The story of the Honda CBR600 (1987 to 2007)

When doomsday comes, history will only record one motorcycle in the all-time hall of fame: the CBR600. Now in its 20th year, we chart the success of a biking icon

Posted: 6 February 2007
by Bertie Simmonds

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1987 to 1990 CBR600 (FH/FJ/FK/FL)

And so it was born. The 'jelly mould' fairing hid a steel frame, an inline four of 598cc with 16 valves and 70-80bhp, good for a top speed just shy of 150mph. Around 10bhp up and, at 182 kilos, more than 10 kilos down on Kawasaki's then shit-hot GPz600R. The CBR had 37mm forks, 276mm front discs and a three-spoke 17-inch front wheel. Changes in 1989 added rebound adjustment on the shock, modified fairing and a span-
adjustable brake lever.

CBR memories: Iain MacPherson, hard-bastid Scottish racer
"I rode my CBR to my first race at Knockhill on 9 April 1989 as I didn't have a van. And I didn't have a clue what to do either. It was completely standard, with lights, hero blobs, even a number plate! All I did was tape up the rear light. I was up against stars such as Ian Simpson and Jim Moodie. I wasn't the smoothest out there, but I tried hard and came seventh!"

CBR memories: Don Morley, original launch photographer
"I used one in Japan at the launch and thought the CBR was the best bike I had ever ridden. Except I always ended up scaring myself shitless as I never reached its limit but usually overstepped mine! Strange, because I never had the same problem with the VFR 750."


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A girlfriend of mine who worked for Motorcycle Sport and leisure had CBR600 F-Sport for a year.

She had only passed her test 18 months and had to give back her Suzuki SV650 at the end of a year to get it. Unfortunately the CBR had too much power and was difficult to ride for her so she would give it to me to clock up miles and get me to write her reports. Of course I couldn't slag it off as I had already had my wrists slapped by the magazines advertisers in the past so I wasn't that enthusiastic.

The biggest problem was I owned a brand new R6 at the time and despite the fact that servicing and tires were free on the CBR the R6 was so much better that I barely rode the CBR only clocking up around 2000 miles in 12 months vs almost 10,000 miles on the R6.

The CBR was no more reliable or better built than the R6 too me, on a run to the Lake District I got just over 40mpg at about 80mph cruising. The R6 would never drop below 45mpg even when thrashed hard around my favourite roads. Touring to Wales and back at similar speeds I was close to 60mpg average.

The CBR Sport came with rock hard suspension (even on min settings) and one of the most uncomfortable seats I have ever used meaning frequent stops were necessary on long journeys. The Ducati 749 I owned later was more comfortable.

Tires were Dunlop D207's which were hopeless in the wet and alright in the dry. The R6 I had came with Michelin Pilot Sports which were good in all conditions and seemed to last ages. 5000 miles from the rear.

All in all the CBR Sport isn't that bad but everything else from that era in the 600 class is better, including the CBR600F.

Posted: 28/07/2013 at 10:02

Talkback: The story of the Honda CBR600 (1987 to 2007)



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