Honda CBR600RR Road Test

Filed under: Bike Reviews,Honda,Honda CBR600RR |

Focused, fast and furious

When a manufacturer like Honda sets out to sharpen an already keen product you can bet the end result will be awesome.  When it appeared in 2003, the CBR600RR proved to be all that and more but is it a step too far for most

With its Moto GP looks and aggression, the 2003 onward model of the CBR600 promises to be a real handful. Taking the once easy route to middleweight performance to extremes the package, with over 115 horse on tap, is no longer the small boys Superbike and in effect is a proper misters bike. The exaggerated, bum up and hands down, race position is alien to most making their way from a smaller, learner legal machinery and soon becomes tiring on long runs, this is really a short journey giant killer, and seemingly, must be kept on the boil, if only to relieve some of the body weight from each wrist. On the move, and thankfully, the riding position isn’t so intrusive as when sat still, the bike feeling compact and light on its feet, you just know that when the road opens and the throttle is pinned that this baby isn’t going to disappoint.

Somehow Honda have managed to keep what should have been a racer on the road well under control, the precise fuel injection and sweet chassis letting the rider get on with the important job of having a good time without worrying too much that the bike is going to bite back at him. This isn’t to say the power and torque isn’t impressive, it is as powerful and as grunty as any bike with a mere 600 cc under the tank has a right to be, it is just so well controlled that it rarely feels that powerful. On track the RR has proved to be staggeringly successful, the combination of short wheelbase and revvy engine making light work of the Supersport classes, while not so important on the road the same can be said making it, in my opinion at least, the best handling Honda since the RC30. This is no small feat and most certainly a mark of how seriously Honda took the design of this radical successor to the legendary CBR600F. Once accustomed to the way the CBR goes about its job, it is a delight, fast and agile, able to turn tighter than most when the going gets a bit twisty while using that super fuelling to stomp out, there being usable power and torque from around 7000rpm wall the way up to the screaming redline some 5500 revs later, many will be left in its wake too.

As if the engine wasn’t enough to impress the brakes are like the cream on an already creamy cake, powerful, precise with plenty of feedback, grabbing hard and fast from high speed and scrubbing off speed with an accuracy rarely seen. This is hardly surprising as, with the bike tipping the scales at a feather weight 163kgs, and with two huge discs, and equally sizeable calipers doing the work, it would be hard for it not to stop with alarming speed but to keep the plot stable while this is happening is another matter and one achieved by great design. Honda’s mass centralisation, and other lessons learned while they were keeping Valentino at the sharp end for a couple of seasons, clearly paying dividends on this inspired roadster.

Despite looking like a big machine the opposite is true in reality, it is just the shortness and compactness that alters the overall scale when viewed from a distance. The seat height, being just 820mm will prove to be little problem to most, while the bars and footrests are spot on for the average rider, with more than enough room on the seat to accommodate the taller riders out there too. It’s a great package that, although aimed squarely at stealing the 600cc crown from the other manufacturers out there, is actually a usable motorcycle in its own right. Thankfully Honda managed to keep, what could have been a real missile with little control or input by the rider, as a pussy cat of a bike while still be that little bit over and above what the others were currently making. Of course as always happens the main protagonists soon responded and came out fighting for the following seasons, Yamaha arguably stealing the march with their R6, once again the development of that machine driven by that man Rossi, who says racing doesn’t improve the breed?

The 2005 model CBR600RR did come in for some major revisions, like upside down forks and a styling enhancements, making the earlier models less desirable but no less effective. The smart money would take a good look at the original as quiet often the first, and unspoiled version, can prove to be the better choice. It will commute, it will be a superb track day bike and, as for those Sunday morning sessions when the your favourite roads is quiet, party on.



                       2004 Honda CBR600 RR

Engine             599cc

Bore & stroke   67 mm x 42.5 mm

Power               118 bhp @ 13500 rpm

Torque               49 ft-lb @ 11250rpm

Transmission    6-speed  chain final drive

Frame               alloy beam

Brakes            310mm discs 4-piston-calipers

220mm disc 2-piston-caliper

Wheels          120/70 x 17  180/55 x 17

Fuel capacity  18 litres

Dry weight      163 kgs