Buying used: Honda CBR600
If you had to recommend a sports motorcycle to a newly qualified rider with $6000 in his or her pocket, chances are it’d be Honda’s universally-acclaimed CBR600F. That’s simply because when it comes to delivering sporting thrills coupled with everyday usability, a CBR6 is pretty damn hard to beat.
A BRIEF HISTORY
So why is the CBR6 so darn good? Probably it’s because Honda has continuously evolved and improved a good thing. With the model already steeped in success, 1999 saw the frame upgraded to alloy on the FX/FY models. While it’s now staple fare for just about everything, in 1999 the shift from steel was significant, allowing the CBR to drop a whopping 15kg.
The 599cc, 69.9kW (95hp) liquid-cooled four-banger engine was thoroughly revised and the suspension package was virtually spot-on for road riders from the very first turn of the wheels. There’s no doubt the more middle-of-the-road styling wasn’t as lairy as, say, an R6, but the CBR is well built, practical and well equipped.
The quality approach covers all aspects of the CBR, including the suspension – a 43mm fork and rear monoshock, both fully adjustable for spring preload, plus rebound and compression damping.
At 296mm the brake discs may not be big by today’s standards, but nipped by the four-pot Nissin calipers they certainly had no problems in slowing the CBR’s 190 or so wet kilos from the 250km/h the machine was capable of.
Ever practical, the CBR has a reasonable 18lt fuel capacity to match its decent seat and riding position. It even has a centrestand, which is truly a godsend. Sounds good, eh? And to top it all off, the Honda Ignition Security System (HISS) anti-theft gizmo helps prevent opportunistic scum from making off with it.
The year 2001 saw the debut of the CBR600F4i (or FS). As you may have guessed from the model name, electronic fuel injection had arrived. Meanwhile, the softer, more cuddly and practical F model was offered alongside, for those after more of an all-rounder. Surprisingly, however, there’s little to choose between the two.
While the FS loses the centrestand, a kilo and some wheelbase, it gained some sharper clothes and an engine with an extra 3.7kW (5hp), thanks to 38mm injectors, a larger airbox and a host of minute engine tweaks aimed at sneaking in another 700rpm, taking the model’s redline to 14,200rpm.
And so it remained until the introduction in 2003 of the more focused CBR600RR. Inspired by the RC211V MotoGP bike, the RR benefitted directly from Honda’s racing experience.
Providing the go was an all-new shorter, narrower engine, courtesy of a stacked gearbox. Capable of revving to 15,000rpm at a rapid old rate, the engine sucked through a ram-air system via perforated ducts in the fairing nose (which allegedly also aided direction changes) and a new EFI system. The latter featured additional injectors built into the top of the airbox lid, where the fuel was mixed before it entered the engine.
The RR was, as they say, a sure-fire winner, achieving huge success on the race track as well as in the showroom.
In 2005 an already brilliant bike became even better. In brief, the 2005 CBR600RR was armed with a 41mm Honda Multi-Action System (HMAS) upside-down fork with radial-mount calipers. The engine copped revised intake ports and a low-friction piston coating, while the EFI was tweaked for a wider spread of power. The frame and sub-frame were new and lighter, as was the exhaust system. The swingarm was stiffer and the rear shock was lighter.
According to Honda, the 2007 CBR600RR saw a return to the core strengths that made the original CBR600F such a brilliant all-round motorcycle. The ’07 model had an all-new and compact liquid-cooled, 16-valve, DOHC engine, still displacing the usual 599cc. The fuel-injection system had much finer control and drew air through an intake control valve similar to that found on the litre-class Fireblade. Honda said the net result was more midrange than the ’05 version, which apparently in turn had more than the ’03 model.
The new chassis was lighter, but the suspension, which was always excellent, remained fundamentally unchanged. Additional comfort (ha!) was achieved through raising the handlebars 10mm, while the wheelbase dropped a whole 20mm from 1395mm to 1375mm. The swingarm grew an extra 5mm and the engine shuffled back 15mm, affording a roomier ride position.
