Honda almost got it right in regards to the C-ABS. Don't get me wrong, kudos to the Honda engineers for designing a very advanced ABS specifically for a sportbike. And the CBR600RR is a fantastic middleweight, featuring an engine with enough torque that it feels more like a small literbike rather than a 600, and the suspension is compliant without compromising its cornering ability.
But that's where there's also the compromise with the ABS. To start with, the standard Honda non-ABS brakes work awesome. Easy to feel and modulate with excellent power. Riding aggressively, you lose some of this finesse with the ABS. It's not too intrusive, but it does affect the ride and front-end feel nonetheless. Technically, I could bore you with the dynamic rake changes and why the standard bike has a better feel, but it is the rider experience that suffers--albeit slightly. For less aggressive riding and novice to intermediate riders, it's a great rider aid. I would really like to have the security of the ABS around town, but I wouldn't want to compromise the little Honda's awesome canyon and track performance for it. Maybe an on/off switch for the ABS next year?
Before I rode the new CBR600RR C-ABS, Kento explained how the Honda engineers designed their braking system to be completely "ride-by-wire". Since I understood about half of his explanation, I was skeptical about how it was actually going to work; another OEM doing something just because it can. After testing the C-ABS, I was surprised that it actually works really well. What's so fascinating is that at regular speeds, it was hard to tell the ABS version from the non-ABS version when we switched back and forth between the two CBRs. Exerting light to medium pressure on the brakes had a similar lever feel to the standard hydraulic units.
Under heavy braking the ABS version worked very well. I compare the feeling to hard braking on new tires; a little greasy but nothing scary. The ABS model had very little front-end dive, and under stressful situations the C-ABS would be a nice thing to have. However, I would rather have the feel and feedback of a standard hydraulic brake system and I think that most sport riders would too.
I have to tip my cap to the engineers at Honda for the overall performance of the C-ABS. It really is a well-designed system that is transparent enough for most riders that it won't be an issue at any time. And having the security of ABS in a panic situation (especially in wet conditions) is something that will be worth the price to many people. Most anyone who asks me which bike to pick between the two would get the C-ABS answer.
Of course, the key word is "most". For some expert riders who do a lot of track days, you might notice some intrusiveness under very heavy braking. It's nothing scary or demanding, but for those riders who really like braking deep into corners, you'll sometimes find yourself asking for just a bit more braking power.
The extra 24 pounds of heft isn't really much an issue either, because the Honda was the reigning featherweight of the 600 class. And the mass is kept close to the engine so that its effect on handling is minimal.
Would I fork out the extra $1K for it? If I mostly rode on the street, I probably would.