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2018 Honda CBR1000RR – The Perfect Balance for Total Control

I must admit I am not a big fan of super sport bikes. They serve too much of a singular purpose that isn’t practical for the type of riding I do. I much prefer spending my weekends riding for a couple of hours on a nice back road over spending that same amount of time trying to scrub an extra second off of turn three at the track. That’s not to say that I don’t respect the incredible levels of performance motorcycles in this class can achieve or the joy you can get out of track days. I mean, without a doubt, super sports are at the pinnacle of production motorcycle engineering and speed.

That’s likely why in the world of sport bikes, I have always been a fan of Honda. Their philosophy isn’t simply bigger, faster, more, more, more! Honda takes a holistic approach that they call, “total control”. In 2017, when Honda gave us their newest generation Fireblade, the CBR1000RR, it marked 25 years since the original and with this newest generation Honda says, they’re going back to their roots.  Honda’s competitors may focus on outright speed and power, but Honda focuses on the ratio between power and weight, horsepower that works in unison with weight to create a well-balanced motorcycle. Shedding weight impacts the way a motorcycle feels and for anyone that has ever carved a corner, you know why that matters.

The one we are testing is a 2018 model, which is virtually the same as the 2017 and newer 2019 models, spare some cosmetics, and tweaks to the traction control, ABS, and throttle. In redesigning the all new Fireblade, there were three things Honda wanted to concentrate on, weight, power, and electronics.  Put another way, Honda wanted to make the bike light, powerful, and easy to control. Control is important because Honda has sought to build the CBR to be a great bike wherever you are.

So in this review, we’re going to skip the track and take the CBR1000RR out to the public streets. How does Honda’s formula of low weight, powerful engine, and electronics hold up?  Have they succeeded at building a super sport that can be used in real world conditions?

If you prefer watching over reading, you can find our video review here.

History, Proven Performance, and Low Weight

From Honda Media

The Honda Fireblade was introduced in 1992, with the CBR900RR. While competitors at the time were focusing on outright power and speed, Honda focused on the ratio between power and weight.  Honda continued this tradition when they introduced the CBR1000RR in 2004. In doing so they created a motorcycle that had plenty of horsepower but not as compensation for having a lot of rear end. The horsepower worked together with the weight to create a motorcycle that had incredible balance.

There’s no denying Honda’s success when it comes to building a performance bike that can handle the bumps and cracks and ups and downs of demanding public roads. You only have to look at their 23 wins at the Isle of Man TT. The CBR1000RR is the most successful 1000 cc motorcycle in the history of the iconic race.

The last time the CBR1000RR received a significant update was in 2008. Since that time most of it’s competitors have had one or more significant updates and introduced all new models. In 2017 Honda finally introduced an all new CBR and frankly they’re playing catch up with the rest of the group. To reiterate, this is an all-new model. Roughly 90% of the parts are brand-new. Honda went through every inch of the motorcycle looking for ways to decrease weight and improve rigidity.

Thinner frame walls save 300 grams. The swing arm isn’t as thick in some areas, helping reduce weight by 300 grams. The aluminum sub frame has shed 600 grams. The Tokico 4 piston brakes save 150 grams. The aluminum wheels save roughly 100 grams.  The engine received a comprehensive overlooking, with the use of aluminum and magnesium on the engine covers and redesigned pistons, the inline-4 sheds an entire 2 kilograms.  The radiator is also lighter by 100 grams and is narrowed by 30 mm.  Honda has made the bike 15 kilograms lighter overall. Our base model Fireblade comes in at 430 pounds. 434 pounds if you add ABS.

All of these weight savings mean the CBR1000RR is the lightest super sport you can buy. It’s just 20 pounds heavier than a CBR600RR. It weighs the same as a Ninja ZX-6R!  So whether you’re pushing it into a parking space or leaning into a turn, the lack of weight plays a roll in how you’re able to maneuver the CBR or flick it from side to side. It seems to become even more balanced and stable when leaning into a turn. It likes to lean and it’s good at it.

