1992 Honda CBR900RR

A New Standard of Superbike Excellence

When the Motorcyclist staffers first rode Honda's CBR900RR for the May 1992 issue, they were blown away by its compact size, low weight, tremendous horsepower and outstanding handling. Not since Suzuki's 1986 GSX-R750 had we seen such a huge leap forward in terms of technology and performance. And, well, we were pretty gushy about it.

“A middleweight with the punch of a monster bike.”

“One of the most significant bikes of the decade.”

“A racer replica with real-world ergonomics.”

That first test was littered with lavish and surprisingly untempered praise, and the bike deemed so significant that the editor dedicated the cover and 12 pages to exploring Honda’s new 457-pound, 118-horsepower sportbike. By today’s standards, those numbers seem hardly worthy of a dozen-page bromance with Tadao Baba’s brainchild. But this was 1992, and figures like that only went together on bikes bearing number plates. The 900RR weighed nearly 100 lbs. less than anything else in the open-displacement class and could keep up with just about anything on the drag strip.

And while the big dogs of the day—the Kawasaki ZX-11, Suzuki GSX-R1100 and Yamaha FZR1000—were stuck in the '80s with their rangy wheelbases, lazy steering geometry and stretch-over-the-tank ergos, the CBR packed literbike power into a 600-size package with incredibly aggressive geometry. Its wheelbase was a significant 2.4 inches less than the next shortest bike in the category, while rake and trail were radical at 24 degrees and 3.5 in.

The CBR was the king of the streets: it went on to kick ass in various comparison tests and stole the crown as our 1992 Motorcycle of the Year. The characteristics the 900RR engineers strived for—compactness, mass centralization, reduced weight and tractable power—were a magic combination that had never been so superbly executed in a production bike. To say it set the standard—a standard today’s manufacturers still strive for—is a severe understatement.

Off the Record

Honda punched 68 8mm holes in the 900RR’s upper and lower fairing. The perforations supposedly quickened steering by reducing aerodynamic drag. Uh-huh.
Designers ignored optimum bore and stroke dimensions to instead create an engine that was only 50mm wider and just 13 lbs. heavier than the CBR600F2’s mill.
Bucking trends, the 900RR used a conventional fork, double-sided swingarm and smaller 16-inch front wheel in order to reduce weight at the bike’s extremities.
Utilizing the new concept of mass-centralization, Honda moved all the 900’s heavy parts towards its center of gravity and made everything else as light as possible.
The staff in the early ‘90s was a pack of pavement scratching sportbike nuts, and they loved the 900RR. These OTRs from the original story sum up their sentiments.