CBF600 Part 4 – the commute & wrap up

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Regretfully our time with the CBF600 long termer has come to an end, but not before a last update from chief CMG techie Pat, who took the CBF for a month of commuting duty.

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Words: Rob Harris & Patrick Shelston. Pics: Sarah Moffat (unless otherwise specified)
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Regular CMGers will be aware that we had a Honda CBF600 as a long term ride this summer. Costa was the first to get his mitts on it with a test down at the Honda Canada Savannah testing week. He was quite impressed with it, finding it to be a whole lot more fun on the track than its appearances would suggest.

I picked it up in Montreal early in the summer and immediately gave it a good 13 hour thrashing getting it back to home base in Sackville, New Brunswick. It was a blossoming love affair: sensible ergonomics, full touring ability (thanks to the addition of the touring kit) and a lovely motor that liked to be revved but still had enough grunt for the real world.

After a brief ride on the CBF1000 my affections may have drifted for a while, but by the end of the summer I gave up the CBF600 with regret.

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Typical Toronto parking spot.
photo: Pat Shelston

However, one of the few areas that I was unable to really see how it performed was in city traffic. You’re unlucky if there’s three cars at the traffic light in Sackville, so when I dropped off the bike in Toronto I handed it over to CMG chief techie Pat for a few weeks of urban assault.

Pat is unfortunate enough to have to work right in the centre of Toronto, a commute that he faithfully does on his aging VFR750, as long as the lack of snow allows. Here’s Pat’s take on the experience, followed by a quick final summary of our thoughts on the CBF600 …

COMMUTING DUTY
by Patrick Shelston

When I first saw the CBF as Editor ‘Arris drew into the alley by the side of my house was quite good. But it was also dark, and by the next morning it looked distinctly anemic and narrow. Perhaps its the airy look around the engine, or the heavy nose but I prefer the Suzuki Gladius’ or the Yamaha FZ1’s styling.

Regardless, once on the bike, all of that was forgotten thanks to the excellent ergonomics, with a riding position that is upright and a seat that is comfortable. Forward vision is great and higher than I’m used to, which made checking my blind spots a lot easier than on my sportier VFR.

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The daily commute!
photo: Pat Shelston 

Long-ish commutes were no cause for discomfort as I often find with my VFR (neck pain mostly) and the usual Honda controls were functional and well placed. My only minor quibble were with the dials, which I found a little bit small in relation to their distance from the rider.

The hand-warmers, a frequently used feature, were a simple one-button operation (one button cycles through full power, partial power and off), although not easy while riding since they required a hand to be removed from the controls.

Oddly, they come with an under-voltage sensor that disabled the heated grips when idling with either the high-beams or the cooling fan on, which frequently cut off the heat during stop and go traffic on cold mornings, which is an obvious issue if you do a lot of slow commuting.

This bike also came with the optional luggage rack and cases. I rode most of the time without the side cases as I found them a bit wide for parking and when squeezing by other vehicles. The top case was JUST big enough to fit my 13″ laptop bag, a soft cloth and rain jacket, so that was all I needed.

pat_ride_rsf.jpgSome days it ain’t too bad in the big smoke.

Riding around town, dodging parked cars, pedestrians and potholes was a breeze. Although I didn’t expect it, the steering setup lent itself well to tight, inner-city maneuvering. Again, compared to my VFR750, I felt a lot less “connected” to the bike at higher speeds, but it was also much easier to pull off U-turns and other sharp maneuvers in the city.

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Parking downtown with the other reprobates.
photo: Pat Shelston 

During one rainy ride home after work, my mind drifted slightly and found myself not watching the car in front of me in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Red brake lights looming, I panicked a bit a grabbed a handful of brake… Without much fanfare, and a bit of click-click-click I came to a gentle controlled stopped. Most certainly, without ABS, I would have lost the front wheel and dumped the bike.

The engine is, in typical Honda fashion, excellent. It pulls very smoothly from idle to redline. At first I didn’t find it torquey enough, but once I was used to it, it was just perfect. Great in stop and go traffic as well as on the highway when passing or just cruising.

The only problem on the highway was buzzing in the pegs that I would get from about 100-120 km/h. The frequency of the buzzing was quite annoying, but at times I was able to move my foot so that it didn’t bother me as much.

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‘Twas a bit cold blooded.

One thing that took some getting used to was the fuel injection – not having to warm up the bike is a godsend, but I found cold engine operation was pretty restricted, almost like it was fuel starved. Once fully warmed though, it was very smooth.

I also found it harder than expected to operate the bike at very small throttle openings (even when warm). I found it was either on or off and could be quite jerky as a result. Again, it could just be me because I’m used to silky smooth Keihin CV carbs :).

After all is said and done, though, if I had to purchase a brand new bike, this one would be in the top running.

YEAR IN REVIEW
By Rob Harris

So, after a summer of abuse, what can we conclude about the CBF600?

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Costa discovered that you can have more fun than you’d think on the track!
photo: Bill Petro

Well perhaps the most surprising thing is that, as Honda suggested, the CBF is actually not a big leap for someone coming off a CBR125. I know it’s a long way from a 125 cc single to a 600 cc four, but the CBF is so well mannered, predictable and easy to ride that I think anyone who has cut their teeth on a smaller machine will be more than able to cope with the likes of the CBF.

Granted, it’s a different story with a 600 supersport, but the CBF differs itself with a more sensible riding style, less peaky motor and the ability to pull lower down, thus negating the need to keep it in the redline all the time. Oh, and there’s ABS and optional touring kit to boot.

And, as Costa discovered, it’s a hoot on the track too. Yes despite all its sensible appearances you can get sporty be it on a track or carving through the luscious curves of Cape Breton Island.

Sensible ergonomics make it a pretty comfy ride for the long haul too. The seat does feel a little hard initially and one of the first things you notice are some buzzy vibes from the motor, but oddly after an hour or so these do seem to fade away.

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These kinds of roads were just blissful with the CBF.
photo: Rob Harris

I personally found the screen a tad low but then I’m tall and had the three-position seat set to the highest point. It’s good at keeping the blast away but after a few hours I would inevitably get a stiff neck. There are some aftermarket screens available, which we tried to get but since this is not a bike sold in the US, it would have meant getting one in from Europe and we ran out of time for that.

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‘Arris had a little fling with the 1000.
photo: Steve Thornton

Our tester came with the full touring kit which will add another $2,500 or so to the price but the side bags fit in close and work well, though the top box would affect handling if loaded and was a fiddly fucker to close.

Heated grips are always good (though they’re wide and as Pat discovered, will cycle off if the power is needed somewhere else on the bike) and the centrestand helps with maintenance (though we think it should be standard).

I did get to ride the CBF1000 version too and I must admit to being rather smitten with its similar attributes but with more gusto in the motor that made passing a breeze and wicked it up everywhere else.

Still, the 600 is more than capable, more friendly and has a certain charm that is undoubtedly lost with size. I was thoroughly impressed at its ability to do pretty much everything and still put a smile on your face.


Want to see all the updates on the CBF600? Click here.

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