Team Red’s 2020 lineup is seeing some big changes and we are digging it.
Honda’s motorcycle branch is not likely to grand gestures or brassy announcements. Instead, it sounds mostly content to gently engineer and create capable, well-engineered bikes for folks of all ability levels.Because of this, it could be a surprise for a few of you that Honda’s updating a couple of its most popular bikes — specifically the Rebel and the CBR1000RR, aka the Fireblade — for the 2020 model year, a move which it announced on Monday.Rebel 300/500Being small in stature and making modest power doesn’t mean the Rebel goes short on style.
The Rebel line has been one of the most popular and long-serving nameplates in Honda’s history and while it was relegated to the status of “thing you rode during your MSF course” for decades, the new Rebel 300 along with 500 that Honda introduced back in 2017 have gone a long way toward breaking it out of that mold.The little Rebels are still well-built and un-intimidating motorcycles, but to 2020 they get some simple but highly-effective technical updates that should make them more attractive than ever to new riders.To start, both its 300 and 500 get a new slipper clutch. This design reduces the force needed at the clutch lever by around 30% and helps to tame the rear wheel under deceleration, that builds confidence. Next, it gets a much-needed stiffer suspension, both front and rear, with the front, in particular, benefiting from a change in fork oil specification, improving the damping.Also new for 2020 is a revised gauge that offers riders more information including a gear indicator and fuel level — both things that new riders coming from cars can take for granted but which didn’t use to be so prevalent in the two-wheeled world.Honda didn’t mention a price bump for the Rebels in its press release, but we’d expect there to be a modest increase over the $4,499 and $6,199 for the 2019 Rebel 300 and 500, respectively.CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SPWe’re not entirely sure what kind of drugs the Honda powersports design team is on, but they’re clearly working. This thing is a beast.
If there’s one thing that we as automotive journalists know to be a universal truth, it’s that adding R to a vehicle’s model name makes it faster. Honda — in a decidedly atypical “Hold my beer, watch this” move — decided to take that ideology to heart. The brand’s top-tier sports bike now has no less than four Rs in its name (not even counting the one in Fireblade), but what does that final R portend?Well, a whole hell of a lot of performance tweaks, as it turns out. Honda’s new RR-R borrows heavily from the brand’s MotoGP program to eke more efficiency out of the tried and true inline-four Japanese sportbike formula.To start, the bike gets a brand-new frame. The design promises increased torsional rigidity and vertical rigidity, but reduced horizontal stiffness. If you’re not familiar with motorcycles, especially ones at this end of the performance spectrum, having the bike able to move around allows the tires to work a little less hard, improving both grip and feel.The bike also benefits from a new, longer aluminum swing arm that Honda says is made from 18 different thicknesses of aluminum for optimized weight and rigidity characteristics. Gnarly, right? Just wait, it gets better. The Fireblade’s engine is new and more compact than the old unit. It also has trick racing bits like titanium connecting rods and forged aluminum pistons, which help it rev to the moon.The RR-R’s full-color TFT dash includes a lean angle display from the bike’s built-in inertial measurement unit (IMU) and all the other info you can dream of.
Honda’s keeping mum about the power output for its newest technological terror, but we’d safely bet that it’s “a lot,” considering that the previous generation offered 189 horsepower at 13,000 rpm and this engine has been upgraded.Things on the electronics side of things are improved as well. The RR-R Fireblade SP gets an update to the already-advanced engine control software with the addition of Honda Selectable Torque Control and an adjustable start mode. The suspension is also electronically adjustable, thanks to Ohlins and the dash is now a full-color TFT display.Needless to say, this isn’t your dad’s CB750, and we can’t wait to throw a leg over it when it comes out in June of 2020. Pricing has yet to be declared, but we’d peg it somewhere in the mid-to-high teens.
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