Retro: Honda CBR750RR

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Back in the late 1980s, the sportsbike market was very different than it is today. Sure, there were 600s and 1000s, but bikes like the GPZ600R were more budget all-rounders than the high-end race-replicas of 2011 while large-capacity bikes like the GSX-R1100 were incredibly fast, but heavy and erred towards stability over agility. The race replicas of the period were the 750s — GSX-R, OW-01, ZXR — but Honda’s entry into that category was the etherial and expensive RC30. How could Honda combine power and handling for the street at an accessible price? Enter this Honda CBR750RR, a never-before-seen prototype that eventually birthed the Fireblade.

“It was in 1989 and I was riding with a group of Honda engineers on some of the competitors’ machines,” Tadao Baba told Kevin Ash back in 2000. “There was a Suzuki GSX-R1100, a Yamaha FZR1000 and our own CBR1000F. I was thinking, ‘How can these be called sportsbikes when they are so very big and heavy?’ They didn’t deserve the name.”

Baba-san, of course, is the legendary engineer who fathered the ‘Blade. But, before he got there, this 750 was his proposal for a something that deserved the sportsbike monicker.

Legend has it, that when Baba-san pulled the wraps of the CBR750RR in a secret meeting with Honda management, one executive was bewildered by what he desribed as a “small bike and full of holes.”

The production CBR900RR.

You can see a lot of what would eventually become the CBR900RR in 1992 in this 750. The huge aluminum beam frame defines the bike, while the windsheild, mirrors, fairing brace and tank could have come straight off the ‘Blade. The seat shape draws influence from that RC30 — a bike it was eventually decided the CBR shouldn’t pilfer influence from. That huge swingarm evokes race track performance, but was watered down into a likely-more-affordable, braced design for production. That 16-inch front wheel — something spec’d to speed steering, but that would come to plague the ‘Blade’s reputation with instability — is clearly present.

Because the intention with the CBR was to create the ultimate road-going sportsbike rather than build a World Superbike replica, it was eventually decided that the racing-dictated 750cc capacity wasn’t necessary, leaving Baba-san free to find the best compromise between weight, size, flexibility and outright power available at the time, stroking the 750 mill out to 893cc.

“Originally we started with a CBR750RR but we already had the VFR,  so perhaps make it a 1000? No. We also had CBR1000F,” Baba-san told Visordown. “Instead we saw that if we took the dimensions of a 750, use base motor but keep same bore and increase stroke it came to 893cc — so a new class was born, the 900 class.”

That left the CBR750RR as a footnote in Honda’s history. Something alluded to, but not seen outside the company until the release of this image, available in wallpaper-size in the gallery below.

  • smoke4ndmears

    That damn ‘blade still looks great after all of these years. Still want!

    https://www.google.com/search?q=etherial&sourceid=ie7&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox&ie=&oe=&safe=active

  • robotribe

    This exact bike’s look, plus F.I., minus 30-ish lbs = my outstretched hand with check to Honda dealer.

  • Roman

    Man the 750 looks even better than the original blade. That swingarm, want to touch.

  • http://twitter.com/metabomber Jesse

    Oooh. Speedholes!

  • http://respectthetrade.tumblr.com/ KR Tong

    So many similarities to today’s hondas. Goes to show you how many things honda got right early on. The trapper keeper paintjob on that second one needs a comeback. Far as I’m concerned that’s the bumblebee equivalent for hondas.

    • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

      Trapper Keeper. Had to think about that for a few seconds. Then I remembered.

      Perfect!

  • Penguin

    They don’t build ‘em like they used to – Look at those ram air intakes on the 750, that is just bike porn, and people say the Italians build the sexiest bikes.

  • Jon B.

    What’s wrong with the world when everyone prefers these old designs? :) I too would take that 750 in a heartbeat.

    • Adam N

      The problem is, you are old.

      Everyone loves the look of bikes that were made while they were in their teens and twenties.

      • Deltablues

        I don’t like the looks of the Bimoto Mantra.

      • Archer

        Hmm. Maybe that’s why girls with big hair and “the claw” are still somewhat appealing…

      • Jon B.

        That can’t be it.

  • Raubert Van Harris

    That blade looks HOT! I was 3 or 4 years old when that thing came out so it has nothing to do with nostalgia for me.

    Also, neat article! It’s fascinating how sport bike subcategories have evolved.

  • http://www.cdavisdesigns.com Chris Davis

    The fairings still look pretty good but design has changed more in the tail in terms of proportion than anywhere else. These look porky by today’s standards.

    Those old cans could use a lot of love, but today’s could use a lot less.

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

    Those are awesome looking bikes, but I’m really glad designers have stopped making pillion seats different colors…

  • Gene

    “Honda gave me a piston from every model of FireBlade mounted on a wooden plaque”

    That’s a helluva lot cooler than a gold watch.

  • http://respectthetrade.tumblr.com/ KR Tong

    Has anyone owned a 90′s CBR from cradle to grave? They look cool, the performance is practical, but I’m wondering what reliability these things had. Im tired of old(er) bikes turning into basket cases.

    • adrenalnjunky

      I dunno about cradle to the grave, but I’m the 4th owner of a 1992 CBR 600F2 – as far as I can tell, the valve cover has never even been off it. (Yes I know it’s due for a valve clearance check.) I’m pretty sure it has the stock clutc in it too.

      Keep the carbs cleaned up, regular oil changes, and she runs like a top.

      Many honda forums where a lot of older ‘canes and ‘blades are still running as strong as they ever did, and the owner base is still very active. You hear more about carbs needing cleaning due to sitting up than you do about engine failures due to age. One guy on CBRF had a F4 that he put 200,000 miles plus on the original motor before it needed the trans rebuilt.

      Prob is that a lot of these older bikes are bought for dirt cheap by young guys and are beat on cause there’s no real sentimental value to them. That’s the situation I rescued mine from.

    • Mike

      78k and counting on a 98 CBR600F3. My wife bought it new.

      It’s stupidly reliable..just have to make sure it gets run at least once a month or the carbs get a little gummy.

      Only things done have been steering head bearings & a carb rebuild maybe 10k ago. Valve adjustments? Meh, sometimes, I guess.

      Grave? Not any time soon.

      • Ceolwulf

        Similar story with my CBR600F3 although I didn’t own it as long. Never once gave me even a hint of trouble.

    • pplassm

      My local off-brand dealer had a ’96 900R with over 95k on it. Never had the valve cover off.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Put 55,000 trouble-free miles on a ’94 CBR900RR.

    • JMcMahon

      A common problem is regulator rectifiers will go bad. Mechanically the bikes are bullet proof.

      • http://respectthetrade.tumblr.com/ KR Tong

        Heard that about F4i’s after 50k miles too, but thats the easiest thing in the world to replace.

  • Alex

    That 750RR is BADASS.

  • Nick Edards

    I’ve owned a ’97 ‘Blade since new and the only problem I’ve had is getting decent rubber for a 16″ front (and I’m reluctant to swap out the 16″ for a 17″). I’d heard of the legendary CBR750RR and now I’ve finally seen it! And was it ever worth the wait. A thing of beauty……

  • rohorn

    Please ask Honda to release some pictures of the twin turbo 250cc twin that came close to production.