By winning the World Superbike Championship in 2000 in its very first year of production, you could argue that Honda’s SP-1 doesn’t have much to prove. But race development waits for no man, and so for 2002 we’ve got the SP-2.
Right, let’s not mess around here. The biggest differences between the production SP-1 and SP-2 are the massive new injector throttle bodies (up from 54mm to 62mm) and a fancy-pants HRC-developed swingarm. Since the only two real issues with the SP-1 were its sudden (read: snatchy) throttle response when trying to roll on the throttle, and a rear end that was nigh on impossible to set-up properly (it was seemingly too hard or too soft, with no middle-ground anywhere), on the press release at least, it looks like Honda have done the right things on the SP-2 to get it flying.
The World Launch was held at Almeria circuit in the South of Spain. It’s Spain’s newest track, and is a tricky little bastard of a thing. Not so little, either, with a kilometre-long back straight, a left-hander that goes on forever, any number of technical corners and an evil right-hander that I went headfirst into the gravel at last time I was here. Naturally, on that occasion I went away from Almeria a beaten man. If the SP-2 was to get me around the track with any degree of confidence, it would have to be pretty damn good.
It certainly looks saucy in its new white livery. As part of the sales package, Honda are giving every SP-2 customer (800 bikes have been allotted to the UK) a full WSB Paddock pass for the year, which is a wicked sales promo, and a Castrol Honda sticker kit to customize your SP-2 for that genuine just-out-the-Colin-Edwards-salon look. Whether you think it actually adds much to the bike’s livery is a question of personal taste, but it’s nice to have the option.
Filtering out onto Almeria’s twisty gradients, straight away there’s the feeling of total rigidity from the SP-2 that was so familiar on the SP-1 (I ran one for a year as a longterm testbike in 2000). You’re right over the front on the SP-2, and the feedback from the Showa forks is instant and direct. Not unlike a Ducati 748R, the front of the SP-2 dominates the feeling of the whole bike and in corners you feel as though you could just lean and lean until you fell off. Which undoubtedly you could if you really fancied. However, unlike the model it supercedes, the SP-2 has a far more positive feel from the back end.
I can’t comment on the Honda’s behaviour on the road because we didn’t ride it there, but on the circuit you could feel the rear Dunlop squat down and grip on the way out of corners where there was always a remarkably dead feel from the SP-1. The rear shock has modified internals while the new HRC swingarm extends the wheelbase 10mm to 1,420mm. The SP-2 certainly isn’t the quickest-turning bike on the market – infact, it took a considerable effort to turn it into Almeria’s stop-go chicane – but mid-corner poise and grip exiting those corners is now considerably improved over the SP-1.
Continue the Honda VTR1000 SP-2 review
2000: SP-1 appears on the scene. Long-rumoured, Honda’s ‘Ducati Beater’ is the real deal and promptly goes on to win the World Superbike Championship that year. Production bikes are maligned by very on-offy throttle response that makes feeding in the power smoothly quite tricky. Comes in red only
More midrange than the SP-1, legendary styling, few concessions to road comfort and expensive to maintain
The best-selling V-twin superbike in Europe. Slightly tinny motor and ‘big bike’ feel more than compensated for by attention to detail, excellent handling and everyday useability
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