In the beginning there was the CBR900RR and it was good...for a while. Then the 900 begat the 929, which begat the 954, which begat Honda's first four-cylinder hardcore liter-class weapon: the 2004 CBR1000RR. Expectations were great, but pitted against its peers the 466-pound, 149-horse Double-R was relatively heavy and not quite as quick. It was, after all, the only contender that didn't generate a 9.9-second quarter-mile or make more than 150 rearwheel horsepower on the dyno.
On the street, or at the speeds most mortals travel at track days, those numbers are much less significant, and the big CBR is your friend. Stable to a fault-especially cornering over the sort of bumps that make an '04-'05 Kawasaki ZX-10R skittish-reassuringly neutral handling manners top the Honda's list of assets. The electronic HESD steering damper gets some of that credit. The engine is equally cooperative.
OK, so it was upstaged by that 164-horse ZX-10R four years ago. Get over it. Most of us get by just fine with 149 well-behaved ponies. The 998cc four still feels plenty fast to all but AMA Superbike pilots-especially when said ponies live in a chassis that doesn't spin the rear tire and/or lift the front every time you try to use them. Steering is light and accurate. Brakes are strong, with abundant initial bite and feedback.
Wind protection is quite good by supersport standards, even if the seat is a bit hard on sensitive backsides. Aside from feeling wide through the midsection, the original-recipe CBR1000RR is plenty comfortable enough for all-purpose street duty. Free of chronic mechanical shortcomings, any well-cared-for example should be reliable enough to put in your will. The aluminum shift rod can bend if you're not careful. And the digital speedometer on some early-'04 models underestimated road speed by upward of 25 percent, so make sure the bike you're considering has the recall-mandated replacement. Otherwise? Assuming you've grown out of the urge to impress anyone but yourself, it's hard to think of another CBR that delivers more accessible performance for less money.
A polished, real-world Superbike that inspires more confidence than angst.
A bit portly compared to its peers, and it could rev a bit quicker. Watch For Evidence of general abuse, pessimistic speedometer, bent shift linkage. Verdict A gracious, rock-solid ride that's more impressive on pavement than it is on paper.
2004 | $6930
The new-for-'04 Ninja came with all the big numbers: 162-horse monster motor, 436 lbs. wet and a 9.92-sec. quarter-mile time. Stock suspension is on the taut side. Gearing is preposterously tall. Everything else is deadly serious.
2004 | $7655
A roomier, comfortable alternative to the radical '05, the king of '03 fell behind a bit '04. The clutch is notoriously fragile. Suspension is compliant at first, but goes limp too quickly. Two-pad front calipers were a step backward.
2004 | $7655
All new for '04 with a slim, friendly chassis, the Yamaha is drop-dead gorgeous if you go in for that sort of thing. It won our '04 shootout despite a shortage of thrust below 7000 rpm. This party starts at 10,000.