First Ride! 2009 CBR600RR with Combined Anti-lock Brakes!

Having returned from a thorough drenching in the rain soaked desert at Honda’s super-secret R&D testing facility, we can faithfully report that the 2009 CBR600RR equipped with ABS delivers as promised - and then some. We approached the introduction and review of this new model (and its big brother, the CBR1000RR ABS) with some skepticism. Who really needs ABS on a Supersport machine, and why on Earth would we want to give up control of the brakes to a computer controlled, linked system? Valid questions for any Sportbike rider, we figured. To our surprise this new machine and its Combined ABS system perform a little bit of magic and deliver anti-lock protection in a package that feels, well, rather un-anti-lockish. The linked ABS system is purposefully designed and doesn’t do all that much for the rider unless you’re caught in the tricky position of needing to save your hide. When called upon, the CBR’s ABS seamlessly (without the slightest hint of pulse or any other indicator) dragged the 600 to an immediate halt, regardless of the pavement surface we tested it on.

I personally hammered on the bike on the sopping wet Skid Pad at the Honda R&D facility – over and over I came to a reassuring stop, regardless of whether I attempted a panic stop on the smooth surface, the varying rippled surfaces available to test on, the downhill 20’ slope, or the painted line and tar snake section.

The ABS engaged and allowed me to blindly grab at the lever with a maximum “full-death grip” without a hiccup of complaint, and more importantly, without dumping the precious red Sportbike onto the painfully hard ground. Any maneuvers even REMOTELY similar – as all the testers agreed – on a conventional non-ABS machine would have landed your pride and joy on its side, sliding it down the block.

Think you can out-brake the computer?

Stoppie in the rain from about 50mph...? You're kidding, right? Nope!

Photo - Kevin Wing

The ABS system fulfills Honda’s engineers’ two goals: to successfully equip a Supersport bike with ABS, as well as reducing dive and bike stand up during braking and to some degree when braking in corners.

Applying the brakes while leaned over (on a wet track for this test) did not upset the bike’s lines as noticeably as any conventional braking setup – more noticeably the bike had a tendency to squat, rather than to stand up.

At $1000 MSRP over the standard CBR600RR, the ABS system Honda provides its consumers makes me think twice about just how well I can brake, especially on the road in panic situations. It’s hard to argue that everyday street riders would not benefit from this technology, and though with practice you may be able to beat the computer and out-brake it, in a sudden panic stop on the street or on the Interstate you’re generally not given a second chance to get it right. It’s for this reason that we give the ABS system on this machine a big thumbs up. I never in my life imagined that I would be able to hammer on the brakes without a thought, in the pouring rain, and still come to a quick and safe stop.

Nice work Honda!

Below follows all the Technical Bits & Photos courtesy American Honda…

CBR600RR ABS features Honda’s electronic Combined ABS. This all-new ECM-controlled, hydraulically actuated system provides accurate braking force distribution to both wheels. ABS is controlled by a hydro-electronic unit and stroke simulator to ensure precise operation. Benefits include consistent lever pressure without the pulsing often associated with ABS systems. Application of rear brake does not result in immediate front brake activation unless lock-up is sensed, allowing an experienced rider to use rear brake in a normal manner during spirited riding. Combined ABS components are smaller and lighter than conventional hydraulic ABS designs, and have been located closer to the center of the machine, enhancing mass centralization and reducing unsprung weight.

CBR600RR ABS equipped with patented, electronically controlled Combined ABS, delivering the benefits of Combined Braking System (CBS) and the benefits of Anti-lock Braking System (ABS).

Honda Combined ABS

On June 9, 2008, Honda announced the world’s first electronically controlled braking system for supersport motorcycles: Combined ABS. Combined ABS is offered as an optional configuration on Honda’s CBR600RR and CBR1000RR for the 2009 model year, and provides a whole new dimension of braking performance suited specifically to supersport riding conditions as well as day-to-day street use.

Combined ABS is a new advanced braking system designed specifically for supersport motorcycles. It is the most advanced braking system offered to the motorcycling public, one that employs an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) through all-new technology.

