2008 Honda CBR1000RR | First Look

New Literbike Leader?

The all-new 2008 Honda CBR1000RR may well be the Great Leap Forward-or, for the front wheel, the Great Leap Upward-that Honda has been promising.

The current RR is known for its smooth power, livable ergonomics and rock-solid handling, due in part to its speed-sensitive, electronically actuated steering damper. And its slightly excessive weight.

Honda has not released weight figures for the '08, but if the list of lightened components-everything from the frame to the front brake lines to the battery-is any indication, this may finally be the race-ready lightweight Honda fans have been asking for. Internet guesstimates, measured at the blogger's cocktail napkin, have put the dry weight at 390 pounds and wet weight at 438. Considering that a topped-off 2007 GSX-R1000 weighs around 457 pounds, the new CBR just might wind up as the lightest literbike yet.

"We had two main goals with the new CBR1000RR," explained Jon Row, Honda's Master of Press Ceremonies. "First off, we wanted it to be an excellent racebike platform (read: GSX-R beater), and also, in stock form, a great bike for track days. But we also wanted to make it fun, and make it easy to ride, both on the street and the track. So we concentrated on making it much lighter overall, and doing everything possible to centralize mass, to significantly reduce yaw and roll resistance." In other words, make it more responsive to rider inputs, without compromising stability.

"We also paid a lot of attention to easing the rider's workload," Row continued. "We worked very hard on the Idle Air Control Valve, to make the power delivery as smooth as possible when opening the throttle. The new slipper clutch is designed to help the rider get into corners more smoothly, and also reduce lever effort. And the new Ignition Interrupt Control System makes upshifting the six-speed transmission even quicker and easier, by momentarily taking the load off the gears as the rider moves the shifter." Yes, you read that right: This is the first production motorcycle with a quick-shifter.

The engine is all-new, smaller and slightly more oversquare than before, with a 76mm bore and a 55.1mm stroke-even with the 1mm-larger diameter, the Nikasil-coated cylinders are set closer together. The pistons have thinner-yet-stronger walls, and are molybdenum-coated for reduced friction.

The intake valves have grown from 29 to 30.5mm, and are now titanium-the steel exhaust valves still measure 24mm across. The throttle bodies have grown from 44 to 46mm, and the Dual Stage Fuel Injection system still uses two multi-orifice injectors per cylinder.

A twin-intake ram-air system, similar to that of the RC212V MotoGP racer, has automatically actuated butterflies in each nostril to better manage engine response. A new smaller, lighter ECU uses multiple 3-D mapping for more precise control of both fuel delivery and ignition timing.

The exhaust system is also new, with a mid-muffler riding under the engine and a large-volume, two-hole final muffler integrated into the lines of the fairing, designed to move more mass toward the CG.

A new four-piece, twin-spar aluminum frame and braced aluminum swingarm are both lightened by the use of Hollow Fine Die-Casting technology, which allows thinner walls and more precise allocation of metal for optimum strength with minimum weight.

The riding position has also been tweaked. In keeping with the racebike trend toward more weight on the front end, the rider has been moved .4 inch forward and the bars set .4 inch higher.

The Showa 43mm fork and shock are both adjustable three ways, using the Honda (HMAS) Multi-Action System; the rear works through a MotoGP-derived Unit Pro Link set-up.

Rake is unchanged at 23.3 degrees while trail has been trimmed slightly from 3.9 to 3.8 inches. Wheelbase is racebike-conventional at 55.4 inches.

Honda's little chassis-tuning secret is that the CBR is set up to be very quick-steering, and then response is dialed back with the electronic steering damper when necessary. Modern jet fighters are designed around the same principle: configured for ultra-quick response and then made more manageable by their flight-control computers.

Lightweight wheels, cast in aluminum alloy, measure 3.5 x 17 inches front and 6.0 x 17 inches rear, shod with Bridgestone BT015 radials. The front discs are 320mm across, with extra holes this year to add lightness. New radial-mount, one-piece, four-piston Tokico calipers do the pinching, actuated by a radial master cylinder.

Just to make life-and CBR identification-as confusing as possible, the new 1000 will be available in five color combos: red/black, silver/black, pearl yellow/black or maroon/silver for $11,599 a pop, and a limited edition (under 500 units) painted metallic gray/black for $11,799.

When can you buy one? Once spring has sprung.

In other news, Honda is introducing a touring version of its big-twin VTX1800 for 2008, with leather saddlebags, windscreen, passenger backrest and "exclusive Tourer badging" on the front fender all standard. The VTX1800T comes in two trims: Spec 1 and Spec 2. The former features brushed-aluminum handlebar risers, levers, switch housings, triple clamps and fork tubes, while the latter comes with the same parts either highly polished or chromed. Prices range from $14,899 for a solid-black Spec 1 to $16,449 for a two-tone (black and either Metallic Blue or Candy Black Cherry) Spec 2.

2008 Honda CBR1000RR
2008 Honda VTX1800T
Also new from Honda is a street-legal dual-sport version of the puppy-like CRF230 playbike, dubbed the CRF230L. It's designed to be a compact, lightweight adventure-plonker with electric starting, a reasonable seat height and a six-speed transmission. MSRP is $4299.