Honda CBR1000RR has muscle to mass appeal

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

You meet the nicest people on a Honda. If they're riding the 2008 CBR1000RR, you just won't be able to stop them long enough to say hi.

For its first tires-up redesign since the CBR1000RR's 2004 introduction, Honda has made the Ginsu knife of canyon carvers. Ultra fast and easy to use, Honda's refangled liter bike hasn't just trimmed the fat or imported a bunch of racing technology developed for MotoGP. It's also purpose-built a bunch of high-tech goodies that make the riding even easier on the street.

Like any sport bike redo worth the R&D money, the new CBR1000RR has gone Atkins. It's lost fat, upped its muscle mass and dramatically improved its odds in the power-to-weight department.

The power improvements are due to its completely overhauled 999-cc inline-four engine, which now employs larger but lighter-weight titanium intake valves that rev the bike to its 13,000 rpm redline. Even more impressive: the systems that make that power user-friendly.

The CBR1000RR marks the debut of Honda's new Ignition Interrupt Control, which works in concert with the Idle-Air Control Valve introduced on the CBR600RR last year. Together, I found the two systems so smooth and quick to react to the most minute of throttle movements that they seemed telepathic. Twisting the grip in traffic was like pushing the Millennium Falcon's hyperdrive button. Moving cars seemed stationary.

I am, like most sport bike fans, easily enamored with throttles and the thrills they provide. And I'm just as surprised as the next guy when I arrive at a corner more quickly than I'd wanted and need to slow down, which is another reason I thoroughly enjoyed the new CBR. It's tricked out with a newly designed slipper clutch and industrial-strength mono-block four-piston calipers that put the squeeze on its 320-mm floating-disc front brakes -- all of which worked more quickly, more smoothly and far deeper into the turn than anticipated.

For the scant $100 premium Honda's charging over last year's model, the new CBR1000RR also comes with more high-end bells and whistles than I was expecting, including the MotoGP-derived electronic steering damper and unit pro-link rear suspension, which elevated the bike's handling to an art. There's also the 4-2-1 exhaust, which has been catalyzed and moved from its previous under-tail location to the bike's lower right side, away from heat-sensitive hamstrings.

Then there are the mirrors, which double as turn signals -- and a secondary speedo, as riders watch traffic disappear into the distance.

2008 Honda CBR1000RR Base price: $11,599 Powertrain: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, fuel-injected, inline four-cylinder, four valves per cylinder, six-speed Displacement: 999 cc Seat height: 32.3 inches Curb weight: 439 pounds Road test MPG: 38 mpg (based on 312 miles traveled)

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