2004 Honda CBR1000RR Comparison

Kevin Duke | May 19, 2004
2004 Superbike Smackdown Track Test - Laguna Seca
We were elated when racing legend Steve Crevier agreed to help us with this shootout. The 6-time Canadian Superbike champ just missed out on his seventh title in the final race of the 2003 season. We wish him luck when he again contends for the title on his Diablo Performance GSX-R1000. He’s not just fast, either, as fits of laughter were common occurrences whenever he is around.

“These are pretty damn good for street tires,” said our fast and fastidious president, Don Becklin. “They would work fine for 80% of trackday riders. I really needed to push to find the limit, but I did have the rear tire let loose a couple of times without much warning.”

We had four sets of gummy Supercorsas for our second day at the track, so we didn’t worry about lap times on the Diablos, instead concentrating on getting up to speed and noting each bike’s individual characteristics.

In typical Honda fashion, the CBR is the most rider-friendly literbike in the group. It has faultless stability and riders felt it was best able to put down power – whether that’s a function of Honda’s MotoGP-inspired Unit Pro Link swingarm, a product of the most amount of weight on the rear wheel, or the mellowest powerband in this group.

“I had a feeling the CBR was going to shine on the racetrack and I was right,” Editorial Director Ken Hutchison proudly proclaimed. “The Honda does everything so well and so smooth that it allows you to really focus on going fast and using the awesome midrange to get the most out of corners with plenty of speed. The extra weight of the Unit Pro-Link makes a lot more sense on a literbike than the 600.”

“The Unit Pro Link was noticeably better than any of the other rear suspensions,” noted our managing editor, Brian Korfhage, who preferred the Honda’s higher bars and lower pegs for his 6-foot, 190-lb frame. “It gave me confidence to go faster on the CBR. The other bikes might have more motor, but I would be willing to bet I was faster around the track on the CBR1000RR because I had confidence to enter and exit corners much faster, knowing it was going to go where it was pointed, and moreover, would track through the corners putting the power to the ground.”

“The Honda is probably the easiest bike to ride,” added our graphics whiz, Brian Chamberlain, “offering smooth power delivery all the way through the rev range, a smooth tranny and spot-on stability.”

“It’s very stable on its side, mid-turn or at apex,” added Crevier about the CBR, adding it would be his pick for a comfy streetbike.

2004 Superbike Smackdown Track Test - Laguna Seca
The CBR1000RR is another example of fine engineering from Honda. Not only is its much-ballyhooed Unit Pro-Link suspension a chip off the MotoGP block, so is its frame design and central fuel-tank placement.

But all is not perfect in Hondaland. While everyone praised the RR for its stability under braking and a strong feel from the brakes, especially Crevier, both Chamberlain and Becklin felt the CBR’s brakes had to work harder to slow the most mass in the group, 15 pounds more than the next-lightest R1. The CBR also dragged its pegs the easiest, even though we removed the peg feelers from all the bikes. But the missing key ingredient from the RR is the big literbike hit of power that never arrives. Its motor just doesn’t have the steam of the others.

Steam is definitely the one thing the Kawasaki ZX-10 does not lack. Nothing can match it in terms of sheer acceleration. Of course, having the lightest weight and most horsepower and torque makes this an easily felt physics lesson.

“It has noticeably more power than the others,” said Becklin, a former racer who placed a credible 18th-place in the AMA’s ultra-competitive Supersport race at Laguna in 1996, 13 spots behind Crevier but about a foot ahead of his rival buddy. “It accelerates hard and pulls strong to redline, and you can make up bike-lengths on others in the short chutes.”

“The funny thing about the Z,” Hutchison added, “is that despite it being the most powerful of the lot, it is second only to the Honda when it comes to smooth power delivery up till about 9000 rpm, anyway. From there it’s freakin’-awesome wheelie-popping fun!”

2004 Honda CBR1000RR Highs & Lows
  • Refinement
  • Easy to ride fast
  • Billet-like stability
  • Least exciting superbike
  • Jenny Craig candidate
  • Where’s the hit?

The ZX also received props for its compact and racy riding position from all but the big-boned Korfagio. Its tiny size makes a rider feel as if he can just climb on top and dominate it.

“The riding position is very suitable for track use, with low, swept-back bars, high pegs, and an overall size that most closely resembled a 600,” said Chamberlain, another former roadracer. “Even though it is small and the ergos are tight, I never found it uncomfortable, even for my 6-foot frame. Its small size and light weight made it very flickable, and getting the bike to turn in was a breeze.”

One notable complaint about the Kawasaki was its front brakes that would allow the lever to come uncomfortably close to the handlebar.


Kevin Duke

Contributing Editor|Articles | Bashing A legend in the motorcycle industry, Duke Danger is known for his wheelie riding antics, excellent writing skills, appetite for press intro dinners and a propensity to wake up late. Once a fearless member of the MotoUSA team, the Canadian kid is often missed but never forgotten.

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