Living with a 2003 Honda CBR600RR

Simon Bowen reviews the 2003 Honda CBR600RR over a year of ownership. And he likes it, just a bit

Living with a 2003 Honda CBR600RR
Engine Capacity

August 2003

The delayed ARRIVAL of the ridiculously attractive CBR caused an understandable stir at TWO Towers. Only Shippey's V-Rod had attracted quite so much attention on its debut. Fortunately supplied in the red colour scheme rather than the forgettable black, the pocket rocket positively oozed class in the afternoon sun.

Predictably, it was raining by the time I fired it up and didn't stop until it was time for the first service. No matter, as you can still make rapid progress at running-in revs and the standard fit Bridgestones were as capable in the wet as the dry. Avonvale Honda (01604 235353) took care of that at a moment's notice - thanks chaps. With its track debut at Donington only hours away, it was whisked away to Kliktronics over in Bury St Edmunds for some electronic gadgetry.

This year's must-have accessory has to be the thumb-operated gear change and whilst I know the bike will be an awesome track tool, with 50% less power than a big GSX-R, it'll benefit from any sneaky lap reducing mods. The Kliktronic kit has been around since 1997 and consists of a control box (tucked away under the pillion seat) which is wired up to the buttons (left handle bar) which in turn activate the actuator unit which is attached to, and operates, the gear lever. Smart, although the actuator is a fair size on such a small and compact bike. It works well too, with the F1 style change only taking around a third of a second. It's great fun but the job is actually only half finished. The next stage is to fit the ignition interrupter which will enable changes at full (and constant) throttle and a blip of clutch for the down change. The Kliktronic unit costs £395 (01284 701800) whilst fitting will be between £100-£150 depending on bike.

The guys at Honda may argue but I think there is room for improvement with the brakes, as they don't have that glorious initial bite of the FireBlade or SP-2. The next step is to try some SBS dual carbon pads and braided hoses and take it from there. I've junked the rear pegs and will try some rear sets next month and hopefully a can and a Power Commander. I've also fitted a screen from Pyramid Plastics (£65 - 01427 612536) and a smaller plate from MAL Plates (£10 - 01933 273274).

October 2003

It's back to square one with the arrival of CBR number two, and this time the keys are staying well hidden. The shopping list is pretty straight forward, just a few mods to round off what is already an outstanding package.

As with the last RR, the running-in period was carried out in the rain before being whisked off to First Bike in Tooting (020 8946 9466) for the first service.

The essential saucy £65 black screen from Pyramid Plastics (01427 612536) was first on while we awaited the arrival of Kevin the dyno fairy from Dynojet UK (01995 600500). Apparently their Power Commander (£335) would work wonders when mated to a quality performance exhaust can. Cue covetous glances as the package from TranAm (01425 620580) produces the most utterly desirable end can from Leo Vinci (£374). I've never been a fan of deafening race systems - a can should look and sound good and contribute a slight improvement to performance. The Evolution II oval titanium fits the bill as it's road legal and comes with a sneaky removable baffle for added racket. On firing it up after fitting, the pipe emitted a purposeful low bur- bling, coughing bark at low revs, as good as an inline four engine can sound in my book, and progressing into a howl at around 8000 rpm.

The Power Commander was fitted first and the dyno showed that the fuelling was immediately smoothed out whilst also giving power gains from 4000 to 14,000 rpm, with an impressive 4bhp increase at 9500rpm. The addition of the Evolution can tidied up the fuelling even further and gave a top end power gain of 3-4bhp. Dyno runs are all very well and good, but road tests are the ultimate judge of value for money (£700 plus fitting for the can and commander, 10% on top of the cost of the bike for less than 5% power gain). The reality out on the public highway is that it is money very well spent. The dyno charts fail to show the improvement in throttle response which is substantial throughout the rev range. The bike pulls more cleanly everywhere and is strong mid-range, the only area in which it failed to impress in standard form. Time to hit the track!

December 2003

After the addition of a few racy gizmos to Jim's CBR600RR, perfection looms large for the Evil One's favourite caning tool

It seems as though the season of the track day is drawing to a close and the sexy CBR will resume its role as the day-to-day commuter and weekend play thing.

The Honda has had a few days wobbling around various circuits, and has impressed with its stamina. On no occasion has the bike felt anything other than fresh at the end of a day on the track. On one scorching hot track day at Donington it managed to be ridden in all twenty four sessions, consuming over five tanks of fuel and nearly two sets of tyres. The standard pads needed replacing at the end of the day, but the bike felt like it could easily have done it all over again. Even the fuel consumption has only dropped to an impressive 34mpg, despite covering more track than road miles.

Ready for its next mindless caning, the bike has been lurking in our studio adorned with Pirelli slicks (which incredibly, have lasted for three full track days) and the standard exhaust (essential for quiet days at Donington) for a couple of weeks now. A set of Metzeler Rennsport road tyres await, along with the return of the awesome sounding Leo Vinci end can, which in turn, is waiting (and waiting) for the new Dynojet Power Commander, which replaces the previous faulty item.

Although I'll be trying out a steering damper next month, I just can't see the point in playing around with replacement suspension parts. The standard units are so good on road and track that only half decent club racers or twenty stone buffoons need bother. I will be fiddling with the front end in order to speed up the steering, but that is more a matter of personal taste than criticism with the stock equipment. Although the brakes don't have quite the power of the larger RR Blade, fitting SBS replacement pads at £18 per caliper (01980 326002) have made a slight improvement - as have the front braided brake lines from Earl's at £55 (01803 869850).

The addition of slicks and consequent increased angles of lean meant the standard pegs were disappearing fast. Performance Parts (0870 2402118) supplied a set of their £414 Gilles anodised rear sets which although flex a little more than expected, have at least cured the grounding problem, although the gear lever still nips the tarmac through slower left handers. As I was convinced that the bike was going to end up on its ear because of the slick-induced cornering antics, I had Moto Mondo (07759 308283) supply a set of R&G mushroom protectors (£54) for the front and a pair of their own brand for the swing arm (£15).

The most exciting addition has to be the Translogic (01202 623404) QS4 quickshifter, as used by the Crescent Suzuki BSB team, for a mere £440. It's a high quality lightweight little number that comes with a shift light indicator and, more importantly, a mini dash-mounted display which shows revs, gear position and lap times - essential. You can switch the thing off but it really is a lot of fun on road as well as track. For wannabe track day heroes, you can store a whole day's worth of data in its memory.
Without doubt, the best possible value for money improvement was swapping the sixteen tooth front sprocket for a fifteen for £16. This sharpens up the throttle response and acceleration without making too much difference to the largely irrelevant top speed. I got mine from B&C Express on (01522) 791369.

In my opinion, this bike is now almost perfect. It has never missed a beat and has no irritating peculiarities. The fuel tank range is hardly generous and yes, quicker steering (easily fixed) and a little more mid-range power would still be welcome, but the Leo Vinci can, Power Commander, quickshifter and sneaky sprocket really have given the thing an undeniable edge. It also has to be the best looking bike currently being produced by any Japanese manufacturer, adding that essential desirability factor. It can terrorise bigger bikes in many a situation and on any race track - it just takes a bit more concentration and a lot of gear changes, but the reward is immensely satisfying. Like many sportsbike riders, I'm not man enough to get near the limits of a GSX-R1000 (at last I finally admit it...), but can wring the neck of a top 600 without scaring myself stupid. Picking off the occasional R1 on the brakes and slicing underneath a twenty grand Ducati half way through your favourite turn is the icing on the cake, and guaranteed to have you tittering like a poisonous monkey, savouring every last screaming minute of it.

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