RideApart Review: 2013 Honda CBR1000RR C-ABS

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2013-Honda-CBR1000RR-Top

The 2013 Honda CBR1000RR is mechanically identical to the 2012 model, itself a facelift of the version first released in 2008. Unlike most of its superbike competition, it’s not equipped with any electronic rider aids, with the notable exception of optional Combined ABS, and is behind all other liter bikes on horsepower. Can it still compete?

Photos: Adam Waheed

What’s New
Well, not much. For 2013, the CBR1000RR is available in a new red/white/blue Tricolor or the Orange/Blue/Red Repsol-replica. Plain black and red remain unchanged.

The 2012 facelift sounds minor — new fairings, new suspension, new wheels, revised fueling and brakes — but actually ends up being totally transformative. That suspension is now Showa’s top-drawer stuff; you’ve seen BPF forks on other bikes, but this is the first-ever use of the company’s twin-tube rear shock. Very similar to the Ohlins TTX36 (as fitted to bikes like the $22,995 Ducati 1199 Panigale S), it eliminates the possibility for damping-destroying cavitation, aiding traction as you put the power down out of corners and eclipsing all Japanese rivals on quality.

New clocks are easy-to-read and comprehensive.

Fueling was altered to make the transition from off to on throttle less abrupt. Wheels are new 12-spoke items said to be more “consistently rigid.” Pad changes should make the brakes more progressive while feedback from HRC’s endurance racing has lessened the amount of front brake applied by the rear pedal on the C-ABS model. That change was made after racers asked for the ability to use that rear brake to control power delivery on corner exits.

The rest is fairly standard Japanese liter bike formula. At 175bhp, CBR’s inline-four is less powerful than all other liter bikes, but is actually ahead of the 180bhp Yamaha R1 on power-to-weight; the Honda weighs just 439lbs (wet) to the Yamaha’s 454lbs figure.

The Ride
So much talk around superbikes centers on numbers, yet the reality of riding them couldn’t be less about that. On the road, peak horsepower is far less important than a fat mid-range. On the track, peak horsepower is far less important than suspension and tires. And it’s away from the spec sheet pissing contests where the CBR1000RR excels.

Initially, that new suspension feels like it’s going to be too soft. But with higher quality damping than anything this side of the fanciest Ohlins equipment, the Honda is free to be compliant while also exhibiting exceptional control. The suspension easily absorbs bumps, yet holds a line like something sprung much more stiffly.

Those revised brakes — this is the C-ABS model — are also noteworthy. Power and feel are both huge, with no discernable interruption to either aspect caused by the anti-lock system. We’ve ridden the standard model back to back with C-ABS and the only difference is an incrementally softer lever on the anti-lock equipped bike. Modern ABS is a major boon to even the most highly-skilled rider, allowing the full use of the bike’s massive maximum braking ability in complete safety, every time, in every condition. ABS does not remove any ability to trail the brakes hard on corner entry and the combined braking system, which sees the rear pedal operate a small amount of front brake, is not detectable in use.

The result of all that suspension and brake stuff is truly excellent communication between rider and bike. At all times you’re totally aware of what each component is doing. Communication means confidence means better informed, faster, safer riding everywhere.

Another benefit of the new shock is easily-accesible adjusters.

The new rear shock is a stand out component, working more effectively than many TC systems at seeking out grip while on the throttle, exiting a corner. We prefer rider assistance electronics on most new bikes, but on the Honda it feels as if no help is necessary, power slides are rare and, when they do occur, are immediately communicated to the rider and easily controlled as a result.

What’s Good
The CBR1000RR excels at fast, sweeping corners where its stability, full mid-range, powerful top-end and shear confidence make it flow down the road with real conviction. On the road, that compliant, controlled suspension is revelatory over all but the roughest surfaces. On the track, you can trail later and power on earlier than on bikes fitted with cheaper components.

C-ABS combined with radial four-piston calipers and 320mm discs are some of the most powerful, user-friendly, safest brakes out there. Rain or shine, road or track, they’ll stop you over and over and over.

Ergonomics are a good halfway house between outright performance and road practicality. Your ass is still up, your wrists still low and the pegs still high, but an all-day ride won’t land you in a chiropractor’s office.

The motor never wants for power, whether your flowing through the mid-range or bouncing off the rev-limiter. In the real world, user friendliness is better than just a big number.

Subtly handsome looks combine well with solid colors to create a bike that immediately evokes performance without erring into adolescence.

What’s Bad
Despite revisions designed to fix the problem, on/off throttle movements are still abrupt and can upset the bike. Aftermarket fueling control can fix this, but shouldn’t be necessary on a new bike in 2013.

