There’s nothing like a literbike when it comes to awesome performance. But for 2008, Honda’s taking that level of performance and handling to a hole new level. New engine. New chassis. MotoGP-style exhaust. The all-new CBR1000RR is a Superbike that handles like a 600, but is built to dominate the Superbike class.
In 2008 Honda reinforces a long-standing legacy of creating breathtaking breakthroughs in the liter bike class. The all-new CBR1000RR establishes a higher standard for weight reduction and compact, centralized mass to produce a pinnacle of sportbike performance and reliability.
First launched in 1992, Honda CBR900RR featured a large displacement engine fitted on a relatively lightweight and nimble frame. But the series of changes had long started as Tadao Baba initially designed the Fireblade as a 750cc engine back in 1989.
The name Fireblade saw its way through in the bike’s early years of development by a mis-translation from French to English for the Japanese word for lightning. It became the internal adopted name for the project’s development although all Honda inline-engined sport motorcycles of the time were labeled CBR, followed by a number approximately equal to the engine’s capacity in CC. However, Baba-san had said that as the project came to launch, the internal name was chosen as the bike’s marketing name so as not to emphasize the first Fireblade’s 893cc engine displacement, because at the time potential customers not accustomed to the new concept of lighter and agile superbikes would not perceive a motorbike of less than 1000cc as a competitor for the Yamaha FZR1000T or Suzuki GSXR1100N.
Developing 124 horsepower and moving 454.2 lb with its inline four-cylinder engine, the first Fireblade was indeed a competitor for the Suzuki and Yamaha as it used a simple but yet successful recipe: big displacement motor positioned on a bike as light as a 600cc, if not lighter.
This made for the bike to sell quickly demanding soon out stripped supply, as riders could not believe just how fast, light weight, a class breaking 185kg and easy to ride this new bike was, especially in the hands of rider’s more used to heavy weight bikes of the time like the Kawasaki ZX10, Suzuki GSX-R1100 and even Honda’s own CBR1000F.
Initially, due to the 16-inch front wheel making the front seem twitchy, there were some calls for a steering damper but the choice of wheel was soon proved to be the correct as the reduced unsprung weight of the 16-inch over a 17-inch improved the bike’s turning ability.
The colors for the first model year were red/white/blue but there was also the black and silver version so riders could easily make their minds and decide on a color scheme.
Future years brought visual upgrades for the already successful product so the bike received a new fairing in the shape of the redesigned bodywork, as the now familiar Foxey/Urban Tiger came along in December 1993.
Honda had prepared a big revamp for the Fireblade at the end of 1995 and it was now known as the CBR918RR. The name gives a very clear clue of the increase in displacement but this was unusual for Honda, to feature an all new dedicated 918cc engine, not the previous Japan-only bored-out 750 cc engine. Other updates aimed at improving the riding position but, very important, 1995 brought the upgrade of the suspensions. That model year was introduced as the RRT model.
Keeping their recipe for 1997, when the RRV model was released, Honda had added some horses and reduced the weight a little bit by using a new aluminum silencer. Weighing only 183 kg, the only thing that the bike than needed were some new color schemes which gave a new apparel and made that model year stand out even more.
1998 brought the RRW/X models featuring a redesigned fairing and headlamp unit and a wider seat/tail light unit. The upgrade now needed to bring better handling, was only achieved with a much stronger fork yoke unit and stiffness provided by a redesigned swingarm. That model year also brought the adding of a 17-inch front wheel instead of the previous 16-inch. The new element, taken right out the CBR600 completely transformed the handling and together with the new suspension parts made the critics raise no handling issues.
The new millennium had a great influence on the Fireblade, by then known through its all new fuel injected 929cc engine, upside down forks and a much awaited 17 inch front wheel. Baba-san had also given the bike a squarer look, with a dry weight of 170kg, losing 9kg in the process.
After losing out the Yamaha R1 in the sales charts, Honda understood that they have to increase displacement even more so the CBR929RR lasted for only two years.
Replacement came in 2002 and it was called Honda CBR954RR. The bigger capacity engine had the effect of producing 149 bhp and 77 ft lbf of torque with the help of a heavily improved EFI system with bigger injectors and more processing ability. It also handled better due to frame and headstock strengthening, and a more rigid swingarm. Weighing in at a class leading 169 kg it also weighed less than Honda’s own CBR600RR. Everything was dressed up beautifully in an altogether much leaner, sleeker, tougher look and after two years of production the CBR954RR saw its way out as it had completed its goal in Honda’s big class superbike history.
