2008 Honda CBR1000RR
The formula for success seems simple enough: More power + less weight = pure ownage of the sportbike sector. Such reductive logic can lead straight to failure in the literbike class, though, where development has reached a point where more power or less weight can actually make a bike more difficult to ride quickly. The next revolution in sportbike evolution, then, will be improved rideability. One bike-the remarkable 2008 Honda CBR1000RR-is leading that charge.
That's not to suggest the latest RR isn't more powerful or lighter in weight; Honda claims a 10-horsepower increase, with a corresponding 17-pound decrease in mass. These are just numbers, though. The real story is how that power is delivered, and where that weight is shaved. With genuine technological improvements enhancing power delivery and rider control, and what can only be described as extreme measures to centralize mass and improve handling and stability, Honda delivers the next leap forward in literbike design.
During the press launch at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California, company officials reported that 23 new patents resulted from the development of this new RR. Significant revisions to signature elements like the Honda Electronic Steering Damper (HESD) and Idle Air Control Valve (IACV) system, as well as the creation of new technology including the Ignition Interruption Control (IIC) that reduces driveline lash and greatly assist off-apex throttle pick-up and a new, dual-action slipper/mechanical-assist clutch, account for most of these advances.
This is impressive, and expected from Honda. More important to overall ability of the bike, however, is the rigorous weight reduction and redistribution program the RR underwent. "Mass centralization," buzzword du jour, has been around since Archimedes described the center of gravity, but with this bike Honda has fetishized the principle. When engineers tell you that even the instrument glass was scrutinized to save weight, you can be sure that nothing was overlooked in the quest to move every possible gram from the edges to nearer the bike's dense core.
Extreme mass centralization has proven worthwhile on Honda's MotoGP racebikes, and it pays similar dividends here. Look closely-except for the 1000cc inline four, this is essentially a street-legal RC212V racer. It's not a coincidence-large project leader for the MFL (Honda's internal code for the CBR1000RR) is Kyoichi Yoshii, whose last title was LPL for the RC211V. This latest RR is surprisingly similar to the current RC212V MotoGP racer. Both bikes were developed essentially side by side with technology proven on the racebikes immediately applied to the CBR.
Start with the new bodywork. The RC inspiration is evident in the blunted nose, deep vertically oriented fairing and abbreviated tail, all of which closely mimic the MotoGP bike's. The radically reduced upper fairing and tail remove pounds from those extremities, and are also said to create more turbulent airflow that improves high-speed directional changes. Every shape is intended to centralize mass and improve transitional handling characteristics. This bike was designed to be functional, and from that function comes unique beauty.