In 1992, Honda kicked off the CBR®-RR series of open-class motorcycles with the 1993 CBR900RR, much to the delight of big-bore sportbike aficionados. Since those early days, we’ve traveled 20 years down the road, and the latest generation CBR1000RR demonstrates that a concept that was once breathtakingly innovative and impressive has only grown more so over the ensuing decades. There is something inherently satisfying and rewarding about riding a machine that distills open-class horsepower into a package normally the domain of 600cc sportbikes.
That first middleweight-proportioned CBR900RR showed the way to a new style of Superbike, one that harnessed light weight as well as remarkable power to create a masterful sporting package that boasted exemplary handling. Indeed, that concept of “light makes right” not only endures to this day, it continues to set the benchmark for the class in 2012.
What follows is a brief overview of the milestone machines within the large-displacement series of CBR-RR motorcycles for the past 20 years. We are certain this short stroll down memory lane will bring back many fond memories and summon more than a few smiles from fans of Honda’s iconic big-bore RR machines.
Unleashed upon an unsuspecting industry in the spring of 1992, the most potent pure-performance Honda ever redefines sportbike performance overnight. Weighing in at an inconceivable 408 pounds, the original CBR900RR puts liter-class horsepower in a package that is 80 pounds lighter than its lightest rivals and just two pounds heavier than Honda’s own CBR600F2. From the twin-spar aluminum chassis to the 147-pound, 893cc, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine inside, all facets of the first CBR900RR are lighter than those of comparable sportbikes. The result: Suddenly, there are no comparable sportbikes.
The 1995 CBR900RR amasses a series of strategic changes to affirm its place atop the sportbike food chain. A recontoured upper fairing improves rider protection and aerodynamics. Lightened by 20 percent, reflector-type headlights add visual attitude. The 45mm cartridge fork and new remote-reservoir shock are revalved for more compliance, and the fork gains full adjustability as well. An external shift linkage and new gearbox internals improve transmission performance. The 893cc engine gains a magnesium head cover, while foot peg guards are drilled and a host of other components are redesigned in the unrelenting pursuit of less weight.
Sharpening the edge of its original paradigm, the CBR gains a more powerful, 919cc engine and loses nearly five pounds, despite such additions as a totally new, triple-box-section aluminum frame and open-rib die-cast swingarm pivot plates. A new map-type digital ignition, complete with throttle position sensor, ignites the fire over lightweight, low-friction slipper pistons for instant throttle response. A more aerodynamic front fender adds downforce to the front end at speed and cancels negative pressure in the cockpit to reduce rider fatigue. The ultimate riding tool becomes sharper, and friendlier as well.
The price of dominance is relentless innovation. The CBR900RR gains RC45-type aluminum-composite cylinder sleeves and LUB-Coat pistons to cut weight and friction. A remapped 3-D ignition optimizes engine response. Stainless steel exhaust headers feed an aluminum muffler that shaves 18 ounces. Six new gearbox ratios mesh perfectly with the new 123-bhp engine to deliver astonishing thrust. An all-new tapered-box-section chassis enhances handling with a consummate balance of rigidity and compliance. Fork span is increased by 10mm to increase torsional rigidity. Dual 310mm brake rotors increase swept area by 14 percent. It all adds up to a 1998 CBR900RR that, at 397 pounds, is nearly seven pounds lighter than the ’97. Dominance never sleeps.
The overarching concept of maximum power and minimum weight remains, but all similarities to the past end there. With 160 horses per liter propelling a 379-pound package, the CBR929RR transcends conventional sportbike wisdom as only 52 years of Honda engineering can. Integrated, computer-controlled variable intake and exhaust management systems let the compact, fuel-injected, 929cc engine embarrass larger competitors with the quantity and quality of its power. The pivotless aluminum frame is just as sophisticated, delivering a ride that explodes conventional chassis orthodoxy as thoroughly as the original CBR900RR did eight years earlier. Now as then, the ultimate CBR makes ordinary sportbikes feel pretty much the same: ordinary.
As stark evidence to the extraordinary competition driving the forward evolution of sportbikes, a mere two years passes before the new CBR929RR is reborn as the CBR954RR. Already acclaimed by many to be the best in class in 929 guise, the big CBR now boasts even more power with less weight to retain its premier standing for power-to-weight ratio—the ultimate virtue in the motorcycling world because it enhances so many other areas of performance. Whether you measure performance on the racetrack or in day-to-day streetability, the CBR954RR continues to offer riders an amazing advantage—an enviable balance of power, handling and rideability in a totally integrated package that has become a Honda hallmark.
In 2004, the CBR1000RR makes a startling break with the past by reaching into the present and future, tapping wholesale into the cutting-edge technology drawn from Honda’s world-dominating RC211V MotoGP racing program. The CBR1000RR is closely aligned with the RV211V’s design philosophy and features a lengthy swingarm and Unit Pro-Link rear suspension, a compact engine in a forward-mounted location, a lightweight aluminum frame and a renewed emphasis on mass centralization—including a low-slung fuel tank. Add Programmed Dual Stage Fuel Injection and the innovative Honda Electronic Steering Damper (HESD), and it becomes easy to trace the DNA of the awesome RC211V throughout the very cellular structure of the new CBR1000RR.
Smaller, more compact, lighter, faster: These are the watchwords for the next generation of CBR1000RR. A wealth of improvements across the board, including an innovative cam-assisted slipper clutch, new, more powerful engine, lighter and slimmer four-piece aluminum Hollow Fine Die Cast frame and myriad weight-saving measures give the new CBR1000RR stunning advantages in open-class power-to-weight ratio, acceleration and handling, culminating in a whole new machine from the rubber up. At the same time, fitment of an Idle Air Control Valve and Ignition Interruption Control System combine for smoother throttle response, adding a notable degree of sophistication and rideability to this ultra-performance-oriented package.
Honda’s CBR1000RR is the essential superbike—the ideal balance of power and handling designed to work together as one complete package. In 2012, the CBR1000RR benefitted from even better handling via a patented Balance-Free Rear Shock, Big Piston Fork and new wheels. Add to that a 999.8cc engine pumping out huge midrange horsepower and torque for class-leading real-world muscle, and you have a high-performance package unmatched in its overall balance by the competition. In addition, new aggressive bodywork aids aerodynamic flow and high-speed handling, and new LCD instrumentation including a lap timer, five-level shift indicator and more, redefine the pure essence of liter-class sportbikes. New wheels and colors distinguish the 2013 model, which remains the ultimate Honda superbike.