Honda has unveiled the anticipated update of its CBR1000RR in the form of two new models, the SP and the limited-edition racing-oriented SP2, with not just a full suite of electronic rider aids, but also semi-active suspension.
Honda promised the new CBR would be "sharper" and give the rider "total control," so the lighter weight and the electronics package were expected. The 2017 CBR1000RR SP offers throttle-by-wire, three rider modes, plus two programmable modes, and traction control relying on a five-axis Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU). The programmable modes will allow a rider to combine the amount of traction control, engine braking management and wheelie control with the preferred suspension settings to create a custom ride. But what sets the CBR apart from its Japanese competition is the inclusion of semi-active Ohlins suspension. Settings are controlled from the TFT display.
Bumping compression up to 13:1 and raising the redline to 13,000 rpm added 10 horsepower, according to Honda's claims. But we did not see radical changes in the engine. Instead, more effort went into making the bike feel and look smaller and lighter in pursuit of the "sharper" theme. Titanium is used not just in the muffler, but also in the fuel tank. A narrower radiator and redesigned fairing with LED headlights makes the CBR look and feel thinner. The Honda even comes with a lithium-ion battery, to help keep the weight down.
Honda claims a total weight reduction of 33 pounds, bringing the bike down to 441 pounds, which coincidentally (or not) is exactly the same figure Suzuki just cited for its GSX-R1000 without ABS.
Choosing the same path as Suzuki and Kawasaki this year, Honda is also introducing an SP2 version as a racing platform with forged aluminum Marchesini wheels and larger valves in the engine.
There's a lot here to wonder about. For street riders, how will Honda's electronics work and will the semi-active suspension provide a magic carpet ride or just one more boost to the painful cost of buying (on top of operating and insuring) a liter-class sport bike?
For racers signed to Honda contracts, will the SP2 version put a competitive ride under them in 2017? Honda has already lost arguably the most promising young World Superbike rider, Michael van der Mark, who defected to Yamaha to ride a YZF-R1 next year. Next year's team will have two capable and experienced riders in Nicky Hayden and Stefan Bradl, but they'll need a competitive bike under them.
The racing questions will start to be answered in post-season testing. The street questions will have to wait until test units are available. Meanwhile, if you're already sold and want to know when to get in line at your Honda dealer, the SP will be available at U.S. dealers in March and the SP2 in May, Honda says.