New Bikes 2006

Sharper, Stronger, Lighter
If Honda was an NFL franchise, '06 would be a rebuilding year. And though drumming up some buzz for a revitalized roster amid teams with flashier news is tough, the big red machine is rolling out its new hardware just the same. The latest lineup starts with an extensively remodeled CBR1000RR, followed by a dressed-up Interceptor and a new naked 599.

The biggest news, literally and figuratively, is its biggest CBR. Renovated along the lines of its '05 600RR, Honda is aiming a stronger, sharper, lighter '06 CBR1000RR at its liter-class adversaries. How much more or less of each? Honda isn't saying ... yet, but hopefully enough to keep the game interesting. "Our hope," said Honda's Jon Seidel, "is to see the same distinction between the '05 CBR1000RR and this one as we saw moving from the '04 CBR600RR to the '05." And though Honda hasn't released all the details, judging from what we know now, the latest liter-class CBR is on track to deliver the same sort of results as its little brother.

On the outside, fairing parts and panels are new from nose to tail, with an allegedly more comfortable seat between. The 998cc four starts with new porting and more compression inside reshaped combustion chambers, all to fortify mid- to high-rpm horsepower. A new intake cam and valves--equipped with double springs this time--aims at that same high-rpm target. The redline moves to the right of its current 11,650-rpm address, though Honda isn't saying how far at this point. Internal-combustion effluvium exits via a new four-into-two-into-one exhaust system that could add a little horsepower to the cause and shave a few pounds in the bargain. More? Revel in the prospect of new gears in the cassette-type six-speed--new needle-bearings for the clutch as well--but no word on ratios or other specifics.

Rest assured that engineers have been busy on the chassis side of the aisle as well, putting a sharper edge on 1000RR handling. You'll have to wait for rake and trail numbers, but expect a somewhat racier combination than the current 23.75-degree/4.0-inch combination. Four-piston, radial-mount calipers will grab 320mm rotors that are 10mm bigger than the '05 parts. Suspension is new at both ends, including a revised Unit Pro-Link for the rear. And if the CBR600RR's '05 makeover is any indication, the new 1000 will roll in with a raft of understated detail changes aimed at making the new bike lighter and simpler to manufacture. Honda is holding on to weight numbers as well. But use the 600RR as a gauge and you end up with a 1000RR that weighs about 450 pounds wet--the same as a current Yamaha R1 but still a few pounds heavier than Suzuki's thus-far omnipotent GSX-R1000.

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