Make no mistake: Honda is an engineering company first and foremost. Its existence revolves around creating solutions to transportation problems. And for road racers seeking the quickest way to get around racetracks worldwide it offers the 2012 Honda CBR1000RR.
Even though it isn’t the lightest machine on the road, the CBR is one of the more compact-feeling aside from Aprilia’s ultra-compact RSV4 and the slender Ducati 1199. Loaded up with fuel (4.7-gallon capacity) the modified Honda weighs in at 435 pounds. For reference that’s 13 pounds less than stock and ranks third-lightest ahead of all but the Ducati and Kawasaki.
Seated at the controls proves the Honda to have a rider-friendly cockpit. It’s comparable to the Suzuki and BMW in regards to control position and riding posture, however it is just a hair less demanding to command compared to the German rocket. Despite the absence of adjustable foot controls none of our testers complained about it.
“There’s really not anything to complain about with the Honda,” explains Neuer. “The ergonomics are more relaxed and natural feeling than pretty much anything else out there. It’s pretty small too. Not quite as tiny as the Aprilia but it is close.”
“The Honda doesn’t really stand out,” mentions Garcia. “But that’s okay because when I’m riding I never have to think about it—all I’m focused on when I’m riding the Honda is riding. And that makes it easier for me to focus on hitting all my marks.”
(Top) Despite not employing Brembo braking components the Honda’s braking set-up was one of our favorites. (Center) The ergonomics of the Honda aren’t demanding and were appreciated by all of our testers despite offering no adjustment. (Bottom) At Thunderhill, you won’t find an easier bike to ride than the CBR1000RR.
For the last few years the Honda has been near or at the top of our rider’s notepads in the handling department and this year was no different. Words like ‘effortless’ and ‘easy’ were used to convey the Honda’s fluid handling dynamic. The CBR demands little input for direction changes and rated ahead of even the sharp steering Aprilia during corner entry. In spite of how easy it was to maneuver it only registered the fourth-best side-to-side flick rate (43.0 degrees/second) through the low-to-medium speed left-right-left chicane of Turns 11/12/13.
Pitched over on its side the Honda continued to amaze by offering rock solid stability. While it didn’t acquire the highest velocity in any of the three measuring points, when each of the segments was totaled then averaged it did collected a top score. At the apex of Turn 2 it carried 68.0 mph good for fifth-best—1.3 mph down on the Ducati and 0.7 mph behind the Suzuki, but ahead of its archrival the BMW by 0.3 mph. Through Turn 8 and 14 it had the second-fastest speed of 95.8 and 46.6 mph, respectively.
“The one area the Honda really shines is its cornering ability,” describes Montano. “From turn-in to full lean and even on exit… It was so planted that it begged for more corner speed.”
“The bike turned into corners easy and came out like a bat out of hell,” recalls Dawes. “And it didn’t feel like you were working hard while you were doing it. It’s crazy to me how easy it is to ride.”
Some of the credit goes to Honda’s well-sorted suspension. The shock was rated as the best of the group and the fork scored well too but didn’t seem to deliver quite as much feel as Aprilia’s Ohlins unit. Despite our testers falling in love with the Honda’s chassis it achieved the second-lowest lean angle (48.0 degrees) through The Cyclone which was a surprise.
The CBR’s engine is known for its effective mid-range power, which translates into a good amount of grunt off corners. And it gets even better with the fitment of a Yoshimura slip-on muffler. Analyzing the dyno numbers reveal that the Honda’s engine pumps out the fattest torque curve of the four-cylinder bikes
(From full stiff)
Height: 4mm (from top of clamp to tube)
with it peaking early at 9600 revs 84.02 lb-ft. This helped it achieve respectable acceleration force number off of Turn 6 (0.85g—tied the Suzuki for third) and Turn 15 (0.82g—tied the Kawasaki for third). Upon averaging it was awarded third place in that classification behind the Aprilia and BMW.
“The Honda is definitely the sleeper bike in this class,” says Chamberlain. “The engine is so smooth and docile that it doesn’t feel like you’re going that fast. Yet I was able to consistently put down my fastest laps of the test on the Honda.”
Even with the addition of the Yosh slip-on the Honda didn’t blow us away with its horsepower or top-end engine performance. In fact, aside from the Yamaha the CBR delivered the lowest peak power output of the four cylinders with 160.17 horsepower at 11,900 rpm. Still, it is important to note that it gained nearly nine ponies over stock and over-rev didn’t feel quite as flat as we remember.
Weak high rpm pull hurt down the two straightaways with the CBR logging some of the lowest top speeds. On the main front straight the Honda hit the fourth-slowest maximum speed of 159.3 mph. On the back straight it was fourth-slowest again at 144.6 mph. One feature that aided the Honda’s acceleration was the fitment of the Dynojet quickshifter, which helped keep the engine revving in the meat of the powerband. Due in part to its shorter final drive gearing and near perfect slipper clutch calibration it received the top score in the Drivetrain class.
(Top) Once again Honda came prepared to Motorcycle-USA’s shootout with a well-sorted chassis set-up. (Center) The Honda’s chassis offers excellent feel at lean. (Bottom) The Honda’s impressive mid-range helps it rocket off corners.
Next to the Beemer, the Honda’s braking package was rated highest in the subjective rankings. Both power and feel were at a very high-level and test riders were unanimous in their praise of easy the brakes are to manipulate. Into Turn 10 it tied the Aprilia with the third-highest g force of -1.38g. But into the slower final corner it only managed the lowest force of -1.30g. This may be attributed to its slightly lower velocity as well as how adept the fork was at pitch control during braking.
“Besides the BMW, I thought the Honda had the best brakes,” comments Hutch. “I think the Kawasaki’s might have had a little more power but they were more vague-feeling which made it harder to use.”
Despite being down on top-end power the Honda exceled in Superpole. Waheed set his fastest time of the test at 1’56.24, while Siglin recorded his second-fastest lap of 1’54.20. Afterwards both riders were surprised at their lap times considering how little effort it took to ride. Although the Kawasaki was awarded the Superpole trophy for the fastest outright time of the test, upon averaging both rider’s times the CBR came out ahead by 0.425 second and was given full points in that category.
From the engine to chassis the Honda presents the best overall package. Despite being down on top-end power, its cornering superiority along with top scores in six categories allowed it to steal the crown away from the mighty BMW proving that the CBR1000RR is indeed the best Superbike 2012.
- Almost too easy to ride!
- Excellent handling
- Strong mid-range engine performance
- Needs more top-end power
- Front end could have more feel at lean
2012 Superbike Smackdown IX Track
2012 MV Agusta F4R Track Comparison
2012 Yamaha YZF-R1 Track Comparison
2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale S Track Comparison
2012 KTM RC8R Track Comparison
2012 Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC Track Comparison
2012 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Track Comparison
2012 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R Track Comparison
2012 BMW S1000RR Track Comparison
2012 Honda CBR1000RR Track Comparison
2012 Superbike Smackdown IX Track Conclusion