Honda offers Combined Anti-Lock Brakes (C-ABS) on the 2009 CBR600RR, which we covered in our April issue. But how does it compare to the non-ABS version? Can a skilled rider out-brake the computer? The editors at our sister magazine Sport Rider wondered the same thing, so tested the two CBRs side by side. Here's what they found...
We reported our initial riding impressions and the technical details of Honda's Combined Anti-Lock Brakes previously, but haven't had the opportunity to test the technology against a standard braking system until recently. Our comparison ran the gamut of city traffic, highway droning, canyon carving and even some closed-circuit scratching.
Puttering along in city traffic, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the C-ABS brakes feel identical to a conventional brake system. Everything from lightly brushing the brakes while negotiating a tight space to moderate use while pulling up to stop revealed no weird mushiness or numbness. In fact, the response and feel is so seamless that there is no way anyone would be able to tell they were riding the C-ABS bike.
During spirited canyon riding, there is less front-end dive when braking on the C-ABS model, and this is because of the C-ABS' actuation of both front and rear brakes, with the rear brake acting to settle the chassis down on its suspension. Even over rough pavement, braking action was as smooth as any standard brake system, with none of the "freewheeling" cycling tendencies common to more primitive ABS setups.
On the racetrack, the ABS actuation could be perceived as a slight numbness through the lever once past a certain braking threshold; even though you're asking for more braking power at the lever, the rate of deceleration remains the same (note that this is only at expert-level braking on a racetrack; most riders will probably never notice it).
We conducted simulated panic stops on dry pavement, and again, the ABS engagement is so smooth that the only indication it was activated was a numbness at the lever. It took us a couple of tries before we were able to better the C-ABS' rate of deceleration (and note again that this was with an expert rider at the controls). Meanwhile, the more level chassis attitude and stable feel of the C-ABS bike will surely help the majority of riders stop more quickly and safely in a real emergency. And in the wet? Forget it: Even a pro-level rider wouldn't be able to reach the first-time stopping distance or deceleration rate of the C-ABS bike.
The only real drawbacks to the C-ABS are the additional $1000 on the sticker price and 24 pounds of extra weight. To tell you the truth, we barely noticed the added bulk. Honda wisely positioned the C-ABS components as close to the engine as possible for mass centralization, helping to reduce their influence on handling.
But the big question is, would we buy the C-ABS version over the standard model? We figure that would depend on where you intend to ride most of the time, and your riding skill level (and you'd better be honest with yourself). If you do a lot of track days and are an intermediate to expert-level rider, you'd probably prefer the standard CBR. But for everyone else, there's no doubt in our minds that the extra $1000 would be money well spent.
"Even a pro-level rider wouldn't be able to reach the first-time stopping distance or deceleration rate of the C-ABS bike."