KENT KUNITSUGU Bad hair...
KENT KUNITSUGUBad hair day
I really do think that Honda got caught with its pants down when it introduced the original CBR600RR back in '03. The CBR had a lot of flashy components, but it seemed as if Honda put a halfhearted effort into the first 600RR, as if the company thought the bike was just going to stomp the competition. Unfortunately, the first CBR was overweight, a little sluggish and just not as sharp as its rivals. Some updates to the '05 model helped considerably, but they were moderate revisions at best, and the CBR just barely squeaked by the competition that year in our 600 comparison. And with several strong models introduced by the competition last year, it was really no surprise to see the basically unchanged CBR punted toward the back of the pack in our '06 middleweight shootout.
Honda finally stood up and took notice, as the '07 CBR is a whole new ball game. Not only is it the lightest middleweight by a good margin, but its powerplant is easily the best 600cc unit we've tested to date, with an overall power spread that redefines the category. Don't let the similar looks fool you; the latest 600RR is head-and-shoulders above the previous model, and in my opinion will definitely be scrapping for top honors in our next middleweight comparison test. It has thankfully assuaged my fears of 600s turning into 18,000-rpm greyhounds that are a hassle to ride on the street. The new CBR shows what Honda can do when it puts a little effort into a design, and it just may have vaulted the 600RR back to the top of the heap. We'll see in a month or two.
ANDREW TREVITT Bad head...
ANDREW TREVITTBad head day
Given the recent trend of some manufacturers' models getting successively heavier with each redesign, it's a nice change to see that Honda has trimmed the CBR so much. In '04 it was the heaviest middleweight, scaling in at more than some of the literbikes at the time. Now it's the lightest of the bunch, and feels it-riding around town I found myself thinking it was more a toy than a motorcycle at times. What's even more impressive is that, given the other recent trend of 600s with top-end-heavy powerbands, the Honda has such a strong midrange. It's a potent combination for sure, one I doubt the other middleweights will match when it comes time to put them all together for a street ride.
It's interesting to contrast the Honda with the new ZX-6R, which typifies the trends I mentioned in that it's heavier than last year, according to the specifications, and has lost its midrange advantage along with the drop in displacement. I'm looking forward to seeing how it all shakes out at the racetrack. On the one hand I'm a big fan of light weight and good power, but on the other I know how quick the Kawasaki is in spite of the numbers. Am I splitting hairs? Probably, but that's what it will take to pick the best middleweight this year.