the rider’s advantage.6. Rain mode is a sleeper. Not exclusively for use in precipitation, it’s actually quite useful in tight canyons, and it is absolutely perfect for urban riding. It has the least power, along with the smoothest power delivery.Engine braking is moderate and traction control is dialed up. It’s a great way for a newer rider to take on the canyons, as he can learn to get aggressive with the throttle with less risk of quickly getting in over his head. In town, Rain mode is definitely the way to go, especially when engaging in aggressive lane splitting in tight traffic.7. Many bikes offer user-configurable power modes, yet few make the selection more intuitive than the 2018 Honda CB1000R. In User mode, you’re presented with your choice of three levels for three criteria—power, traction control, engine braking. That’s pretty simple. My choice was maximum power (of course), middle traction control (smooths out power delivery), and maximum engine braking (I like that additional help in slowing down).You can set it up in less than a minute, and quickly make on-the-fly adjustments as needed—just close the throttle once you’re done to implement them. Curiously, the strongest engine braking setting is not used on any of the pre-configured modes.8. Wheelstand aficionados will be happy to know that tail-dragging wheelies are just a few button pushes away. You’ll have to go into the User mode to turn the HSTC off. It requires a long push of the Mode button and pull of another switch, so it won’t happen by accident. You will lose traction control, and you’ll have a front wheel that can climb as high as you dare.9. Honda also gave the 2018 CB1000R a new single-backbone steel frame with a half-inch shorter single-sided swingarm that saves 5.5 pounds, and it works. Intuitive is the best way to describe the handling of the new chassis. Turn-in and corner exits are exactly what you expect, and the new CB1000R has absolutely zero bad habits.Whenever I switched between casual to aggressive riding, the CB1000R retained its admirable composure, uncomplainingly indulging my every whim. In town, the 467-pound motorcycle feels agile, and I zipped around cars effortlessly and confidently.10. The Showa suspension is good stuff, and nicely set up. Both ends are fully adjustable for damping in both directions, as well as ride height via spring preload. On the upside, the factory settings are perfectly balanced and highly satisfying.Only outliers will find a need to immediately change things. Unfortunately, changing the suspension setup is done the traditional way with tools, so isn’t nearly as easy as tailoring motor function. Most riders won’t bother, and won’t need to.11. Braking isn’t shy thanks to radially mounted front calipers and an axial master cylinder. Sure Tokico isn’t the first name you think of for performance calipers, but they get the job done perfectly on the 2018 Honda CB1000R. The initial bite on the front 310mm discs is soft and sweet, with plenty more on tap as needed. The two-channel ABS can’t be defeated, and it works unobtrusively.12. The Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S21 tires are fantastic. The rubber did everything asked of it without a complaint or surprise. Honda went from a 180 to a 190 in the rear to match the lighter weight and shorter swingarm on the new CB1000R. Again, balance is what it’s all about on the CB1000R, and the Bridgestones serve well both the rider and the motorcycle.13. Ergonomics are comfortable, trending a bit toward sporting. I was expecting a bit more of an upright approach than I got with the 2018 Honda CB1000R. I was leaning over a bit more, and the pegs were just a tad higher. Given the approach of the motor and chassis, I might have opted for a slightly less aggressive riding position. Still, new bars are not difficult to install.14. Honda calls the styling Neo-Sports Café, which is a fine bit of marketspeak. While Honda claims “retro-minimalist look”, I’m not buying it. The 2018 Honda CB1000R has more of an angular futuristic look, to my eyes.The tire-hugging tail, and LED lighting is forward looking, certainly, as is the single-sided swingarm and inverted fork. The most obvious exception is the beautifully sculpted fuel tank that is a not-too-distant cousin of the piece on the truly retro CB1100 EX.15. The 2018 Honda CB1000R is by no means the horsepower king of the class, yet you would be hard pressed to find a more enjoyable powerplant for riders who are less than totally committed. Honda identified a niche, and placed the CB1000R comfortably in it.For a rider with a bit of experience under his belt and who is looking to move up from a small-displacement motorcycle, the 2018 Honda CB1000R is an enticing choice that introduces approachable configurability. Veterans who know what they need on the street and have nothing to prove will also flock to the new CB1000R, as it’s an easy fast ride with styling to spare.Photography by Kevin WingRiding Style
Hello everyone and welcome once again to Motos and Friends—the weekly Podcast brought to you by the editorial team at Ultimate Motorcycling.
My name is Arthur Coldwells.
In this week’s first segment, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the much anticipated Yamaha MT-10 SP. That’s the model with the Ohlins semi-active suspension. It’s only been available in Europe for the last couple of years, but finally the good news is, that it’s coming to America. The big question is, whether the extra 3k you’re going to have to pony up for the Ohlins is actually worth it, or perhaps there’s just not that much improvement over the stock KYB suspension that has suited the Yamaha MT-10 so well until now?
In the second segment, Associate Editor Teejay Adams chats with Val Collins. Val grew up on motorcycles and learned to love speed, however her real love is Formula 1 tunnel-boat racing. These are the guys and gals that are strapped into a tiny cockpit and then hurtle down the straights at 120 mile per hour and pull 5G in the corners. We attended the recent season finale in Lake Havasu and watched our friend Mike Quindazzi try to take the win. Val chats with Teejay about her love for two-wheels and tunnel-boats. Yeah, it’s crazy stuff.
From all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we hope you enjoy this episode and have a great Thanksgiving Holiday!