Drag site icon to your taskbar to pin site. Learn More

2012 Honda CBR1000RR First Ride

Monday, December 19, 2011

Videos Our Sponsor
2012 Honda CBR1000RR - First Ride Video
Click to view video

2012 Honda CBR1000RR - Tech Review Video
Click to view video
(Above) Jump in the saddle and go for a ride at the controls of Honda’s new and improved Superbike. Watch the 2012 Honda CBR1000RR First Ride Video and learn more about this dirt bike. (Below) Get an inside technical briefing on Honda’s Superbike in the 2012 Honda CBR1000RR Tech Review Video.
After a short recess the Superbike arms race is back in session and Honda hopes to be standing atop the smoldering pile of worn-out rubber in Motorcycle-USA’s forthcoming Superbike Smackdown shootout with its updated ’12-spec CBR1000RR ($13,800 base / $14,800 C-ABS MSRP). The changes include fresh suspension, more aerodynamic bodywork, wheels, instrumentation and engine mapping aimed at making it even less demanding to ride on the road and track. For technical details read the 2012 Honda CBR1000RR First Look feature as this evaluation focuses on our riding impression.
The beauty of the CBR1000RR platform is the synergistic relationship between each individual component. From its Inline-Four engine and six-speed, slipper clutch-equipped gearbox to the geometry of the frame/swingarm, suspension and brakes —it all functions in harmony allowing the rider to operate the motorcycle at a level they might not be as capable of if they were on any other liter-bike, even with the benefit of rider aids like traction control.
Tuck in behind the windscreen and it’s readily apparent how svelte and maneuverable it is at all speeds. Despite gaining two pounds over its predecessor (441 pounds, fully fueled, ready to ride) it’s impossible to feel the difference. The cockpit layout is unchanged and continues to offer class-leading levels of both control and comfort even without the benefit of adjustment for this six-foot tall rider. Honda claims the new bodywork creates more down-force in corners and develops a calmer pocket of air behind the windshield but we couldn’t notice a significant difference. Still, we’re fans of the CBR’s new look—especially the 12-spoke wheels.
Hondas new layered fairing contributes to better engine cooling and aerodynamic efficiency at speed.
The 12 CBR1000RRs all-digital display not only looks cool  its easy to toy with and read.
A spoiler in the chin of the front fairing creates more down force.
(Above) Honda’s new layered fairing contributes to better engine cooling and aerodynamic efficiency at speed. (Center) The ’12 CBR1000RR’s all-digital display not only looks cool, it’s easy to toy with and read. (Below) A spoiler in the chin of the front fairing creates more down force. 
We’ve always been captivated with the historically smooth yet punchy demeanor of the CBR franchise’s Inline-Four engine. The motor works equally well on the street and tighter stop-and-go type circuits like northern California’s Infineon Raceway. The latest iteration magnifies this trait by delivering enhanced powerband linearity at low-to-mid RPMs. This makes it even less intimidating for any level superbike rider at initial throttle inputs or when riding on wet pavement as the back tire has less propensity to spin (more on that later).
Stay in the throttle and you’ll be greeted by a fat, far-reaching wave of engine torque from 6000 to 10,000 revs that propels the CBR off corners with comparable authority of a big V-Twin, only without that classic Twin shake and rattle. Well-timed upshifts are a necessity as the top-end power tapers-off shy of its 13,300 redline. On the street this isn’t a problem though for closed course racing it’s important to note that this motor has been approximately 20% less powerful, in terms of peak horsepower, compared to the class-leading BMW S1000RR (see results of the 2011 Superbike Smackdown VIII Track for more info). With right around 150 horsepower available at the rear tire, the CBR cannot be considered “slow” but it sure could use a boost of top-end power.
Even though Honda’s flagship sportbike has yet to offer any form of throttle sensitivity or engine power modes, since the powerband and engine fueling are so perfectly calibrated most riders will never miss it. Traction and wheelie control is also absent but again since this bike is so easy to control we don’t consider it a deal breaker.
A slick-looking and easy to read all-digital instrument display, reminiscent to the Digitek model used on Ducati’s sportbikes, keeps the rider clued in to what’s happening. A horizontal bar-graph style tachometer and bright five-level shift light sits atop the dash. In the lower left corner a gear position indicator is flanked by engine coolant temperature and the speedo. Below are various indicators and malfunction warning lights. The display also has the ability to log lap times and provide fuel mileage data too.
Without question the most noticeable (and important) improvement is the
2012 CBR1000RR Suspension Settings:
(From full stiff)
Preload: 4
Compression: 5
Rebound: 3.5
Preload: 10
Compression: 4
Rebound: 1.75
suspension—most specifically, the shock. Born from road racing, Big Red and technical partner, Showa, have engineered a design that all-but eliminates that tiny, almost miniscule-feeling “dead zone” between compression (downward) and rebound (upward/return) strokes. To do this, the damping piston inside the shock body now slides within a cylinder. The piston is devoid of valves and fluid is now pushed through ports. This allows damping force to be constant thereby eliminating the flat spot and enhancing rear wheel traction on and off throttle. You wouldn’t think a subtle change such as this would net such a significant handling improvement but it does. Heck, we always thought that flat spot in the shock was normal and just “how it is”. But the difference it makes on the racetrack is night and day.
At 441 pounds with a full 4.7-gallon tank of fuel  the CBR is one of the lightest 1000cc bikes available. New bodywork is supposed to provide a calmer air pocket for the rider behind the windscreen. We didnt feel a difference.  On the street the CBRs new suspension felt as complaint as before and generally delivered a very plush yet sport ride for a street bike.
(Left) At 441 pounds with a full 4.7-gallon tank of fuel, the CBR is one of the lightest 1000cc bikes available.  (Center) New bodywork is supposed to provide a calmer air pocket for the rider behind the windscreen. We didn’t feel a difference. 