After the Fireblade exited the scene, the all-new 2004 CBR1000RR arrived at a true liter of displacement to line up with the other bikes built by the rest of the Japanese manufacturers. The team that built the fabulous Honda RC211V race bike from the MotoGP series was also behind the development of the CBR600RR and it was logical to take care of the development in the big superbike class at Hondas, which they did. It resulted in new technologies being implemented such as a lengthy swingarm, Unit Pro-Link rear suspension, and Dual Stage Fuel Injection System (DSFI).
Almost no part of the CBR954RR were carried over to the development of the new model as the compact 998cc in-line four was a completely new design featuring unique bore and stroke dimensions, race-inspired cassette-type six-speed gearbox, all-new ECU-controlled ram-air system, dual-stage fuel injection, and a center-up exhaust provided with a new computer-controlled butterfly valve. The chassis was likewise all new, including an organic-style aluminum frame composed of Gravity Die-Cast main sections and Fine Die-Cast steering head structure, inverted fork, Unit Pro-Link rear suspension, radial-mounted front brakes, and a centrally-located fuel tank hidden under a faux cover.
What made the new CBR1000RR behave so well under strong acceleration was the longer swingarm, acting as a longer lever arm in the rear suspension system. This element also determined the increase of wheelbase with 34mm.
But making room for the new swingarm required massive changes to the engine architecture, completely changed from the 954’s. Shortening the engine compared to the 954 meant rejecting the conventional in-line layout. Instead, engineers positioned the CBR1000R’s crankshaft, main shaft and countershaft in a triangulated configuration, with the countershaft located below the main shaft, dramatically shortening the engine front to back, and moving the swingarm pivot closer to the crankshaft. Honda had learned the lesson from Yamaha who implemented the design on the 1998 YZF-R1.
The engine was positioned farther forward in the chassis in order to keep its great amounts of power and torque to wheelie prone when not desired. This also provided very little space between the front wheel and the engine but the problem was solved by giving the RR a modest cylinder incline of 28 degrees, and moving the oil filter from its frontal placement on the 954 to the right side of the 1000RR engine. This allowed the RR’s center-up exhaust system to tuck closely to the engine, opening the space required for a massive MotoGP-style curved radiator with 40 percent more cooling capacity than the 954’s unit, a key to making big horsepower with high durability.
By concentrating the component masses as close to the motorcycle’s center as possible, Honda uses the engine designed especially toward horsepower and torque and makes the bike handle like a dream. The idea of mass centralization had never been better used than on the 2004 Honda CBR1000RR featuring an engine employing a relatively modest 75mm bore and 56.5mm stroke to derive the displacement of 998cc. The choice proved to be very benefic because the remarkable narrow engine attached on a commensurately narrow chassis increases mass centralization and ground clearance also.
The starter motor and drive gear were positioned on the right side of the engine providing a narrower engine profile for added ground clearance. The balancer shaft on the CBR1000RR did its job of eliminating secondary vibration properly but also had an eye towards mass centralization, also being positioned close to the engine’s center of gravity.
Another design providing a wealth of benefits was the Unit Pro-Link’s. The shock is contained entirely within the swingarm and is positioned lower than in a conventional design. Both contribute to mass centralization, in part by giving the centrally mounted fuel tank room to extend downward. Because the shock is contained within the swingarm and it doesn’t require a top mount on the frame, the bulk of the 4.8-gallon tank was positioned down low between the frame rails, close to the centerline of the machine. Two other benefits resulted from the RR’s fuel placement; the mass of the fuel load has less effect on handling, thereby facilitating quick directional changes; and, because the fuel tank is shorter, the CBR1000RR rider sits closer to the steering head than on the 954.
Quicker handling was achieved by lightening as many pieces far from the center of mass as possible. That gave rise to the RR’s compact Line-Beam headlights, with their high-illumination three-piece reflectors; slim-line LED taillight; single-piston rear brake system that’s lighter that of the 954; an analog/digital fully electronic instrument that’s one of the lightest and slimmest ever mounted on a street bike, among more other changes.
