September 8, 2008 After recently announcing the development of its new Combined ABS braking system for supersport bikes, Honda has released full details of the 2009 CBR1000RR Fireblade and CBR600RR, including the system as an option on both. There's also a Repsol paint job and styling update for the new Blade, as well as a more significant makeover for the 600RR that includes new bodywork, monoblock brake calipers, and a revised engine with added midrange torque. The Combined ABS system is set to become standard fitment on all Hondas 250cc and over sometime in the next few years.

Honda has been promising for years to offer every bike in its range with ABS braking, and its recent announcement of a Combined ABS system light and compact enough to fit a sportsbike was somewhat of a breakthrough. The fully electronic "brake by wire" system not only acts as a very smooth ABS system, it also intelligently proportions braking between the front and rear wheels to minimize weight shift and maximize stability and traction by keeping the rear wheel on the ground for longer under hard braking.

The new Combined ABS system will be available on the 2009 models of the Fireblade and CBR600RR as an option. A retro-fit to a 2008 CBR looks impractical, as the system sits in a chunky new undertray that bulges from beneath the seat of the 1000RR.

Apart from the new brake system, the Fireblade gets a few new paint jobs, including the famous Repsol MotoGP colors, and plainer versions in white, black and blue. The rear indicators are also now clear with orange bulbs.

The CBR600RR, which received its last major update in 2007, gets a fairly broad minor update for 2009. In addition to the Combined ABS option, Honda have given the 600RR a revised engine, with the pistons, cylinder head and exhaust tweaked to enhance midrange torque between 8000 and 12000rpm to a maximum of 3.5% more than the 07/08 model.

The attractive exposed clutch/alternator engine covers on the previous model are gone; a new bellypan fairing covers them up to better control the airflow and add aerodynamic stability in the kinds of long, ultra-fast sweepers the 600RR adores on the racetrack. The additional weight of the new plastic is offset by weight savings in the engine and exhaust systems to maintain the bike's lightweight advantage over the rest of its class so far.

New color options for the 2009 CBR600RR include a limited edition white/electric blue with urban-inspired highlights (not available on the CBS version), plus black/red, white/red/blue and a rather cool black/metallic lime green.

The electronic Combined ABS has been tested on a CBR600RR by a very small number of journalists and for a very short time. Honda made four bikes available at a track test in Germany recently, and according to Motorcycle USA, the system works very smoothly and efficiently, acting like a normal brake system until the outer edges of braking are required, and modulating very smoothly when it's controlling pitch or traction at either end. We look forward to a fuller test of the system's capabilities.

Pricing and availability have not yet been announced for the 2009 Honda sportsbikes.

Loz Blain

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