Not too long ago, we heard rumors that the venerable CBR600RR was being dropped from Honda's line-up due to impending Euro IV emissions regulations in the European Union. When we contacted American Honda for comment, however, we were told we'd been misinformed. Or, at least, not grasped the whole picture.
It may be that the bike will be scrapped from Big Red's line-up in Europe (American Honda offered no comment on that situation), but we were told that "here in the U.S. the CBR600RR is still in the line-up, and have plans to keep it in the line up."
That was music to the ears of RideApart Sportbike Editor Bruce Speedman, who is an avowed fan of the platform. To celebrate, we asked Honda to let him spend a little time with the latest incarnation of the CBR600RR, so he could revel in all the fun riding that Europeans will soon be missing out on.
Here's his report:
The Honda CBR600RR: Evolution of a Supersport
The CBR600 Hurricane blew the competition away in 1987 and Honda has continued to hone this model line ever since. After 30 years of existence, Honda’s latest flagship 600cc road racing bike has progressed at a slow and steady pace to evolve into the CBR600RR it is today.
1997 Honda CBR600F3
At the age of 17 years old, I convinced my parents to let me buy my first streetbike. After nearly a decade of riding Honda’s CR80R, CR125R and CR250R motocross bikes, I had become loyal to the brand and had my eyes set on the CBR despite also considering the GSX-R, YZF600 and Ninja. The bike I settled on was a 1997 CBR600F3 in mint condition. I rode that bike through the hot summers and icy winters, through the windy mountains and flat plains, to high school and work on a daily basis and on cross-country road trips. The planted chassis and stout powerband was unlike any other bike I had ridden (especially coming from single cylinder).
2005 Honda CBR600RR in race trim
In college, a good friend bought a 2001 CBR600F4i that I really enjoyed, so I picked up one as well. Soon after, I upgraded to the more aggressive, “race-replica” 2003 CBR600RR. A few years later, I purchased the refreshed 2005 600RR that morphed into a full-on race bike.
2008 Honda CBR600RR
Post-graduation I found a 2008 600RR in desperate need of attention that I rebuilt back to 100-percent stock. Each generation was a noticeable improvement over the predecessor, but moderate enough to ensure my appreciation for the brand. Many other bikes rotated through my garage as well over this time frame, but there was always at least one machine with Honda wings on the tank.
2013 Honda CBR600RR Press Launch at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway
In 2013, I was invited to the press launch of the 2013 CBR600RR and had never been more comfortable around a racetrack on a sportbike. The bike was extremely nimble, had very tight packaging and transmitted every bit of track surface feel through the chassis with minimal tweaks to the stock suspension. The handling was so razor-sharp, I didn’t even notice that the power plant was down 10 percent compared to my 8-year-old 2005 600RR race bike. Once again, the latest iteration of the CBR600RR was a conservative improvement over the previous generation.
2016 Honda CBR600RR with 2005 CBR600RR in background
Fast forward three years and the 2016 Honda CBR600RR remains unchanged aside from a few aesthetic tweaks. The other manufacturers have been pushing the limits of what can be offered in a middleweight sportbike package by offering the latest technological features, such as electronic chassis controls, ABS, traction control, quick shifters and advanced instrument displays transmitting an overwhelming amount of vehicle data. However, in true Honda fashion, the CBR600RR is focused on providing the most stable chassis and durable complete system on the market.
The most advanced systems on the current 600RR are ABS for safety, a fuel gauge for convenience and fuel injection for reliability (also, because this isn’t 1999). The 2016 CBR600RR is like its Acura 4-wheeled cousin: aggressive and sporty aesthetics, a planted chassis derived from years of motorsport racing of all types, bullet-proof reliability but without any of the cutting edge features the competitors are offering.
Since the introduction of the CBR600RR in 2003, the model has shed 24 pounds from its wet weight but also lost around 4 horsepower along the way. 2003 was a huge year for middleweight sportbikes with nearly all Japanese OEMs offering a brand-new model or generation: Kawasaki with the new 636 variation of the ZX-6R, Yamaha’s new-gen YZF-R6, and, a year before, Suzuki’s all-new GSX-R600. The 2003 CBR600RR weighed in at 434 lbs. wet, which was some 20 lbs. heavier than the competition at the time. However, the 117 hp the 600RR pumped out at the crank and 103 hp to the wheel were serious figures. The 2016 model now has only 99 hp on tap from its 410-lbs. package.
2005 Honda CBR600RR at Sonoma Raceway Superbike Shootout
Today, a moderately-built YZF-R6 can clear the 120 rear wheel horsepower mark, so the backward progress Honda has made in the pony department with the 600RR over the years is surprising. You would think there would be an inverse relationship of power to reliability. However, my buddy with a built 2006 R6 (ported/polished heads, cams, etc.) that just passed the 100k-mile mark without any major failures (or crashes) would claim otherwise. It seems the tradeoff does not always prove true.
2016 Honda CBR600RR
Where the 2016 CBR600RR lacks in power and electronics, it definitely makes up for in chassis stability. Since the model’s inception, the 600RR aluminum frame has produced one of the best-handling sportbikes on the market. With the Showa 41mm Big Piston Forks added in 2013, the CBR handles like no other. Front-end feedback is amazing and extremely adjustable for stock components. This Showa suspension package runs with the far-pricier Ohlins forks on the Triumph Daytona 675R, Ducati Panigales and Aprilia RSV4. Though traction control was probably passed up due to the sub-100hp output, the ABS system further stabilizes the ride without upsetting the chassis.
2016 instrument panel on top and 2005 below
To be honest, the fuel level indicator gauge on the instrument panel has to be my favorite feature of the CBR600RR electronic package. This feature has been present ever since the initial release in 2003 and has been extremely handy for over a decade now. Even to this day, not all sportbikes offer this feature, but instead a dummy, panic-inducing, binary low fuel light indicator when you are roughly 1 gallon away from a dry tank.
The fuel gauge has remained a constant fixture on the 600RR display, but aside from a font change on the analog tachometer, tach needle color and backlight illumination color, pretty much everything else has held steady over the course of the model’s existence.
The Honda CBR600RR certainly isn’t the fastest, most technologically-advanced, nor most aggressive sportbike on the road, but where it lacks in these sectors it makes up for in reliability, stability, and predictability. There is a lot to be said about the value of these benefits that aren’t often praised in sportbike conversation. The 2016 CBR600RR is a solid supersport that handles great and lives up to the brand’s reputation that has been flying under the radar in recent years. Then again, all of this praise may be my CBR600 soft spot talking.
Static: Sean Russell
2005 model on-track: 4theRiders
2013 model on-track: Kevin Wing for Super Streetbike
2016 model on-track: FROBOYINC
Weight: 165 lbs
Height: 5 feet 10 inches
Inseam: 31 inches
Built: Compact, athletic
Experience: 20 years riding; 13 years street/sportbike, 12 years roadracing, 20 years motocross
Specialty: Sportbikes, road-testing, racing, technical
Helmet: Arai Signet-Q
Suit: Cortech Adrenaline
Gloves: Dainese Full Metal RS
Boots: Alpinestars SuperTech R