Some might suggest this improves Honda's controversial styling. The CBR's minimalist upper
Ringleader: Aaron Frank
Msrp (2008): $11,599
Average Fuel Mileage: 43 Mpg
Accessories & Modifications: Taylormade Racing underbelly exhaust, rear hugger and fender eliminator
It's been a few months since my long-term CBR1000RR last occupied this space, due to a bike/pavement inversion that temporarily landed it out of commission. This past June, on the way back from an event at Road America, I experienced a rather alarming get-off. Long story short (in the interest of avoiding self-incrimination), I encountered the most violent tank-slapper of my riding career. It started as an everyday speed shudder, a not-unusual occurrence on the big CBR, and something typically caught by Honda's usually unflappable HESD electronic steering damper. This time, however, the little wobble escalated to a lock-to-lock, tire-chirping rodeo ride that ended with my head-first ejection over the handlebars!
Fortunately I was dressed for the racetrack, and my Alpinestars gear, Forcefield back protector and Arai Corsair-V all performed as promised. The R&G Racing frame sliders proved their worth as well-all the levers stayed straight and there wasn't so much as a scratch or busted tab on the lower fairing or tank. I only ended up replacing the headlight, upper fairing and bracket, both mirrors and the tailpiece-approximately $1000 total. Like so many modern sportbikes with hidden fasteners, however, reassembly was a major pain. The origami-like interlocking upper fairing required the complicated ram-air ductwork to be completely disassembled and put back together in a particular order-an especially time-consuming process.
We first suspected a malfunctioning HESD, but the on-board diagnostics revealed no evidence of any damper fault. The only irregularity we could identify was a sticky brake caliper that seemed to be caused by dirty pistons protruding further than normal. The bike had recently endured two consecutive track days at Road America-a notoriously hard-braking circuit-and the OEM pads were worn almost to the backing plates. Our best hypothesis is that a sticking brake resulted in a substantial differential between vehicle and front-wheel speed, introducing an input that either momentarily confused or overwhelmed the damper's ability to control headshake. Needless to say, my once-boundless enthusiasm for electronic steering dampers has been somewhat, um, damped. Now that the bike is back together with freshly serviced brakes, I'm especially attentive to keeping the front wheel aligned and safely on the ground.
In between all this repairing and accident reconstructing, I found time to install ahost of aftermarket goodies from Taylormade Racing(www.racetaylormade.com). First up was the underbelly exhaust ($899) that replaced the FMF Apex slip-on I had previously installed. Judging from the unsolicited comments I get everywhere I take the bike, the John Keogh-styled system, with its racy, MotoGP-style tip piercing the bellypan, is one of the best-looking designs on the market. A naked carbon-fiber cover conceals a rather industrial-looking dual-chamber "switchback" muffler, designed to cram maximum exhaust volume into minimum space. The system saves just under 9 pounds compared to stock and produces a healthy, 10-horsepower gain in conjunction with the previously installed Bazzaz Z-Fi fuel-injection module, for a peak output of 167 bhp. This number was slightly down compared to the FMF Apex, however, which made 2 more peak horsepower and held a significant midrange advantage up to 8000 rpm, where the two curves essentially overlap.
All the Taylormade Racing pieces are constructed from pre-preg carbon-fiber left in its na
Taylormade's undertail replaces the stock one-piece taillight with a separate running ligh
Taylormade also sent a selection of bodywork, including a MotoGP-style rear hugger ($300), said to substantially improve aerodynamics and protect the shock, along with a carbon-fiber fender eliminator. Both pieces are gorgeously constructed from high-temp, vacuum-cured carbon-fiber and fit perfectly. The fender eliminator, however, didn't even make it 100 miles before the wires powering the running light vibrated off. After prying apart the (non-serviceable) assembly to resolder the wiring, then reaffixing the lens with epoxy, half the LED array flashed intermittently. At this point I gave up and reinstalled the R&G Racing undertail I had on previously, which uses the infinitely more reliable stock taillight-although I did retain Taylormade's better-looking shorty turn signals.