It becomes clear the moment you load the rear tire aggressively with the twist grip. Where you would normally feel that split-second feeling of nothing-ness, when the shock is transitioning between compression and return movement—which is an opportunity for the tire to spin—it now feels like the tire is glued to the pavement—always. It was actually difficult to break the rear tire loose on the ’12 bike when ridden back-to-back with the ’11 machine (Honda brought out ’11 models just to demonstrate this exact point). On the street the upgrade was less noticeable, still we’re keen on the bump absorption characteristics and can say that the CBR is one of the most supple, yet sporty Superbikes on the street.
Hondas new Balance-Free shock proved to be the most noticeable and significant improvement to the CBR1000RRs chassis.
Mid-range power-the CBR has plenty of it which is a big plus for the street and smaller  point-and-shoot racetracks like Infineon.
Due to track conditions  it was hard to get an accurate read on the CBRs  new Showa big piston fork  however we did observe that it reduced chassis pitch during hard braking which equates to enhanced stability during corner entry.
(Above) Rear tire traction is a big improvement over the 2008-2011 machine. (Center) Mid-range power—the CBR has plenty of it which is a big plus for the street and smaller, point-and-shoot racetracks like Infineon. (Below) Due to track conditions, it was hard to get an accurate read on the CBR’s new Showa big piston fork, however we did observe that it reduced chassis pitch during hard braking which equates to enhanced stability during corner entry.

While the rear was as good as advertised, it proved to be more difficult to get a good read on the new big-piston style fork. Due to an overnight shower, the racetrack was green so we never really had the confidence to enter corners with the same level of gusto as we would on a warm, sunny day. Still under hard braking, the front end wouldn’t pitch as much, which ultimately leads to superior chassis balance when you tip the bike into a turn.
Speaking of the brakes, the CBR’s optional electronic ABS system received some tweaks in the form of revised braking bias. The back brake continues to be linked to the front, but when it’s actuated it delivers less forward pressure. We rarely ever use the foot brake (except for manual wheelie control) so we couldn’t tell the difference. One thing we did notice is that the position of the front brake lever had to be adjusted further toward the handlebar as compared to the old bike, which could be attributed to a change in pad material. As always the brakes function well delivering a high-level of feel and outright stopping power. Sadly the C-ABS feature is “always on” and doesn’t offer the ability for manual de-activation.
It isn’t much of a surprise that Honda’s CBR1000RR continues to be one of the easiest, most manageable liter bikes we’ve ever ridden. Although it lacks some of the high-end electronics of the competition it presents such an astounding level of poise that it can actually getaway without these gizmos. And with its updated suspension and smoother low-speed road manners it should have something for the competition come shootout time this spring.
Honda Sportbike Dealer Locator
VideosOur Sponsor
2012 Honda CBR1000RR - Riding Footage and GoPro Video
Click to view video
2012 Honda CBR1000RR Photos
View Gallery
View Gallery
View Gallery
View Gallery
View Slideshow
2012 Honda CBR1000RR Specs
The aesthetics of the 12 Honda CBR1000RR are a big improvement.
Engine: Liquid-cooled 999cc Inline-Four, 16-valves
Bore and Stroke: 76.0 x 55.1mm
Compression Ratio: 12.3:1
Fuel Delivery: Dual Stage Fuel Injection
Clutch: Wet multi-plate slipper clutch; Cable actuation
Transmission: Six-speed
Final Drive: Chain 16F/42R
Frame: Twin spar aluminum
Front Suspension: 43mm Showa inverted Big Piston Fork; 3-way adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound; 4.3 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Pro-Link equipped Showa Balance-Free gas-charged shock; 3-way adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound; 5.4 in. travel
Front Brakes: 320mm discs with radial-mount Tokico four-piston calipers
Rear Brake: 220mm disc with twin-piston caliper
Tires: Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier; 120/70R17, 190/50R17
Curb Weight: 441 lbs / C-ABS: 467 lbs 
Wheelbase: 55.5 in.
Rake: 23.3 deg. Trail: 3.7 in.
Seat Height: 32.3 in.
Fuel Capacity: 4.7 gallons
MSRP: $13,800; C-ABS $14,800
Colors: Red; Black; Pearl White/Blue/Red
Warranty: One year unlimited mileage
2012 CBR1000RR Highs & Lows
  • Almost too easy to ride!
  • Excellent rear wheel traction off corners
  • Stomping mid-range engine performance
  • Needs a top-end power boost
  • Could benefit from a quickshifter
  • Pricey for a machine with no electronic rider aids
Recent Sportbike Reviews
2015 Entry-Level Sportbike Shootout
We gather the field of entry-level sportbikes for a show-down to see which machine is best in the segment.
2016 Aprilia RSV4 RF First Ride
Aprilia updates its proven RSV4 Superbike with a host of subtle internal engine, chassis and electronic changes with its 2016 RF model.
2015 Kawasaki Ninja H2 First Ride
Known for its powerful line of Ninja sportbikes, Kawasaki pushes thrills to new levels with its precision-built and supercharged H2.

