Yes, the CBR's trademark flip-up...
Yes, the CBR's trademark flip-up passenger seat trunk is still there, but it's somewhat smaller in capacity, with about a third less space to work with now.
As long as the gas stations aren't too far away, sampling the fruits of Baba's and the Honda engineers' labor in the twisty bits is where the real payoff begins. The 954 retains the 929's incredibly light and flickable, yet razor-sharp steering abilities, allowing you to carve the tighter canyons like no other open-class machine. Mid-corner steering corrections take little more than a thought process to accomplish. Make sure the Michelin Pilot Sports are up to operating temp (which takes a few turns), and the precise front end feedback works with the scalpel-like steering to give you the confidence to charge into corners later and deeper. As the pace heats up, the 954's ultra-lithe handling and hyper-responsiveness requires smoothness in steering inputs, however, overly rough or aggressive body movements can upset the chassis a bit.
Baba-san says the CBR is aimed...
Baba-san says the CBR is aimed more at the street rider, but little details like this rear ride-height adjuster on the rear shock's top mount, and the bosses welded onto the bottom of the swingarm for race stand buttons, belie that premise. Like the Suzuki GSX-Rs, you'll need to find different-thickness washers in order to adjust the ride height.
The 954's midrange boost is a major plus in these environs, with a much more substantial spread of power between 6000 and 9500 rpm. Yes, you still have to rev the CBR harder than the competition to get some serious propulsion going, but it's not as much work as before; the motor's quicker-revving nature lets you carry a lower rpm through certain corners without suffering a penalty in drive off the turn. Top-end power feels a tad bit stronger than the 929, a fact born out by the dyno chart. Not that it was really lacking in that department--although there is the question of a bike with the initials GSX-R....
The 954's piston on the right...
The 954's piston on the right may be larger in diameter, but it's six percent lighter than the 929 piston above, along with a wristpin that is the same size as the 600F4i unit. Note the rather miniscule side skirt on the 954 piston.
We should note here that the 954's brake updates are another added bonus, providing fantastic feedback and fade-free power. We didn't really have any complaints about the 929's binders, but the 954 brakes' feel and progressiveness reminded us that there is always room for improvement. They let you expend less energy dealing with hard braking, so that you can work on other riding tasks, like higher corner entrance speeds.
The Honda's overall handling is excellent, although it still exhibits a bit of the same "busy" feel in rough corners as the 929. While nothing bad enough to cause worry or rob you of confidence, it does remind you that you're riding a light, short-wheelbase bike with fairly radical steering geometry (23.8 degrees rake, 97mm trail). Softening the suspension enough to keep it from feeling busy ended up allowing too much chassis pitch during acceleration and braking. Again, we feel this is due to the bike's highly centralized mass; it's a lot easier to twirl a stick with its weight kept in the center, rather than out toward the ends.
Don't try to look for spring...
Don't try to look for spring preload rings on the Showa fork's adjuster cap. You'll need to remember how many turns out from full stiff you're at in order to determine preload. In their quest to pare every gram possible from the CBR, Honda changed the spring preload to an internal mechanism.
This may be the reason that Baba and the Honda engineers decided to increase the lateral flexibility of the chassis. In order to counteract the lack of outlying weight toward each end (which adds inertia to resist movement), they needed a way to keep midcorner bumps from upsetting the chassis. Although the 954 still has a slightly busy feel, it is noticeably less nervous over sharp midcorner bumps at full lean, especially considering the fact that it lacks a steering damper. And yet the chassis never exhibited any handling maladies associated with excessive flexibility, even while charging around Las Vegas Speedway with Michelin Pilot Race DOT tires mounted at the press introduction.
With the open class suddenly becoming the focus of development in the past few years, it's tempting for a manufacturer to just inject a big dose of horsepower into the current model and proclaim success. Honda is one factory, however, that has generated success by careful, methodical updates to its models when necessary. The CBR954RR is a reflection of this philosophy: By bolstering the 929's strong points, Honda has created one of the sharpest, most maneuverable liter-class rocketships to ever hit the pavement, while still retaining the user-friendliness of its predecessor.
It should be interesting to see how it stacks up against the competition this year....
Suggested retail price: $10,599
•Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse, inline, 4-stroke four
•Valve arrangement: DOHC, 4 valves/cyl. shim-under-bucket adjustment, 16,000 mile intervals
•Bore x stroke: 75.0 x 54.0mm
•Compression ratio: 11.5:1
•Carburetion: Keihin PGM-FI, 42mm throttle bodies
•Front suspension: 43mm inverted cartridge fork, 4.3 in. travel; adjustments for spring preload, compression & rebound damping
•Rear suspension: Single shock absorber, 5.3 in. travel; adjustments for spring preload, compression and rebound damping
•Front brake: 2, four-piston calipers, 330mm discs
•Rear brake: two-piston caliper, 220mm disc
•Front wheel: 3.50 x 17 in.; cast-alloy
•Rear wheel: 6.00 x 17 in.; cast alloy
•Front tire: 120/70-ZR17 Michelin Pilot Sport E
•Rear tire: 190/50-ZR17 Michelin Pilot Sport E
•Rake/trail: 23.8 deg./3.8 in. (97mm)
•Wheelbase: 54.9 in. (1395mm)
•Seat height: 32.3 in. (820mm)
•Fuel capacity: 4.8 gal. (18L)
•Weight: 429 lbs. (195kg ) wet, 400 lbs. (182kg) dry
•Instruments: Tachometer, digital LCD with speedometer, dual tripmeters, clock, coolant temperature; lights for neutral, high beam, turn signals, low oil pressure, low fuel level
•Fuel consumption: 28-32 mpg, 30 mpg avg.
•Top speed: N/A
•Quarter-mile: 10.26 sec. @ 137.57 mph
•Roll-ons: 60-80mph/ 2.80 sec., 80-100mph/ 2.82 sec.