2009 Honda CBR600RR C-ABS Review

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2009 Honda CBR600RR C-ABS Review

Post by ganahsokmo on Thu Jul 08, 2010 12:26 pm

In June 2008 Honda announced that it had
developed and implemented the “world’s first electronically controlled
braking system for supersport motorcycles.” At the time, we could only
wonder what it might be like to haul the CBR600RR, consecutive five-time
AMA Formula Xtreme and consecutive six-time World Supersport champ, in
from speed with the aid of combined braking and ABS.

Wondering about the optional system has now been supplanted by
experiencing. We’ve been to the Mountaintop of Braking and seen that it
is good aboard the 2009 CBR600RR C-ABS!

Had Big Red simply pared down just enough of the Combined (linked)
ABS system as currently found on the Gold Wing, ST1300 and VFR in order
to fit the CBR 600 and 1000? The system is in fact all new.

2009 Honda

Judging by the sound of crickets when I asked American Honda’s Millar
Farewell, Assistant Manager of Technical Training, if this CBR system
will soon be found on the aforementioned touring and sport-touring
models, the reasonable assumption is indeed it will. Likely it won’t be
identical, as the CBR system is optimized for sportbikes. However, in
short, this newest C-ABS is simplified, smarter, faster and lighter in
contrast to the existing system, so it’s likely Honda will apply a
variant across other models.

ABS 101
C-ABS on the CBR600RR will only be available in model colors Metallic
Black or Red/Black. ABS models will also have bronze colored calipers.
Standard model calipers will be black.

Imagine a traditional brake system. When you apply the brake, fluid
travels directly from the brake lever/master cylinder through brake
lines to the caliper; essentially a straight shot. Hopefully you’ll come
to a safe stop in the amount of time or distance you want based upon
the amount of pressure you apply to the lever or pedal.

The most basic components of the typical ABS are: wheel-speed
sensors, pressure control valve(s), and an electronic controller (ABS
brain). With ABS, instead of fluid traveling straight from the
lever/pedal to the caliper, it now first passes through a control valve,
then out to the respective calipers. Under normal circumstances fluid
moves uninhibited from the lever through the control valve and out to
the caliper; just like a standard system but with the extra path through
the control valve.

The electronic controller unit comes into the picture by monitoring
wheel speed via sensors on each wheel, constantly looking for unusually
rapid deceleration. The ABS brain knows, based upon parameters
programmed into it, at some point in that rapid deceleration the wheel
will “lock-up.”

Before this can happen, the ECU will close valves in the control
valve unit, allowing pressure in the brake to drop enough in order for
the wheel’s speed not to stop. At that point the brain will re-open the
control valve for pressure to build again, in essence allowing another
attempt at stopping.

The basic premise of ABS is that the brain plays gate-keeper between
the pressure control valve unit and the brake caliper, taking its cues
from wheel speed, opening and closing valves in order to decrease and
increase fluid pressure. It usually does this faster than a wheel can
change speed significantly, cycling at some where around 15 times per
second. Often, anti-lock systems also employ a pump to assist in
rebuilding pressure in the brake line(s) as well as a few other

There’s ABS, then there’s Honda C-ABS

Honda had four basic goals to
achieve with this new C-ABS:
• Enable immediate full use of braking performance
• Retain stability while braking
• Less chassis reaction while ABS is active
• Rider confidence gained or increased from knowledge
of no wheel “lock-up” (ABS)
Honda reminds us that traditional ABS and combined braking ABS on
bikes use extra components, like a delay valve, pressure control valve, a
fork-mounted secondary master cylinder and special 3-piston brake
calipers. What makes this new system exceptional is that Honda was able
to do away with those extra clunky bits, using a traditional caliper in
the process. In the case of the ’09 CBR600RR (regardless of C-ABS option
or standard brake) that traditional caliper is now essentially the same
mono-block radial-mount caliper that’s on the CBR1000RR. Nice upgrade.
Here’s we
can see the rear power unit, one of the few C-ABS components visible.
The five components that make up the new C-ABS are located on the bike
in places that complements mass-centralization.