Honda’s Combined ABS represents the first use in a supersport street bike of a braking system that incorporates an Electronic Control Module (ECM) to manage the system and provide accurate braking force distribution to both wheels. This ensures precise and predictable brake operation without concern for wheel lockup in straight-line conditions.

Combined ABS minimizes changes in chassis attitude under maximum braking conditions; even under the highest levels of deceleration, the bike retains a neutral position to virtually eliminate rear wheel lift. Application of rear brake does not result in immediate front brake activation unless rear-wheel lock-up is sensed, allowing an experienced rider to use the rear brake like a traditional non-linked unit during spirited riding such as track days for outstanding speed, suspension and steering control.

Combined ABS offers four main features:

1. Immediate measurement of rider braking input allows for distribution of braking force that minimizes chassis reaction, maintaining better braking control when slowing and stopping.

2. Electronic control of braking application provides distribution of braking force to both wheels.

3. Electronically controlled ABS ensures appropriate triggering of the ABS action when needed, together with smooth ABS intervention.

4. Small, relatively lightweight component size means that Combined ABS is well integrated in the motorcycle design, enhancing mass centralization for excellent overall handling.

Conventional CBS/ABS designs utilize a pressure control valve, a delay valve, three-piston calipers, parallel brake lines and a front fork mounted secondary master cylinder. This new electronically controlled Combined ABS in contrast eliminates the pressure control and delay valves and secondary master cylinder, and uses a standard caliper design resulting in less upsprung weight.

For each wheel, Combined ABS incorporates a hydroelectronic valve unit containing a stroke simulator, which is a rider feedback system producing a traditional feeling of resistance at the brake lever and pedal. The system also incorporates two Electric Power Units (EPU). Within the front and rear valve units, two electronic sensors detect rider input pressure on the brake lever/pedal and feed the data to the ECM. The ECM interprets the signals and sends activation commands to the front and rear EPUs. Within each EPU, a motorized gear-driven ball screw applies pressure against a piston to produce hydraulic braking pressure that is transferred to the respective brake caliper.

In ABS mode, the ECM reacts to changes in wheel speed to rapidly decrease/increase braking pressure at the threshold of wheel lockup. Operation is seamless--virtually undetectable because the ECM is capable of hundreds of calculations and commands every second, and it continuously adjusts the magnitude and distribution of hydraulic pressure to each wheel. This system is far advanced compared to designs that rely on mechanical pressure control valves for ABS intervention. With this system, the lever and pedal pressure remain consistent without the pulsing associated with some ABS systems.

To simulate brake feel in this innovative system--in both ABS and normal operating modes--each stroke simulator contains two rubber cushions of differing density that return increasing amounts of resistance as brake lever/pedal stroke increases. This yields familiar brake feedback to the rider, sensations that are virtually indistinguishable compared to those generated by traditional hydraulic brake systems found on similar supersport bikes.

The components designed for Combined ABS are smaller and lighter than those used in conventional hydraulic ABS designs, which allowed Honda engineers to locate the components low and near the center of the motorcycle. Moving ABS hardware off of the front fork and swingarm reduces unsprung weight and enhances overall mass centralization, which preserves the excellent handling of the CBR600RR and CBR1000RR.

On the CBR1000RR, changes to the charging system to accommodate the increased draw of the electrical components include a higher-capacity alternator with enhanced oil cooling, and a 10-amp-hour (up from 7 AH) battery. The rear under-fender is enlarged to accommodate the larger battery and this under-fender along with a new, larger left-side engine cover help hide the rear EPU.

As configured on the CBR600RR, Honda engineers reduce weight on the front fork by removing 400 grams from the front brake caliper using a new mono-block design similar to the CBR1000RR caliper. Due to space limitations imposed by the underseat exhaust system, the rear EPU is located near the rear shock. This necessitated redesigning the rear shock with a remote reservoir to allow for mounting of the EPU. A wider exhaust pipe cover in the footpeg area masks this EPU.

The 2009 CBR1000RR with Combined ABS has an MSRP of $12,999 and will be available in January of 2009. The 2009 CBR600RR with Combined ABS has an MSRP of $10,799.


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