What is the distance between a Honda CBR1000RR-R SP and a BSB racing motorcycle?

MOTORCYCLE makers keep saying how close their latest and greatest 1000cc sports bikes are to their racing siblings. And with Honda coining the moniker RR (Race Replica), you have to assume that the bikes of the Japanese giants are closer than most.

But rather than take the assurance of a few decals on a fairing, Honda gave Visordown the chance to experience it for ourselves, inviting us to an event at Oulton Park to ride three new generations of Fireblades.

First, we had acclimatization sessions on a road CBR1000RR-R SP, followed by a few sessions aboard Tom Neaves’ National Superstock bike, followed by a single session at the end of the day on the Glenn Irwin’s Full of Fat BSB. Superbike.

Before getting to the heart of the matter, a quick warning: you’ll notice I’m not the one rolling for this one. I love the trail and would normally jump at the chance to do bucket list bikes like this. But to really get the most out of this feature, we needed to find a driver who could truly exploit the limitations of all three machines. To put it bluntly – this rider is not me!

Introducing two-time TT winner Gary Johnson

I’ve known Gary for a while now, I get along well with him and really his driving credentials speak for themselves. He’s done the world’s toughest road race at over 130 mph, won two Isle of Man TTs, countless road races and even trailed past the BSB. If you wanted someone to operate a road or racing bike, CVs don’t really improve!

Tour 1 – Honda CBR1000RR-R SP Road Bike

Fast facts





214 hp


After completing the health and safety briefings, Gary got dressed and set off for his first sessions on the latest generation Honda Fireblades. Having spent much of his early career on Honda motorcycles, this was the first time Gary had the opportunity to try out the new generation of ‘Blades’. Interestingly, this was also his first taste of the electronically adjustable semi-active suspension, so I couldn’t wait to hear his thoughts.

“This is one of the best 1000cc chassis I have ever driven. In terms of stability, entering the bends and tire side, it’s like getting on a GP motorcycle, ”he beamed after returning from the first session. “It’s very flat on the tank and the ergonomics are quite small, you have the impression of sitting on it a lot rather than in it, but once you put it in a corner, all its problems are resolved!

“However, the motor and gear combo, with the Euro5 there, the big gears only emphasize that peak power. It’s such a long road gear, you wouldn’t do it for a long time on the track like that. But that said, I want to go out the next session and drag my elbow out, and I’m a fat old road racer, not some aspiring teenage GP!

Round 2 – Honda CBR1000RR-R SP National Superstock bike

Fast facts





227 hp

89 lb-ft

Just when you start the Superstock bike in the pit after riding the road bike, the difference is immediate. The character of the engine is completely transformed, with the muted ticking of the ‘Road Blade now replaced by gritty and slightly belligerent demeanor. Even at idle, Tom Neave’s racing bike looks pissed off that it wasn’t ridden!

After a brief chat with Honda Racing engineers before setting off, the bikes headed for the pit lane, Glenn Irwin leading, followed by Gary and Tom behind him. The first time the bikes pass the pit wall is an incredibly impressive thing. The three bikes were less than a second apart, and for all intents and purposes it could well have been a qualifying session.

After 20 minutes Gary returned to the pits so I could get his first impressions.

“First of all, all those dips in the rev range are gone,” Superstock rules allow the use of an exhaust, a filter and a Power Commander, which will partly explain this. “Other than that, the gearing is shorter, so you don’t go out of the power range that much. From that side, it was easier to drive.

After hearing his comments on the riding position of the road bike, I couldn’t wait to hear how he found the racing bike. Considering that Tom Neave is a bit younger, shorter, and (a bit) thinner than Gary, his response was interesting. “The footrests have been shifted back and also down a bit, and the clips are now mounted further forward. Right away, I just wanted to throw it in a corner and slide my elbow across the deck, and it was now more comfortable to ride.

One point Gary brought up was the setup Tom uses on the Superstock machine. He commented after the first session that the front was so steep with little to no nose down on the brakes. This could be how Tom likes the bike to be set up, although it wasn’t just Gary who noticed it. Later that day Glenn Irwin tried out Tom’s bike as well, he also commented that a slightly more forgiving front end could help him find a faster lap time.

In terms of lap times, there’s actually not much to choose from between the road bike and the Superstock machine. With road tires in use and only minimal engine modifications, the power output of the racing bike is not far from that of the racing machine. From the discussion to Gary between sessions, the biggest change seems to be in the shorter gear, allowing the engine to draw power more easily than the road bike. All in all, that’s about 2 seconds per ride on the Oulton Park roller coaster.

Tour 3 – Honda CBR1000RR-R SP British Superbike

Fast facts





241 hp

96 lb-ft

To complete our day of testing some of the UK’s best racing bikes, only one session was driven on Glenn Irwin’s 2021 British Superbike. The advance over Tom’s Superstock bike is vast, with the rules of Superbike allowing for many changes in comparison. The Superbike is 180kg lighter in wet conditions, more powerful at 241bhp, and has some of the most delicate suspension and braking combos on this side of a MotoGP machine.

With his eye firmly on the track, Gary wasted no time in picking up speed, passing the pit wall on his first flying lap. Considering the last time the guy rode a Superbike machine was in Macau a while back, it didn’t really seem to show.

Upon arriving, the first thing that is clear is how physical the Superbike is compared to other bikes tested. With drops of sweat on his forehead, Gary debriefs on the Superbikes session. “The throttle is so well adjusted. It took me a few laps to get used to it, but even then I could have picked up the power much sooner. You can open the throttle, and it’s so smooth. And the engine brake is really cool. The chassis is a bit soft for me, but even so it didn’t crouch under the power. If I had just one more session on this, I would be able to come out and really push.

“The driving position for me was even better [than the Superstock bike]. Glenn is about my height so the ankle to sit at the bar position was about where I would like it. I felt good, I just wanted another session!

Honda Racing BSB Experience | Gary Johnson compares Honda CBR1000RR-R SP vs SBK vs STK

Coming back to our original question – how close the experience of riding a road bike is to a full fat BSB racing machine, and I couldn’t wait to hear from Gary. It turns out that if you look at the motorcycle in two parts, engine and chassis, one is much closer to the machine that runs on a Sunday than you might think. Although it has been massively modified for racing, thanks to significant weight reduction and stiffening, the road bike’s chassis is almost identical to that of its track-focused cousin.

That might not always have been the case for this model, as the latest generation of Fireblade is much more focused than anything that came before it. “In terms of the chassis, there is really nothing in it. On the circuit, the road bike behaves just as well in bends as the rider. The engine and suspension are the biggest areas that differ. Gary then commented on the electronics, saying that even on this front there was little choice between the two machines. “The accelerator is great on the road bike, I can’t fault it. It’s just that Euro5 thing in the ECU that causes power to drop as you rev ​​up. But even then, changing the way of driving from road to sport even helped that. “

So to answer the question, yes, the sports bikes you can buy are pretty close to the ones competing in the most competitive national championship on the planet. In terms of lap time – an average of five seconds over the day – and also in terms of feel. But it probably hasn’t always been that way. As customers seek out the latest, highest performing, and most extreme machines for general on-road driving, the gap between the two machines in terms of pure performance is narrowing, albeit in other ways, the ergonomics. , comfort and handling, the sports bikes we can but have gone in the opposite direction.

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About Todd Wurtsbach

Todd Wurtsbach

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