First some bad news: the new 2012 Honda CBR1000RR doesn’t come with traction control.

The good news: It doesn’t matter. It’s still an absolute blast to ride.

I’ve just returned from the U.S. press introduction of the new CBR from Honda, spending a day at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California and another riding the new machine around the local area to really get a feel for what it’s all about. The new machine is clearly an evolution, not revolution, of the previous CBR, as Honda engineers wanted to extract the most they could from the current platform. The most obvious difference is the nose: gone is the blunt-point front end and in its place is a sharp looking piece that, personally, I think looks much better than the old one. Showa’s Big Piston Fork measuring 43mm now sits up front, and a new “Balance-Free” shock resides in the rear, which Honda claims improves rear grip.

Engine-wise the fuel mapping has been tweaked to improve low end performance, but otherwise all remains status quo. While that doesn’t sound very exciting on paper, it all adds up to an incredibly fun and explosive package when let loose on a racetrack. Honda were wise enough to bring a few 2011 models to the intro to ride back-to-back and the differences are subtle but significant.

By no means is the new Honda going to supplant the Ducati 1199 Panigale as the hottest item of 2012, but that’s not to say it should be overlooked if you’re in the market for a literbike. To read the rest of my thoughts about the new CBR1000RR, including the reason why traction control isn’t present on the new model, be sure to read my full review on Monday.