The Rise and fall of the Honda CBR 600


A dominating force in the motorbike world, the Honda CBR 600 has built a reputation and a huge loyal fan base over the past 30 years. Everywhere you go you will find the devoted sect of Honda riders that hold a special place for the CBR 600, whether it’s someone’s first big bike or an experienced biker’s ride of choice they all have their own reasons to love the special machine.  From the beginning with 1987 CBR 600F to the most recent 2013 Honda CBR 600 RR the model’s prowess has been proved and a legacy set in stone that defiantly won’t be fading any time soon, but like any legacy it has to come  to an end…

2017 marks the introduction of the Euro4 noise and emission regulations; unfortunately the Honda CBR 600 and a whole host of other 600’s simply won’t meet the requirements and production will be culled at the beginning of 2017.  Now as the end of the Honda CBR 600 looms ever closer we look back at 3 decades of advancement and refinement, a bike that would change the face of the 600 class for years to come.

In 1987 a storm ripped through the racing world and left the competition strewn in its wake, the aptly named Honda Hurricane became the new face of 600 racing and was the first true 600 super- sport beast. No doubt it looked odd, the all-encompassing “jellymould” fairing curved round the entire bike unlike the popular race bikes at the time but what was inside made sure it stuck it’s heel in the door of the super-sport world. The Hurricane was much lighter than 600’s of the time but managed to pack in more power it was truly a revolutionary machine that paired versatility with incredible track performance.

By the time 1991 came around the CBR was already established as hot competition, with the likes of Kawasaki and Yamaha bringing fresh meat into the 600 arena. The focal point of the CBR’s first up date was the engine the careful design allowed for another 10bhp and 3ftlp of torque, now the already impressive machine was a real force to be reckoned with. These improvements were only made possible with a new twin spar frame and brand new fairings; everything was looking up for the Honda CBR 600 even with creeping competition from the ZZ-R600 and FZR600.

Four years pass buy and Kawasaki and Yamaha up their game yet again with the sportier Thundercat and the ZX-6R and raising the 600 bar even higher, the battle was on. Honda now needs to take the CBR 600 to another level to keep thrashing the completion on the track and in the showroom, so they managed to pull something out of their sleeve. Adding bigger carbs, an air – ram system and a new steel frame pushed the CBR600F up to 100bhp along with improved braking and handling it became an even greater track bike. Even still the CBR 600 managed to keep its original appeal and design philosophy pairing the added performance with excellent versatility, after all CBR stands for “City Bike Racing” and this little beauty was living up to its name!

1999 saw the 600 shed 18kg of weight with the help of a new aluminium frame and adjusted bore size again amped up the horse power to 110bhp along with improved handling and breaking, the CBR officially has its sporting edge back in business with this model upgrade. By this time CBR mania was in full swing, the CBR 600 rattled past the completion making most other 600s feel like overweight under powered hulks of metal and plastic not the track demon and everyday racer the CBR600 was proving to be!

2001 was the year the CBR600F was truly brought into the 21st century the carbs disappeared and fuel injection was brought in along with a brand new look! Dual headlights and a sleeker chassis meant the CBR was looking better than ever the new, sportier, sexier look was the most popular incarnation yet and people loved it.

Flying into 2003 came the CBR600RR Honda were getting serious with this model straying from versatility and practicality the 600RR was a full track beast. This was the first time the CBR moved focus solely on to the track and it was a risky move, but was one that paid off. Using breakthrough MotoGP technology the remarkable RR yet again managed to raise the bar for the 600 class.  The handling was excellent and it punched out 13,500rpm from the 117bhp motor. Picking up an inverted fork and even better brakes the RR was a track legend but not quite as inspiring to ride on the road.  The 2007 model managed to address a couple of issues left behind in 2003 by adding a central air-scoop, a smaller motor and dealing with the poor mid-range of the 2007 model now the RR was a much better ride on the road and kept its outstanding track prowess.

After 2012 600 sales plummeted to the ground and the glory days of the Honda CBR 600 were over, 2013 saw only minor updates to the RR to help it catch up with completion with a Big Piston Fork and couple of tweaks to the ECU and C-ABS system. On the whole the RR was exactly the same machine and it didn’t really need any changes at this point, a track legend and a road favourite it has reached the peak of its production career.

After over 30 years of production the CBR is a true legend in its own right and will not be forgotten for a long time, time after time and model after model Honda proved with the CBR ability to keep improving and moving forward. I might be the end of tits long life but I think the CBR600 has been cut off at its peak, you know what they always say: it’s better to burn out than fade away!