Login or sign up to comment.

pacman52   March 8, 2012 07:09 PM
I just love the new CBR1000RR in white/red/blue color ... I know it isn't the fastest or the most powerful but I just love the clean look of it. I must admit that I've owned one CBR929 (2001), one 954 (2003) and two (2) 1000 (2004 & 2006) and I would probably buy a new CBR if money was no issue. Ps. I like the others too (GSX-R/ZX/R1/BMW1000/RSV1000 etc...) but I just prefer the CBR...
GhostRider11   February 6, 2012 11:39 AM
Oh 'Superlight', although I am highly disappointed with Honda's already dated CBR1krr... it will still do well but not against the BMW. The 1199 sound good on paper (as usual) but let's wait and see what the real-world numbers are during the comparisons! The average rider will not be able to extract all the capabilities of any of these sport-bikes (regardless of where they come from)on the street! Although many try and fail! The real test will be the track-comparo anyway. Lap times only mean something to those that can ride the track at the best of their abilities and that of the machine they are riding! Not going to pay $23k when i can buy a bike that mops the floor up with it for $12k... after the sales drop!
Piglet2010   December 22, 2011 07:40 PM
-Superlight- Well, published performance figures and reports indicate that due to gearing and traction, the Fireblade is as fast or faster than the more powerful "Superbikes" in the quarter-mile, and for street riding, better acceleration in the 100+ mph range really is irrelevant, unless you have a cloaking device to avoid the speed cops. Looking at the power curves, the S1000RR really only has a power advantage over the Fireblade at 11K+ rpm, which is going to somewhere in the 80-90 mph area in 1st gear.
Superlight   December 21, 2011 02:03 PM
Piglet, lap times are really only critical if you a racer in an authorized race series. For us street riders it is an interesting but somewhat irrelevant piece of data. I won't argue about Honda fit/finish/ergos (quite good), but the Panaigale will likely set a new performance standard only contested by the BMW 1000RR. At this time the Japanese superbikes are pretty much standing still, product-wise, which means they are going backwards against the Euro bikes, which are introducing new designs/technologies at a furious pace.
Piglet2010   December 20, 2011 10:02 PM
In the MotoUSA 2011 Superbike Smackdown VIII Track comparison, the CBR1000RR had the fastest lap times by over 0.6 seconds. Lap times trump all else on the track, eh?
nakedfreak   December 20, 2011 02:09 PM
I think this Honda will still vie for the top spot on the street portion of the next Superbike Smackdown because it has one of the best ABS systems available, has strong midrange power, is one of the lightest literbikes & always scores high on rider ergonomics.
screamer69   December 20, 2011 06:48 AM
the CBR is noticeably smaller than all the other inline-4s out there...neat engineering.
Superlight   December 19, 2011 12:59 PM
Ghostrider, that new Ducati should easily dust off this mostly-unchanged Honda and all the other Asian superbikes. Don't underestimate Ducati and especially the new Panigale.
Rucuss54   December 19, 2011 12:20 PM
No TC? I guess if an engine has no low end or top end power hit it doesn't need TC, where it works most. Bland styling...meh.
GhostRider11   December 19, 2011 12:05 PM
The CBR will place behind the BMW once again in the 2012 Shoot-Out. For a 20th year Anniversary edition, this is what Honda gives the world? What a let down to all of us loyal CBR owners! This model should have been released as a 2010 CBR1000rr-model. Where's the V4 with the dual clutch and MotoGP-styled transmission we've been waiting for? The 2012 CBR1Krr may even get spanked by the new Ducati 1199 next year, making it a 3rd or even 4th place bike in the shoot-out! Bring on the comparisons already! Honda should be ashamed of themselves.
roadracerx   December 19, 2011 09:20 AM
So when did the CBR get SO much heavier? +16 pounds for ABS?
neo1piv014   December 19, 2011 06:25 AM
That front end has really grown on me since the first time I saw it. I don't really care for the white paint job, but Honda definitely uses a nice red paint on their bikes.