One of the biggest challenges to applying C-ABS in the case of the
CBR models is their short wheelbase and high CoG. As you may have seen
in race photos, or even experienced for yourself, hammering the front
brake on a modern sportbike will have the rear wheel skyward in no time.
C-ABS dramatically reduces unwanted chassis pitch from heavy braking.

In keeping with the mass-centralization philosophy of Honda
sportbikes, the C-ABS components were located in places that didn’t
negatively impact the bike’s handling. Despite their best efforts, one
minor change, relocation of the shock reservoir to the left side rail of
the subframe, was needed to accommodate placement of the rear power

By now you’re probably wondering how much extra weight the C-ABS
CBR600RR is carrying around. The system adds approximately 22 pounds to
the honest-Indian curb weight of the non-C-ABS model’s 412 pounds. Honda
did what all the other OEMs do: bought competitor’s bikes.

The tally for 2009 Japanese
supersports real-world wet weights according to Honda is:
• CBR600RR non-C-ABS – 412 lbs; C-ABS equipped – 434
• Kawasaki ZX-6R – 428 lbs (Kawi claimed – 421)
• Suzuki GSX-R600 – 434 lbs (Suzuki claimed -- 432)
• Yamaha R6 – 422 (Yamaha claimed *wet*-- 414)

Beyond wheel-speed sensors and pulser rings necessary to all
anti-lock systems, the Combined-ABS on both the CBR 600 and 1000
consists of one power (modulator) unit and one valve unit per wheel, and
of course the ABS brain, or more officially, electronic control module
The heart
of C-ABS. A pair of power units are on the bottom of the photo, a pair
of valve units are the on top, and the ECM is in the middle. One valve
unit and one power unit are each dedicated to a wheel with the ECM
controlling all four at once.

Forgetting ABS for a minute, let’s take a simple look at how this new
system functions.

When you put the squeeze on the front brake lever or rear brake
pedal, fluid from the respective lever/pedal master cylinder travels to
the valve unit in which pressure sensors relay info to the ECM about how
much pressure you’ve applied. The ECM then signals to the power unit.
This power unit is a motorized gear-driven ball screw that operates a
piston (think of it like the piston in the master cylinder) to apply
brake fluid pressure. Fluid then travels out of the power unit, back
through the valve unit and out to the caliper(s).

New C-ABS for Dummies: brake lever to valve unit; valve unit signals
ECM; ECM signals power unit; power unit applies pressure back through
valve unit and out to caliper. You stop.

If you’re starting to think about this system and realizing that your
squeezing on the lever isn’t really applying pressure to the caliper,
you might be wondering how, or if, you get the same feel at the lever as
you would on a traditional system. Inside the valve unit is what’s
called a stroke simulator. The simulator is a pair of “rubber cushions
of differing density that returns increasing amounts of resistance [to
the lever or pedal] as brake lever/pedal pressure is applied.” Think of
it like a flight simulator for the brake lever.

So how did Honda put the sensation of traditional brake feel into two
tiny pieces of rubber? Only the staff in Japan knows precisely how, but
helping assess the feel required to mimic regular brakes was partially
the work of Honda development riders and former racers, Jeff Tigert and
Doug Toland. Both gents have countless hours of development time in
Honda street motorcycles, and as Farewell said, “When you ride a CBR
C-ABS, a little bit of Doug and Jeff is riding with you.” That’s quite
reassuring, especially if you’ve witnessed how quickly those two
racer-types can lay down lap times.
the paths of brake fluid flow and the ECM on this diagram should help
you understand how each brake set operates in this new system from

Linked, Combined… Tomato, tomato…
The use of the word “combined” rather than “linked” in this new
system is noteworthy, and here’s why.
On the Gold Wing, for example, when applying the front brake lever,
fluid pressure will actuate two outer pistons in each 3-piston front
caliper. As more pressure builds, through the use of the aforementioned
delay valves, secondary master cylinder, etcetera, fluid will then
travel through a “proportional control valve (PCV)” to the rear caliper,
activating it as well.

<table align="center">

<td>The whole
package. Here’s the location of each of the five main parts that make up
C-ABS. Honda gave a slight redesign to the bodywork to accommodate the
electronically controlled brake parts.

