2012 Honda CBR1000RR | Doin' Time

Wrist: Aaron Frank
MSRP (2012): $13,800
Miles: 2350
MPG: 35 mpg
Mods: Nothing. It's bone stock

While it seems like everyone else says goodbye this month, I'm welcoming new wheels into my garage. Honda's CBR1000RR isn't entirely unknown to me. Until last year I owned a 2008 model, and I fell in love with the latest version during our "Class of 2012' Japanese literbike test, where the midrange-rich motor and perfectly balanced handling reminded me why I emptied my piggybank four years ago.

Lack of traction control kept the CBR from winning this year's comparison, but that didn't keep me from claiming one for my next long-term assignment. The RR has been updated for 2012—the first refresh since it debuted in ‘08—but the changes, including the addition of a Showa Big Piston Fork and Honda's new Balance-Free rear suspension arrangement, plus new wheels and subtly restyled bodywork, are minimal. The compact, 600-scale ergonomics, monster torque output, and athletic handling—all the reasons I loved my last CBR—remain intact.

Because Honda delivered the Big Red Rocket a few weeks before I wrapped up my Suzuki GSX-R750 long-term test, the CBR spent its first month with MC test consultant Matt Samples. Showing a characteristic lack of restraint, Samps proceeded directly to a Motovid.com track day at Blackhawk Farms Raceway. He texted his wish list straight from pit row, before lunch:

"This bike needs braided brake lines, better pads. Quick shifter, a rear shock, rearsets. Stiffer fork springs, too. An exhaust, and probably a TRE [timing retard eliminator] mod—excellent midrange, but falls on its face when the revs rise…' Once a racerhead, always a racerhead.

I did all of the above (and more) to my last CBR, and I'm hesitant to go that route again. The result was a killer track weapon but an awful streetbike, which was largely why I sold it. This time around I'm less willing to suffer a stiff and unforgiving street ride 95 percent of the time, just for sublime performance at the track. I also weigh 50 pounds less than Samps, and I know he hasn't taken enough time to explore the Showa suspension's entire adjustment range. I'm not ready to bin those bits just yet.

I will make that TRE mod sooner rather than later. The U.S.-spec first-generation CBR1000RRs were digitally detuned to satisfy our country's stringent noise standards, causing the power curve to flat-line at 10,500 rpm. Just installing a $64.95 Bazzaz Z-Bomb "timing calibrator' on my '08 model unleashed a remarkable 12 horsepower, and shifted the power peak from 10,700 to 11,500 rpm. Studying the dyno chart from our recent "Class of' comparison, I see the latest CBR peaks at just 150 bhp at 10,600 rpm, then plateaus to the 13,250-rpm redline—reinforcing Matt's seat-of-the-pants feedback and suggesting the same electronic neutering is still in effect. Another dozen-odd horsepower will make this bike much more fun.

Maybe I'll phone Bazzaz right now...

I’ll definitely turn my attention to the Tokico braking system, which was criticized during our “Class of” test. Stainless lines and toothier pads top my list.
Ergonomics are another area that will likely receive my attention. The compact cockpit is okay at the racetrack, but legroom is too cramped for the street.