While the CBR transitions between corners rapidly at higher speeds, 1st and 2nd gear corners and very tight transitions at low speed can feel slightly ponderous.

The Price
This is where the Honda really comes into its own. Starting at $13,800 for non-ABS and $14,800 for C-ABS, it’s $490 cheaper than the R1, $499 cheaper than the Kawasaki ZX-10R and on par with the GSX-R1000, but has much nicer suspension than all of those bikes. It’s our favorite non-european superbike, the cheapest of which is the BMW S1000RR, which starts at $15,050.

On track at Infineon on an identical bike.

The Verdict
Applying labels like “user friendly,” “comfortable” and “confidence inspiring,” might sound insulting to a superbike, but in reality, those traits are exactly what makes a motorcycle fast. It’s the only Japanese superbike that currently comes with suspension of sufficient quality to facilitate truly fast riding on street or track while also besting its Japanese rivals on practicality. That, combined with Honda build quality, reliability and the huge dealer network makes the CBR1000RR the no-brainer decision if you’re shopping for a superbike made by the big four. Spending up to an Aprilia, BMW or Ducati nets you a fancier badge and advanced electronic rider aids, but only equivalent quality suspension and similar outright performance.

RideApart Rating: 8/10

Helmet: Icon Airmada Rubatone ($190)
Suit: Custom Icon Overlord One-Piece (N/A)
Knee Pucks: Asphalt&Gas Leather Sliders ($50)
Gloves: Icon Overlord Long ($150)
Boots: Alpinestars Supertech-R ($450)
Tailpack: Kriega US-10 ($100)

  • Guest

    Shouldnt compare the price of the CBR to most of the above bikes when it’s down on about 25HP to the ZX10 and S1000RR and has no cool electronics. I’d rather pay the extra $500 and get the power plan. Maybe Honda will step up their game in 2014. I’d love to go back to Red.

    • http://www.facebook.com/nycfastest Skank-Chris Nycfastest

      Shouldnt compare the price of the CBR to most of the above bikes when it’s down
      on about 25HP to the ZX10 and S1000RR and has no cool electronics. I’d rather
      pay the extra $500 and get the power plan. Maybe Honda will step up their game
      in 2014. I’d love to go back to Red.

      • http://twitter.com/TheVeeTwin Damo Von Maciel

        Or maybe should pay attention to that fact that despite being down 25HP and having no electronics it put in the better laps times than most of the other liter bikes in all the shoot outs?

        http://www.cycleworld.com/2012/08/03/2012-superbike-shootout-by-the-numbers/

        I’ll just leave that there.

        • http://twitter.com/Ricardo_Gozinya Ricardo Gozinya

          Impressive, seeing that they also put it up against the exotics, where it outperformed the F4. Though that page with the exotics made me wonder what Eric Buell and his team could do with a real budget.

        • http://www.facebook.com/mitchel.durnell Mitchel Durnell

          But… but numbers! NUMBERS!

        • http://www.facebook.com/nycfastest Skank-Chris Nycfastest

          Most? Lol. It just beat out the MV. I didn’t see a S1RR or ZX in that test? Where I come from and the riding(street)we do, if you’re riding any else but a ZX10R or S1000RR you will be left behind. Then again most people that ride where I do can’t push their CBR’s or any bike to the limit so it really doesn’t matter if they’re on a ZX or S1RR, they’re still getting left behind. If I was racing I’d get the bike that pays out the most $ ’cause people that race win with skill and bike/setup not the bike that some mag says is good. No one races a stock bike. Only place you’ll see a close to stock bike is at a track day ridden by some new jack beginner.

          • http://twitter.com/Ricardo_Gozinya Ricardo Gozinya

            There’s a second page to that article, where the Honda’s up against its Japanese peers and the BMW. The Honda came in 2nd in that group, the S1RR 1st, and the ZX was second to last.

          • http://twitter.com/TheVeeTwin Damo Von Maciel

            Skank-Chris Nycfastest

            Not even sure what your last two sentences mean. As Richard posted, the reason you only see the Honda up against the exotics is because it already beat out the ZX on a previous test and just about equaled the S1000RR lap time.

            “Where I come from and the riding(street)we do, if you’re riding any else but a ZX10R or S1000RR you will be left behind.”

            Unless you guys are straight line highway racing, I doubt this is true. You hit some serious tight and twisty roads and and that 450lbs 190hp bike isn’t going to be getting away from most middle weights and Supermotos.

