It's obvious that many CBR 1000rr ABS owners are plagued by this completely annoying, and very dangerous problem that Honda refuses to own up to. Here's my experience:
After 2 years of Honda's bullshit, I finally went back to the original dealer who sold me the bike in the first place. He is a seasoned rider (and a great guy) and totally gets what the problem is (even though Honda has tested the bike and assured me that there was nothing wrong with it, and all C-ABS blades did this "lever to bar" crap - that it's a characteristic of the system). He felt so bad that he offered to trade it in for pretty much what I paid for it and let me get a brand new blade! Unbelievable deal! As anyone with this problem will understand, I wanted nothing to do with Honda's C-ABS so my only option in Canada was to buy the Repsol SP model. I was pissed that I would have to add $7000 to the pot just to rid myself of these crappy brakes, but since they were gonna let me test ride the SP first, I decided to go for it.
When I got to the dealership for the test ride, I noticed that they had a brand new 2015 ABS blade, and a 2014 with 60km from a previous test ride. Since I could have one of these bikes basically for free, I decided to test them first, before plunking down the cash for the SP. Here's what I found:
2014 1000rr ABS: The brakes performed flawlessly! In fact I loved them. The front brake lever was incredibly firm, crisp, & powerful - with minimal throw. In fact they felt better than the Brembo's on my Ducati! Riding with the lever set on 6 (closest to the bar) there was just a very small amount of throw (about a centimetre) to max brakes - yet with excellent modulation. After jamming on the brakes as hard as I could, I still had about 2 fingers width of space from the the lever to the bar. There's no way I could come close to trapping my fingers. And best of all, this response is 100% consistent - every time, no matter what I do they move the exact same amount and feel exactly the same. Wow, I was stunned. And since I believe in ABS, and have gotten quite used to worry free, very hard braking, I decided I didn't even want the SP with regular Brembo brakes.
2015 1000rr ABS: Since I had the opportunity, I thought well, what the hell, I should give the 2015 a try. Here's what I found. The brakes on this bike were 100% consistent as well. No matter what I did, I couldn't make the lever's move closer inward to the bar! Since I had basically learned to make them fault at will each and every time on my original bike, this was enough to convince me that they were fine. The only difference between this bike, and the 2014 one, was that the lever movement on the 2015 was quite a bit more and felt a bit "mushier" than the 2014. I would trap my fingers on #6 and had to change it to #4 just so it wouldn't touch my fingers on hard braking (with very little free space left over). There was just much more throw in the system, and they didn't feel nearly as crisp - but no sign of the dreaded inconsistency.
So needless to say, I took the 2014 with the amazing brakes, and haven't looked back. I've put on 2500 km and they still feel exactly the same as the day I bought it, and have never had a single instance of any inconsistency in lever movement or feel whatsoever.
My conclusions are these:
1] Due to inconsistencies in Honda's manufacturing techniques there is definite variability in how the C-ABS brakes feel from bike to bike.
2] Either my original 2012 was just a lemon, or Honda has somehow fixed the problem in 2014 and onward. On thing in favour of this conclusion is the fact that the brake bleeding procedure has been changed on the 2014 model. This means that at least the computer's software has been upgraded (and possibly the hardware as well) and possibly the valve unit (with the stroke simulator) and/or the power unit has been upgraded as well. Whether Honda continues to put out lemons, I don't know
3] Never buy a C-ABS equipped CBR 1000rr without a thorough test ride, and even then you may not be able to properly assess the brakes if you don't know exactly what you are looking for and how to make them fail. NOT VERY COMFORTING AT ALL
4] If you can get a properly working 1000rr with C-ABS, they truly are fantastic and you'll love them. Unfortunately, if you do get one with the problem, you'll hate them and Honda will treat you like shit and you'll never get any satisfaction. Not very comforting! It's a total crap shoot. Is it worth the risk, I don't know.
5] One point to note: Once you come to a complete dead stop, release the brakes, and then reapply them the lever WILL move about 1cm closer to the bar. This is because at full stop the electronic (brake by wire) system is taken out of the circuit and you are using the "conventional" system which is inherently a much sloppier system and has more throw than the C-ABS system. This conventional system is only intended as a fail-safe - in case the electronic system fails. This is why you can't simply "pull the fuse" and ride without the brake by wire system because you will not be happy at all with the brakes. This extra movement ONLY occurs at full stop, and has NEVER happened while the bike is moving. It is no big deal, and you get used to it after one or two stops and it is NEVER a problem. This situation is clearly laid out in the owners manual, and is an inevitable result of having 2 different braking systems operating in tandem on the same bike.
Overall, an unnecessarily frustrating experience made all the worse by the customer service staff at Honda corporate head office! Thankfully, it had a happy ending for me only because of a nice sympathetic dealer. I am now finally enjoying my ride. It's amazing how from the very first time that your brakes fail, you will NEVER enjoy riding the bike again. You never push it because you simply can't trust it. I no longer have any "chicken strips" on my tires where as my original bike had about 3 cm on each side after 2 years and 9000km. That says a lot!
I hope this helps anyone contemplating purchasing one of these potentially awesome bikes.