Being a brand new product, derived from a motorcycle filled with heritage coming from a motorcycle named after a mis-translation from French to English of the Japanese word for lightning, the CBR1000RR enjoyed its complete revision which determined designers to maintain the bike’s characteristics for 2005.
But that was no brake period as they prepared the next evolutionary step of the CBR1000RR for 2006. This aimed at improving the engine performance by adding new intake and exhaust porting, higher compression ratio, revised cam timing, more intake valve lift, double springs for the intake valves, all resulting into a higher redline.
The rear now featured a larger sprocket, revised suspension with new linkage ratios, and a new, lighter swingarm while the front received a revised front fairing design, larger 320mm front brake discs but thinner at 3.5mm, and a revised front suspension.
This model carried over to 2007 remaining mostly unchanged. The brushed aluminum swingarm was now black to complete the new color schemes available: Black, Red/Black, Satin Silver and Race-Replica Repsol.
The Paris International Motorcycle Show on 28 September 2007 brought the presentation of a brand new CBR1000RR for 2008, a motorcycle now presented on this review.
Probably the strongest opponent, and one which on a certain level influenced the development of the 1000RR, is the Yamaha YZF-R1. Also improved for 2008, the light, powerful and packed with trickle-down MotoGP technology, the YZF-R1 is one of the most advanced Open-class production motorcycle ever built.
The systems that contribute to that are starting from the YCC fly-by-wire throttle system for flawless response under all conditions, inline four-cylinder engine with powerful, tractable R1 powerplant ever, thanks partially to the world’s first electronic variable-length intake funnel system and ending up at the six-piston radial-mount front brake calipers and 310mm discs generating the kind of braking power a bike like the R1 requires.
Right next to the Honda and Yamaha stands the Suzuki GSX-R1000, one of the most successful open-class motorcycles in the history of production-based racing even better by applying the latest technology and the most recent hard-fought racing experience. Suzuki’s task is keeping the GSX-R1000 well ahead of the competition.
For the 2008 Ninja ZX-10R, Kawasaki engineers aimed for an ideal superbike with engine and chassis performance capable of satisfying professional racers, combined with top-notch streetbike qualities for mainstream riders. It’s a delicate balance, but these aren’t your average engineers. They’ve been directly involved in the development of every 600 and 1000cc supersport machine since the 2003 Ninja ZX-6R, plus Kawasaki’s factory Superbike racing efforts, so they have the know-how to deliver the goods.
By strongly improving the bike’s performance concerning engine, transmission, suspension, brakes, Honda achieved an astonishing upgrade of the CBR1000RR and this had to reflect in the motorcycle’s appearance as well.
2008 brought a complete redesign of the fuel tank, exhaust, fairing, headlights, mirrors, in conclusion everything visible on the new CBR can nowhere else be found.
The new line-beam headlights featuring two-piece reflector design utilizing two H7 bulbs for optimum light distribution and unique compact design are completed by the front turn signals integrated into the folding aerodynamic mirrors. This gives the tone to the new fairing which is also build with the purpose of reducing drag and, with the help of the windscreen, to increase riding comfort.
The centrally-mounted 4.7-gallon fuel tank is positioned low in the frame, increasing mass centralization and allowing a more compact design and together with the airbox are both protected by a plastic tank shall, improving the overall appearance and an Iconic new Honda Wind tank badge gives a distinctive touch.
The new exhaust system is very low positioned and complements the lines featured by the fairing. Its defined lines and contrast bring pure racing attitude in discussion and the engine is there to sustain that.
The rear end introduces our eyes to the new LED taillights for lighter weight and improved overall appearance.
Honda provided a multitude of colors for the 2008 CBR1000RR because this model signifies the maker’s evolution and this has to stand out on the track or outside it.
Black/Metallic Gray is this year’s special color but the bike can also feature other exciting new colors which include Red/Black, Black/Metallic Silver, Pearl Yellow/Black, Candy Dark Red/Metallic Silver.
If you are willing to become the rider of a class-leading motorcycle which was completely redesigned for 2008 model year, than you will be part of a select club encountering passion, speed and lots of horsepower only found on this kind of motorcycles. The best Honda has to offer in this class is the CBR1000RR and I am not wrong by saying that it is being offered with an almost symbolic price tag. With a retail price of only $11,599 and $200 more for the Black/Metallic Gray color option, fans can get that stone off their hearts.
