The perfect motorcycle doesn’t exist and it never will. The way we see it, this paragon of two-wheeled virtue would be an enchanted motorcycle, one that magically transforms from sportbike to touring rig to downtown cruiser to economical scooter to trail bike to full-on MX machine at the push of a button whenever setting, circumstances and whimsy dictate.
But let’s skip the fantasy stuff. Even if you owned a fleet of bikes, once you roll down the driveway you’re committed—only one bike per ride. So what do you do?
One of our favorite bikes is the CBR1000RR. It’s hard not to love the scalpel-like precision and awesome thrust the CBR1000RR affords when the roads turn twisty. We’ve enjoyed weekend trips aboard a 1000RR that entailed 350-mile days, and we’re not alone here. Research shows that on average, CBR1000RR owners rack up more miles annually than the industry average for all motorcyclists. Could the CBR’s full-bore sporting character be improved for greater long-distance capability without losing its edge? We embarked on a search for long-range accessories to craft a split-personality CBR1000RR.
First, we defeated the packing problems with the Cortech Sport Tribag System from Helmet House. These rakish and compact saddlebags have 17 liters of capacity per side and the main compartment can be expanded an additional three inches in depth as needed. Neoprene strap covers and pads protect the bike’s finish, and heat shields and rain covers come standard. Lashing a Cortech Sport Tail Bag between and above the saddlebags adds another 16 liters of convenient storage for a total capacity that easily accommodates rides lasting a week or more. We also selected a 14-liter strap-on tank bag, the better to cope with the CBR1000RR’s plastic tank shroud. This unit straps down snugly and offers handy access to the many items you’ll use on tour, such as cell phone, sunglasses, alternate-weight gloves, hat, lip balm, camera, MP3 player, water bottle and more, including a map to slide into the bag’s trick detachable map pocket. All these bags are easy to install and pop off in seconds once you reach your destination.
For long-distance travel, handlebars with more upright ergonomics can make the miles pass more pleasantly. Enter Heli Bars, a replacement handlebar system that offers more upright ergonomics. Heli Bars come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes designed to fit specific motorcycles with no fairing modifications. The 2006-2007 CBR1000RR bars measure 1.75 inches taller (measured at the bar end) than stock and also reach one inch farther rearward to create a more upright riding posture. Although these differences may appear modest on paper, the adjustments to the rider’s position are truly profound. With less forward reach and a more upright body position, continuous days of extended riding are a much more comfortable proposition. The bars come with a black powdercoat finish for long-lasting good looks and the included longer Galfer front brake lines required to fit these bars are easy to install—or so our local Honda dealer reported.
With the position now more upright we added a tad extra seat padding in the form of the Butt Buffer, a strap-on seat pad for motorcycles that incorporates polymer padding that never fully compresses, thus eliminating pressure points. This option returns two benefits: more cushiony seating plus a little more stretch room in the seat-to-pegs department. The Butt Buffer’s quick-on/quick-off design also provides the ability to vary seating angles during a long road trip, another ploy to help reduce rider fatigue.
Sportbikes such as the CBR1000RR feature bodywork designed for slicing through the air with maximum aerodynamic efficiency. To augment the pocket of still air, we installed a taller Cockpit Windscreen from Memphis Shades, an addition that harmonizes well with the CBR’s looks. Although the gains in windblast protection were modest, we found the extra height did make a noteworthy difference. And that dark tint definitely added a measure of coolness.
Yet even with this bit of added protection, you'll still have to deal with the elements. We opted to enhance comfort via electrically heated clothing, in this case a Gerbing Heated Jacket Liner. Lightly insulated with Thinsulate and built to fit snugly for an easy fit under a riding jacket, the Gerbing Heated Jacket Liner did a masterful job of adding heat to our entire upper torso, which will warm your blood and help keep your extremities warm as well. (Be sure you don’t overtax your electrical system—Ed.)
Life on the road can be harried enough without losing your way and stopping to unfold multiple maps, so we employed a Garmin Quest II GPS navigation system. We tested this unit previously (see March/April 2006 issue of Honda Red Rider) and appreciated the high level of navigation power that came in such a compact and portable package. We also liked the high-quality mount design from Techmount for the 2006/2007 CBR1000RR, so we availed ourselves of that setup once again. We found that its compact dimensions and cockpit location worked well even with our tank bag in place.
To round out the package, we strapped on a pair of Dunlop Qualifier tires. These tires, introduced to rave reviews in the enthusiast media, offer a unique combination of remarkable grip with laudable sport-tire life. With a fresh set of Qs in place, we were ready to embark on a real road trip with our CBR1000RR.
The substance of our dual-personality CBR extends way beyond skin depth. Our soft luggage selection completely changed our notion of travel aboard the RR; no longer forced to make hard decisions about what to take or leave behind, we found the generous capacity makes packing simple. Out on the open road, the reformed ergonomics proved liberating; a more upright seating position, less air blast and an extra layer of seat cushion dramatically extended the comfort zone and added easy miles to the day, delivering us fairly refreshed to our destination after a long day on the road. In the evening chill, Gerbing’s electric duds kept us toasty warm. The Garmin navi system allowed us to trace our way along uncounted twisty mountain roads, find great dining destinations and needed fuel stops, and the grippy Dunlop Qs had us grinning in our helmets on mile after mile of tasty tarmac.
Though seemingly minor, the changes to the CBR1000RR made a huge difference in its touring transformation, dramatically extending the capability of this hard-core open-class sportbike. Perhaps as impressive, nothing we did compromised the CBR’s ability to fully exploit the winding roads we encountered.
There’s a world of wonderfully twisty tarmac out there in this great land of ours, but getting there on a narrowly focused sport bike could be less comfortable than you might prefer. With a few well thought out travel accoutrements bolted in place, our CBR1000RR was just as much fun getting there as it was to ride on the sweeping roads we discovered far from home. No longer do we fret about those lengthy sections of straight roads in between the good stuff; they’re just another opportunity to enjoy the ride.
Best of all, once you’re home again, the majority of these accessories can be peeled off in mere moments, leaving your faithful RR looking as sleek as ever. All of the excess pieces can be stowed away until you’re ready to go long once again—although you’ll likely start planning immediately for new destinations far afield for your split-personality CBR1000RR.