The CBR900RR made it to the USA as a ‘93 model and was a huge leap in sportbike performance at the time. Our original test bike made approximately 114 horsepower and weighed just 457 pounds, a potent combination. Quarter-mile time was 10.48 seconds, and top speed was 160 mph. Motorcyclist called it, “A middleweight with the punch of a monster bike.” The premiere issue of SR included an open-bike comparison test with this note about the CBR: “No production motorcycle, with the possible exception of the ZX-11, can provide the quality and quantity of giggles this little Honda can.”
To address complaints regarding the 900’s flighty handling, Honda upgraded the suspension components with recalibrated damping rates and new compression adjusters up front; a host of detail changes also included redesigned bodywork. Weight, horsepower, quarter-mile time and top speed were virtually unchanged from the original model. From our Feb. ‘95 road test: “All (our testers) felt the changes made a significant improvement and agreed that they could ride more quickly with the same margin for safety on the new machine.”
Just one year later, the CBR was again updated but this time with a goal of more street-oriented performance. To that end, revised ergonomics were more comfortable, and the chassis was made less stiff in some ways for an "optimum balance of rigidity." The suspension was again updated, and another round of detail changes was implemented to match the new chassis. The engine grew from 893cc to 919cc with a 1mm bore increase, with compression raised slightly. "The result takes Honda another step forward in the quest for the perfect big-bore sportbike," we wrote in our April '96 road test.
Honda finally addressed the 900’s vague handling and fit triple clamps with 5mm less offset to increase trail (a fix Kaz Yoshima had addressed long before with aftermarket clamps). A stiffer frame and swingarm also helped, as did a nine-pound weight reduction. Another round of detail changes saw more than 80 percent of the engine’s parts redesigned and the engine more powerful, but horsepower, quarter-mile time and top-speed remained infuriatingly almost identical to the original numbers. “In short,” wrote Associate Editor Peter Jones in his first ride article, “the bike is now a prince, supplying the confidence-inspiring fun that it had long promised.”
A complete revamp of the CBR saw an increase in displacement (and name) to 929cc along with fuel injection for the all-new short-stroke powerplant. The chassis was likewise all-new, using Honda’s “pivotless” technology that had the swingarm pivoting in the crankcases and (finally) a 17-inch front wheel. Weight dropped by 14 pounds to 434 while horsepower finally rose to 122. From our June ‘00 road test: “Honda has basically answered the call, and stepped up to the plate with a successor to the venerable CBR900RR that puts the manufacturer right back in the thick of the battle for open-class sportbike supremacy.”
Another jump in displacement and name to 954cc came courtesy of a 1mm increase in bore. Higher compression, hotter cam timing, larger throttle bodies, and other tweaks to the engine increased horsepower to just over 130. The frame and swingarm were beefed up in some areas but weakened in others, and changes to the chassis dropped a further five pounds in weight. “Honda has created one of the sharpest, most maneuverable literbike rocketships to ever hit the pavement, while still retaining the user-friendliness of its predecessor,” we raved in our June ‘02 road test.
A complete redesign included another boost in displacement to 998cc via a longer stroke; a cassette-type transmission, the addition of shower-style fuel injectors and ram air intake were also among the engine upgrades. The chassis was designed with an emphasis on mass centralization, and featured Honda’s electronic steering damper and new Unit Pro-Link rear suspension. Horsepower increased to 150, while top speed was 175 mph and quarter-mile time was 10.16 seconds; unfortunately weight went up by a whopping 37 pounds to 466 pounds wet, heavier than even the original 1992 model.
While the CBR may have looked unchanged for ‘06, significant updates to the engine and chassis shed 15 pounds and added nine horsepower, while quarter-mile time dipped into the nine-second range. The engine received higher compression and hotter cams, while weight was cut from the frame, swingarm, exhaust system and more than 60 percent of the bike’s individual components. “The 1000 is much more playful and entertaining to ride, and especially so if you’ve spent time on some of the other current literbikes,” noted Senior Editor Trevitt in his first ride piece.
The all-new 1000 returned to the tenet of the original 900, with a further 11-pound weight reduction making the ‘08 model lightest in its class. Slightly more oversquare cylinder dimensions, larger titanium valves, a slipper clutch and a more compact design were among the engine updates, while the frame and swingarm were lighter and more rigid. Peak horsepower decreased slightly, although midrange was significantly improved; quarter-mile time dropped to 9.73 seconds. Trevitt again, in his May ‘08 first ride article: “The new CBR1000RR is an impressive piece, raising the bar for user-friendliness and handling in the class.”
Modest updates aimed at making the 1000 easer to ride included wheels, changes to the EFI and new suspension components in the form of Showa’s Big Piston Fork and Balance-Free shock. Sharper styling and new LCD instruments were also included. Weight increased by five pounds, and most performance stats were unchanged. From our Sept. ‘12 literbike comparison test: “The Honda is refined in every sense of the word, with a composed feeling that immediately instills confidence in inexperienced and experienced riders alike.
Riding the CBR900RR Today
The paperwork for SR publisher Dave Sonsky’s CBR900RR instantly ages the bike; the menacing Honda is roughly 20 years old, and has enough miles under its belt to warrant an eternal trip to the back of the garage or a designated page on Craigslist, where it would ultimately be replaced by something with that fresh-off-the-showroom-floor smell. But the CBR900RR is something special, and consequently deserves more than a slot in the corner of some dilapidated shed. It deserves to be ridden and ridden hard; this is the bike that set the standard for modern-day sportbikes after all.
Riding the CBR on a daily basis is even more evidence of why it’s better off on the road than tucked away in the garage; people still pay it the attention it deserves. We haven’t ridden a bike in recent months that turns more heads than Dave’s 900RR — not even a Ducati Panigale does the trick. And in the canyons, the bike has you convinced it’s no more than ten years young, which is a true testament to how advanced the design was for its time.
This is our publisher (and...
This is our publisher (and former Super Streetbike Editor — hence the chrome) Dave Sonsky’s personal CBR, a ‘93 model that features some upgrades. The aftermarket support for the 900 was — and still is — quite strong, with many companies providing everything from ram air intake systems to big-bore kits to complete chassis assemblies.
Don’t let us fool you; the 900 is a much different animal than its modern-day equivalents. It feels rough around the edges, gruff and ready to throw a blow your way at a moment’s notice. The bike’s got an in-your-face attitude that makes riding it worthwhile; it doesn’t disappear underneath you like today’s utterly refined literbikes do, and it requires your attention at every second of the ride. Pay it the respect it deserves, and the bike will reward you with some of the most cherished miles you’ve ridden.
The chassis rewards the rider with bigger bronze than the rider that’s smooth and precise with his inputs. Put simply, you have to ride the CBR900RR else it will ride you, and never was this more apparent than after a back-to-back ride on a current-model CBR. Even though the 900 is still lighter than some of today’s track weapons, it feels heavier; more finicky fueling wise, and the fit and finish is a notch behind anything that’s rolled off a Japanese manufacturer’s assembly line in recent years. But with all this in mind, we still couldn’t help but want to continue riding the bike. It may be twenty years old at this point, but it still manages to shock your system the way a true sportbike should, and that’s something every enthusiast can appreciate. As for us, we’re just glad Mr. Sonsky kept one close by. SR