2012 Honda CBR1000RR | Doin' Time

Photography by Gran4 Photography

Wrist: Aaron Frank
MSRP (2012): $13,800
Miles: 2350
MPG: 35 mpg
Mods: Nothing. It’s bone stock

While it seems like everyone else says goodbye this month, I'm welcoming new wheels into my garage. Honda's CBR1000RR isn't entirely unknown to me. Until last year I owned a 2008 model, and I fell in love with the latest version during our "Class of 2012' Japanese literbike test, where the midrange-rich motor and perfectly balanced handling reminded me why I emptied my piggybank four years ago.

Lack of traction control kept the CBR from winning this year's comparison, but that didn't keep me from claiming one for my next long-term assignment. The RR has been updated for 2012—the first refresh since it debuted in ‘08—but the changes, including the addition of a Showa Big Piston Fork and Honda's new Balance-Free rear suspension arrangement, plus new wheels and subtly restyled bodywork, are minimal. The compact, 600-scale ergonomics, monster torque output, and athletic handling—all the reasons I loved my last CBR—remain intact.

Because Honda delivered the Big Red Rocket a few weeks before I wrapped up my Suzuki GSX-R750 long-term test, the CBR spent its first month with MC test consultant Matt Samples. Showing a characteristic lack of restraint, Samps proceeded directly to a Motovid.com track day at Blackhawk Farms Raceway. He texted his wish list straight from pit row, before lunch:

"This bike needs braided brake lines, better pads. Quick shifter, a rear shock, rearsets. Stiffer fork springs, too. An exhaust, and probably a TRE [timing retard eliminator] mod—excellent midrange, but falls on its face when the revs rise…' Once a racerhead, always a racerhead.

I did all of the above (and more) to my last CBR, and I'm hesitant to go that route again. The result was a killer track weapon but an awful streetbike, which was largely why I sold it. This time around I'm less willing to suffer a stiff and unforgiving street ride 95 percent of the time, just for sublime performance at the track. I also weigh 50 pounds less than Samps, and I know he hasn't taken enough time to explore the Showa suspension's entire adjustment range. I'm not ready to bin those bits just yet.

I will make that TRE mod sooner rather than later. The U.S.-spec first-generation CBR1000RRs were digitally detuned to satisfy our country's stringent noise standards, causing the power curve to flat-line at 10,500 rpm. Just installing a $64.95 Bazzaz Z-Bomb "timing calibrator' on my '08 model unleashed a remarkable 12 horsepower, and shifted the power peak from 10,700 to 11,500 rpm. Studying the dyno chart from our recent "Class of' comparison, I see the latest CBR peaks at just 150 bhp at 10,600 rpm, then plateaus to the 13,250-rpm redline—reinforcing Matt's seat-of-the-pants feedback and suggesting the same electronic neutering is still in effect. Another dozen-odd horsepower will make this bike much more fun.

Maybe I'll phone Bazzaz right now...

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