Test Ride: Honda CBR600RR

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Words: Rob Harris and Steve Bond Photos: Honda
Words: Rob Harris and Steve Bond Photos: Honda

Has it really been 20 years since the CBR600 F1 heralded a new dawn in the world of 600cc sportbikes?

The answer would be yes, but the original F1 — and for that matter, most of the resultant F series — managed to combine leading-edge performance with reasonable comfort, and good street manners to boot.

And now, Honda is harking back to that old ethos – albeit with measured restraint. The result is an ’07 CBR600RR with a boost in midrange power (although both top-end power and the rev limit are up to boot – up 3 hp and now 15,000 rpm), reduced gearbox lash, lower final gearing, increased seat padding and, gulp … taller bars.

But nostalgia will only get you so far – the 600 supersport class is about as cutthroat as you get in this business and Honda is not about to get all fuzzy on us at the risk of getting its arse kicked by the competition.

To prevent this the ’07 RR gets a dramatic 7 kg weight drop, thanks mainly to motor and exhaust trimmings and a new thinner frame. There’s also a more track-focused geometry with steeper rake, more trail and a shorter wheelbase. Oh, and the electronic steering damper’s been updated to match.

There are some more subtle changes, too, including a revised fuel injection that gives a steadier idle and a smoother engine response to a chopped throttle – which should help prevent locking up the rear if you occasionally fall prey to a ham-fisted down-gearing.

And the bodywork’s all been redone, including a new ram air scoop in between the lights and a “gappy” side fairing to break up the wind flow.

Huh? Yes, I thought that too, but Honda reckon that having a solid slab promotes a higher pressure air flow down the sides of the bike, which restricts the ability of the bike to turn quickly. The gaps actually force the air downwards and away from the sides, thus avoiding pressure buildup.

Well, that’s the theory, anyway.

TRACK TEST

“Do not crash!”

Apparently, once you’ve fallen off a horse, the thing to do is get straight back on it again. It makes no sense to me, but that’s the theory.

And in keeping with the analogy, you could say that on day one of the Honda Canada Miami launch at the Homestead track I fell off a pony (the CBR125R), but then had to get back on a stallion – Honda’s new CBR600RR.

Every time I came to that same corner, my mind would wander to my oh-feck-I-just-lowsided incident of the day before, invariably meaning that it wasn’t actually focused on the track ahead, causing me to fudge the line.

Bugger. Now why don’t brains come with a handy “off” switch?

But despite being up 106 hp over the 125, the 600 soon started to coax me back into my comfort zone, with a sure-footedness and a linear power delivery that allowed me to precisely pick my level of recklessness.

MIDRANGE BOOST

Pulling out of corners shows the new RRs mid range boost.

Most noticeable with the motor upgrades is the boost in midrange power, especially coming out of a corner. Where the previous CBR would require a drop in gears, the ’07 just motors away without fuss.

The Honda rep had said the midrange increase made the 600 feel more like a 750, and he was right: cubes will always buy you additional low-down torque. But some well-thought-out engine teaks can obviously have the same effect.

This midrange boost also meant that I didn’t have to change gears so often. In fact, once I’d popped her up into fourth, she generally remained there for the rest of the session.

Okay, I know that’s not the sign of a particularly competent track rider, but I’d already wadded a bike on this launch, and doing a second wasn’t on the cards!

SUBTLETIES

Dicing with Bondo.

Honda’s claimed 8 kg drop in weight is significant, but then the 2006 CBR was no porker either. Handily, Honda had brought a couple of the previous generation bikes with them for comparison.

Riding the two bikes back to back, and with Bondo acting as my comparison rider, the new CBR showed its edge no matter who was on it. However, I put that down to that lovely midrange power improvement (which also comes with a guttural howl from the new pipe) – the weight drop not being as evident as I had expected it to be.

Likewise, brake modifications were definitely on the subtle side. Honda has kept the same set-up as on the ’06, save for a radially operated master cylinder, and the difference to me wasn’t noticeable. Contrarily, Bondo much preferred the new set-up, but I’ll leave that for him to explain in his second-opinion piece.

More road biased?

One thing that I will concede is that the move toward making a bit more room for the rider, with a soupcon more padding in the seat, did help this lanky rider. Even my uber-sensitive derrière gave two bums-up to the substitution of a seat for the usual sportbike plank – still, I wondered: how would it feel on the street?

By the end of the day — and despite knowing all too well about the hazards of this moment — my previous day’s “incident” was well and truly behind me and I found myself even dropping out of fourth in an attempt to shave off a couple of seconds.

Thankfully, I was not to repeat my performance of the day prior – this particular horse didn’t throw me.

ROAD RIDE COMPARO

The final day of our Miami vaca… errr, “hard-working product launch,” was set aside for road appraisals with a choice of many machines depending on the rider’s fancy.

