Mark Forsyth's review of the CBR600RR ABS

Ex-Performance Bikes Editor - and Bol d'Or winner - reviews the CBR600RR ABS for Visordown

According to Honda 'Difficult is worth doing' ... bet that's not what the bloke who painted Forsyth's lid said

IT'S NOT the kids anymore like it was in the 70’s and 80’s that are having all the crashes. In the 00’s it’s the forty-something on big capacity sportsbikes that are lending weight to the term ‘organ donors’ amongst black-humoured A+E staff. We need help. Help against ourselves.

Enter Honda, stage left, holding the burning torch of righteous technological assistance. Their combined braking electronic ABS system is now up and running on their sports models – an industry first. It may be in prototype form but believe me, it’s ready for production. Until now ABS and combined brakes were the territory of tourers with HGV wheelbases and car-like kerb weights, not out-and-out sportsbikes.

The system starts to work its magic once the sensors measure a certain amount of braking force. The clever part of the process is that the rider still feels like he’s in charge of the braking operation but, clearly for their own good, it’s all taken care of by the bike itself. It doesn’t matter if your hands and feet are made of lead, you will be able to perform risk-free emergency stops on polished ice without coming to grief. Very, very clever.

The combined braking system overcomes the weight pitching issue of a sports bike under heavy braking by shifting more braking effort to the rear brake and less to the front. In a both-pedal emergency stop situation the attitude of the bike is spectacularly flat, allowing maximum use of both front and rear brakes. For reasons too complicated to go into here, the system will only work above 4mph – basically it’s all down to the efficiency of the wheel speed sensors. It’s not going to help you, though, if you’re rushing into a turn too quick, already on the razor edge of grip/disaster.

Turning, leaning and braking is already asking an awful lot from a fist-sized contact patch of adhesion – the electronic redistribution of braking effort is only going to hamper this incredibly delicate situation further. Honda may be fiendishly clever but they’re not going to outsmart basic physics. Not yet, anyway. In all, it’s not hard to see how this neat, sophisticated and compact system could save lives in one of those seat-nipping oh-my-god situations. There were reports – heard through my double life as a car journalist – that some people involved in car accidents had lifted their foot off the brake pedal with disastrous effects when they felt a rapid pulsing movement of the ABS kicking in. You certainly couldn’t accuse Honda’s latest electronically controlled system of imparting the same sensations.

Don’t be surprised to see this Dual CBS ABS system offered as an option on CBR600 and CBR1000 towards the end of this year. The price will be announced sometime soon. Whatever it costs it will be an effective insurance against damaged body panels, flattened silencer cans and missing footrests… and what price is your life?

You can read Mark Forsyth's full review in the next issue of TWO, out on the 26th June.