2014 Honda CBR1000RR SP - ROAD TEST REVIEW

AMA roadracing legend Miguel Duhamel helps us review Honda’s potent new homologation special. With full test results and two videos!

2014 Honda CBR1000RR SP track action shot

On-track action shot #1

2014 Honda CBR1000RR SPBarry Hathaway

Miguel Duhamel is a man of many words. Many, many words. Get the French-Canadian talking about any subject and you’d swear he’d been locked away in solitary confinement for the past six years, which is how long it’s been since he stepped away from racing full time. But Duhamel has always been like this, his great stories and entertaining turn of phrase making him one of the best guys in the paddock to interview.

He’s also a man of many records, including 86 AMA roadracing wins (combined in all classes) and five trips to the top step of the Daytona 200 podium, two of which were taken when he was basically unable to walk to his motorcycle due to injury.

So while he may be a laugh to shoot the breeze with, when the helmet is on, he’s deadly serious. And with his vast insight into Honda’s production-based Superbikes, he’s the perfect guy to invite to California’s Buttonwillow Raceway to help us test the 2014 CBR1000RR SP homologation special.

Although his long and varied career included Suzukis, Kawasakis, Harley-Davidsons (VR1000), and a season on a Yamaha Grand Prix 500cc two-stroke in 1992, #17 will always be known as a Honda man. He won on both of Honda's previous limited-production specials, the VFR750R RC30 and RVF750R RC45, before winning a pile of races on the mass-produced RC51 V-twin and CBR1000RR. Those latter two bikes may have been based on standard production models but up until 2004 were still full works HRC machines from Japan and anything but ordinary.

And while the new limited-production SP isn't an exotic like the RC30 or RC45, it's special in its own right, with a hand-balanced engine, top-level Öhlins suspension, and Brembo brakes. It's the basis for Honda superbikes (with Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam in WSBK) in a racing landscape repeatedly shelled by the economy.

To put icing on the cake, we borrowed Duhamel’s 2006 AMA Superbike from American Honda’s collection. Unfortunately, it was a non-runner, but this bike nonetheless provides contrast to the homologation-special SP and base-model 2014 CBR1000RR we had on hand at Buttonwillow and comes from a time when racing budgets were fat and the bikes incredibly trick.

After shaking out the cobwebs aboard the standard CBR1000RR and switching to the SP, Duhamel quickly got up to speed and looked like his old self. His first impression after riding the bikes back to back?

“What I noticed right away was the SP’s easier flickability when initiating a turn,” Duhamel said. “The standard bike is good, but it’s a lot more difficult to get through Buttonwillow’s esses at high speeds.”

Not surprisingly, Duhamel’s perceptions and sensitivity to bike setup border on the supernatural.

“The bump absorption is significantly better on the SP version,” Duhamel says. “You hit a bump and you feel it, but it doesn’t take the bike off line like it does on the standard model. On the SP, the tires’ contact patch is more stable, as well. The combination is the difference between having to hold the handlebars at 80 percent grip pressure or just at 35 percent.”

2014 Honda CBR1000RR SP dyno chart
2014 Honda CBR1000RR SP Dyno ChartCycle World

Which is significant because the two bikes share identical geometry: 23.3-degree rake/3.7-inch trail and 55.7-inch wheelbase. They also weigh about the same, at 422 pounds dry. This, of course, points to the Öhlins suspension, and in particular the TTX shock, which does a better job of keeping the rear end from squatting under power with its superior damping. Up front is a 43mm NIX30 fork, a wonderfully damped unit that provides better front-end feel. All this contributes to the SP’s improved steering manners and rock-solid feel when leaned over. The takeaway here: Although the standard CBR is exceptionally good and has done very well in past shootouts, the SP is a very clear step up.

Another chassis upgrade that got our attention are the Brembo monoblock front brake calipers (clamping standard CBR discs), which Duhamel felt were “very solid-feeling compared to the stock brakes and stopped the bike with more power and better control.”

The Brembos actually have a bit less initial bite (a good thing), but as you ramp up pressure on the lever the brakes react in a very linear fashion getting stronger and stronger without becoming grabby. Add in the excellent fork action and the SP is very clearly superior during trail-braking.

Engine changes were made to both versions of the CBR for 2014, including a revised cylinder head (reshaped intake/exhaust ports and valve seats), but the SP version is also blueprinted, utilizing handpicked pistons and connecting rods, resulting in improved balance and sweeter running.

