When the original CBR600RR made its debut in '03, it initially appeared to have the all the ingredients for success. A completely new, more compact engine, a trick chassis with innovative rear suspension, underseat exhaust-the new CBR seemed ready for prime time.
Unfortunately, things didn't quite work out as planned. The competition was a lot tougher than Honda had expected, and while the CBR was up to par powerwise, it didn't hold any real advantage anywhere. But the Honda's biggest downfall was its weight; the original 600RR was almost 26 pounds heavier than its lightest competitors, a major shortcoming in a class where the power-to-weight ratio is hugely important due to all the entrants possessing similar power outputs.
The CBR saw some subtle but important changes in '05 that dropped a good portion of that excess heft. (In fact, for once a manufacturer fudged its advertised numbers in a good way, with the CBR actually dropping an impressive 16 pounds instead of the adspeak-stated eight pounds.) The engine also received a thorough massaging that resulted in a midrange power boost, in addition to minor chassis alterations that gave the Honda more-agile steering. It all added up to a narrow victory over the rest of the middleweight class in our '05 shootout ("Middleweight Smackdown," Apr. '05).
Standing still for even a moment in the hypercompetitive 600 category can be hazardous, however. Honda found out the hard way when the basically unchanged CBR fell off the top of the heap and hit the floor in the following year's middleweight comparison test ("The Gang's All Here," July '06). So for '07, Big Red reared back and launched the heavily revised version we got to sample at Alabama's Barber Motorsports Park last issue ("A New Dimension," Mar. '07). We covered all the technical details involved in Honda's extensive revamp of the new CBR600RR in that issue; the extent of those changes is pretty vast, so we won't rehash them here.
A Serious Diet
While blasting around the undulating layout of Barber's challenging circuit gave us a good idea of the CBR's performance at or near the limit, we were eager to bring the bike back to our offices and measure its performance in the less-rarified atmosphere of real-world street and canyon riding. After noting how light the new Honda felt at the track, we also wanted to put the 600RR on our own digital scales to see exactly how much weight was actually pared from the previous version, rather than rely on the stated numbers from our friends at American Honda (not that we don't trust them).
So first thing's first: Once we got the CBR back to our offices, we immediately filled the tank with gas, checked the oil and coolant levels and rolled the bike up onto our Intercomp digital scales. The result? An astounding 412 pounds wet, ready to ride. This puts the new Honda well below the previous class anorexic, the Triumph 675, which scaled in at 417 pounds topped off with fuel. It also represents an amazing 19-pound weight loss from the previous CBR, undercutting the 16-pound reduction listed in the Honda press kit, and even slicing just beneath the 18-pound claim American Honda stated back at the Barber intro.
This obviously is the result of a pretty substantial program of paring weight wherever possible on the machine, a fairly difficult endeavor when you're talking about today's sportbikes, which have already had years of R&D aimed at just that goal. And in the 600 class, where component designs are already shaved to the bare minimum, it's a major achievement.
Just where was all that weight shed? We listed many of the components that lost some mass in our First Ride story, but as you'd expect, it's the sum of a long parts list, with each part carrying small (and some seemingly minuscule) weight savings. We managed to get the list of parts and the weight savings for each from Honda R&D, and after the 3.7 pounds chopped from the engine and the 1.1-pound-lighter frame, the rest of the list reads as follows.
|'07 WEIGHT SAVINGS |
|Rear wheel ||0.2kg (7.05 oz.) |
|Rear sprocket ||0.06kg (2.12 oz.) |
|Rear axle collar ||0.08kg (2.82 oz.) |
|Rear tire ||0.41kg (14.46 oz.) |
|Rear brake caliper ||0.15kg (5.29 oz.) |
|Front axle ||0.02kg (.705 oz.) |
|Front axle collars ||0.27kg (9.52 oz.) |
|Front wheel ||0.05kg (1.76 oz.) |
|Front tire ||0.23kg (8.11 oz.) |
|Front brake rotors ||0.2kg (7.05 oz.) |
|Front wheel bearings ||0.06kg (2.12 oz.) |
|Front calipers ||0.32kg (11.29 oz.) |
|Front fork ||0.278kg (9.81 oz.) |
|Steering stem ||0.177kg (6.24 oz.) |
|Swingarm ||0.242kg (8.54 oz.) |
|Muffler ||0.47kg (1.04 lbs.) |
|Radiator ||0.234kg (8.25 oz.) |
|Fuel injection ||0.121kg (4.27 oz.) |
|Front fairing (upper) ||0.467kg (1.03 lbs.) |
|Front fairing bracket ||0.499kg (1.1 lbs.) |
|Fairing (mid-section) ||0.572kg (1.26 lbs.) |
|Fairing (bellypan) ||0.435kg (15.34 oz.) |
|Fuel tank cover ||0.384kg (13.55 oz.) |
|ECU ||0.122kg (4.3 oz.) |
That leaves a little less than a pound to be accounted for, which could easily be explained by some random pieces, such as a lighter tool kit or tire production tolerances.
Losing 19 pounds gains performance no matter how you slice it. And with the new CBR, it pays off handsomely.
Great Haste, Less Fiddling
As you'd expect from a Honda, the CBR fires right up in any weather and can be ridden away immediately on cold mornings if so desired, with nary a hiccup or stumble. Fueling is basically hitch-free at any rpm and throttle setting, with smooth yet crisp throttle response and an easy-effort clutch with linear feel making negotiation of tight traffic situations a breeze. Adding to this friendly character are responsive brakes that are consistent, from the first time you use them on a cold morning to the last corner of a hard canyon run. Transmission action is the best we've ever sampled on a Honda, with light, positive shifting the norm; Honda paid particular attention to reducing driveline lash in the new CBR, and the annoying clunk that used to occur in the first-to-second gear shift is all but gone.
Although Honda raised the final drive gearing with a one-tooth-smaller rear sprocket, the transmission ratios are definitely closer, with sixth gear being shorter than before. Cruising at 70 mph has the CBR singing along at around 6200 rpm; nonetheless, the new engine seems smoother, with less vibration at all rpm and lacking the thrashy feel of the old unit as the revs climb.
The dashboard layout is nice and easy to read at a glance, with the larger odd numbers on the tach easing quick recognition of rpm. We grew to like the LCD bar-graph fuel gauge; when the level gets down to reserve, the bottom bar flashes and the tripmeter readout changes to "RES," along with a mileage readout of distance traveled since going to reserve. Overall fuel consumption was about the same as that of the previous CBR, averaging right around 37 mpg.
Ergos are also basically the same, with the exception of the clip-on bars being positioned 10mm higher. We really didn't notice much of a difference, although perhaps it might be more evident during longer trips; American Honda claims that a surprisingly large percentage of CBR600RR owners take extended sport-touring sojourns. With the previous upholstered plank for a seat, we find that difficult to believe. But lo and behold, Honda seems to have finally heard our constant complaints: Although otherwise identical in shape and overall size, the new CBR's seat has thicker and much more supportive padding. It's a vast improvement over the old saddle and makes longer stints far more bearable. Quite frankly, we're baffled why it took this long to change it.