2012 Honda CBR1000RR: a little facelift for 20

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In 2012, the Honda Fireblade or, as we colonials like to call it, a Honda CBR with some big numbers and a couple Rs, turns 20. Time to celebrate, right? Sure, if you can call the relatively minor facelift seen here celebrating. Like any once-great, currently less-than-competitive beauty queen, it’s simply time for a little nip and tuck. For the 2012 Honda CBR1000RR, that means new headlights, new clocks, new suspension and apparently not much else.

Update: 48 images added to the gallery, full analysis added to the article.

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Looking over these images, it’s actually remarkable just how little has been changed. There’s the headlights, most noticeably, but even items like exhaust — which is typically updated to adapt to ever-changing regulations — taillight and brakes remain identical. The biggest difference appears to be the fitment of fancy Showa suspension — BPF forks and a remote reservoir shock with that reservoir neatly integrated into the rear hugger.

Perhaps most worrying is the shot of the dash performing its startup routine in the video. Check out this screen cap. See any sign of a traction control component? Us neither. Nor are their sensor rings on the front wheel (ABS is optional on the current model).

That lack of TC is indicative of how hard this new Honda is going to find it to compete in the swollen liter bike market. The BMW S1000RR, Aprilia RSV4, MV Agusta F4, Kawasaki ZX-10R and Ducati 1199 all use it, effectively making it the liter bike equivalent of those “you have to be this tall to ride this ride” signs. All those bikes also make substantially more power than the 175bhp Honda. Most notably, the ZX-10R, to which the Honda will likely be similar in price, makes 197bhp and weighs 26lbs less than the current ‘Blade.

Even giving Honda the benefit of the doubt and assuming a slight power increase and slight drop in weight from its current 210kg (wet) figure, it’s likely still not going to be in the same ballpark as these competitors. Like the current model, we’re sure it’ll be a great motorcycle, but headline power figures, new technology and mechanical distinction sell liter bikes.

In the absence of headline grabbing power, unprecedented light weight or even a similar TC system to its competitors, we struggle to see what unique selling point this new CBR hopes to capitalize on. It’s not as if Honda can still fall back on its traditional ease-of-use and perceived quality as it did in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, the S1000RR already has that accessibility and perception sewn up.

20 years ago, Tadao Baba reinvented the superbike by combining open-class power with supersport weight. Basically it was a 600 with a 900cc engine. Compared to its contemporary competitors, this new CBR does neither, it’s heavier and less powerful. Where’s the beef, Honda?

via iBike and Fireblades.org

Thanks for the tip, Asaph.

  • Deep6Dive

    That’s an unsurprising let-down.

  • Wereweazle

    I wonder if the guy who filmed that was making helicopter noises with his mouth. He kept swooping and diving haphazardly. It made me a bit dizzy.

    • Johndo


  • JonB

    Wow, that is really surprising after all the teams talking about the ‘new racebike’ and the usual chatter about new engines, platforms etc.

  • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben Incarnate

    No doubt. I saw that posted elsewhere this morning and sighed. Not in a good way. This is a somewhat confused hybrid design.

  • KP

    Aprilia should start paying this guy to do their shorts, makes you guys look like assholes.

    • Wereweazle

      Does it cost extra for him to stick his finger into the shot?

      • noone1569

        I lol’d at that one.

  • Myles

    Isn’t the rumor that the CBR will continue as is and Big Red will introduce a new v4 superbike in addition?

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Rumors are bullshit.

      • Myles

        I bet you $2 the scenario above will be confirmed within one calendar year.

  • Roman

    I…kind of like it. Shame about the (supposed) lack of mechanical updates, but that’s a nice looking bike in my book.

  • Zirq

    This must be similar to the feeling that women get when most men take their pants off.

  • Groomez

    Hell, I think it’s gorgeous. Why fix it if it’s not broke? The CBR is a stout beast.

    • Zirq

      Because Honda owners are green with envy.

    • JonB

      At $13,399 and another year of no real change probably adds up to a very hard sell for a dealer.

      • Kirill

        Liter bikes are probably a hard sell for most dealers these days, what with nobody having any money.

        Japan’s Big 4 need to retrench and go back to their roots of high-quality, affordable small bikes. I’d love to see them crank out modern UJM-style bikes in the same vein as Triumph and their “modern classics.”

    • HolyHandGrenade!

      My buddy just bought a 2011. $1,600 a year for full coverage insurance (required to finance)! He has decent credit and no moving violations so THAT, I believe, is the biggest obstacle to selling a liter bike/race replica.