Duhamel was impressed. “Even though there isn’t traction control, the SP puts the power down to the track very well,” he said. “A lot of time has gone into the engine, not just in terms of mapping, but making it so user-friendly coming out of corners.”

2014 Honda CBR1000RR SP static side view

Static right-side view.

2014 Honda CBR1000RR SPBarry Hathaway

Everything about the SP’s engine is just a bit more refined feeling. It’s smoother with less vibration apparent through the bars and footpegs. The power delivery feels almost electric. A nice bonus is a bump in output versus the standard bike’s 147.2 hp and 75.8 pound-feet of torque to the SP’s 152.2/78.4.

“The delivery was a bit more abrupt on the standard model,” Duhamel added. “And when combined with its standard rear suspension it makes the bike wheelie a bit more.”

After cresting Buttonwillow’s Phil Hill (a right-left chicane over a brow), the standard model had a tendency to squat under power and snap up a quick wheelie. The SP, with its Öhlins shock smoothing power delivery, allowed only a tiny wheelstand before blasting hard down onto the back straight.

“I think I can lap almost as fast on the standard model, but only for a few laps,” Duhamel said. “I can’t string a bunch of fast laps together like I can on the SP. On the SP, you really want to empty a tank of fuel riding around the racetrack. It makes you comfortable and pushes you to keep trying to find that limit.”

Later testing on the street (unfortunately without Duhamel) confirmed our track impressions. The advantages of the upgraded suspension were obvious, the SP delivering a compliant, controlled ride and unflappable handling. More surprising was how much smoother the engine felt than the standard bike’s.

Duhamel sums it up nicely: “It’s not a bike that they just stamped SP on and have given a different paint job. There are definitely significant differences between the two. I love that little extra wink and smile that you get with the SP.”

Although Honda won’t tell us how many SPs will be available for 2014, it should have no trouble selling them all because the $2,700 premium is a small price for such elevated performance. At $16,699, it undercuts every top-of-the-line Euro superbike on the market, yet it still has a level of refinement that the Japanese are masters at delivering. Extra wink and smile included.

2014 Honda CBR1000RR SP studio side view
2014 Honda CBR1000RR SPCourtesy of Honda
SPECIFICATIONS
GENERAL
LIST PRICE $16,699
IMPORTER American Honda Motor Co., Inc. 1919 Torrance Blvd. Torrance, CA 90501
CUSTOMER SERVICE PHONE (310) 783-2000
WARRANTY 1 year, unlimited mi.
ENGINE & DRIVETRAIN
ENGINE liquid-cooled, four-stroke, inline-four
BORE & STROKE 76.0 x 55.1mm
DISPLACEMENT 999.8cc
COMPRESSION RATIO 12.3:1
VALVE TRAIN dohc, 4 valves per cylinder, shim adjustment
VALVE-ADJUST INTERVALS 16,000 mi.
FUEL INJECTION PGM-FI, 46mm throttle bodies
OIL CAPACITY 3.2 qt.
ELECTRIC POWER 372w
BATTERY 12v, 6 Ah
CHASSIS
WEIGHT: TANK EMPTY 422 lb.
WEIGHT: TANK FULL 450 lb.
FUEL CAPACITY 4.6 gal.
WHEELBASE 55.7 in.
RAKE/TRAIL 23.3°/3.7 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 32.4 in.
GROUND CLEARANCE 5.2 in.
GVWR 771 lb.
LOAD CAPACITY (TANK FULL) 243 lb.
SUSPENSION & TIRES
FRONT SUSPENSION:
MANUFACTURER Öhlins
TUBE DIAMETER 43mm
CLAIMED WHEEL TRAVEL 4.3 in.
ADJUSTMENTS compression and rebound damping, spring preload
REAR SUSPENSION:
MANUFACTURER Öhlins
TYPE single shock
CLAIMED WHEEL TRAVEL 5.3 in.
ADJUSTMENTS compression and rebound damping, spring preload
FRONT TIRE Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP 120/70ZR-17
REAR TIRE Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP 190/50ZR-17
PERFORMANCE
1/4 MILE 9.83 sec. @ 143.75 mph
0-30 MPH 1.2 sec.
0-60 MPH 2.6 sec.
0-90 MPH 4.2 sec.
0-100 MPH 4.8 sec.
TOP GEAR TIME TO SPEED: 40-60 MPH 3.4 sec.
TOP GEAR TIME TO SPEED: 60-80 MPH 3.0 sec.
MEASURED TOP SPEED 175 mph
ENGINE SPEED @ 60 MPH 4272 rpm
FUEL MILEAGE
HIGH/LOW/AVERAGE 42/38/40 mpg
AVG. RANGE INC. RESERVE 184 mi.
BRAKING DISTANCE
FROM 30 MPH 29 ft.
FROM 60 MPH 121 ft.
SPEEDOMETER ERROR
30 MPH INDICATED 30 mph
60 MPH INDICATED 60 mph