Both Bondo and I thought that this might give us a perfect opportunity to test out the additional comfort claims of the new model compared to the ’06, so we duly booked one of each and headed south to the town of Flamingo.

No, Bondo is here. Robert’s on the bike!Searching for a good road in Florida proves fruitless (ish).

It seemed like a good idea at the time, as although Florida is as flat as a machine-skimmed pancake, the road to Flamingo has, well … one, two, yes, three curves in it!

If you’ve ever had the misfortune to ride a bike in Florida then you’ll sympathize that a pair of cutting-edge sportbikes are not the ideal tools for these roads and within an hour of leaving the comfort of our hotel I was cursing the whole idea. I did, however, confirm five things:

1) Florida sucks.

2) My trackside impression was correct: the softer seat and 10 mm higher bars make the CBR a more pleasant track bike, but oddly have almost no effect on its street comfort. If I had to choose one for an all-day ride, I would go for the 2007 – but after an hour I was still hurting.

3) Florida wouldn’t suck so much if they raised the speed limit. Say 200 km/h?

4) The reduced gearbox lash and the midrange boost are the most significant improvements for the street.

5) Next time I’m given a choice of bikes to ride in Florida, I’ll take the cruiser and I won’t stray further than 10 kms from the hotel, just in case I need to suddenly use the bar and pool facilities.


2007 Honda CBR600RR Second Opinion
By Steve Bond

Bondo gets jiggy with the new CBR.

After my first track session on the 2007 CBR600RR, I thought Honda was trying to pull a fast one by stuffing a 750 motor into the chassis – it was that strong.

In fact, Honda had so much confidence in how good the ’07 CBR600 is, they brought two of the ’06 models along for comparison. Swapping back and forth made the difference between new and old readily apparent. The ’06 was no mutt but the new bike was better in every category, including top end hit, throttle crispness, midrange grunt, “flickability,” and ease of riding.

The revised fuel injection is much crisper across the entire rev range but especially under on/off throttle conditions. The ’07’s Air Intake Control Valve smoothes engine response at small throttle openings (like when braking hard and downshifting for corners) producing a gentler transition similar to a slipper clutch but without the extra weight and complexity.

On the track, you could come screaming up to a corner, bang a bunch of downshifts, and the bike would never lose its composure. The engine pulls hard from as low as 6,000 rpm, making for spectacular drives off the turns.

Bondo found the brakes to be superior despite ‘arris’ questioning.

Although it’s redlined at 15,000 rpm, power falls off at 13,500 but the overrev capability comes in handy to avoid a last minute upshift and the accompanying downshift between corners. Not that there’s any reluctance to use the RR’s transmission – it’s crisp, with a very short throw, and Honda tightened up the gear lash so the overall effect is a very tight, enjoyable tranny.

Brakes are supposedly unchanged but I felt the ’07’s front brake was more powerful with better feel – one finger hauled the new CBR down from frightening speeds without drama. The ’06’s lever felt mushy by comparison.

At Homestead, you exit the infield onto the banking pinned in second gear. On the ’06, the front end would wiggle as it got light over the pavement transition, but the ’07 with electronic steering damper was rock solid. I could actually feel the front tighten up as it got light. If the CBR I rode in Vegas last year had been equipped with this type of damper, I wouldn’t have suffered the horrendous tank slapper that pitched me off, destroying the motorcycle and ruining my weekend.

Hard at work …

I really didn’t notice much difference between the ’06 and ’07 during our street ride through the Everglades – the 10 mm higher bars on the ’07 were slightly more comfortable, although there was still a lot of weight on my wrists until the speed picked up.

The increased midrange of the new model was noticeable, though, and made it much more pleasurable on the street. During top gear roll-ons, the new model positively leaped ahead of the ’06.

The 2007 CBR600RR isn’t really the best of both worlds as such a compromise can’t possibly exist. It is, however, a very capable track weapon, boasting the best ergonomic and “street-ability” package in the 600 racer-replica class.

The first CBR600 Hurricane came down the pipe in 1987, and judging from the way its ’07 offspring performs, we’ll still be seeing CBRs in another 20 years.


CBR600RR SPEC SHEET

MSRP

$12,499.00

Displacement

599 cc

Engine type

Inline dohc four, liquid-cooled

Carburetion

Fuel Injection

Horsepower
(crank – claimed)

118 hp @ 13,500 rpm

Torque
(claimed)

49 ftlb @ 11,250 rpm

Final drive

Six speed, chain drive

Tires, front

120/70 ZR17

Tires, rear

180/55 ZR17

Brakes, front

Dual 310 mm discs with four piston calipers

Brakes, rear

Single 220 mm disc with single piston caliper

Seat height

820 mm (32.3″)

Wheelbase

1375 mm (53.8″)

Dry weight

157 Kg (345 lbs) (claimed)

Colours

White/Silver, Blue Metallic/Silver, Red/Black, Black
Warranty
12 months, Unlimited Km

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