2012 Honda CBR1000RR | First Look

A light update for Honda’s literbike

We’ll admit to being less than stunned by the 2012 CBR1000RR. This is, after all, the 20th anniversary of Honda’s original RR-labeled superbike, the CBR900RR that revolutionized the sportbike world in 1992. Anyone expecting a similarly ambitious offering this year will likely be underwhelmed, as upgraded suspension components and slight restyling are the only updates to Big Red’s flagship superbike.

The biggest news is the addition of Showa’s Big Piston Fork, which submerges the springs in oil at the bottom of the legs and locates larger, higher-flowing pistons above for smoother damping action and enhanced front-end feedback. The Showa shock is also new this year, a so-called “balance-free” design that is essentially an unfortunate translation of Ohlins’ twin-tube technology that greatly reduces cavitation and stiction for better, more consistent damping. New, lighter 12-spoke cast-aluminum wheels reduce unsprung weight, which should further improve suspension action.

In a year when both Kawasaki’s and Yamaha’s superbikes offer variable power modes and traction control—as do most of the European competitors—the lack of either is conspicuous on this CBR. Power would seem to be down for the category as well. The 16-valve, DOHC, 999cc inline-four is unchanged, so expect the 2012 bike to produce around 160 bhp, lagging especially behind BMW’s 180-bhp S1000RR and Ducati’s forthcoming 195-bhp 1199.

That said, Honda’s supremely balanced sportbikes often transcend their specs sheets. The 2012 CBR1000RR, with a claimed curb weight of just 441 lbs. and even sharper handling than before, will likely mask any shortcomings. And for the first time in recent memory, American buyers will be offered the red/white/blue HRC-inspired graphics that are usually reserved only for Europe, and at a competitive price of $13,800—just $401 more than last year. Combined ABS, Honda’s race-grade anti-lock braking system, is a $1000 option.

2012 Honda CBR600RR
Back for a second encore?

Depending on whether you're a pragmatist or a cynic, it's either a testament to the machine's inherent goodness or a reflection of just how deeply depressed the middleweight sportbike market is that Honda's 2012 CBR600RR returns for the sixth year without a significant update. If it ain't broke, why fix it—especially in this economy? And with a race résumé that includes more AMA and World Supersport Championships than any other middleweight in recent history—not to mention a "Class of" crown from this magazine in '07—the CBR600RR is clearly a capable machine. For 2012 the only new feature is an attractive red/white Honda Wing paint scheme complete with white wheels that directly reference the early-'90s AMA Supersport glory days of Miguel DuHamel. Pricing remains in the neighborhood at $11,540, plus $1000 for optional "brake-by-wire" Combined ABS that is only available in conjunction with black paint.

A pointy nose sets the 2012 CBR1000RR apart. “Shark’s tooth” sidepanels show more motor, while a more prominent chin spoiler is meant to reduce lift at high speeds.