After writing a review of what was about to bring the 2008 CBR, we can now say that designers from Honda were developing pretty much what we suspected, in conclusion they followed the recipe used when creating the CBR600RR after the RC211V: keeping the weight down and increasing the horsepower while significantly improving the handling by positioning the engine and heavier elements in the middle of the machine.
But Honda amazed motorcycle press with a new, radical exterior design, giving it a special something that made it THE one among others.
Engine and Transmission
Type: liquid-cooled inline four-cylinder
Bore x Stroke: 76mm x 55.1mm
Compression Ratio: 12.3:1
Valve Train: DOHC; four valves per cylinder
Induction: Dual Stage Fuel Injection (DSFI)
Ignition: Computer-controlled digital transistorized with three-dimensional mapping
Transmission: Close-ratio six-speed
Final Drive: #530 O-ring - sealed chain
Chassis and Dimensions
Front Suspension: 43mm inverted HMAS cartridge fork with spring preload, rebound and compression damping adjustability; 4.7 inches travel
Rear Suspension: Unit Pro-Link HMAS single shock with spring pre-load, rebound and compression damping adjustability; 5.4 inches travel Brakes
Front Brake: Dual radial-mounted four-piston calipers with full-floating 320mm discs
Rear Brake: Single 220mm disc
Front Tire: 120/70ZR-17 radial
Rear Tire: 190/50ZR-17 radial
Wheelbase: 55.4 inches
Rake (Caster Angle): 23.3”
Trail: 96.2mm (3.8 inches)
Seat Height: 32.3 inches
Fuel Capacity: 4.7 gallons, including 1.06-gallon reserve
Curb Weight: TBD
Colors: Red/Black; Black/Metallic Grey; Black/Metallic Silver; Pearl Yellow/Black; Candy Dark Red/ Metallic Silver
New for 2008
-All-new 999cc inline four-cylinder engine.
Lightweight titanium intake valves.
New thinner high-strength pistons featuring molybdenum coating.
New removable cylinder block with Nikasil-coated cylinders.
Idle-air control valve (IACV) and Ignition Interrupt Control for idle stability and smoother on/off throttle response.
Unique slipper clutch features cam mechanism to reduce clutch lever pull.
New mid-muffler exhaust system design incorporates exhaust valve and catalyst.
New-generation Honda Electronic Steering Damper (HESD).
New lighter-weight front brake hoses with lighter front brake rotors.
New monoblock front brake calipers with chromium-plated aluminum pistons.
Lightweight aluminum sidestand.
New four-piece Hollow Fine Die-Cast Frame.
New aluminum swingarm design.
New twin-tunnel ram-air induction.
New line-beam headlights.
Front turn signals integrated into mirrors.
New compact instrumentation.
New lighter-weight wheels.
New lightweight compact battery.
New improved ergonomics.
Iconic new Honda Wing tank badge.
Exciting new color include Red/Black, Black/Metallic Silver, Pearl Yellow/Black, Candy Dark Red/Metallic Silver.
Black/Metallic Grey (2008 special color)
-Exclusive, MotoGP-derived Unit Pro-Link Rear Suspension.
Mid-muffler exhaust system design.
Specially designed slipper clutch.
Dual Stage Fuel Injection (DSFI) system features two injectors per cylinder.
Centrally located fuel tank increases mass centralization and allows more compact frame design.
Line-beam headlights feature two-piece reflector design.
-Liquid-cooled DOHC 16-valve 999cc four-stroke inline four-cylinder engine features bore and stroke dimensions of 76mm x 55.1mm.
Sixteen-valve cylinder head features 30.5mm intake and 24mm exhaust valves with a 12.3:1 compression ratio for efficient combustion and high horsepower.
Larger titanium intake valves create a lighter valve train for higher rpm.
Intake valves feature double-spring design for optimum performance at high rpm.
Intake ports use new shot-peening technology that improves power and torque characteristics.
Cam-pulser location between the middle cylinders allows a narrower cylinder head and frame.
Direct shim-under-bucket valve actuation system ensures high-rpm durability and allows 16,000-mile valve maintenance intervals.
