2012 Honda CBR1000RR | Doin' Time

Photography by Jim Moy

WRIST: Aaron Frank
MSRP (2012): $13,800
MILES: 4270
MPG: 40
MODS: HeliBar handlebars, Spider Racing grips

HeliBar has offered more upright replacement handlebars for sportbikes for more than 25 years, but this is the first time I've tried them. I've always assumed that sportbikes should be uncomfortable-comfort only breeds reflex-dulling complacency, right? Besides, if you didn't want to feel what was happening at the front contact patch wouldn't you just buy a sport tourer or standard instead?

But miles aren't getting any shorter and my battered body isn't Benjamin Button's, so I decided to test HeliBars' "comfort without compromise" motto by mounting a set to my CBR1000RR. Like most modern sportbikes, the CBR calls for HeliBar's basic clip-on replacement (www.helibars.com; $279.00). These clip-ons deliver a subtle ergonomic shift, relocating the grips 1 ¾ inches higher, 1 in. farther back, and 1 in. farther outward on either side. The change is slight enough to retain the stock brake line, throttle, and clutch cables, saving significant time and money, but still transforms the riding position totally.

Full-color, illustrated instructions make installation simple and straightforward, and it took just over an hour to install the pre-drilled, powder-coated clip-ons. Taking extra care to correctly reroute the wires and cables on reassembly, relocating the switchgear bundles behind the fork legs, and reinstalling the throttle assembly upside-down so the cables exit under, rather than over, the bars, everything fit back together as advertised.

My fear was that higher HeliBars would make the CBR feel like an ST1300, with a corresponding degradation in steering response and front-end feedback. I'm very pleased to report that the HeliBar-equipped CBR still feels like a proper sportbike. In fact, from the saddle, the higher, wider, flatter bar position reminded me more of Ben Spies' preferred superbike setup than any sport-touring machine. But the comfort improvement is undeniable.

I tested the new configuration with a 150-mile freeway jaunt from Milwaukee to an event at the Dainese D-Store Chicago. The more upright position takes considerable pressure off my wrists, and also opens my hip angle a quite a bit-an unexpected benefit for a recovering distance runner with too-tight IT bands. Though I haven't had it on a racetrack yet to grade handling changes at high speed and under high loads, at least on highway on-ramps extra leverage provided by the taller, wider bars makes steering feel even lighter and quicker. HeliBars are definitely not the compromise I feared.

Interestingly, on my all-Interstate jaunt to Chi-Town, I also recorded an all-time-high 43 miles per gallon, which is considerably better than anything recorded during previous comparison testing where the RR returned an average of 36 mpg. I'd like to think this is related to the improved fueling offered by the Bazzaz EFI module installed last month, but it's probably more reflective of just how hard we thrash these bikes during our typical comparison tests.

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