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.
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?
Thanks for the tip, Asaph.