Similarly, when the rear brake is activated, fluid pressure will be
applied through the PCV, first to the middle piston of the left front
caliper, then as more pressure builds, over to the right side front
caliper’s middle piston. Voila! They’re linked!

This is entirely a mechanical system, and as a fail-safe, if one
piece of the puzzle fails, the remaining parts of the system are still
operational. Furthermore, it is independent of ABS. Because the brakes
are connected hydraulically, it truly is a “linked” system.

With this new combined system, there is absolutely no mechanical
link, or otherwise, between the front and rear. It is entirely up to the
electronic control module to determine when more than one brake set is
required. So not only does the ECM regulate pressure to each brake set,
it also can “combine” front and rear brake sets based upon established
parameters. Therefore, we now have the first brake-by-wire system
available commercially on sportbikes.

The stroke
simulator hidden in the valve unit is what gives the rider the sense of
brake feel.

Cut away of
the valve unit.

Cut away of
the power unit. The exposed modulator piston is what applies fluid
pressure back through the valve unit and out to the calipers.
According to Farewell, this updated C-ABS’s ECM reacts three times
faster than the ECM on the VFR. The new system has to react faster by
virtue of how much quicker things take place on the typical supersport
machine. Additionally, thanks to the seamless anti-lock activation, the
rider has no sense of its use until approximately the last few feet
before stopping when a small amount of vibration, or shudder, can be
felt through the chassis. And this is only because now that the bike is
slowed to that point it’s possible to perceive some feedback. This
occasional sensation is so minimal that it will likely go unnoticed by
most riders.

Skeptical of a computer doing all the thinking for you? A fail-safe
system determines that C-ABS is all or nothing. If any one point in the
system self-check fails, the entire C-ABS essentially shuts down,
leaving all valving open and free flowing, thereby reverting to a
traditional, non-ABS brake. Also, don’t forget that this system is
tailored to supersport riding and is far less intrusive than some ABS
haters may think it is. Unlike some of the current ABS on BMW bikes,
Honda C-ABS cannot be manually disabled.

When the system sees that you’re really crushing the brake lever in a
feverish attempt to stop, it will then apply a degree of rear brake
based on a predetermined pressure value from the front, regardless of
ABS activation. You could do this on a conventional system, but most
riders don’t have the skill necessary to match the speed and precision
of the electronic system. Applying some level of rear brake will cause
the rear suspension to compress, thereby helping stabilize the chassis,
achieving one of the primary goals of employing C-ABS on a supersport.

When using the rear brake only, the ECM doesn’t bring the front brake
into action until the rear brake is near the point of lock-up. This,
says Farewell, is different than current linked systems that include the
front brake much sooner. This allows a rider to use the rear brake much
like a non-combined system. This could come in handy, for example,
during sporty stints when the rider might use the rear for
Talk is cheap

In order that Honda may prove to the world just how special this new
C-ABS, American motorjournalists were invited to the company’s North
American R&D facility somewhere between the high-desert terrain of
Mojave, CA and the middle of nowhere. Security is tighter than a crab’s
tushy. After passing through the first security checkpoint, and a
security escort straight to our destination, I felt like maybe I wasn’t
on U.S. soil any longer…

Testing the bike would take place on what Honda calls the Winding
Road course, a 4.5-mile circuit designed primarily for evaluating autos.
It’s meant to simulate real world conditions. It has elevation changes,
decreasing radius and banked turns, varied pavement surfaces, painted
lines, and purposely placed pot holes and bumps.

the CBR C-ABS down from 100 mph in standing water with full squeeze on
both brakes. Note the distance between the front fender and upper
cowling, as well as how little fork compression is left. Smooth stopping
all the way.

So what would make an ideal testing situation for an ABS package? How
about a naturally slickened surface courtesy of two days of rain?
Consecutive days of rain are something of an anomaly in that region of
the Mojave. The power of Honda…

After a sighting lap or two we were cut loose. Despite the potential
of the new C-ABS, my hundreds of thousands of miles of riding in the wet
without the benefit of ABS have thoroughly and wholly hard-wired my
brain to avoid crushing the lever in such conditions. Nevertheless,
Honda staffers assured us that when we were ready to abandon braking
convention and discard our sense of self-preservation the new C-ABS
would be waiting for us with open arms.

