2008 Honda CBR1000RR: Big Red Ripper | First Ride

Honda Takes Mass Centralization To The Extreme

Photography by Kevin Wing

The final piece of all-new RR technology is a unique dual-function slipper clutch, which limits back torque and incorporates a second mechanism that cams in reverse to assist with forward thrust. This new clutch achieves one goal-lever effort is noticeably lighter-but it could provide more positive engagement. Our bike wasn't the only one to pop out of second gear or miss upshifts into other gears if we failed to fully unload the shift lever first.

We also noted slight brake fade and excess brake lever travel during each 20-minute track session. Engineers on-hand suggested this was the result of brake lines they said were purposefully designed to soften the initial bite of the Tokico four-piston radial calipers, so as not to overwhelm less-experienced street riders. Racers and track addicts will want to fit more rigid lines on their own RRs.

Transmission and brake critiques aside, it's hard not to be impressed with what a complete leap forward the 2008 CBR1000RR represents. Honda realizes this, and as an expression of confidence the company also had 2007 CBR1000RRs available for back-to-back comparisons-virtually unheard of at press launches. I made a few late-afternoon laps on last year's model, which revealed itself as a plus-sized, slow-steering dinosaur by comparison. By the exit of the first turn it was clear: smaller, faster and lighter, with dramatically improved steering and mid-corner stability, the '08 is certainly the best RR ever-and maybe the best literbike yet.

Last year the CBR was the number two-selling literbike, second to Suzuki's dominant GSX-R1000. This latest CBR1000RR was engineered and designed without compromise to raise that position to Numero Uno. Judging from our laps at Laguna Seca, this bike could very well have what it takes.

2008 Honda CBR1000RR | Hard Parts
Motogp Inspiration, Streetbike Application

In the ongoing quest to make today's monster-motored literbikes more accessible to mere mortals like us, Honda introduces another electronic innovation: Ignition Interruption Control (IIC). This system engages between 2500 and 6000 rpm to reduce acceleration shock forces (driveline lash), increasing mid-corner stability and smoothness as the throttle is picked up or dropped off. Taking into account both throttle opening and gear selection (each gear has its own preprogrammed profile), IIC uses sensors to compare engine speed with countershaft sprocket speed and, when a speed differential is detected, cuts ignition for just 20 milliseconds at a time to soften the blow. IIC operates in tandem with Honda's Idle Air Control Valve (introduced on last year's CBR600RR), which reduces engine braking by allowing intake air to bypass closed butterfly valves and momentarily elevate engine idle, providing exceptionally smooth transitions when the throttle is opened or closed.

One of the more original innovations on the '08 CBR1000RR is the double-action slipper clutch. Exclusive to Honda, this sophisticated clutch not only reduces engine-braking effects under deceleration (like other slipper clutches), but also features a second cam surface that increases force on the clutch plates during acceleration. According to Honda, this provides a more positive clutch engagement and also allows lighter, lower-effort clutch springs to be fitted to reduce effort at the lever. Owing to these advantages, engineers were able to replace '07's hydraulic clutch with a lighter, simpler cable-actuated unit and shave a full pound of weight off the handlebars (a spot far from the center of gravity, natch), without negatively affecting rideability.

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