Peeling back the skin
To be honest, when you view the spec sheet you may well wonder. Essentially the CBR has gained a new look, a set of funky hoops and altered suspension. Not exactly modifications that are likely to set the world on fire; however, while the changes may be minimal they do make their mark known.
Moving downwards, you come to the most significant modification, the addition of Showa’s Big Piston Forks (BPFs). Already used on the Fireblade (although in larger 43mm diameter) the BPFs are there, Honda claims, to add a bit of strength to the front end under braking and reduce the dive of the old conventional forks.
So, we basically have little more than a new fairing, BPFs, re-styled wheels and a new fuel map. In other words, to properly evaluate how different the 2013 bike is to the 2012 model, we’d need to push the BPFs hard on track. Which was a problem.
You may have noticed from the pictures that the weather wasn’t exactly brilliant at the CBR’s launch, but even in the horrible conditions the modifications were apparent. We were given CBRs with Honda’s extremely clever Combined ABS system fitted. It is an incredible system and allows you to brake in a straight line as hard as you can in the dry without any fear of locking the front, something I tested several times per lap.
Donington has three hard braking areas and even in the treacherous conditions I saw nearly 120mph on the clock before grabbing the brakes hard for turn one, something that I simply wouldn’t be brave enough to do with a non-ABS braking system. This deceleration revealed the stiffness of the BPFs, which certainly seem to offer more initial resistance than the conventional forks on the 2012 model; however, more so, it highlighted just how good the ABS is.
Once over this initial annoyance, the engine felt exactly the same as the previous model, with a good, if not outstanding, mid-range and sprightly top end.
This is no radically different CBR, and to be brutally honest if you have a 2007-onwards CBR600RR and you get your forks properly re-valved by a suspension expert, it would be as good as the BPF units for 99% of riders. Other than this the styling is nicer, but that’s about it.
I grew up with the 600cc class and I’m a huge fan of supersport bikes but even as a supporter of the class I can’t help but feel its glory days are well behind. The economic crisis has seen 600s fall from grace and they now feel a bit static in their development. In the same way that BMW, Aprilia and Ducati have jumped on the Japanese manufacturers’ lack of activity and development in the litre bike class, Triumph and MV have done the same with the 600s. The new Daytona 675 will easily beat the Japanese 600s in group tests and, I’m sorry Honda, but a new fairing and redesigned forks isn’t going to stop that happening. The CBR is loaded with clever technology such as the electronic steering damper and amazing ABS system, but with a price tag of £9,500 I wonder how many will be prepared to stump up for what is essentially just a new fairing and stiffer front end.
However let’s not end on doom and gloom; there is a ray of light on the horizon. The supersport class may be on the decline, but look at the great selection of fantastically priced middleweights that are popping to replace it in the market. The supersport class may be on the decline, but that’s not to say that there aren’t some great bikes for younger riders out there
Engine: 599cc, liquid-cooled inline four, DOHC, fuel injection
Power (hp): 119@13,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 50@11,000rpm
Top speed: 165mph (est)
Weight: 213kg (wet)
MPG: 36 (estimated)