2004 Honda CBR1000RR Review [Track Tested]

2004 Honda CBR1000RR Review: Superbike

To read the 2024 Honda CBR1000RR spec sheet is to be intimidated. The mere fact that a road-going motorcycle produces just north of 170 horsepower seems excessive at best—and dangerous at worst—but don’t judge a bike solely on its dynamometer figures.

Riding the 2024 Honda CBR1000RR at its Arizona Motorsports Park launch, it quickly became apparent that Honda used its considerable track experience to produce a potent motorcycle in a polite package. As smooth and sophisticated a piece of technical artistry as you will find, it allows the skilled rider to relax and focus on the road instead of forcing him to compensate for its quirks.

2004 Honda CBR1000RR Track Test

Coming from Honda, that should be no surprise. Soichiro Honda’s obsession with technical sophistication, combined with a burning competitive spirit, led his company down some fascinating development paths that often went against the dominant fashions of the time. Some ideas won races; some did not. However, all were successful from a technical standpoint.

From the unique six-cylinder race bikes in the 1960s through the championship-dominating NS500s of the ’80s to the legendary oval-piston NR500 of the ’90s, Honda has learned its lessons well. The latest example of its creativity appeared in the form of the all-conquering RC211V MotoGP bike. The good news for the consumer is that Honda’s hard-won experience usually finds its way onto the company’s road-going machines. Case in point: the 2004 Honda CBR1000RR.

This review was originally published in the Summer 2004 issue of Robb Report MotorCycling. It has been edited for the website.

Once astride this superbike, you realize how compact yet comfortable it is. While it is not quite as diminutive as the CBR600RR, they are clearly siblings. Touch the starter, and the motor comes immediately to life, responding to blips of the throttle with a crisp, albeit muted, exhaust note from the new under-seat silencer.

Overnight rain had left Arizona Motorsports Park with a damp track and puddles. Still, I could tell immediately that I would enjoy riding it. The tarmac is wide and twisted into several interesting turns—some hairpin, others unwinding double apex corners that can clearly be taken faster. Riding gingerly initially to familiarize myself with the circuit before exploring the superbike power, I was pleased to discover that the CBR1000RR has a very short learning curve. So intuitive is this motorcycle that you can forget about the machine itself and concentrate on riding technique instead.

Undoubtedly, the 2004 Honda CBR1000RR is incredibly powerful and commands respect, but its stability and light feel also inspire confidence. The fuel-injection mapping is consistent, and there are no sudden steps in the power delivery, right up to the inline-4’s 12,500 rpm limit. The control with which that power is delivered to the asphalt is remarkable. Even when accelerating hard out of the second-gear hairpin, the rear tire gripped and did not spin. Credit for containing the horsepower must obviously go to the exemplary Bridgestone tires. However, the lack of wheelie or wheelspin is due to the Honda’s longest-in-class swingarm and linkage-assisted shock—both developments from the MotoGP bike.

The swingarm accounts for more than 41 percent of the CBR1000RR’s wheelbase, and that leverage helps keep the front wheel on the ground. The rear suspension is contained entirely within the swingarm. Because there is no direct connection to the frame, road bumps are isolated from the chassis, keeping the tire on the tarmac.

Naturally, the front wheel can be lifted at will on a machine this powerful. Fortunately, the 2004 Honda CBR1000RR has a propensity to grip and accelerate hard rather than spin the tire or flip over backward should the pilot lack the throttle control of a Freddie Spencer or Valentino Rossi.

2004 Honda CBR1000RR Engine

Equally adept at aiding the rider, the RR’s front end carries Honda’s latest innovation—an electronic steering damper. Increasing damper force as speed increases works exactly as it should—unobtrusively. The adjustable Showa suspension units keep the bike stable in corners. Even a little Ben Bostrom-style weaving under abusive braking was easily corrected by dialing in a quarter-turn more rebound damping at the rear.

Overall, the handling was reassuringly neutral. The 2004 Honda CBR1000RR tipped into corners precisely, neither diving in too quickly nor understeering. Honda attributes this characteristic to mass centralization, which, simply put, means placing as much of the bike’s weight as close to the longitudinal roll axis as possible. The theory works. When I missed an apex, or even turned in too early, it was simple to change line or lean angle as necessary without upsetting the chassis. Allowing the rider to keep his options open makes the superbike safer to ride on the street.

Braking from the radially mounted Tokico calipers was superbly powerful, with excellent feedback and no hint of snatch or fade. In fact, at the end of the back straightaway, coming into fast right/left turns, the CBR1000RR’s exemplary handling and braking capability enabled me to trail brake through the first part, then set up perfectly for the transition into the left.

A host of other design elements and minor refinements have helped to make the new CBR1000RR friendlier, lighter, and quicker handling. The final result is a package put together so capably that it ends up feeling understated. Please don’t take that to mean boring. This motorcycle allows you to challenge your riding skills without distraction.

If you are in the market for a superbike that will help you concentrate on the road and all its uncertainties, this is an excellent choice. If you ever venture onto the racetrack, you will appreciate the 2004 Honda CBR1000RR as a motorcycle that will more readily forgive your personal limits than others in its class. Nonetheless, caution is in order. Refined or not, the RR superbike is still a rocketship.