2008 Honda CBR1000RR: Big Red Ripper | First Ride

Honda Takes Mass Centralization To The Extreme

Photography by Kevin Wing

Even the RR engine was subject to Honda's mass-centralization mania, painstakingly redesigned to relocate every last gram as near the center as possible. Last year's integrated cylinder block/crankcase unit has been replaced with a separate cylinder block that does away with ceramic-composite cylinder sleeves in favor of a Nikasil coating applied directly to the cylinder walls. This allows the diameter of the forged, molybdenum-coated pistons to be increased from 75mm to 76mm without increasing overall cylinder width. A shorter-stroke crank (56.5mm to 55.1mm) reduces the overall height of the motor, as does a more compact cylinder head (15mm shorter), enabled by a change to 3mm-shorter exhaust valves and new cams mounted lower in the cylinder head-all for improved mass centralization. A new chilled, thin-wall ductile steel casting process allows camshaft wall thickness to be reduced from 4mm to 2.5mm, saving 1.1 pounds, and new, larger diameter intake valves (29mm to 30.5mm) are now titanium to shave more grams. These myriad changes add up to a remarkable 5-pound weight loss for the engine alone, not to mention a claimed 10-horsepower increase (expect rwhp numbers comfortably in the 160s). Also cutting poundage and centralizing mass is a new multi-chamber mid-muffler with two valves-one operated by servomotor, the other by exhaust pressure-to spread that extra power over an even broader range than before. Still not enough, Speed Racer? A full HRC Superbike power-up kit, said to increase power output by a dramatic 23 percent, will be offered for this bike for the comparatively low price of $30,000.

Look at the latest RR stripped naked and you'll see the broadest frame spars in the business, leading to lateral, torsional and vertical rigidity values that have increased this year by 13, 40 and 30 percent, respectively. Not only is the new rack stiffer, but lighter as well, to the tune of 5.5 pounds thanks to a new configuration that utilizes just four hollow, fine-die-cast pieces (compared to nine last year) that are lighter, slimmer and held together with fewer welds. The rear frame section is a single large, U-shaped structure that provides an ultra-rigid anchor point for the massive swingarm, 12mm longer this year for improved stability, with a gullwing-style spar on the right to make room for the underslung exhaust. The kickstand is now sculpted from aluminum to save weight, a bling upgrade from the typical cast-steel shaft. Sweet.

At the back we find the latest version of Honda's proprietary, Unit Pro-Link rear suspension. This design mounts the top of the rear shock to the swingarm (not the frame, as on other bikes) to isolate the frame from negative suspension energy and improve rigidity and off-corner drive. A link acting on a rocker arm activates the fully adjustable rear shock; linkage ratios are unchanged for '08, though the spring rate has been optimized. Same for the spring rates in the inverted, 43mm cartridge fork at the front, which features slightly increased offset (from 25mm to 27.5mm) for increased steering stability. The fork is also narrower this year (from 214mm to 204mm), helping contribute to a reduced frontal area and CD that is said to be on par with the typical 250cc GP racebike, according to Honda.

Wheels And Brakes
New, lighter-weight, hollow-spoke aluminum wheels (shaving 8.4 ounces front and 10.9 ounces rear) carry six-button, 320mm rotors that reduce unsprung weight and contribute to mass centralization. Newly designed Tokico monoblock calipers contain chrome-plated aluminum pistons (an upgrade from last year's steel pistons), to save 15 additional ounces. The press kit even calls out "narrower, lighter-weight brake hoses," suggesting just how desperate the diet measures for this new model were.

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