The SP Edition First Ride
As part of the international press launch of the standard CBR1000RR, Honda also gave us an additional hour of track time aboard the tricked- out CBR1000RR SP, which comes equipped with a titanium fuel tank, Brembo monoblock brake calipers, semi-active Öhlins (S- EC) suspension components, and a lithium-ion battery, all intended for weight savings and better performance. To tap further into the bike’s potential, engineers also swapped the standard-spec Bridgestone Battlax RS10 tires for super-grippy Bridgestone Battlax Racing V02 slicks and sent us on our way.
Similar to that of its competitors, the SP model’s Öhlins suspension has three Automatic modes (A1, A2, and A3) that use specialized software to break your riding down into an event-based approach. This means the system is able to determine whether you are braking, cornering, or accelerating based on information gathered by the Suspension Control Unit (SCU) and adjust to ideal damping settings for each of those events. It also has three Manual modes (M1, M2, and M3) in which compression and rebound settings can be adjusted in 5-percent increments from soft to hard, taking traditional suspension clickers out of the equation. These settings, along with the Öhlins Based Tuning Interface found on the SP’S dash, make finetuning the suspension easier than ever.
I spent much of my time aboard the SP in the A1 mode (stiffest of the Automatic settings), and it was clear the Öhlins suspension offers more feel through the stroke than the Showa bits on the standard model. The semi-active suspension is impressive, and the transition between damping settings for different events (braking, cornering, and accelerating) feels seamless, allowing you to push hard without the worry of the bike doing something unpredictable. Those changes in damping settings pay dividends too, specifically helping improve bump compliance at full lean without giving up stability under hard braking. It’s important to note that the system now is more enjoyable for racetrack use than it was on other bikes we’ve tested, and it may help you achieve quicker lap times.
Braking power and feel were also improved on the SP model thanks to the switch to Brembo monoblock calipers up front. The difference in power was very subtle and only noticeable during the initial bite of the brakes, but it was enough to push braking markers farther and farther toward the corner and slightly shave down lap times. An enhanced feel through the pull of the lever was superb, though it was overshadowed by an overly intrusive ABS system—funny, as it never activated on the standard CBR. The system would pull back force halfway into the braking zones sending the bike headed to the corner uncomfortably quick before it would deactivate and allow the bike to stop. While it never caused any off-track excursions, it was quite an inconvenience on track.
If you have a little extra cash and are debating between buying the SP model or standard CBR1000RR, I’d highly recommend jumping at the opportunity to own one of these. The Öhlins semi-active suspension really did make this bike enjoyable to rip around the racetrack, and it’s one bike I hope to be spending a lot more time on in 2017. SR