I’ll admit, when I got the call to be one of the very first to test the 2017 Honda CBR100RR at its international press launch at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimão, Portugal, I was happy. Okay, whatever, I was pumped! The tech specs promised us a boost in power, significant weight loss, and the best electronics it has had to date—pretty much what we’ve been waiting for all along. But instead of diving into all of that, let’s just skip to to how the new Fireblade performs on track, shall we?
Honda knew that if it wanted to have any shot of competing with the rest of today’s literbikes, it was going to have to give the CBR a boost in horsepower, and so it did. The bike’s powerplant spits a newfound breath of fire as it pulls harder throughout its entire rev range all the way up to the increased redline of 13,000 rpm where it now makes a claimed 188 horsepower at the crankshaft. The ultimate result is much better off-corner performance—which admittedly was an issue the Fireblade needed fixed for quite some time—and wicked top-end speed that it didn’t have before. And despite increasing power output, Honda kept the smooth power delivery that many were so fond of on the outgoing model.
Transmission gear ratios on the new Fireblade remain identical to that of its predecessor, although the rear sprocket jumps from 42 to 43 teeth. This small change helps exaggerate the CBR’s improved midrange power especially as it jumps off of corners, and doesn’t make the gearing too short even on the 300km/h front straightaway at Portimao.
Helping keep that extra grunt in check is an electronics package derived from the Honda’s RC213V-S MotoGP replica bike and is host to a variety of rider aids including Power Selector, Honda Selectable Torque Control (Honda’s fancy way of saying traction control), and an Engine Brake Selector. Interestingly, Honda engineers decided to link the torque control with a wheelie control feature to help simplify it for the end user, meaning that the selection of the three levels of wheelie control completely depends on what HSTC level you have chosen—and it cannot be adjusted independently.
I turned the HSTC to level 3 which results the wheelie control being set at level 1 (the least intrusive) and was happy with the overall package, but felt it still needs some more refinement. The system allows for enough wheelspin to help point the motorcycle where you want to go without so much intrusion that it keeps you from driving forward while exiting corner, which is the goal. The wheelie control is the only drawback to the package because of its unpredictable intervention. For example, during one lap over any of the radical elevation changes at the Algarve Circuit, the wheelie control would dramatically intervene, cutting power and slamming the front wheel to ground. But on the next lap it wouldn’t intervene at all, forcing me to compensate by slightly dragging the rear brake. If you can overlook that one issue, the system is actually pretty good.
The rest of the rider aids in the electronics package, however, do their job impressively well. The quickshifter—which is optional on the standard CBR—allows you to hold the throttle wide open while clicking up through the gearbox without any hesitation in power delivery and bang through downshifts without having to use the clutch as it auto-blips the throttle to precisely match the rpms. That, in combination with the EBC which I set to level 3 (most amount of freewheel), keeps the rear end of the motorcycle from stepping out of line and gives confidence to brake as late as the racetrack gods permit.
The chassis is good. Actually, great. A substantial weight loss of 42 pounds, improved aerodynamics, and changes to the chassis rigidity give the new CBR a steering characteristic that is light yet stable. With nearly no effort at all, the bike shaves down lap times by confidently slamming from side to side through transitions and steering through the middle of the corner no matter how hard you push. It’s one of the more comfortable bikes too; the small fairing gives the motorcycle a much more compact feel than before without taking any wind protection away from my five-foot seven-inch stature, and the redesigned fuel tank offers a better grip for your knees.
The Showa Big Piston Fork and Balance Free rear shock combination do an incredible job of keeping the standard CBR stable under the extremely braking like I had experienced at the Portimao circuit—which I already noted as highlight of the bikes handling—but it does have a hard time giving precise front-end feedback to the rider. To clarify, as the bike hits its maximum lean angle, it feels as if there is no way to tell what the front of the motorcycle is doing or just how much the tire is loaded, which is a confidence robber when trying to find the limits of the bike. This, however, could be due to the standard Bridgestone S21 street tires we tested the bike on, and with a more track or race oriented tire I wouldn’t doubt that the problem could completely vanish. Damping settings, too, seemed slightly off as the bike struggled to cope with bumps at full lean, but that’s nothing adjusting a few clickers can’t fix.
The TOKICO four-piston brake calipers have been redesigned in order to shave excess weight, and are now paired with an updated brake pad. These changes put the maximum braking power of the new CBR on par with that of its competitors, but the system is still at a disadvantage due to the lack of feel through the lever. When using the brakes aggressively, it’s difficult to understand how much of the braking force you are using and how much there is left to use. On the positive side, the bike’s ABS system (equipped on the model we tested) never interfered as far as we could tell—but that’s exactly what you want on the racetrack.
What’s the verdict?
There’s no doubt that Honda has unleashed a beast with the 2017 CBR1000RR, and I can’t wait for my next chance to spin more laps on one. Sure, there are a few quirks in the new bike, but that doesn’t keep me from saying it’s really good. Maybe even one of my favorite literbikes ever. And for $16,499 for the non-ABS model and $16,799 with ABS, I’d buy one in a heartbeat.
Throw a new set of brake pads with better feel, some race tires, and make the HSTC and wheelie control systems independent from one another, and it just might be the best production sportbike one can buy.
Like I’ve said many times before, it’s great to be a sportbike fan right now. The smell of a 2017 literbike test is in the air…
|2017 Honda CBR1000RR|
|MSRP||$16,499 (non-ABS), $16,799 (ABS)|
|Type||Liquid-cooled DOHC Inline-four, 4 valves/cyl.|
|Bore x Stroke||76 x 55.1mm|
|Induction||DFI, 48mm throttle bodies, dual injectors/cyl.|
|Front Tire||120/70ZR-17 Bridgestone Battlax S21|
|Rear Tire||190/50ZR-17 Bridgestone Battlax S21|
|Rake/trail||23.3 degrees/ 3.8 in. (96mm)|
|Wheelbase||55.3 in. (1405mm|
|Seat height||32.8 in. (834mm)|
|Fuel Capacity||4.2 gal. (16L)|
|Claimed Curb Weight (Non-ABS, EU Spec)||429.9 lbs. (195kg)|