Honda CBR1000RR

What more can one say about the Honda CBR1000RR that hasn’t already been said? Returning to our battle as the two-time defending champion, it’s nearly impossible to find fault in the do-it-all machine. So you want to push hard on the track for lap times? Say hello to the Honda. Are you newer to riding a 1000 and would like something extremely easy to control? Honda would be the best option. How about a bike that can be ridden 150 miles to the track, do a track day on it, then ride home, all without getting sore? Yep, it’s probably the Honda you want.

The bike truly is that good and has been that way since the first time we got a change to ride the latest version of the CBR1000RR three long years ago. Add to that a base set-up by the boys at Honda that is always telepathically perfect and everyone of our riders felt comfortable going quick on the Honda from the first lap out of the pits. One of the biggest factors is the versatile and perfectly-balanced chassis of the CBR. Handling is an area that the technical Thunderhill track emphasizes and as a result the abilities of the Honda come to the forefront quickly.

“The Honda had the best mid-corner stability of all the bikes as well as one of the best front ends. It was so composed into the corner that allows you to concentrate on getting on gas that much sooner,” Sorensen explains. “I think the set-up was so dialed that it gave the Honda a large advantage in this area.”

This was echoed throughout the group, Neuer adding that the Honda had “great feel mid corner, mid-suspension-stroke, and was excellent during trail braking.” Garcia went one step further, commenting that “the CBR fork probably couldn’t have been better, at least for stock. No question one of the best of the bunch for me.”

When looking at the data these claims are well backed up. The Honda produced the highest grip levels in the final cover, with a class-leading 1.6g held at a second-best 49.4 degrees of peak lean angle. Only the Suzuki held more lean angle at 51.5 degrees, while the Honda’s max grip was 0.3g up on a three-way tie for second place with the BMW, Kawasaki and the Yamaha all at 1.3g.

Turn 2 was more of the same, its 71 mph corner speed and 55.8 degree lean angle surpassed by only the Ohlins-shod Ducati. As for maximum grip in Turn 2, it was quite far down the order at 0.9g. But in combination with the front-of-the-pack corner speed this shows that, much like the Ducati, we were capable and comfortable with sliding the Honda a good deal through the long and technical corner, something that takes immense amounts of confidence from the chassis.

“I wonder if Honda has sold its sole to the Devil in their quest to develop such a great handling motorcycle,” muses Kenny. “Seriously, it is one of the best handling bikes available and year after year I wait to see if anyone follows suit and as usual it doesn’t happen. The CBR is just such a great track bike.”

Braking was another area the Honda did well, receiving high marks across the board from all those who rode it, the only complaint being a slight lack of initial bite compared to some of the Brembo-equipped competition. It was in the middle of the field when it came to actual brake-distance testing, recording a best stopping distance from 60 mph of 126 feet, which was only eight feet further than the class-topping BMW.

“The Honda brakes worked very well, plenty of power, good initial bite, and when you grab more they respond without scaring you,” Sorensen remarks. “I would ask for them to be a bit touchier, with a little more initial bite, but that’s rider preference. The stock set up is generally more than enough for just about any street or track application.”

While the Honda may not make the most HP on the dyno, only pumping out 153.85 hp  at the rear wheel, it does produce a respectable 77.63 lb-ft of torque. And this translates directly into racetrack performance. Combined with the best gearing of the group, in typical Honda fashion the CBR1000RR was extremely easy to ride quick.

Says Garcia: “The Honda Engine was one of the better motors of the bunch. One thing that really stood out was how smooth it was. It wasn’t really out-of-control fast like most 1000’s – the power was smooth from five mph all the way up to 150 mph and the rider didn’t have to worry much about breaking the rear loose.”

Sorensen’s comments were along the same lines, adding that the Honda’s “power delivery is very linear, electric, with no steps, or hits. I think this motor is a bit deceptive in the sense that it would show up fast on a radar gun but not by the seat of your pants.”

This was exactly the case. Despite being at the bottom end of the horsepower charts, when it came to front straight top speed the Honda ticked past the gun at 152.6 mph, which was second-quickest. Much of this comes down to its ability to seamlessly put power to the pavement. While it wasn’t the highest on the chart when it came to corner-exit g-forces, this can be attributed to the fact that its ability to hold very high corner speed had it already exiting most turns several mph up on the competition and as such the sheer acceleration wasn’t as high as some of the others.

The Honda transmission was once again spot-on, no one reported missing any shifts and nearly every rider ranks it among the top of the group. It may not be quite as flawless in term of shifting action as the Suzuki or have the quick-shifter of the BMW, but the CBR never missed a beat no matter what was thrown its way.

The CBR was also king of the Superpole session once again, going 1:56.07 in my hands to best the field by half a second and shave 0.02 seconds off its time from 2009. And at El Toro its flawless clutch action and easy-to-use power equated to an amazingly-fast 9.706-second pass at 141.7 mph. This was again second only to the BMW, and was within three hundredths of the German’s best time.

There’s a reason the latest Honda literbike is the two-time defending champion of our Superbike Smackdown. From the well-balanced chassis to the tractable power delivery and smooth transmission/clutch, there are few bikes that even approach the levels of performance the stock Honda CBR1000RR can produce. Despite its age, this motorcycle is still on top of the pile in many areas, with only the new BMW finishing in front of it in the overall rankings. And considering the players involved in this mega-test, for a three-year-old bike to stand where it does is downright impressive.

2010 Honda CBR1000RR Track Smackdown

  • Honda CBR1000RR
  • MSRP: $13,399
  • Curb Weight: 451 lbs.
  • Horsepower: 153.85 hp @ 10,700 rpm
  • Torque: 77.63 lb-ft @ 9200 rpm
  • Quarter Mile: 9.706 @ 141.7 mph
  • Racetrack Top Speed: 152.60 mph
  • Superpole Best Time: 1:56.07
  • Overall Ranking: 2nd Place