Forged-aluminum pistons with molybdenum coating for reduced friction.
Lightweight nutless connecting rods.
Iridium-tip spark plugs improve fuel combustion and performance.
Dual Stage Fuel Injection (DSFI).
46mm throttle bodies feature Denso injectors with lightweight valving for faster reaction time and 12 holes per injector to optimize mixture atomization, combustion efficiency and power.
Auto-enriching system is integrated into programmed fuel injection (PGM-FI) module, eliminating the need for a manual choke.
New idle-air control valve (IACV) minimizes torque reaction and smoothness response to small throttle changes through gradual reductions of air and fuel intake when the throttle is opened and closed.
New Ignition Interrupt Control system works with IACV and FI mapping to enhance driveability.
Smaller and lighter ECU provides two 3-D fuel-injection maps for each cylinder and two 3-D ignition maps for cylinder pairs, creating ideal fuel-mixture and spark-advance settings for superb rideability.
MotoGP-derived twin ram-air system allows high volume of cooler air to the 9.7-liter airbox for linear power delivery and incredible engine performance.
Butterfly valves inside the ram-air ducts open and close depending on throttle opening and engine rpm for optimum performance.
High-capacity radiator incorporates twin cooling fans and allows a more compact cowl for reduced drag coefficient.
-Maintenance-free automatic cam-chain tensioner.
Starter gears located on the right side to produce narrow engine and increased lean angle.
Unique slipper-clutch design uses a center-cam-assist mechanism for easier actuation. Unlike an ordinary slipper clutch where the pressure plate moves side to side, the Honda clutch moves both the center cam assist and the pressure plate to provide additional slipper effect.
Nine-plate clutch is compact and tough, featuring durable friction-plate material.
New extremely compact exhaust system incorporates a catalyzer and control valve in mid-muffler design that reduces rear bodywork size and significantly improves mass centralization, reducing roll and yaw inertia.
Durable #530 O-ring – sealed drive chain.
-Lightweight Hollow Fine Die-Cast twin-spar aluminum frame utilizes MotoGP technology.
New aluminum subframe is lightweight and easily removed for easy maintenance.
MotoGP-derived Honda Electronic Steering Damper (HESD).
43mm inverted aluminum-slider Honda Multi-Action System (HMAS) cartridge front fork features spring preload and rebound and compression damping adjustability, and offers precise action and unparallel rigidity.
Exclusive, MotoGP-derived Unit Pro-Ling rear Suspension.
Front brake system features radial-mounted four-piston calipers and 320mm floating discs, and rear brake system uses a 220mm disc with a single-piston caliper for exceptional stopping power.
Front discs with 72 holes of four different diameters for lighter weight and improved feel.
Super-light aluminum-alloy hollow-spoke wheels feature race-spec 3.5 x 17-inch front and 6.0 x 17-inch rear dimensions.
Centrally mounted 4.7-gallon fuel tank is positioned low in the frame, increasing mass centralization and allowing a more compact design. This design positions the rider further forward for optimum handling.
-New ergonomic triangle lets rider sit 10mm farther forward and 10mm lower than previous-generation CBR1000RR. Handlebars are 6.5mm higher and 2mm forward.
High-capacity 400-watt AC generator.
High-tech instrument display features tachometer, plus LCD readouts for speedometer, coolant temperature, odometer, two tripmeters and a clock, mpg and average fuel consumption. A low-fuel LED light and shift-indicator light are located above the LCD.
Line-beam headlight features two-piece reflector design utilizing two H7 bulbs for optimum light distribution and unique compact design.
LED taillight for lighter weight and improved appearance.
Plastic tank shell cover protects tank and airbox.
Convenient ignition switch/fork lock for added security.
Folding aerodynamic mirrors.
Convenient push-to-cancel turn-signal switch.
New maintenance-free battery is 2.2 pounds lighter.
Transferable one-year, unlimited-mileage limited warranty; extended coverage available with a Honda Protection Plan.
Purchase of a new, previously unregistered Honda USA-certified unit by an individual retail user in the United States qualifies the owner for a one-year complimentary membership in the Honda Rider’s Club of America.
-Color-Matched Passenger Seat Cowl, U-Lock, CBR Racing Cycle Cover, Carbon-Fiber Accents. Limited color run, less than 500.