Honda: 1998 CBR900RR
The reports were disturbing. The bike that had retained the open class sportbike crown for years was now being reported as a runner up, second fiddle, unimpressive at best. We had to find what was going on for ourselves.
For 1998 the CBR900RR received an extensive number of refinements and changes to keep it on top of it's game and ahead of the competition. (click here for complete details) We wanted to know what these changes meant for the sport rider who would purchase the bike for everyday use on the street - and this was the focus of our test.
The bike feels low and compact, just what you'd want in a serious sportbike. The first thing you'll notice after throwing a leg over the CBR is that you set down into the bike, not on top. And when you place your feet on the pegs, you can't help but notice the exceptionally wide fuel tank that bows your legs to an unnatural position.
Once on the street, you'll find the bike takes a bit of getting used to. Once you're accustomed, however, you'll find the bike is fun to ride just about anywhere you travel. Surprisingly, the bike is civil, quiet, and easy to ride around town. On the highway, you'll find the bike competent yet stiffly suspended. Once you reach you're favorite backroad however, the bike comes alive as you twist the throttle and pitch it into corner after corner. It's one hell of a competent sportbike, after all that's it's one purpose in life. The stiff suspension bounces you around a bit but the bike retains it's chosen line exceptionally well.
As much as we enjoyed the CBRs overall package, there was one area our tiger striped beauty let us down - the bikes powerband. On the track where revs will naturally be up, it may pose no problem. But for street riding Honda simply missed the mark, possibly choosing engine output more suitable for track use. At lower revs the engine pulls smoothly, but right where you need that lower midrange surge of power, for rolling on exiting corners for instance, the powerband lets you down as you hit a flat spot in the power curve. The CBRs engine simply doesn't provide the linear power delivery so many Hondas are well known for.
To experience the awkward powerband all you need do is accelerate through first gear. The bike will launch well then the power will flatten out. Once the RPM rises a bit further, a second surge of power will kick in lofting the front wheel to the sky, all the way to the 11,000 redline. The problem is that the flat spot is right where you'll need smooth and abundant roll-on power the most.
Comfort wise, the 900 is pretty good. The controls are typical Honda which is to say they're excellent. You kind of get used to the wide tank - which actually helps keep you in place under extreme braking, which the CBR is capable in spades. The bars are comfortable except that their positioning requires that you place a great deal of your weight on them. This will wear your arms and shoulders during longer rides.
The seat is much more comfortable than it looks and will actually keep you in comfort for a reasonable length of time - up to a couple of hours or more. The fairing is small and aerodynamic, improved for 1998, yet it does a great job of deflecting the main blast around the rider. Instruments include electronic tachometer and speedometer, LCD readouts for temperature, odometer, and two separate tripmeters. The gauges while very functional are a little hard to read, especially at night.
The RR is unmistakably a hard-core sportbike for the serious rider. It's capable of tremendous speeds in a straight line as well as around corners. In experienced hands it will loft the front wheel through third gear, hold an incredible line through corners, and easily stop on a dime with it's extremely powerful brakes. In short, it will provide unlimited excitement.
The 1998 Honda CBR900RR is a great sportbike to be sure. But competition in the open class sportbike class has heated up substantially this year, with new entries from Kawasaki and most notably Yamaha. The Honda's power delivery and overall output is now under extreme scrutiny because of this new competition. This leaves Honda with some engine tuning to do if they want to stay in sight of their competition.
The question comes down to whether or not you should buy this bike. Our answer: if the bikes styling and performance heritage make your pulse run, as it does ours, go for it!
|Honda: 1998 CBR900RR|
|Drive: #525 O-ring chain||Brakes||9|
|Fuel Capacity: 4.8 Gal. (.9 Gal. reserve)||Carburetion||
|Fuel Mileage:||Comfort (overall)||7|
|Fuel Range:||Comfort (touring)||4|
Front: 45mm cartridge fork
Back: Pro-Link single shock
|Tire Front: 130/70 ZR16 (US - Bridgestone radial)||Stability (handling)||9|
|Tire Back: 180/55ZR17 (US - Bridgestone radial)||Suspension (overall)||8|
|Weight: 396.8 lbs. Dry||
|Retail (US): $9,999||
|Excellent excelleration||Confused street powerband|
|Great 1-finger front brake||Very wide fuel tank|
|Seat more comfortable than looks||Gauges a little hard to read|
|Two trip meters||A bit buzzy through tank, pegs, seat|
|Excellent headlight||Hard to use bikes potential|
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