Bold New Graphics-And Little Else-From Honda And Yamaha


Where Kawasaki made a bold move for 2011 by releasing the all-new, technologically advanced ZX-10R and Suzuki stepped up with a thoughtful-if cost-conscious-revision of its smaller GSX-Rs, Honda and Yamaha will "phone it in" this year with recession-retreads of their core sportbikes. Except for different paint schemes, both CBRs and the YZFs are utterly unchanged for the coming season.

It's a good thing that Honda's CBR600RR and CBR1000RR-both of which have won our Sportbike of the Year title in their present form-are such capable, well-balanced performers. Even without updates they remain credible and competent machines. And both are available with Honda's optional Combined ABS (C-ABS), a race-grade anti-lock braking system to compete with the similarly equipped BMW S1000RR and the new Kawasaki. About those new colors: The 600 comes in red/black or black. The 1000 is available in the same, plus the popular Repsol MotoGP Edition. No risks taken there.

Yamaha's YZF-R1 and YZF-R6 share identical paint schemes as well. Both models will be offered in the latest variation of Yamaha's traditional blue-and-white team colors, along with a seriously sinister-looking Raven black and a Candy Red/Raven with tribal frames and skulls that went out of fashion three years ago. Maybe that's retro? Here's hoping that Yamaha is putting any money it saved on paint toward 2012 redesigns-especially for the R6, now entering its fifth year without a significant update.

We've mercifully spared you the tribal-skull version of the Yamaha YZF-R6, instead highlighting this nasty Raven version, "murdered out" with matte-black details on a gloss-black base.