Test Ride: Honda CBR929RR

Words: Rob Harris/Larry Tate

INTRODUCTION – By Editor ‘arris

Photo credit: John Florey/Honda Canada

The new Fireblade got the sport bike fanatics much lusted makeover with a complete redesign from top to bottom. With the addition of PGM fuel injection, claimed output is a class leading 160bhp/litre, 10 up from what Yamaha claim for the R1. Actual power at the crank is a (claimed) 150bhp at 10,000 rpm. Other performance tricks include a variable intake system as well as a exhaust valve, which connects different headers together at different rpm’s to give different exhaust pulsing and thus improved low end power.

The frame is an all new twin spar extruded aluminum type, with a ‘pivotless swingarm design’, which uses a cast aluminum bracket attached to the swing arm. Front suspension has been upgraded also to 43mm inverted forks. Dry weight is now down below the R1 and Kawasaki’s ZX9R at a very light 374.8lbs dry.


Larry Tate

Photo credit: John Florey/Honda Canada

We rode a lot of new and newish Hondas in our recent trip to Savannah for Honda Canada’s press launch, but I must say that for me the CBR929RR was the revelation of the trip, even more of a treat than the awesome new RC51.

For obvious reasons, even though the 929 is really, honestly, and truly an all-new motorcycle, Honda has made a real effort to keep a family identity with the 900. While that’s hardly a bad thing – the CBR900RR has been one of, if not the, most popular big-bore sport bikes of all time – the 929 is so different in every way that it almost seems a shame for it not to have a more singular identity of its own.

By “different”, you might as well read “better.” The 929 is so much better than the old 900 in every possible way that it’s absolutely shocking – how do they keep DOING that? The brakes are stronger and more responsive, the chassis is markedly more stable and less twitchy while still responding like a bike half its size, and the engine is absolutely astounding.

Not only is there a claimed 150 hp (that’d be factory horsepower at the crank on a good day in Tokyo, no doubt, but still, it doesn’t feel like the number is that far off) on tap, but compared to the 900 there are absolute rivers, torrents, and floods of mid-range power. On Roebling Road race track’s sinuous curves, I found it easiest to ride most of the track in fourth, letting the engine roll down below 5,000 in some places and still firing out of corners with enough authority to spin the tire (a nice soft Dunlop 207, I might add) when I got too enthusiastic with the throttle.

The major criticism levelled at the 900 over the years was its notorious slight front-end twitchiness, which most riders put down to its 16-inch front wheel. The 929 has gone to 17s at both ends (not to mention the entirely new “pivotless” frame and associated suspension system) and believe me, the only front-end instability that I noticed was when the power tried to yank the wheel off the ground.

Photo credit: John Florey/Honda Canada

The corner coming onto the straight at Roebling is a top of third/middle of fourth-gear right that’s almost blind, bends uphill, and has a nasty little bump just before you start to straighten up for the exit. The old 900 could be positively terrifying there if you got it a little wrong, whereas the new 929 (while you can still feel a twitch kicked into the chassis) simply shrugs it off and keeps on going. Higher praise I cannot add.

On the street, it’s a radical sportbike; what would you expect?. The mirrors are basically useless, but given the fairly racy riding position it’s not bad at all. Not as nice as an F4, VFR, or CBR1100XX, mind you, but livable.

The big question is bound to be, “Will it eat an R1 for breakfast?” Without riding them back to back there’s no honest way to say, obviously, but I’m willing to bet that they’d be so close that on any given day the rider would make more difference than the bike. And I also think the CBR would be a slightly better bet as a day-to-day user, since the seating position is a little less radical, and that the R1 would feel nastier and more brutish when going really hard. Which of those options translates into your dream bike? Obviously your call.


Editor ‘arris

Photo credit: John Florey/Honda Canada

Okay, I admit it, the old CBR900RR scared me. I never quite felt in control. Power would kick in hard when I least expected, the front end felt twitchy at all the wrong times and we just never … well, connected. I was always a CBR600 fan, which always made me feel at home but also never quite felt that it was really related to it’s 900 bigger bro. In fact the only logical conclusion that I can come to is that the 900 must have been adopted.

Things have changed this year however. The new 929 Blade is related to the 900 in name only. A complete redesign sees nothing interchangeable between the two, with the new 929 getting engine mounted swing arm, fuel injection and trick flappy bits in the pipe and airbox.

To ride it is to point and shoot without fear, and what better way to test it’s fear factor than at a race track.

Photo credit: John Florey/Honda Canada

The acceleration seems much smoother. Still incredibly rapid, but without the unexpected (and unnerving) power curve bumps of the 900. The broader spread of power means that you can comfortably change gear before redline without falling short of the powerband in the next gear, making it an altogether easier ride for the less skilled amoung us. The chassis feels all the more friendlier as well, requiring the rider to just look at the desired line in order to be on it, past it and into the next corner. Not a twitch to be found, with even the front end keeping disciplined at full throttle coming out of the right sweeper and onto the straight. The new blade’s chassis, combined with longer swing arm and a 17″ front wheel (as opposed to the old 16″) seems to have brought the handling into check.

The rider position seemed surprisingly friendly as well. One complaint I have with many sport bikes is the radical positioning which puts far too much weights on your wrists. Although my time with the 929 was limited, I’d hazard a guess that a longer distance ride wouldn’t leave you searching for the nearest chiropractor.

Brakes are excellent, with the four piston calipers up front shedding speed at the end of the straight well within estimated required distance for a sharp right hander that is corner one. In fact so much so that I often found myself letting off because I was slowing down too much – sorry, I guess I’m just not cut out to be a racer after all.

It’s as if the 929 was separated from it’s younger 600 brother at birth and has finally returned to banish the unpredictable 900 Blade and bring completeness to the CBR family. In my books that’s a good thing and I think 929 and myself could turn out to friends after all.

BikeHonda CBR929RR Fireblade
MSL$14,299
Displacement929 cc
Engine typeLiquid-cooled DOHC four-stroke inline four
CarburetionPGM Fuel Injection
Final driveSix-speed, chain final drive
Tires, front120/70 ZR17
Tires, rear190/50 ZR17
Brakes, fronttwin 330 mm disc with four-piston caliper
Brakes, rearsingle 220 mm disc with single piston caliper
Seat height815 mm (32.1″)
Wheelbase1,400 mm (54.9″)
Dry weight170 kg (374.8 lbs) (claimed)
Canadian coloursBlue/red/white, black/grey, blue/yellow/white

CREDITS DUE ….

More of Master Tate’s comments on the CBR929RR and on the rest of Honda’s 2000 line-up will soon be available in Inside Motorcycles. If you want to know more about Inside Motorcycles or would like to get a subscription you can contact them at 416-962-7223 or email to greggo@inforamp.net.

Editor ‘arris doesn’t do much at all but what he does he does here … unless it’s somewhere else and then it’s by kind permission of himself to whoever, whenever applicable …. which is rare but happens. You can’t buy a subscription or contact him. You can give him money though.

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