Rain fell
on Honda’s test facility the day of our ride, presenting a unique set of
circumstances to sample the new ABS. Riding for any other reason wasn’t
as fun.

We weren’t there to perform the typical critique of a bike’s power
and handling prowess, so going fast wasn’t my focus. However, when a
corner approached or the initial ascent of a hill was spotted, I did my
best to ply the front brake as recklessly as I could convince myself to.
ABS aside, the CBR1000RR-like calipers provide excellent feel and very
linear rotor crushing power. Anyone purchasing an ’09 CBR600RR without
the optional C-ABS will nonetheless be rewarded with outstanding brakes.

My report on ABS on the road course is that it operates exactly as
advertised. Absolutely no pulsing commonly experienced on many anti-lock
systems was transmitted back to the lever or pedal, and only the
slightest shimmy in the chassis could be felt in the last dozen or so
feet before coming to a complete stop. The system is simply and
wonderfully seamless. Period.
Moving over to the skid pad, one in our party had the brassy orbs to
suggest purposely flooding the pad beyond what moisture had already been
deposited from the sky. Foolish? Perhaps. Completely safe and
manageable with the CBR’s C-ABS? Absolutely!
With more than an inch of standing water, residual mud, sand, and
grit runoff, as well as painted lines, the stage was set for a
spectacular crash.

Reaching speeds of around an indicated 100 mph in a very short
distance followed by the hardest squeeze I dare apply resulted in
nothing more than coming to a stop. A stop, I should add, that obviously
required more distance than what it would have on a drier surface, but
the C-ABS provided the best stop possible in that situation.

Indeed, too, it was much more apparent in this flooded environment
that ABS was working, as the feeling of the rear tire slowing and then
accelerating was obvious. Still, though I was conscious of this
near-crash scenario, I was instilled with that cliché ever-present in
moto reviews: confidence.

The best Supersport brakes?

People, this system works incredibly well. It’s a tad too early to
say with impunity until we get our hands on the other players in this
arena, but I’m hedging that the 2009 Honda CBR600RR C-ABS has the best
brakes in class. For all my riding and braking experience, if I were in
the market for a CBR600RR, I absolutely would opt for C-ABS.
MSRP for non-C-ABS models is $9,799; C-ABS models will be $10,799.

’09 CBR600RR odds and ends
• More mid-range was added to the tune of approximately
3-percent at peak torque at 10,000 rpm, but is said to be noticeable
from between 4-12K rpm according to American Honda’s Jon Seidel.
• This torque boost comes by way of exhaust header
crossover tubes and an exhaust pressure valve similar to that one found
on the 1000RR’s exhaust. This pressure valve will open above 8K rpm in
first and second gear, and above 6K rpm in third through sixth gear.
Additional tuning includes shot-peening of intake ports for improved
power and torque.
• Bodywork has been updated, primarily to accommodate
the C-ABS hardware, but the changes are subtle; Honda has finally
updated turnsignal design to a much more modern style!
• Five color options are available for 2009: Metallic
Black, Red/Black, Black/Bright Green Metallic, special graphic Phoenix,
and Pearl White/Pearl Blue/Red that is limited to 500 units. Note that
C-ABS models will only be available in Metallic Black and Red/Black.
C-ABS models will be further distinguishable by bronze colored calipers
as opposed to black.
• For the stuntas out there, C-ABS is an electronic
nanny preventing stoppies and burnouts
• The CBR600RR C-ABS should be in dealers now and the
1000s will be arriving in the coming weeks, however, Honda realizes that
due to the core market of the CBRs, they can’t expect a large demand
for the C-ABS models… yet. No exact figures were available for the
number of anti-lock models coming to the U.S.
• Word on the wind is that the other makers aren’t far
behind. Yamaha is allegedly the closest to launching their version of
ABS on a sportbike. It just happened this time that Honda got their
system where they wanted it before anyone else did, and if they could’ve
done it two years ago we would have seen it then.
Related Reading
Honda CBR1000RR Review

Supersport Shootout
Honda CBR600RR Intro Report
outlines three-year plan

All things
Honda on Motorcycle.com


Join date : 16/01/2010
Age : 37

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