      Also if this example is any indication, credit is not that difficult to get. The guy has a shit job, two car payments, college debt, no money to put down, no trade, and Honda still financed him for the bike (with some crappy rate like 8% but still).

      Anyway, I am sure it will be wrecked or repoed with-in a year. With insurance rates so high for bikes like this, I am amazed anyone is willing buy one for the street. Of course I am pretty sure there are many uninsured/underinsured bikes out there.

      • Myles

        $1,600 is wicked cheap for a liter bike. If I could get insurance for that price I’d probably be riding around on a zx10r.

        • HolyHandGrenade!

          Maybe – but the point being $1,600+ in insurance is a HUGE some of money (to put towards nothing) and a deal breaker for most.

          I know it is complete apples to oranges but I pay less than $200 to insure my Monster with full coverage for a year.

          5yrs X $1,600 = $8,000
          5yrs X $200 = $1,000

          Is the fun difference worth $7K – maybe for some but I would rather spend that $7k on a 2nd bike or a shit ton of parts. (I’m only looking at cost, not realive value.) I just think that fact is a very steep sales obstacle to overcome – one that must hurt sales.

          • Myles

            I’m with you, and totally hear you.

            It’s just every time I’ve shopped liter bike insurance I’m well over twice 1600.

          • HammSammich

            When the bike gets dropped in the first or second year, and the repair tab comes to $5,000-$6,000 in damage, plus some minor medical expenses and the insurance picks up the tab (sans the deductible) the value of the premium becomes a little more tangible. Granted, when you’ve got a Duc Monster as you do, or a Triumph Bonnie like me and you’re only paying $200/year for full coverage, you feel even better about it when you get that $6,000 insurance check… ;)

      • Steve

        Pay cash. Get liability only. Don’t buy toys you can’t afford to break.

        • Roman


        • HolyHandGrenade!

          I would rather pay cash, Get full coverage (for a reasonable rate) and then have someone else pay for it when I break it or it gets stolen, or even pay my bills if I get injured while riding it.

          You know, basically the whole insurance concept. – limit exposure to risk. Protect the $13K outlay of cash as much as possible.

          • Steven

            yeah bruh, I don’t give a shit where I park my $11,000 of joy because if it’s stolen I’m only out a $1,000 deductible for a BRAND NEW MOTORCYCLE.

            (Also, knowing that $500,000 will repair my broken body in a crash with an uninsured or underinsured motorist is pretty rad.)

            • aristurtle

              I think there’s a communication gap here between the people who paid $12K for their motorcycle and the people who paid $1.5K. If I spent more than one year’s premiums plus one deductible on my motorcycle I’d probably get full coverage too, but sometimes it doesn’t make sense.

              Also I find that “$3000 in damage” can become “$8 on a new clutch lever and $10 on ABS glue” depending on one’s aesthetic sensibilities.

              • Steve

                My VFR was declared totaled when a cager shoved me off the road. Her insurance came through and wrote me a fat check. $300 in ebay parts and a few evenings of wrenching later my bike and I were back on the road with just a few visible battle scars.

                I made several grand on the deal.

                I also spent the better part of an afternoon sitting on the floor of my shower, puking my guts up from the pain and delayed shock.

            • Steve

              A beautifully stated example of Moral Hazard.

        • Sean Smith

          Yep. I paid $1600 to have my motor freshened up and a new frame installed when I wrecked my GSX-R. Don’t take your bike to the dealer, don’t buy new factory parts and do as much of your own work as possible. It makes things much more affordable.

        • Groomez

          This as well

  • Skank NYCF

    After 10 years of riding CBRs its times like this Im glad I picked up the 2011 ZX10R. I was almost regretting getting the ZX till I seen this.

  • adrenalnjunky

    Honda’s marketing team must be going for the “at least it’s not a gixxer” angle.

  • hooligan317

    Well, at least she’s pretty.

  • Derek

    It is great looking, despite everything else.

  • HolyHandGrenade!

    “Even giving Honda the benefit of the doubt and assuming a slight power increase and slight drop in weight from its current 210kg (wet) figure, it’s likely still not going to be in the same ballpark as these competitors”

    Good point, but really how many buyers can even tell the difference. For that matter how many are even skilled enought to exploit the difference (I know I am not).

    It does look good though.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      The sad reality of rider skill not matching bike performance has very little to do with showroom sex appeal.

      • Dennis

        Sad why?

        The buyer is happy. Honda is happy. You’re crying because…?

        Because BMW, Aprilia, Kawasaki and MV Agusta spent so much on technology that only 5% of riders think they need and only 1% of riders actually need, and yet there are still a few buyers left who haven’t drunk that Kool Aid? You should be grateful that there are no fewer than four major companies offering gizmos for gizmos sake. You’re a lucky guy.

