The same 330mm discs are present...
The same 330mm discs are present on the 954's front end, but the brake calipers have been subtly redesigned with smaller trailing pistons. Performance is improved substantially, with far better feel than the 929's already good binders.
Although the same 330mm front brake discs are used, other portions of the brake system have been slightly redesigned for better feel. The master cylinder uses a smaller piston for more brake system pressure at a given lever pressure, while each caliper's trailing pistons are smaller (32mm vs. 34mm). Both wheels are all-new, employing more compact hub and spoke castings to trim an additional six ounces of unsprung weight from each wheel.
Bodywork also received a substantial makeover, with a more aggressive, angular appearance. The windscreen is 15mm taller for better protection (an accessory 50mm-taller unit is available), and the taillight now uses LED-type illumination like the Yamaha R6.
The 954's exhaust canister...
The 954's exhaust canister is now all titanium, except for the outer cover and end caps, which are the only pieces on the entire exhaust not constructed out of the ultra-lightweight metal. Note the race stand button bosses welded to the bottom of the swingarm.
It didn't seem likely, but Honda was able to trim six pounds off the new CBR954RR, making it still the class lightweight (unless the new R1 suddenly goes anorexic) at 429 pounds wet.
A CHASSIS WITH LESS RIGIDITY?
Yep, you read it right. The new CBR954RR chassis is actually less rigid than the 929 unit in certain aspects. Although the 954RR main frame (including the D-shaped lower frame brace) is 8.6 percent more rigid torsionally than the 929RR's unit, it is actually 3.6 percent less rigid laterally. The new swingarm may look beefy, but it is in fact 25 percent less rigid laterally, and 25.6 percent less rigid torsionally than the older component (actually, this was mostly achieved through the use of a slightly thinner pivot shaft).
But before you get all frothed up and think the CBR954RR has a wet noodle for a chassis, we suggest you read the "Look Ma, No Pivot" sidebar in our CBR929RR test in the June 2000 issue. In a nutshell, the concept is this: when a motorcycle is leaned over in a corner, bump forces are fed from the ground nearly perpendicular into the chassis--angles too great for the suspension to handle. That leaves the tires and chassis with the job of dealing with irregular pavement, but today's radials have stiff sidewalls to cope with the severe sideloads they encounter during hard cornering.
Easing the pressure on a rider's...
Easing the pressure on a rider's wrists as well as offering more leverage with its more upright ergos, the 954 also boasts more legroom than the GSX-R1000 to boot.
This means you can actually have a chassis that is too stiff. In 1993, Wayne Rainey's Yamaha YZR500 GP bike came equipped with a super-rigid frame, but the triple world champion struggled with tire chatter and other handling problems until he switched to a privateer ROC chassis. Engineers have found that a certain amount of flex is desirable in a motorcycle's frame and swingarm for improved feel and handling.
Since the 954 retains the 929's riding position (although the shorter tank has you sitting up a tiny bit more), and the suspension feels the same at lower speeds, the new CBR's city manners are pretty much the same. Easy cold morning warm-ups, responsive throttle response, lithe, light handling and crisp, one-finger-application brakes allow you to shred traffic with ease. The 954's added midrange punch and acceleration, however, add a new dimension to its urban weapons; combined with its light weight, the 954 literally leaps away from stoplights. We also appreciated the redesigned gear engagement dogs in the transmission, which made gearshifts much cleaner and easier.
In order to shed a little...
In order to shed a little weight and impart some "HRC trickness" into the swingarm, Honda constructed much of the 954's unit (left) from pressed aluminum sheets instead of the previous extruded beams (right).
The bike's highway manners are substantially improved due to the beefier powerplant. The taller windscreen helps wind protection noticeably, and vibration is the same as before--minimal, except for a little tingle between 4500 and 5000 rpm. Roll-ons, however, are another story; the light weight and extra midrange power mean the Honda responds much better to throttle inputs in top gear at 60 mph, allowing you to pass a string of offending four-wheelers with ease.
However, while we're talking about highway manners, we should bring up our one major gripe with the new 954: its poor gas mileage. Even with only moderate applications of full throttle, the low fuel light always came on around the 120-mile mark; this meant you only had about 25 miles left on the 0.8 gallon reserve. A 145-mile range on a modern inline-four isn't exactly what we'd call exemplary fuel efficiency.