            • http://www.facebook.com/nycfastest Skank-Chris Nycfastest

              Not all bikes, tracks and roads are equal. CBR might do great on track A and ZX on track B. The CBR is a great bike, I’ve owned every generation CBR from the 900RR to the 08 RR. What I’m saying is: for the few extra dollars you can get a
              monster of a bike with electroics. It’s a no brainer. I like to have the best of all worlds and IMO the CBR isnt a total package. Yes the roads we ride have a good amount of straights and a good amount of 140-189mph+ sweepers. To run on them roads you need more then the CBR can o My CBR no matter how hard I tried could hang with the S1RR. On my ZX10 its a different story. Now if I was racing or riding tight twisties all day I’d get the best bike for them roads. Remember what I said “the riding we do”. If I had canyons or tight roads around here I’d probably have a 600. Not putting down the CBR but it be nice if it had 175+HP and some electronics for $499 more I’d buy it. Just saying. Also, I’m pretty sure the ZX tested was a restricted US modle. Maybe “maybe” if they used a unrestricted ZX the extra HP might of made up for what it lost in the Hondas handling department? Hondas have always been known for their great handling and nice mid range. Always a great bike no matter what but it be nicer with the extra goodies. No one agrees?

              • http://twitter.com/TheVeeTwin Damo Von Maciel

                Alright I get what you are saying now. You upstate or western NY? I have ridden out there once or twice and there are some SERIOUS long stretches of nothing. 140 mph rides wore out on me. I like hitting curves and tight scenery packed roads these days.

                Massachusetts all we have is tight roads and potholes. The only place you can break 140 is on the interstate around here and that is just boring.

          • enzomedici

            Yeah that’s why the CBR1000RR has more TT wins than those bikes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/peter.mcleod.758 Peter McLeod

    Honda’s super bikes are terribly underrated. Nice to see a glowing honest review for what is truly a fantastic machine, without any undue criticism for the lack of electronic rider aids that really only value add at 10/10ths, in the rain, on the track. No exaggeration about the suspension either – my tuner warned my off mega buck suspension years ago on the ‘the right setting is the right setting regardless of cost’ mentality – it’s nice to watch the Japs shift to BPFs and dual chamber shocks, technology that’s been available for, like, forever.

  • Dennis Hightower

    Who’s behind the “RideApart Staff” byline?…

    Nice review, for sure…

    • http://www.facebook.com/electricbike Troy Rank

      I’d much rather have a list of names than a generic byline. Don’t lose the small-blog feel, it’s what I come here for.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      I wrote this one. In general just trying to see reviews take a more authoritative, objective voice. Don’t worry, there’ll still be plenty of character too.

  • Daniel Dominguez

    RideApart Reviews , i like it and cant wait for more. I also love the icon airmada best $190 iv ever spent

  • http://twitter.com/TylerMrK Tyler H

    Adam Waheed? He’s getting involved in HFL/RideApart? =)

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Adam’s a good buddy of mine, he was just helping out with pictures that day. I did the same for him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jordan.jones.56481 Jordan Jones

    Is it possible the fueling glitch could come from an easy short cut to get the Honda to pass emissions standards here in the US? I’m kind of amazed how European and American bikes can be totes opposite just by some alteration to the fueling.

    I like the direction Honda takes with their bikes. They set them up as best as they can for the price point and make as few compromises as possible to make a really well sorted machine out of the crate. Meanwhile, a company like Yamaha seems to offer a lot of pointless gizmos on their newer generations machines that aren’t sorted out properly from the factory just to be on par with the Honda and then it takes some serious cash to get those gizmos in a state of tune to be useful. I wish they would take a look at what made the original R1 so popular and take notes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jordan.jones.56481 Jordan Jones

    Nailed it! When Casey Stoner did a tv ad for Honda on a Repsol replica and he was going wild with sliding the rear, Bike Magazine wanted to know how he can do that so confidently without T/C. He told them when you have good power delivery and a sorted chassis, it all just falls into place nicely.

  • yipY

    The lumpy crank R1 would be a far superior bike on typically bad blacktop.The BMW S1000RR would be far better as a serious sport bike as well.The Honda would be a good commuter bike for someone who wants to show the world that they think they are fast when they look in the bathroom mirror.

  • Bhavana Sharma

    Honda Cbr 1000 Rr is a super-sport class bike, Famous for providing performance, without compromising on control. It made the sports machine easier to use and maintain its thrilling ride. These type of super-bikes are at the top of liking by teenager. http://www.bikedekho.com/honda/honda-cbr-1000rr.html

  • Bryan Sherman

    Thank you for taking street performance & comfort into consideration as most bikes will never see the track. Great review! Would love to see an objective shootout in 2014 between all 1000cc or 600cc bikes.