Times are tough for everybody, which is why we’re seeing more OEMs lengthening the product cycles of even their most high-tech sportbikes. Honda’s CBR1000RR hasn’t seen a major update since its 2008 introduction, and 2012 won’t see a ground-up redesign, but to celebrate 20 years since the class-crushing CBR900RR was introduced, Honda’s flagship sportbike gets new suspension, wheels, instruments, body panels and other changes.
The big news is probably the suspension. In front, the 43mm HMAS unit is replaced with the Showa 43mm Big Piston Fork that we liked so much on the Kawasaki ZX-6R we tested in 2009. To match it, Showa and Honda’s engineers developed a new “Balance Free” shock for the Pro-Link in back. What does “balance free” mean? It means the rear shock now uses two tubes instead of one (one inside the other), which allows a larger quantity of damping oil and more consistent, smoother damping and travel, “particularly during the transition from compression to rebound,” as the press release puts it. It also puts the damping and rebound controls in an easy-to-access position on top of the shock—no more squirming around on your back finding that mung-covered rebound adjuster.
The motor remains the same, aside from some EFI tweeks to improve manageability, but there are some noteable cosmetic changes. The wheels are now a stylish, light-looking cast-aluminum 12-spoke design that Honda claims offers increased rigidity (and possibly more weight—the CBR’s claimed wet weight has crept up two pounds to 441, 467 for the Combined ABS version). The LCD instruments are also re-done, with a gear-position indicator, lap timer, adjustable shift indicator and four different modes for how the bar-style tachometer is displayed. Also, the fairing has been re-shaped for better cooling and aerodynamics. A 20th-anniversary red-white-and-blue paint scheme is available, reminiscent of that game-changing 1992 CBR900RR.
The bike will be in dealers in December—pricing is $13,800 or $14,800 for the C-ABS model. That’s a price increase of $401 for what seems like a whole lot of added functionality to an already very-good motorcycle. As always, we look forward to our first ride on the bike.