First Ride: 2011 Honda CBR600F

The return of the renowned CBR600F or just a full-faired Hornet?

You probably know someone that has, at one stage in their biking life, owned a Honda CBR600F. First launched in 1987, it has been the bedrock of middleweight Honda sales, but, unlike the VFR or NC models, it never really got cult status. It’s never been ‘a must own’ and yet tens of thousands of us have owned one.

Now, 24 years later, the CBR600F is back but it’s got to fight harder than ever to sell as well as it has in the past.  Honda’s 600cc range runs like this: The CBF600, the CB600F Hornet, the CBR600RR and now the CBR600F has to muscle its way into that line-up.

The outright success of every CBR600F model to date has been down to the fact the bikes are easy to get on with, capable, versatile and value for money. They strike a chord with those of us who want performance, comfort and looks without looking to shave 0.3 seconds off their time to the greasy bacon sandwich stop on a Sunday morning. On the flip side, if it’s capable but boring, well, no-one wants that.
The fact is, the CBR600F sits slap-bang in the middle of the CB600F Hornet and CBR600RR in terms of performance, comfort and price.

Sat on the bike, its seat height is identical to the Hornet, but the reach to the bars not quite as far as the CBR600RR. The result is a riding position that, even just pulling away, feels more relaxed, less knees and elbows than the CBR600RR. There’s definitely a feeling of being sat ‘in’ the CBR600F and not perched on it.

The area infront of you feels spacious and not clustered. There’s plenty of room to tuck in behind the screen should you want to, but I hazard a guess that most CBR600Fs will spend the majority of their life with a tankbag strapped to the tank, carrying the essentials for that daily commute or cross-europe trip. There’s no need to tuck in on the CBR600F, the standard screen is plenty big enough. At 90mph, sat largely upright, life’s pretty good behind the bubble of air behind the screen. It’s certainly more comfortable than you would be on a CBR600RR or a naked Hornet. After a day’s riding I got off the bike, ache-free. No pain in my wrists, no tense areas between my shoulders.

The running gear and suspension remain unchanged from the Hornet too and it’s a case of how much do you need on the road. It doesn’t suffer from not being infinitely adjustable and the 100bhp that the engine puts out appears to be the magic number.

On the twisty and demanding roads that we took the CBR600F down, I thought it would be approaching the zone where it starts to tie itself in knots; the suspension just half a step behind what’s happening and the engine not quite able to deliver the goods. But I was wrong.

It handled everything I could throw at it, with impeccable manners. Sure, you could probably go that bit faster on the CBR600RR, but not with the same relaxed attitude as you get from the CBR600F. I actually took in the sights around me on the CBR600F, rather than keeping one eye on the road and the other on the speedo. Things are less frantic in the CBR600F owner’s world. If you want to see Europe and not just plough through it, maybe that’s something to consider.

The looks are subjective. So far, I’ve read quite a few negative comments, but the way I see it, you spend the good times on your bike not looking at your bike. So unless it’s vomit-inducing, it just doesn’t matter. But don’t be surprised if you come up behind someone on a country road and they either submit, or get their head down and try to lose you. In your mirrors, the CBR600F looks exactly like a Suzuki GSX-R1000 K7 and they weren’t exactly known for being ugly, were they?

All CBR600F models coming into the UK will have ABS and this is a good thing. If you haven’t tried ABS then you ought to. Early versions were clunky and obviously intrusive, but the ABS systems being used on today’s bikes are fantastic. They’re great for two reasons: one, obviously, it’ll help you avoid coming off if you have to anchor on and two, you can ride the bike into the ABS when conditions aren’t great to see just how much grip you’ve got.

On our return leg of the test route it rained in biblical proportions and just having ABS means you can ride along relaxed. I’ve done too many journeys in the pouring rain on superbikes with no ABS and I find myself grinding my teeth and barely breathing. It’s not like you need ABS all the time, but knowing it’s there is a good feeling. The one time you need it, you’ll never want to go back to not having it.

What really stands out about the CBR600F is its can-do attitude. The riding position, comfort, engine characteristics and now ABS make the CBR600F a serious contender for the typical British rider. You might be the underdog in terms of outright power and performance but the CBR600F will allow you to get more out of what you have on offer, more of the time.

It’s a jack of all trades and a master of fun.

2011 Honda CBR600F Specifications

Engine 599cc, Liquid-cooled 16-valve DOHC inline-4
Price £7055
Power
100bhp @ 12,000
Bore x stroke
67 x 42.5mm
Compression ratio 12: 1
Front suspension
Rear suspension
Front brakes
Rear brake
Dry weight
211kg
Seat height 800mm
Fuel capacity 18.4litres
Colour options Pearl Nightstar Black / Matt Cynos Grey Metallic, Pearl Cool White / Hyper Red, Pearl Cool White / Moody Blue Metallic

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