First Ride: 2017 Honda CBR1000RR
2017 HONDA CBR1000RR Honda taps into its resources and builds the best Fireblade to date
Honda taps into its resources and builds the best Fireblade to date
Honda’s story of modern superbike evolution starts 25 years ago with the first- ever Fireblade— the CBR900RR. At the time, the idea was simple: Make a motorcycle as light and powerful as possible yet easy to ride. Honda dubbed this concept Total Control, and since its inception it has been the backbone to every literbike the Japanese manufacturer has produced to date.
Fast-forward to today and to Honda’s next step in evolution— the 2017 CBR1000RR. The updated Fireblade is prepared to stab at the stiffest of its competition with a higher power- to- weight ratio than ever before, a lighter chassis, and a racing- inspired electronics package to achieve the greatest level of Total Control ever.
On paper Big Red looks better than ever, but before jumping to conclusions I packed my gear bag and jetted across the Atlantic Ocean to the super- technical Algarve International Circuit in Portimão, Portugal, to get a feel for myself.
First in the effort to return the CBR to the top of its class was Honda’s mission to extract more out of the engine to improve outright power and delivery throughout the rev range. The engine comes out screaming and pulls harder all the way up to the increased redline of 13,000 rpm, where it now makes a claimed 189 hp at the crankshaft. The ultimate result is much better off- corner performance— which admittedly was an issue the Fireblade needed fixed for quite some time— and wicked top- end speed that it didn’t have before.
The best part? Honda successfully kept the bike’s classic smooth power delivery that many have been so fond of over the years.
Transmission gear ratios on the new Fireblade remain identical to that of its predecessor, though the rear sprocket jumps from 42 to 43 teeth. This small change helps exaggerate the CBR’S improved midrange power, as it literally jumps off of corners, without the Honda running out of gearing even on the 185- mph front straightaway at Portimão.
The company’s focus on user-friendliness begins with an electronics package derived from the RC213V- S Motogp replica bike that is host to a variety of rider aids, including Power Selector, Honda Selectable Torque Control (Honda’s fancy way of saying traction control), and an Engine Brake Selector. Interestingly, engineers decided to marry the torque control with a wheelie control feature to help simplify it for the end user, meaning the selection of the three levels of wheelie control completely depends on what HSTC level you have chosen— and it cannot be adjusted independently.
Toggling through the HSTC settings and setting the system to Level 3 proved the most prominent on the racetrack, but there’s still room for refinement. At the initial turn of the throttle the system allows for enough wheelspin to help point the motorcycle in the direction of corner exit, but without precise throttle control it intrudes just slightly, holding the bike back from putting power to the ground and driving forward. Although engineers suggest the system is meant to help extract the bike’s true capabilities, it’s hard to not argue that it feels more geared toward safety than performance. The wheelie control, too, was hard to spark love with because of its unpredictability over Portimão’s blind rises, which can be carefully chalked up to the sole use of wheel- speed sensors instead of pitch measurements from the system’s IMU.
Overall, the issues aren’t significant— actually, pretty easy to look past in the grand scheme of things if you aren’t after lap records.
The rest of the rider aids in the electronics package, however, help redeem the CBR’S step forward in Total Control. The quickshifter— which is optional on the standard Fireblade— without a doubt is one of the best available production systems on the market, period. Smoothness and precision are second to none, especially during downshifts where it very accurately matches rpm by auto- blipping the throttle so you don’t have to use the clutch. That, in combination with the EBS I set to Level 3 (most amount of freewheel), makes the CBR one hell of a stable motorcycle under braking.
Also highlighting the emphasis on rideability is a steering characteristic that is light and stable as ever thanks to a 33- pound reduction in curb weight on the ABS model (13 pounds for the non- ABS model) and changes to chassis rigidity. Getting from left to right or vice versa through transitions is quick and takes hardly any physical exertion, and the CBR continues to cut down lap times by confidently steering through the middle of the corner and allowing line adjustments almost instantaneously. It’s one of the more comfortable bikes too; the small fairing gives the motorcycle a much more compact feel than previously without taking any wind protection away from my 5-foot-7 stature, and the redesigned fuel tank offers a better grip for your knees.
The Showa Big Piston Fork and Balance Free rear shock combination provides tons of stability under acceleration or deceleration, but it doesn’t offer much front- end feedback at maximum lean angle to understand exactly where the limit of traction is. This, however, could be partly due to the standard Bridgestone
S21 street tires we tested the bike on, and with a more track- or race- oriented tire I wouldn’t doubt that the problem could completely vanish. Damping settings also seemed slightly off as the bike struggled to cope with harsh bumps, but twisting a few suspension clickers in the proper direction is a simple fix.
Killing off speed at the end of long straightaways comes quicker on the new CBR with help from redesigned Tokico four- piston front brake calipers and higher- performance brake pads. These changes put the maximum braking power of the new CBR on par with that of its competitors, but the system is still at a disadvantage due to the lack of feel through the lever. Grab the brakes aggressively and it’s difficult to understand how much braking force is happening at the caliper and how much more you can use before it hits the limit. On the positive side, the bike’s ABS system (equipped on the model we tested) never interfered as far as we could tell— and that’s exactly what you want on the racetrack.
And The Answer Is…
Honda’s 2017 CBR1000RR has taken the Fireblade legacy to a whole new level with a big boost in Total Control along the way. Sure, there are some bits that still could use updating, but it’s difficult to get around the fact that it’s probably one of the most usable, quickest- handling bikes on the planet. I, frankly, can’t wait to spin a whole lot more laps on it this year, and you should be jumping at the opportunity too.
Be ready for a battle royale at this year’s literbike test.