        *Sad* will be when all bikes are that bloated with meaningless techno bling.

    • 80-wattHamster

      Irrelevant sales-wise. Numbers and image are king in the mind of the supersport buyer, broadly speaking. If they were thinking with the logical side of their brain, they’d have bought 599s or CB1000s instead. Or Bandits, or 650Rs, Z750s, or something else standard-ish.

    • HolyHandGrenade!

      Oh I agree with you guys on the marketing aspect. In the example I wrote above the buyer purchased a his CBR as a 1st bike! He passed on the 600 to get “more torque” with the 1000. So yeah, I see how stupid buyers can fall for bench racing bragging rights. Really few outside of Skank and professional journalists, can exploit these beasts – especially on the street. For MY money and ability, a liter bike is no more fun than a Ducati Monster, just a shit ton more expensive and less comfortable. I wish I could ride one at the limits, but I am not there yet.

      This phenomenon is not just privy to motorcycles, how often do novice enthusiasts purchase way over their talent – $800 Burton Snowboards, $5k Callaway golf clubs, $6K Trek road bikes, etc, etc, etc. It’s great for bragging rights but really makes little difference to the user – and in the case of motorcycles it can get dangerous.

      • Joe

        Burton is crap. Get a Donek.

        • http://www.anotherdamndj.com evilbahumut


          • Joe

            I speak from experience. I started riding 25 years ago. I’ve been a snowboard instructor and have done some racing as well. Being from Vermont I used to be a big Burton fan, until I smartened up ,that is. Donek is a small manufacturer in Colorado and in addition to their regular models they can and will custom build anything you want. You can even send them your own custom graphics to put on the board. Burton has become just a name.

            • http://bloodfalcons.blogspot.com motoguru

              “Burton has become just a name.”

              Amen, brotha!

  • Roman

    “20 years ago, Tadao Baba reinvented the superbike by combining open-class power with supersport weight. Basically it was a 600 with a 900cc engine. Compared to its contemporary competitors, this new CBR does neither, it’s heavier and less powerful. Where’s the beef, Honda?”
    I get that it has less power, but I remember reading bike comparisons where it was pretty much midpack.
    I assume that hasn’t changed. So if nothing else, it’s not heavier and the improved suspension should make it an even better handler, already a CBR calling card. I get that the lack of engine development is disappointing, but this is still one of my favorite literbikes.

  • rohorn

    Honda – the new Harley. I guess they figured that teh fanboyz will buy them anyway – why spend money on giving others a reason why to buy them.

    I wonder when their little racing hobby will get cut.

    • Joe

      Probably not soon, considering they’re about to win the MotoGP Championship. That’s also why I doubt this lack of update is going to hurt sales much. They can afford to wait until the recession lifts a bit and people can actually afford to buy a new bike. Smart move in my opinion. (not sure how much that’s worth!)

      • rohorn

        Seriously – I hope they stay in racing.

        Honda has a history of either running on market inertia or extending model life when they are working on some truly great stuff. Knowing current corporate/management fads, I’m guessing on the first one. I hope I am wrong.

  • http://www.muthalovin.com the_doctor

    The new CBR1000RR: more and more irrelevant.


    the new front looks a lot better (or more conventional) than the previous weird sausage nose thing.

    here’s my question: why are the Hondas competitive in World SBK but are nowhere to be seen in AMA superbike (or most US based race series)? Is it because WSBK allows more factory type mods?

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Because Honda doesn’t race AMA/DMG anymore.

      • JonB

        Seriously. Huge soap opera level drama there that you can research and read about all over the internet.

      • DAVID

        i was thinking back a couple of years when they were there but were considered uncompetitive. there are no privateer Hondas either. is that also because they don’t support them?

  • aristurtle

    So what I’m reading here is there’s no reason to get a new CBR1000 over a used one from 2008 or thereabouts.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      That’s an excellent takeaway from all this. You’re actually probably better off with that used bike, as you could make it faster and more exploitable for less money.

      2008 CBR1000RR: $7,500
      Bazzaz TC: $500
      Rebuilt Shock: $400
      Ohlins fork internals $400
      Power Commander + Can: $600
      Total: $9,400

      Saving: $4,000 (or a year’s insurance, tires and trackdays)

      • http://vtbmwmov.org Eben

        And didn’t the CBR with aftermarket TC spank all the factory TC bikes in CycleWorld’s testing a couple issues back?

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          Didn’t they crash an APRC and blame the bike in the same test?

