The front end of the Honda inspired confidence in me, probably due to the steering damper. The ergos felt a little aggressive – pegs were slightly higher, a little more pressure on the wrists, and seat was a little firmer. â€“Brian Chamberlain, MCUSA VP of creative design.
Fat is Sexy?
When we first tested Honda’s CBR1000RR, it impressed with its large and linear powerband and unflappable stability. Those things still hold true, but the new CBR is so well polished that it was difficult to get a good feel for how it should slot it into the class pecking order.
The only obvious pimple concerning the RR is the pull of gravity on its considerable mass. With its fuel tank empty, the CBR scales in at 433 pounds, a full 30 pounds more than the anorexic Kawasaki and 15 pounds heavier than the R1, the second pudgiest of the group.
I think we’re seeing a pattern here. First, routing an exhaust system up and under the seat, with its attendant shielding and bracketry, is the inverse equivalent of the Wonder Bra: It makes the bike look trim but makes it heavier in actuality. Compared to the ZX-10, the CBR carries an extra 15 pounds on its rear wheel alone. The similarly piped R1 weighs in just three pounds more than the old GSX-R, and you just know that Suzuki is going to lop off about 10 pounds for its all-new 2005 model.
Secondly, even the engineering might of Honda has trouble keeping the weight down on its newer RR models. First the 600RR was heavier than the F4i, and now the CBR1000RR is porkier than the 954RR. While the underseat exhaust plays a role in the added heft, some blame must also go to Honda’s innovative Unit Pro-Link rear suspension. Honda says incorporating both ends of the rear shock inside the MotoGP-inspired swingarm isolates the main frame/chassis from forces acting on the rear suspension, and we think they may be on to something there. But until they develop the technology further, we can expect the Honda RR series to be at a slight weight disadvantage.
If you were to ride only the Honda, you’d swear it is the best sportbike ever made, such is the way it has been polished to Honda’s typical high standards. The CBR, with so many of the rough edges shaved off, would get our vote as the Least Exciting Superbike of 2004. We’re not sure how Honda can build a 150-hp race-bred machine and make it feel as if a dozen ponies slept in on the day of the stampede. The RR will challenge wheelie hounds more than the three other excellent unicyclers, and it felt almost anemic at 7000 feet of elevation.
Heated seats on both the Honda and the Yamaha are courtesy of underseat mufflers, as is a lack of storage space. The things we do for fashion.
Which isn’t to say the Honda is slow. You’d have to be Miguel Duhamel to feel that 148 hp and 76 lb-ft of torque isn’t enough. But it’s the stepless way the CBR produces its power that had us waiting for the “hit” that never came. Of course, if the sole goal from your rides is to get through a canyon road as quickly as possible without breaking a sweat, the RR is perhaps the perfect ally, even if it is a little less willing to change directions. It’s stable as a train, even leaned over in the bumps, and its grunty motor mostly out-torques even the muscular ZX up to about 9000 rpm.
The CBR performs less well on the open road. Although its Showa fork is plush and responsive, discomfort sets in on longer rides because of a thinly padded seat and a persistent vibration at certain cruising speeds that buzzes pegs and bars to the extent that a few of our testers’ hands went numb. The CBR’s not exactly up to De Sade levels of torture, but it and the R1 would be the last picks when going out for a 500-mile day.
- Easy to ride fast
- Billet-like stability
- Least exciting superbike
- Jenny Craig candidate
- Where’s the hit?
By now you might’ve noticed a distinct lack of racetrack photography and were wondering how long you’d have to read before you got to the lap times and quarter-mile results. Well, your read won’t be much longer but your wait is.
For the first time, we decided to split a sportbike comparison test in two. We hear you guys out there who say they don’t care if one bike is 0.3-second quicker around Willow Springs that has little relevance to those who never even see a racetrack.
This is the reason we haven’t spoken about ultimate handling limits and which bike has the best brakes. Know what? They’ll go around corners faster than most of us would dare, and with 4-piston radial-mount brakes on each bike, there is little distinction between them in street use.
2004 Superbike Smackdown
2004 Yamaha YZF-R1 Comparison
2004 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Comparison
2004 Honda CBR1000RR Comparison
2004 Kawasaki ZX-10R Comparison