2012 Honda CBR1000RR | Doin' Time

Staffers' Rides

Photography by Jim Moy

Wrist: Aaron Frank
MSRP (2012): $13,800
Miles: 4370
MPG: 41
Mods: A winter’s worth of dust

Just like that, it was over. My CBR1000RR long-term test ended with a late-afternoon voice mail from American Honda’s Jon Seidel: “Aaron, your CBR is a 2012 model. I need it back and off our books as soon as possible—preferably by the end of the week.” So much for long good-byes.

The quick exit seemed fitting though, as I never spent as much time as I wanted to with this, my second CBR1000RR long-term testbike (my first was back in 2008). A late delivery, an interminably long winter in Wisconsin, and this unexpectedly early call-back—right when the weather around here was finally warming up—meant I put just a tick over 4000 miles on this bike, far short of our unofficial, 10,000-mile long-term goal. Still, I did get enough saddle time to compare it to my beloved ’08 model—a bike I liked so much that I bought it after the test period was up.

This latest-generation CBR1000RR, redesigned last year, felt like an old friend because, save for some superficial styling updates (including a redesigned upper fairing and 10-spoke wheels) and new Showa suspension front and rear, it is essentially identical to the ’08 model. The compact ergonomics, massive midrange torque, and neutral, athletic handling—everything I loved about my earlier model—all survived the redesign process.

New suspension, including Showa’s Big Piston Fork (BPF) with oversized pistons that move more fluid at a faster rate for improved compliance and stability, is a huge leap forward compared to the conventional fork on the ’08 model. The BPF’s lower internal pressures make it super-compliant over small bumps, but still stable under heavy braking. The same goes for Showa’s “Balance Free” rear shock with twin-tube internal technology, which prevents the compression- and rebound-damping circuits from influencing each other, further improving compliance and consistency. My ’08 model required a $500 revalve from RG3 Suspension to make it work as well as the ’12 bike does in stock form. Some things have improved in the past four years.

One area where I couldn’t leave well enough alone was the engine. Just like my ’08 model, the 2012 CBR1000RR is power-restricted above 10,500 rpm. And, just like last time, a $65 Bazzaz Z-Bomb timing calibrator unleashed full power right to redline, eliminating the invisible wall you used to hit right in the meat of the powerband.

The Z-Bomb sent me down a Bazzaz-branded wormhole, and when I came out the other side I had also added the Z-Fi QS (Quick Shifter) engine-tuning module and a Two Brothers Racing V.A.L.E. Black Series full exhaust to accommodate the requisite O2 sensor that informs the Z-AFM auto-mapping accessory. This was deeper than I originally intended to delve into engine tuning (see Megaphone, page 106, for more on my aftermarket addiction), but the results were worth it: Peak horsepower jumped from 150.3 bhp to a very credible 163.3 bhp, with an 8 bhp gain at 3750 rpm and 6 bhp at 6500 rpm. Now this Honda hammers off corners.

The only Bazzaz option I didn’t add was traction control, and in retrospect, maybe I should have. Even as competent as the Honda is, my overwhelming opinion of this latest CBR1000RR is slightly underwhelming. Ridden alone, it’s a fantastic machine, with unflappable manners at any speed, dial-a-thrill horsepower, and utterly typical Honda build quality and reliability—nothing broke or bothered. But next to Kawasaki’s ZX-10R or Yamaha’s R1, both of which offer similar performance plus modern electronic amenities like multiple engine maps and switchable traction control (for just $499 and $490 more, respectively), the CBR1000RR seems slightly out of step. It simply hasn’t advanced far enough since 2008.

Which is why this time, instead of calling my bank and lining up a loan, I called Seidel and made plans to send the 2012 model back home to American Honda.

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