A new single tubular steel backbone frame let the designers keep the bike suitably skinny and there’s new suspension each end: ‘Showa Separate Function Big Piston forks (SFF-BP) up front (with rebound and compression adjustment are in the left leg and preload in the right) and a Showa shock with just rebound and preload twiddlers (no compression).
New 10-spoke wheels are shod with wider 190/55 x 17 tyres (up from the old machine’s 180-section). They actually have a racier profile and bigger side footprint than the Blade SP’s 190/50 rubber.
Smaller and squatter than the previous model, the Honda’s riding position is so natural you don’t think about it, there’s enough legroom for taller riders, but bars are slightly narrower than you’d expect from a big naked when you first jump on. The seat is comfier than it looks for a few hours…and then it isn’t.
Steering is ultra light and accurate at all speeds, OE Bridgestone BT-021 tyres have adequate grip and front brakes have lots of feel and power (and if you hammer them really hard the hazard lights come on!). The standard suspension is set for a plush ride, but gets floaty when you push hard and pegs stay nicely away from tarmac at full lean.
Happily the Honda goes as well as it looks. The motor is still the same longer-stroke 2006 Fireblade unit from the previous CB1000R, but the redline is up from 10,300rpm to 11,500rpm, power is increased 12bhp to 143bhp and there’s more torque to play with between 6000-8000rpm.
A new ride by wire system replaces the old throttle cables and the motor has Blade SP-style forged pistons, a gas-flowed head, increased valve lift and a higher compression ratio. Throttle bodies are up from 36mm to 44mm and the motor breathes through a new airbox and 4.5kg lighter exhaust. Gear ratios are 4% shorter and the Honda now comes with a light action assist and slip clutch.
All this adds up to an inline four-cylinder motor that’s calm and refined at low revs, but packed with midrange grunt and a fruity top end. The electronic throttle never surges or stutters and for anyone who’s ridden a big inline four, the seamless power delivery will be instantly familiar. Granted it doesn’t have the character of a twin, triple or crossplane crank four, but it growls when you prod it and accelerates hard enough to pull wheelies on demand.
And what a strange twist of fate that of all the over-intrusive modern traction control set-ups around right now, it’s a ‘sensible’ Honda system that lets you play, as well as keeping you safe.
There have been no reports of major issues with the previous CB1000R, so don’t expect any nightmares from this new model.
There’s little doubt the Honda has its own unique style, is beautifully built, has perfect performance for the road and just like the ’08 Blade, its looks really grow on you. But when you look at some of its closest rivals it’s not cheap. A Z900RS, GSX-S1000, Z1000, base-model S1000R are all less and the MT-10 costs the same.
The very best thing about the new CB is the way it’s been put together. This is Honda build quality and attention to detail at its magnificent best.
The devil is in the detail and you get the feeling every component was thought through and lovingly chosen by the Japanese engineers: the fresh-from-the-gun deep black gloss paint finish, the brushed ali panelling, red saddle stitching and embossed radiator guard and seat-back logos. The elegant new subframe design features pillion grab handle cut-outs and the funky clocks are a 70s Tomorrow’s World glimpse into the future. That slash-cut exhaust looks and sounds so good there’s no need to go aftermarket.
LED headlights feature old school cooling fins, even though they’re not needed and together with the rear light they’re so thin the snub-nosed bodywork is smaller and more compact. The red sprung Showa shock screams Suzuka 8 Hour factory superbike and everything from the ali single-sided swingarm pivot plates to the engine covers look anything but mass-produced.
Riding modes, that started life on the RC213V-S and trickled down to the new Blade, Gold Wing and Africa Twin, give you the choice of Rain, Standard and Sport settings with ascending levels of power, engine brake and torque control.
There’s also a ‘User’ mode that lets you tailor the electronics to suit and of course ABS. None of the rider aids hinder you on the road, but serve as a silent safety net for when you need them. The CB1000R+ version we’re riding today (has even more silicone implants, offering a crisp, accurate quickshifter and autoblipper, as well as usefully UK-hot five-level heated grips.