Honda CBR600RR: PH2 Ridden

Honda’s CBR has been a mainstay of the supersport class since it was first launched in 1987. Throughout the 90s and early 2000s, the Japanese manufacturers threw everything at their disposal to ensure their 600 was the bike to have, and as a result you could guarantee that every two years a model would receive a small update or a major overhaul. Despite this four-year life cycle costing the Japanese a fortune in development it created a huge buzz around the supersport machinery. Then the bubble burst: not only did the 1000s hit back, but the financial crisis also curbed the manufacturers’ enthusiasm for spending vast sums of R&D money.

Miserable conditions tested the new CBR
Miserable conditions tested the new CBR
Which brings us to where we are now. The supersport class is on its knees as thousands are the bikes to own. In the last few years development of the 600s has virtually stopped and, almost overnight, the Japanese dropped their bi-annual update schedules. Believe it or not, the last time Honda significantly changed the CBR was back in 2007, when it gained a whole new engine including some much-needed mid-range and an altered look with a central air scoop. So what has prompted the 2013 revision?

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.

New fairing is one of the key changes
New fairing is one of the key changes
For a start there's the look. Pictures don’t really do the new fairing and seat unit justice. There is certainly a slight hint of early R6 about the front end with its angled lights and central air scoop; however, it’s fresh and stylish with some great paint schemes. Interestingly, the CBR’s front indicators are now also permanently on as daylight warning lights, a move I personally think is dangerous and I’d recommend removing the wire so they only illuminate when they are flashing.

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.

New wheels more rigid, but barely lighter
New wheels more rigid, but barely lighter
And finally we have the wheels. In the marketing spiel Honda were busy calling them ‘lightweight cast aluminium’ – however, there’s virtually no weight saving. The design is slightly more rigid, but that’s it – a bit of a letdown.

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.

Snow joke
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.

BPFs are the major technical change
BPFs are the major technical change
Riding in such hideous conditions is a good test of a bike’s throttle response and in this respect I was disappointed with the CBR. Going from a closed to an open throttle was pretty jerky, and where I was hoping to have the power gently reintroduced, instead it was quite an abrupt transition. With the updated fuel maps I was surprised Honda hadn’t made things smoother, especially as the CBR has a different map per gear; however, I wouldn’t be surprised if emissions laws are a limiting factor.

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.

New CBR's changes aren't that radical
New CBR's changes aren't that radical
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

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)
Price: £9,500

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (42) Join the discussion on the forum

  • sjw 30 Mar 2013

    When I started riding bikes over 20 years ago, I vowed I would start with low cc and move steadily up. So I began with 125, as you had to in my day, then 250, then 400, then 600. And there I have stayed. First were R6s, then CBR600RR. I have tried 675 and 1000, but stayed 600.
    I really do not see the point of going to 1000. Costs more to buy and insure, and more chance of going faster than I can manage, and extra torque just makes me lazy.
    They do everything for me, ride to the Alps or ride on sunny days in UK (though I cant remember the last one !)
    OK at 60, I am probably not the average 600 sports bike rider, and I guess there are more comfortable bikes out there, but what the hell, you're only young once smile

  • _g_ 29 Mar 2013

    jackh707 said:
    True, its why a ride a versys, unpleasant over 100, wheelies of crests in 2nd and 3rd quicker than a 600 40-80 in the real world.
    Only if the 600 rider is in the wrong gear; as they're a lot higher geared people do often tend to forget and leave them in a gear that tops out at 145/165, then suggest a lower power single/twin isn't as 'gutless', when in reality it's just that the lower powered bike is much lower geared too.

    Ie, I've been told singles are a lot less gutless than 4s. Yet first gear on the GSXR I had was only a few mph lower than top gear on my KTM690 - if the GSXR was geared the same it'd be a question of how hard you wanted the bike to flip yo!

  • dannyintenerife 29 Mar 2013

    Looking at upgrading to a litre sports next.
    I think I need to have at least 140bhp and 185mph on tap to be able to sleep at night.
    Honda X11 or 1098/1199 if the tanks are different to the 848.
    MV Agusta F4 in each colour if I win the lottery.
    Why don't any 848 reports mention the tank and seat thing?

  • Schnellmann 29 Mar 2013

    Herman Toothrot said:
    The whole 1000 vs 600 thing, I wonder how many people really make the most of their 1000's. The difference in power and torque is vast, been out with people with decades of experience, them on CBR600RRs and they have openly admitted they struggled to keep up with me on my hornet. Me riding Blade they'd leave me standing, amazed how much harder it is to use the power, any of the power. Hornet leaned over on the power WOT leaving bends. Blade I'm stting myself have to be so much more careful and at the moment it means I'm much, much slower.

    Anyone else think sports bikes with narrow bars are harder to ride? Certainly feels that way for me at the minute? Reading this review it makes me think a 600rr is a sensible fun bike.
    Some time back I read a really interesting article in a bike magazine. Unfortunately can't remember which one (might not have been British TBH). They were comparing 600s and 1000s on track. They had a fairly big group of riders, ranging from some readers, journos and racers. What was interesting was that the racers all did their best times on the 1000s, the journos were not really much quicker on the 1000s and the readers were quickest on the 600s...

  • 3DP 29 Mar 2013

    jackh707 said:
    RemyMartin said:
    I'd say a 600 supersport is totally the wrong bike for those sort of speeds and road type.

    A supermoto or something like a big single like the KTM Duke.
    True, its why a ride a versys, unpleasant over 100, wheelies of crests in 2nd and 3rd quicker than a 600 40-80 in the real world.
    I would have thought a 600 would be relatively better at this than a 1000 though.... I did find a cbr600f a bit over the top for the road and incredibly dull in how competent it was.
    In my view sports 600s work best on 60-120mph single carriageway A roads. You can revel in their superior handling, use the full bredth of 2nd, 3rd and 4th gear and don't have to be too careful with the throttle. A thousand is more usable at lower than 60 and higher than 120 due to extra torque and power, but they are heavier, and can be a bit overwhelming on tighter stuff with the ferocity of the power and torque.

    For me, point to point on a 600 on my favourite roads, I reckon I'd be no faster on a modern 1000 as what I make up on straights, I'd lose on bends and corner exit. The 600 is generally more fun in these scenarios I believe, but less relaxing and rewarding everywhere else.

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