Ride Review: Honda CBR1000RR SP

02/18/2014 @ 2:23 pm, by Iwan van der Valk 19 COMMENTS

The 2014 CBR1000RR Fireblade is once again an upgrade of the existing model: Honda’s flagship race-rep was first introduced back in 2008, and though it has received a couple of small updates here and there, it hasn’t been properly updated in a lengthy six years now.

It’s not all bad though, as Honda now presents the most complete and best Fireblade ever: the 2014 CBR1000RR SP. Both the SP and standard model receive a slightly altered riding position, three extra horsepower and two full pounds of weight loss.

The SP model is further enhanced – quite predictably – by mounting higher spec components such as brakes and suspension. The front receives high-class Öhlins NIX30 forks and Brembo monobloc brake calipers, while the well known TTX36 shock upgrades the rear suspension.

Honda mentiones that the engines are ‘blueprinted’ – the different components are specifically selected to work better together – but this is not shown in the output numbers.

We are being guided around the Losail circuit in Qatar by household names Ron and Leon Haslam, along with a street0racer from England by the name of John McGuinness, and in the first couple of sessions the Fireblades kick up dust and sand on the 1km long straight.

It is here that the only real weak spot of the CBR shows: the gearbox is unwilling to shift up smoothly, and every now and then it takes 2 attempts to flick it into the next cog. Coming down the gears is perfect however, with a good slipper clutch keeping the rear stable under hard braking.

Acceleration is exhilarating but never raw or unexpected. The 178 hp motor shines not only on the straight (where we saw an indicated 280 km/h), and it is also very manageable in the technical twisty sections. But to be honest, we couldn’t detect much of the engine improvements Honda made for 2014.

Seating position:

The new ergonomics do make a difference though: the body is positioned more forward, while the feet are moved backwards. This makes the bike feel like it has less ground clearance, and we found we were scraping our toesliders more quickly.

The Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP (and semi slick SC) tires provide more grip than the ones on our 2013 test model, so maybe this is part of the reason as well. The new Fireblade feels great though, and you get that trusty welcome feeling just as on any other Honda.

The wider bars provide lots of control going hard into the corners while helping with tucking away on the straights as well. It’s not easy to find enough room behind the newly designed small and low windscreen though. Honda claims a better gripping seat, but we experienced exactly the opposite.

The Fireblade has always been a tight and precise steering bike and the Öhlins suspenders add fantastic feedback to the package. Confidence is boosted because you feel exactly what the front tire is doing now.

The new throttle for 2014 is  beautifully setup, and the throttle response makes for a sublime connection between the grip and the rear tire. The rear seems to follow exactly what you input. Simply wonderful.

The front feels slightly nervous when chucking the bike from one side to the other and accelerating hard out of corners, but an electronic HESD steering damper keeps the peace in the chassis. Entering a corner is dead easy and light, even while trail-braking.

The accurate throttle response and perfect fueling makes for a effortless transitions mid-corner, and keeps the CBR1000RR SP stable when powering out. The Honda likes to understeer wide though, but this is not abnormal for these overpowered race-reps.

The acceleration is enormous but accessible throughout the rev-range, even without any form of traction control.

215,000 Fireblades have been sold since the original stormed the marketplace in 1992 and the newest model shows once again exactly why it is so popular: despite a monster 998cc 4-cylinder powerhouse, this superbike still stays predictable, useable and – according to some – maybe a bit bland.

The brilliant Brembos bite extremely hard and make for quite a sensation every time you near the end of the straights. The combined and electronically controlled ABS system doesn’t disturb the feel, nor the ability to modulate the braking power very precisely.

Add the Öhlins suspension – and the SC semi slicks – and you receive crystal clear feedback from the chassis, which makes it easier to find the limit (and maybe push it further).

The sexy aftermarket components definitely enhance the 2014 Honda CBR1000RR SP’s attraction, but the absence of TC and the notchy gearbox make it lose out to the fierce competition in these departments.

This is however the best Fireblade ever: this bike provides good value for money, even with a slightly elevated retail price of €17.999 for the base model CBR1000RR, and €3,500 on top for the CBR1000RR SP with exotic goodies. Pricing is still to be determined in the US, of course.

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