Owners of the F2 report that it was a very balanced bike that could easily be street-ridden or raced on the track. Unlike the extremely narrow focus bikes of today, the earlier generation could really do it all. The dyno charts of 1991 show the CBR-F2 making a class leading 85 horsepower and quarter-mile times of 11.3 seconds at 120 mph. And it was not only the quickest and fastest bike in the 600cc class, it still delivered 42 mpg. Honda ruled the 600cc roost and would not face a serious challenge until the new Ninja ZX-6R arrived in 1995.
The Honda F2 remained unchanged until 1994 when it was bolstered by a new cartridge-style Showa fork with external rebound and preload adjustments. The '94 also got a new Showa rear shock with compression and rebound dampening adjustments as well as spring preload adjustment. Weighing in at 456 pounds with a full tank and three new colors, it was ready to take on the new Ninja ZX-6R (and usually the Honda won).
In 1995 Honda decided that it was time to raise the stakes again with the introduction of the new CBR600F3 that would run from 1995-1998. Though Honda already dominated the 600cc class and led every chart from race wins to retail sales, they knew without a full upgrade that their reign would soon come to an end.
The stock mild steel muffler...
The stock mild steel muffler on the CBRs not only caused ground clearance issues for more aggressive riders, but they were heavy as well. The growth in popularity of the "slip-on" muffler was in part due to the easy replacement of the CBR's muffler.
The Honda F2 was one of the...
The Honda F2 was one of the first sportbikes to have a clean, no frills dashboard; no ugly welds showing, no wires protruding from weird places. Only spring preload adjustability was available on the Showa 41mm conventional fork.
Unfortunately, back in '91,...
Unfortunately, back in '91, the manufacturers didn't know about ram-air induction's benefits, so the "intake ducts" on the F2 fairings only feed fresh air underneath the fuel tank.
Although the F3 looked similar to the F2, it was only skin deep, as both the engine and chassis were revised. The new 1995 F3 featured another bump in carb size up to 36mm. With the addition of ram-air induction, new fueling and breathing requirements were necessary in order to serve up another five horsepower over the older F2 (this included a system of hoses to maintain the same pressure in the float bowls as the airbox, otherwise when airbox pressure rose above ambient there would be no fuel flow through the main jet). Compression was bumped to 12.0:1 and the intake runners shortened by 5mm to increase intake velocity. A new exhaust was also part of the mix, as was a new low friction coating on the piston rings and crank bearings. Honda revised the ignition system to help control detonation with the higher compression engine. All the engine changes allowed a bump in the rev limit to 13,300 rpm and peak power of about 90 horsepower arriving at 12,000.
This clean '98 F3 belonging...
This clean '98 F3 belonging to Paul Bull of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia, has only 16,700 miles under its belt, but they've been good ones. "I have been riding since 1968 and have owned 19 bikes in all," said Bull. "Japanese, German, and Italian. And the CBR is the best I have owned. And it still looks good for the age-unlike me."
The F3 had upgraded front rotors-now measuring at 296mm-and a new 5-inch-wide rear wheel. The rear suspension had a revised linkage rate and a beefier swingarm pivot, while the fork received new triple clamps. Weight stayed about the same despite all the improvements, mostly due to little things like plastic headlight covers and a few other similar changes to offset the small weight gains in other areas.
Needle bearings were fitted in the tranny for better shifting, and a curved aluminum radiator helped with cooling. The new Honda also came with a new MSRP of $7299 which is a long way from the $4998 price in 1991. In 1995, the Kawasaki was $7899 and the Yamaha was a meager $6999 for reference. Honda decided to leave well enough alone in '96 and focused on new paint jobs fashioned after the Erion team and the factory Smokin' Joe's team. Retail bumped again to $7699.
The 1995 AMA 600 Supersport season was another good one for Honda, with Duhamel putting on a Honda seminar all year by winning eight races in a row en route to his second AMA 600 title. The Honda F3 won all 11 of the races that year, scoring a perfect shutout of the competition. This made four 600 titles in the Honda's five years of existence (Yamaha won the title in '94). You simply can't talk about 600cc racing in this time period without mentioning the Honda CBR600F2-F3.