EDITOR'S NOTES

DON CANET, Road Test Editor
While Special Edition models are commonplace among Euro manufacturers, the CBR1000RR SP is a rare treat from the Big Four. Sure, the SP lacks the cachet of classic homologation specials like the RC30 or Yamaha OW01, but then again, not many enthusiasts had access to those exclusive models. I savor the performance and emotion experienced aboard the SP. What's more, there's a real chance you can, too.

BLAKE CONNER, Senior Editor
Our "Superbikes with Soul" feature (June '13) fulfilled a dream of mine: I got to ride a Honda RC30 on a racetrack, as I had done on an RC45 years before. Aside from their beauty, history, and exclusivity, those bikes impressed with their still-stirring performance. Today, the CBR1000RR SP offers no-compromise performance and refinement, and does it all for a small $2,700 premium. And I didn't have to wait 25 years to ride one.

MARK HOYER, Editor-in-Chief
The rumor mill must have pneumatic valves because it was spinning mighty high with the imminent arrival of an ultra-exotic MotoGP-inspired Honda V-4 repli-racer. And we were sure it would debut at the Milan show last year. What we got was the CBR1000RR SP. Yes, it rides great and looks cool. But it doesn't feel special like the RC45 did. C'mon, Honda, we know you can do it. You've done it so well so many times before. Pneumatic valves, anyone?

More photos of the 2014 Honda CBR1000RR SP

2014 Honda CBR1000RR SP on track action

On-track action shot #2

2014 Honda CBR1000RR SPBarry Hathaway
2014 Honda CBR1000RR SP track action

On-track action shot #3

2014 Honda CBR1000RR SPBarry Hathaway
2014 Honda CBR1000RR SP wheelie action

On-track action shot #4

2014 Honda CBR1000RR SPBarry Hathaway
2014 Honda CBR1000RR SP on track action

On-track action shot #5

2014 Honda CBR1000RR SPBarry Hathaway
2014 Honda CBR1000RR SP front wheel details

Front wheel.

2014 Honda CBR1000RR SPBarry Hathaway
2014 Honda CBR1000RR SP cockpit view

Cockpit view.

2014 Honda CBR1000RR SPBarry Hathaway
2014 Honda CBR1000RR SP fuel tank details

Fuel tank.

2014 Honda CBR1000RR SPBarry Hathaway
2014 Honda CBR1000RR SP fairing details

Right-side section.

2014 Honda CBR1000RR SPBarry Hathaway
2014 Honda CBR1000RR SP tire warmer details

Tire warmers.

2014 Honda CBR1000RR SPBarry Hathaway
2014 Honda CBR1000RR SP ready for track time

Ready for track time.

2014 Honda CBR1000RR SPBarry Hathaway
miguel duhamel portrait

Eight-time AMA roadracing champ Miguel Duhamel.

Eight-time AMA roadracing champ Miguel DuhamelBarry Hathaway
miguel duhamel sitting on his racebike

Duhamel?s 2006 AMA Superbike.

Duhamel's 2006 AMA SuperbikeBarry Hathaway
2006 AMA Superbike static side view

2006 AMA Superbike static shot.

2006 AMA SuperbikeBarry Hathaway
Miguel Duhamel stands next to 2006 AMA Superbike

Miguel Duhamel and his 2006 AMA Superbike.

Miguel Duhamel and his 2006 AMA SuperbikeBarry Hathaway
honda cbr1000rr sp and 2006 ama superbike

Honda CBR1000RR SP and the 2006 AMA Superbike in the background.

Honda CBR1000RR SP and Miguel Duhamel's 2006 AMA SuperbikeBarrry Hathaway