Once the CBR900RR was launched, it quickly allayed the worries of the development team by being warmly welcomed by riders around the world, who were now able to enjoy truly sporty riding to the fullest. As a result, the idea that a bike is defined by its displacement figure fell by the wayside, and even in Europe, where the 900cc figure was at first avoided, the name “CBR900RR” eventually found favor.
The original CBR900RR was not created as a racer replica. It did not comply with the regulations of TT F1 World Championship or World Superbike Championship, and neither was it designed to log maximum speed records on the circuit. Nevertheless, riders did in fact use the bike in racing, and the motorcycle known as the FireBlade went on to log one victory after another across the globe.
Miyagi: The CBR900RR came to us from a very different path than the RC30, but it would be safe to say that it’s not a racer replica?
Baba: That’s right, it’s not a racer replica.
Miyagi: I rode the CBR900RR when I was member of the Erion Racing team in the USA. This was in the class called “open class.” It was incredibly fast. In fact, it was so fast I was able to pass Superbike works machine riders on the banked curves of the Daytona International Speedway. How do you feel about the fact that the CBR900 was ridden in races around the world? Is it still safe to say it wasn’t a racer replica?
Baba: Correct. We designed the bike for riders to enjoy sporty riding on public roads. The CBR900RR was successful in racing because users got tuners involved, and together they nurtured it into a racing machine. Instead of determining how people could use the bike, we on the development team gave them a bike that encouraged their creativity. There are people who have used the CBR900RR for touring, and there are those who have enjoyed riding it on winding roads. Similarly, there have of course been people who have used it in racing.
Miyagi: Users nurtured the CBR900RR—I like the way you put that. That reminds me of one other thing the CBR series changed: the development team became visible to users. You yourself made a point of meeting with CBR owners and communicating with them, isn’t that right?
Baba: Yes, that’s right. I wanted to meet with users in person and get their views on what constituted the joy of total control. I visited Europe and the US and spoke frankly and openly with all kinds of users riding bikes from every manufacturer. When, for example, a rider asked me how to make his Yamaha R1 easier to ride, I was happy to provided an answer. Of course, I also told him that he ought to switch to a CBR. [Laughs.] But it was through conversations like this that I really got an understanding of what was important to riders.
Riders now had a super sport bike that felt as easy to control as their own arms and legs. Overturning the view of super sport bikes as fast but hard to handle, the CBR900RR brought the joy of total control to riders around the world.
Miyagi: What you accomplished with the CBR900RR was literally to change the fundamental concept of the super sport bike. I believe there are a great many riders who, simply by trying out the CBR900RR, encountered a completely new way of enjoying motorcycles.
Baba: Our goal with this bike was to have people ride, get their bodies into it and think, “That was really a good sweat!”—that kind of feeling. I’m not talking about a cold sweat and getting exhausted. Rather, I’m talking about a rider arriving home after a good tour, taking off his riding gear, taking a nice shower, pouring himself a drink, sitting on the sofa and thinking, “Today was a really fulfilling day.” It’s the kind of fatigue where a rider looks back on the day and just feels good. This is the vision that lay behind our concept of total control.
Miyagi: I see. It was a feeling that riders just couldn’t get from the big and heavy super sport bikes that had preceded the CBR900RR.
Baba: This is somewhat of a tangent, but the Japanese word hiyaase is translated as “cold sweat” in English. It’s a literal translation of the Japanese, and it translates literally in just about every language. Yet there isn’t a literal translation for “good sweat” as we call it in Japanese in English, German, Italian or French. Even so, I think the CBR900RR went beyond such words and directly communicated exactly what we wanted users to experience. That is, the feeling of enjoying sporty riding and having a good sweat.