  • runrun

    no way! that can’t be a “meso soup” warning light on the dash, is it (shot #18)?

    yeah, yeah, “miso”, not “meso”, just that that would just be so honda.

    • Joe

      HESD To take a guess i would say “Honda Electronic Suspension Damping”?

  • Eric

    Damn that got ugly. I loved the previous gen’s styling. I liked the organic nose, instead of this triangle mess.

  • http://bloodfalcons.blogspot.com motoguru

    The wheels are ok.

    • Todd


  • dux

    “Honda has no pulse”

    • DoctorNine

      Yeah. They give the sport rider this; not even traction control on the new bike. Even though they always are pushing the whole ‘tech leader’ thing. And they won’t give us the CB1000 in NA. They did at least give us the new 250 to open up ridership, but in almost every other segment, they are zombies marching weakly behind everyone else.

      C’mon, Big Red… wake up.

  • Joey

    Did everyone forget the crazyness going on over there? They are in a state of survival in Japan… cut them some slack already. The fact that they did anything is a real miracle with all that is going on over there. Be patient and let them get their feet back under them…

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      The average new motorcycle program takes three years. This is something that was essentially finalized long before that earthquake.

  • jason McCrash

    I think that the price is the result if one thing: the weak ass US dollar. When I lived in Okinawa, Japan in 1989/90 the Yen was 140 to the US $. Now it is around 70-80 Yen to the dollar. That is it. This bike would be thousands less (along with all other ones from the Big 4) if we had any value left in our currancy worldwide. Don’t kid yourselves that it’s anything else. Just spend a few minutes online researching the value of the dollar over the past 10+ years. The Euro was designed to trade at about equal to the US dollar. It’s currently !.43 Euro to the US dollar. Sucks for all of us over here.

    • aristurtle

      The JPY has been in a deflationary spiral for a long, long time, and it’s been hurting their exports everywhere, not just to the US.

      USD has been gaining against EUR and GBP (and INR and CAD) since 2008. It’s currently .63 EUR to 1 USD, we’ve never traded at .43.

  • jason McCrash

    That was a typo, the “!’ is supposed to be a 1. Go to any online exchange site. The value of the Yen has been affected by their seemingly never-ending recession but the value of the dollar is shit compared to even ten years ago. I live 70 miles from Canada. For 30 of my 41 years it was usually $1 US was = to $1.25 CAN. Then there was a 2-3 year period where it was $1 US = $1.40- $1.50 CAN. For the past few years the CAN dollar has traded at right around equal to or more than the US dollar. The Euro situation is the same. To say the US dollar has been gaining ground might be true, but if you mean a penny here or there that doesn’t mean much to the ordinary consumer. The US policy under Bush was to purposefully deflate the value of the dollar to increase exports. Hasn’t worked out so well for us.

  • Todd

    Well the lack of substantive improvements is a bit disappointing, if not surprising. And while I’m still not sold on the slab side fairings, the looks of the bike are much improved. I found the latest generation CBR1000RR to be flat-out too ugly to own. This revision fixes that.

    As for the insurance, that is definitely something that I will take into consideration before purchasing my next bike. When I bought my current ZX12 I figured it would be somewhat more than other bikes I own, but wow was I blown away after I got it and had to shop around insurance rates. Lesson learned the hard way.

  • Isaac

    It may not be a complete overhaul but I like the new face. Leads me back to the 954RR which of course is my favorite of all of the CBR’s.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Mine too, I’m toying with the idea of getting another one.

  • dasteknoviking

    Kind of in awe with the insurance quotes, my RC51 I sold earlier this year cost me 425 bux via State Farm for a year with 3 cars, house and great record. That’s full coverage in the far N/W burbs of Chicago. My K1200RS runs me 460 per year 500 deductible. When Honda brings back a V4 or Twin super bike I will check it out, till then they can sell the CBRs to fanboys.

    • http://rider49er.blogspot.com Mark D

      Those old Super Hawks would be an awesome used Honda steal, if only you could get more than 120 miles out of tank…

  • jwatts

    This is a fake. Why would the 20th anniversary cbr1000rr be in a small dealership, in Hong Kong, for sale ?

  • Charles

    I actually like what they’ve done. The current CBR1000RR is still a competitive product; it’s the smallest and best handling of the 1000s. If all they did was lose 10 pounds and switch from an analog to a digital gauge, they’d still have a front-rank bike.

    It’s sort of the “long game” approach – its advantages would be a lack of new things to go wrong, good parts commonality with the old bike, possible carry-over race setup, ’08-on aftermarket parts would still fit, etc.