Parents have a canny way of teaching right from wrong, and within their arsenal of lines capable of ending an argument is this gem: “If your friends were jumping off a bridge, would you jump too?” Most teens respond with some snide remark along the lines of “It depends on how high the bridge is,” knowing that, no matter how clever their response, they’ve been trumped. Lesson learned. Parents win. Point being, just because everyone else has jumped on the bandwagon, doesn’t mean you should as well. Honda drives this point home for 2012 too, with the introduction of its devoid-of-traction-control CBR1000RR. For the time being, the traction control bandwagon will simply have to go on without Big Red.
Evolution Over Revolution
Honda last overhauled the CBR1000RR back in ’08, giving it a new frame, reworked engine, slipper clutch and more. In the subsequent years, the bike would finish towards the top of nearly every test it entered (although neither the ’08 model, nor its successors, ever won a Sport Rider literbike shootout, despite always being a top contender for the crown). Why is this important you ask when we have more important issues to deal with? Say, the new 2012 model? It’s important because, quite frankly, much of what made the previous generation CBR so great has simply been carried over to the ’12 model. The frame/swingarm combination is identical, for instance. The engine has gone untouched (sorry to those hoping for BMW-crushing power in ’12), as have the other features garnered back in ’08, including the slipper clutch, Pro-Link rear suspension and Ignition Interrupt Control System, which Honda incorporated to smoothen the off/on throttle transition.
More -rigid 12-spoke cast...
More -rigid 12-spoke cast aluminum wheels replace last year's three-spoke hoops. Despite their lighter appearance, the wheels are actually heavier. The 2012 model is two pounds heavier than its predecessor.
The 2012 model may share a shocking number of similarities with its predecessor, and it may be without traction control, but don’t hang your head in defeat just yet, Honda aficionados. There’s hope yet for Big Red, and that comes in the form of new Showa suspension, EFI updates, styling refinements and newly designed cast aluminum wheels. We’ve already covered the aforementioned changes in minute detail (Late Braking, January ’12), but a closer look at each revision gives a better indication of the 2012 model’s capabilities.
Heading the list of changes for 2012 is the Showa BPF (Big Piston Fork), which replaces the ’11 model’s 43mm cartridge-type fork. Unless you’ve been living in a bubble, you’re likely already familiar with BPFs, but in brief, the setup uses a drastically larger piston compared to a cartridge fork and a larger surface area to reduce damping pressure. BPFs have been used on Kawasaki and Suzuki models for a few years now (with great success in terms of feedback and performance under braking), but this marks the first time Honda has used the technology on a production bike.
Bigger news is the Showa Balance-Free shock, which uses similar twin-tube technology as the Öhlins TTX unit that has become de rigueur in racing (Honda claims this is an industry-first for a production motorcycle, and that’s true for the most part, but remember upgraded Ducati and Triumph models like the 675R come from the factory equipped with a TTX shock). What sets the Balance-Free shock apart from a standard unit is the valve-free piston, which works within the shock’s inner tube. Damping force is generated as oil flows in only one direction through damping valves that are placed within the shock body but separate from each other. What Showa—and Honda—look to achieve from using the Balance-Free shock is more consistent damping characteristics and reduced lag between the compression and rebound stroke caused by cavitation within the shock. The decreased pressure required by the shock also reduces stiction.
The Honda’s new instrumentation...
The Honda’s new instrumentation is one of the most easy-to-read LCD units we have yet used, with plenty of contrast to easily make sense of the numbers and a screen that eliminates glare. And voila, a gear indicator!
The Balance-Free shock uses...
The Balance-Free shock uses the same twin-tube technology as the Ohlins TTX shock: a valve-free piston works inside the shock’s inner tube and damping force is generated as oil flows in only one direction through damping valves that are placed separate from each other. Adjusters have been positioned for easy access.
It’s easy to discern the BPF...
It’s easy to discern the BPF front end from a cartridge-type fork, with the rebound and compression adjusters on the BPF’s fork cap. We were impressed with the feedback from the Honda’s new setup and found it to be much more compliant than the ’11 model’s standard fork.
Preload adjustment is made...
Preload adjustment is made at the bottom of the fork leg on all BPFs. Important to note is that, for our track stint, each bike was dialed in with settings recommended by Honda's Jeff Tigert and Jake Zemke.
Refer back to our 2010 literbike comparison (“Europe Invades”, June ’10) and it’s easy to presume the untouched CBR’s engine will produce somewhere around 149 horsepower and 77 foot-pounds of torque, which is admirable, just not inspiring when compared to the Kawasaki ZX-10R and BMW S 1000 RR. Honda reps don’t sugar coat the facts, but are quick to reiterate the importance of how that power is put to the ground. And even quicker to point out the CBR’s new ECU and EFI settings, which have been optimized to provide a smoother off/on throttle transition at small throttle openings. Fuel efficiency has benefited from the EFI changes as well.
The Honda’s new LCD instrumentation will tell you how you’re doing on the fuel mileage front and, quite frankly, provides more information than you’ll know what to do with. Across the top is a horizontal tachometer readout that can be programmed to work in four different ways. Above the readout is a set of programmable shift lights, and beneath you’ll find the speedometer, gear position indicator (!), odometer, coolant temperature and select warning lamps. A lap timer feature is also included and is activated using the starter button.
More-rigid 12-spoke cast aluminum wheels further catapult the CBR into the modern era, but while they look the part, Honda reps admit they are actually heavier than the ’11 model’s three-spoke hoops. Which brings us to another important point: the 2012 CBR1000RR is actually two pounds heavier than the 2011 model (441 pounds versus 439 pounds). It’s not a drastic jump, but worth noting considering the ‘08 model has always been touted as a featherweight in the ever-competitive literbike class.
A new, more pointed front...
A new, more pointed front fairing replaces the blasé front fairing Honda had used since ’08. Beneath the cowl is a chin spoiler that Honda has incorporated to reduce aerodynamic lift at high speeds.
Matched to the chic new wheels is a set of layered fairings and a new front cowl—sayonara blasé front faring of years past, we won’t miss you! As for the layered fairings, they complete the Honda’s more modern look, plus the Men in Red claim they create a large air pocket around the rider and draw air through the cooling system. The tail section has been cleaned up, plus an integrated chin spoiler has been fitted to the nose for reduced aerodynamic lift at high speeds. Put simply, you’d have to be crazy not to appreciate the refinements Honda has made to the CBR in terms of styling.
The rest of the Honda goes status quo for 2012, hold for the C-ABS model, which has its braking system recalibrated to provide less pressure to the front calipers when the rear brake is applied. Honda claims the change was made to better suit more aggressive riding on the track and street.