Honda 2000 CBR929RR
First Ride Review!
Track Test - Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Can it be as good as Yamaha's class leading R1?
Y2K is shaping up to be the year of the big-bore sportbike. Yamaha is giving the incredible class leading R1 a makeover, Kawasaki is releasing the ZX12R rocket ship and Honda is releasing both the race bread RC51 V-twin and the all new CBR929RR which replaces the aging CBR900RR. If you live for corner carving horsepower, this is your year!
We were fortunate to join with other members of the US motorcycle press in being the first to sample the exciting new CBR929RR at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. We first glimpsed the 929 the night of our tech briefing, and learned no parts used on the 929 are carry-over from previous models except for a clutch plate and drive sprocket. The bike looks very good indeed, though it's tough for any manufacturer to best the incredible styling of Yamaha's R1 for sheer excitement. The 929 has a familiar Honda look, at least partially resembling the companies stellar F4.
The morning of our testing began with cold dark threatening skies, not the best conditions for producing warm tacky tires. Once on the track, however, it was readily apparent there would be no problems with traction provided by the stock Michelin Pilot Sport tires - designed specifically for the 929. The stock OEM rubber, one of the two brands offered, proved extremely capable as did the new CBR929.
The immediate feedback offered by the bike after only a few turns was light and precise steering, comfortable ergos and great roll-on power. After some slow laps to warm up the tires, and more importantly to learn the track, it was quite apparent how responsive the steering was and how easy the 929 was to ride. As the rest of this incredibly fun day on the track would prove, the new CBR is a very responsive bike that's not too particular about how you ride it. Furthermore, it's forgiving to a degree which usually isn't the case with an any open class sportbike. Simply put, it's a blast to ride.
New more aerodynamic fairing may offer the best yet in lighting. Three bulb system features brighter H7 55watt bulbs. Center beam illuminates for low beam, all three illuminate for high beam. Huge 330mm full-floating rotors are squeezed by four-piston calipers. Mounting these larger diameter brakes required a switch to a larger 17" wheel for tire mounting. The familiar windshield support bracket has been deleted leaving a much nicer cockpit. The speedometer is now a large easy-to-read LED display. There are two trip meters, a clock, and easy conversion from standard to metric readouts.
Honda was confident they could get all the power they needed out of the new CBR with 929cc's (up from the 900's 919cc's) so they didn't drastically bump the displacement as this would only, in their words, add weight and increase the engines physical size. A larger engine would mean altering the engines location in the chassis, something Honda didn't want to do. The result is an all new liquid-cooled, DOHC, fuel injected, inline-four engine which by Honda's numbers puts out a whopping 22% more horsepower and 17% more torque than it predecessor.
To make all this power as manageable as possible, Honda added a high-pressure fuel injection system fed through 40mm throttle bodies (PGM-FI), bolted on their Variable Intake/Exhaust Management System (HVIX) which utilizes a valve in the airbox to let in additional air flow depending on engine speed, and placed a three position, motor-driven titanium exhaust valve inside the exhaust system to help maximize the power delivery over the broadest RPM range.
With a claimed 150 hp at the crank and a lot of Honda engineering wizardry, the fuel injected RR is no slouch. You can easily roll on the power just about anywhere in the rev range and the bike will pull smoothly and with authority. For most, this will be the fastest way around a track, ride a gear up and there's less shifting required and your lines will undoubtedly be better chosen. If you wish to scream it, the motor will comply with a strong and controllable surge at 7,000 rpm where the exhaust valve rotates 180 degrees to the full open position.
If you choose to nail it when exiting a corner, the CBR will carry the front wheel under power to the triple digit mark, no problem. Up on the tracks banked straight, less than expert racers can easily pull over 140mph (indicated) before shutting off early to transition off the bank. What's most remarkable about the 929's power, however, is how manageable its delivery is. Experienced riders with varying skill levels won't be intimidated by the 929, though I can't say that about the velocity they'll soon achieve if they leave the throttle cracked open for long. The bike is just plain rideable in terms of its manageability, especially for a big bore sportbike.
Honda engineers were meticulous in creating a rigid chassis, keeping the overall weight as low as possible and reducing unsprung weight wherever possible. There were numerous weight saving measures taken in the engine, including a much lighter forged cam with increased lift and duration and a crankshaft weighing 2.6 pounds less.
Development focused on light weight, chassis
rigidity, and weight centralization. The 43mm inverted
cartridge fork is more rigid and offers a weight savings as well.
Pivotless frame means the
chassis is less affected by loads
from the swingarm during acceleration
Massive aluminum swingarm
is lightweight and said to be 28%
more rigid than that of the CBR900RR.
The chassis certainly didn't miss the engineers scrutiny. Inverted forks, only offered once before by Honda on the RC45, were used for their added rigidity and to slightly reduce weight. Thinner suspension springs were also utilized to save on overall weight.
Honda spent a good deal of time setting up our test bikes to work on the Las Vegas track. Setup was said to include Dumping a bit more weight on the front by reducing fork preload and increasing preload out back. This would provide a bit more bite from the front tire and enable slightly quicker steering - sounds good to us for track use.
To put it mildly, the new CBR929 was flawless on the track. The chassis was unflappable and the suspension soaked up everything offered by the admittedly smooth track. The harsh, suspension bottoming, transition from the banked back straight down to the entrance of the tricky small chicane was soaked up nicely by the 929. Here the 1999 CBR900, also setup for the track and along for evaluation, hit much harder and with less composure than the new bike. A few of the faster riders in the group spoke of some headshake and front wheel shutter under hard braking early on, but all seamed to be fixed with simple suspension adjustments.
Our initial impression of the CBR929RR is that it is an incredible motorcycle. It's faster than most of us deserve yet it's easy to ride. The suspension and brakes are exceptional on a race track, the comfort level is very good and worlds different than the not so friendly CBR900, and the price is unchanged from the 1999 CBR900RR at $9,999 US. This means that for the same price as the 1999 CBR900 you get fuel injection, inverted forks, titanium exhaust valve and headers, larger brakes, gobs more horsepower and less weight! Sounds to us like Y2K has brought great things to the motorcycle world.
Unfortunately we weren't able to sample street riding on the new 929. All indications are that the new CBR will be far better on the street than it's predecessor - we'd bet on it. Only a full street test will tell for sure, and we look forward to that with great enthusiasm.
Everyone of course wants to know how the new 929 stacks up against Yamaha's incredible R1. For now we can only say this. The CBR929 is far more rideable than the 1999 R1. The 2000 R1 has received numerous changes which reportedly make it more manageable than in the past. We still think it will boil down to this. The Yamaha R1 is a bit more exciting to ride with it's unmatched explosive power and totally effortless corner-to-corner wheelies. These traits however make is far less rideable on the street, even experienced racers have a tough time getting used to the R1. The Honda is in the same league and the fact it's easier to manage may prove the difference in track times or besting your riding buddies on your favorite back roads. What we know for sure is that this is one heck of an exciting year for motorcycling, and one in which the bike purchasing customer wins hands down.
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