Chassis, Design, and Engine

From Honda Media

The nimbleness of the Fireblade is supported by a front suspension that includes a Showa 43mm big piston fork and a rear suspension that includes a fully adjustable Showa balance free rear cushion. The fairings have been reduced in size and there are slits next to the headlights to help support stability at speed and flow air around the rider when in a racing crouch.  All of the lighting is LED. The squint and angle of the lights looks aggressive and purposeful. The look says, “try me”. Two paint options are available, Grand Prix Red and Matte Black Metallic. Our bike had the latter and while I think Matte can be attractive, the color seems to smudge very easily.

The seat height is 32.3 inches and it should be fairly easy for most riders to get their feet to touch the ground. The saddle isn’t exactly plush but it is well cushioned.  As you might imagine there isn’t much in the way of storage.

Overall, the package is very tight and balanced. The Fireblade exhibits poise whether you are going 5 mph or triple digits. That confidence comes completely from the attention Honda puts into the chassis, it’s weight, and balance.  In that regard, it is certainly a bike that can be used everyday with plenty of confidence.  Due to the way it feels and the lack of weight, you can have fun on this bike without needing to go to the track.

With lower weight, the workload of the engine is reduced. However, that didn’t stop Honda from increasing the power some. This model makes 10 more horses than the previous generation and has a redline of 13,000 rpm, where the 998 cc inline-4 makes 189 horsepower. 84 lb ft of torque is produced at 11,000 rpm.

Although peak torque comes relatively high in typical sport bike fashion, the power is still there on the low end. It’s certainly not a twin, but the new throttle by wire system, which is the first time Honda has used such technology on their inline four, has a smooth and linear build. Sure, once you break about 10,000 RPM things get crazy but putting around and pulling from 10 mph to about 70 mph can easily be done in a single gear. That’s a necessity for real world driving. Fuel economy should be around 45 mpg.

189 horsepower is on the low end for a super sport these days but combine that with low weight and the CBR1000RR is about middle of the pack in terms of power to weight ratio.  I can’t put enough emphasis on the lack of weight. It’s something you have to experience to understand.

Japanese Super Sports Specific Power

2018 Yamaha YZF-R1 – 441lbs/200hp – 2.20
2018 Suzuki GSX-R1000 – 441lbs/199hp – 2.21
2018 Honda CBR1000RR – 430lbs/189hp – 2.27
2018 Kawasaki ZX-10R – 454lbs/197hp – 2.30

Electronics

From Honda Media

In terms of electronics Honda offers traction control, driver’s modes, and engine braking control. ABS is a $300 option. It should be standard equipment in this class. Also, there is no quick shifter, which also seems like it should be standard equipment. Instead, it’s a $580 option. In a world where quick shifters and ABS are fairly commonplace, I almost expect them from a super sport.

There is certainly nothing wrong with the TFT LCD screen. It’s very clean and bright. It has all of the information you need and some unique features. Drive settings can be changed by using the select and mode buttons located on the left handlebar. They allow you to scroll through user settings, and driver’s modes.  P changes the power output with 1 giving full power and 5 having the most restriction.  T controls traction levels. EB controls the amount of engine braking.  Pressing both the downward select and mode buttons will bring up the menu, which allows you to change a number of functions including the color and style of the display.

Conclusion

From Honda Media

So, is the CBR1000RR a good bike for real world conditions and everyday riding? Simply, no. Not even close. But compared to other super bikes, it’s one of the easiest to hop on and go. Lightweight means you are able to handle the CBR with the same ease as a 600. The power delivery is smooth and predictable enough, with torque down low to pull you around town without having to be over 5,000 rpm. While I found myself not caring about the ride modes and electronics that much, it’s great that Honda gives you the option to be more in control of your level of performance.

Either way, Honda’s Fireblade is very impressive to ride even in the city. If you want a great bike for the streets, maybe you should consider something like an FZ09 or Street Triple.  But if you want something that can trade punches with Italian V4 offerings, while still getting you to work and the grocery store without a burnt leg and cracked teeth, the CBR1000RR is an absolute no-brainer.  Make no mistake about it, this is a true performance bike but it still has the ability to remain very civilized.

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