To cure some perceived wayward behaviour over rough surfaces, the ’07 model sported an electronic steering damper located under the top triple clamp. Operated by talking to the ignition, as engine speed increases the flow of damping fluid is proportionally limited. The slower you go the easier it is – the faster you go, the firmer it gets.
The weight loss totalled an astonishing 8kg, bringing the CBR’s dry weight down to a claimed 155kg!
KNOWING YOUR CBR600
We’re really talking about two different machines here. While the cuddly F and F4i were forgiveness personified, the RR was fast, technical and ‘late on the brakes’-committed.
Yet regardless of model, any CBR is up for whatever you can throw at it. What’s more, it’s true that despite the RR’s MotoGP heritage, the bike is still supremely easy to ride, like every other CBR6 ever made.
Line it up, screw it down and screw it on. Any line, any time – and because it’s a CBR, you can change your plan whenever it suits you.
All CBRs like to be revved hard and this doesn’t appear to do them any harm, give or take the odd high-mileage camchain and tensioner.
The later fuel-injected versions really needed to be spanked above 8000rpm to engage in serious haulage, and certainly there have been times when I’ve felt the need to drop down a gear just to speed up the process of speeding up. That’s par for the course with all the Supersport 600s.
There’s midrange there, but nowhere close to the much-trumpeted hype of various Honda press releases.
I’m an awful cynic when it comes to comfort and the truth is a CBR600RR suits lightweight jockeys with a height of 180cm or under and the flexibility of a worm, not fat old giffers like me. It’s the price you pay for sportsbike ownership, I suppose.
The fuel-injected F is a better everyday ride by far. Given the choice I’d take the F every time, simply for its practical features and the fact that on the road, in any point-to-point challenge you’d care to imagine, the F will probably give little if anything away to the RR.
The CBR600RR proves that in terms of outright performance, the effort spent in refining a pedigree pays dividends. However, even though there’s no F4-esque option in Honda’s range today, in terms of what we need rather than what we want, the F and the F4i are still good buys in their own right.
All the CBRs covered in this Hindsight are staggeringly reliable and reasonably cheap to run and maintain. You can tour two-up on earlier versions, or you can cut hot laps at a trackday on something later, so go for something that suits your preferred riding. Luckily, the core strength of the CBR600 is that across its various generations, there’s something to accommodate all tastes and all personalities.
Check for track day abuse like crash damage and wheel dings, and listen for pronounced rattles, but if it’s a sweetheart and it comes with a service history, buy with confidence.
Type: Liquid-cooled, four-stroke, 16-valve, DOHC, in-line, four-cylinder
Bore x stroke: 67 x 42.5mm
Fuel system: Fuel injection
Type: Six-speed, constant-mesh
Final drive: Chain
CHASSIS AND RUNNING GEAR
Frame type: Die-cast twin-spar aluminium
Front suspension: 45mm inverted fork, fully adjustable
Rear suspension: Monoshock, fully adjustable
Front brake: Twin 310mm discs with four-piston calipers
Rear brake: Single 220mm disc with single-piston caliper
DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES
Dry weight: 160kg
Seat height: 820mm
Fuel capacity: 18 litres
Max power: 86kW (115hp) at 13,000rpm
Max torque: N/A
YEAR CBR600F CBR600RR
1999 $6800 –
2001 $7900 –
2003 $8600 $8700
2005 $9200 $9400
2007 $11,300 $11,000
2003 HONDA CBR600RR
Quote: $891 (12 months)
Standard excess: $600
Sum insured: Market value
Comprehensive insurance calculated using QBE private-use insurance premiums allowing for a 30-year-old rider with 60% No Claim Bonus (Rating 1), cover restricted to policy holder only, travelling less than 8000km a year and living in Melbourne. GST and stamp duty are included. Other options are available – please call 1800 24 34 64 for details.