Compared to other Supersports that excel in areas like engine power or handling, the Honda CBR600RR’s strength is in the synergy of its components, which allow the rider to extract fast laps with minimal effort. As usual the 2011 Honda CBR600RR
continues to prove just how friendly and effective it can at the track.
It all starts as soon as riders ply their body around its controls. In spite of being one of the smaller looking bikes in this test, the cockpit isn’t overly tight like the R6’s and was well received from our smallest test rider (Jen Ross, 5’4”) to myself and Corey Neuer who stand at 6’. From the bend of the handlebars to the placement of the footpegs—everything is well proportioned and conducive to not only riding fast but riding comfortably. It’s this kind of versatility that allowed it to take the top score in the rider interface/ergonomics category.
“I was pleasantly amused when I swung a leg over this bike and found out I could actually place the balls of my feet on the ground,” smiles Ross. “I felt like I had complete command over how this bike was going to handle in all aspects of cornering.”
Excellent ergos ultimately allow the rider to manipulate his or her body in such a way to better exploit the machine’s handling. Perhaps that’s one reason why the Honda was rated the best overall handler of this test. Although the fork doesn’t employ the latest-spec Showa Big-Piston Fork technology, as used on the Ninja or GSX-Rs, or the racy gold outer tubes of the Ohlins, it was set-up so perfectly that it functioned better than the aforementioned units. The shock was also rated highly, but not quite to the level as the Ohlins piece fitted on the Triumph.
In spite of being the oldest bike, the CBR is still the lightest bike in this shootout. With a full tank of fuel it weighs just 411 pounds. That’s four pounds less than Suzuki’s brand-new for ’11 GSX-R600 and a whopping 19 pounds lighter than the Ducati. And at speed around the track it’s easy to feel the reduced mass.
“None of the bikes really surprised me with their handling,” says Rapp. “All the 600s were kind of like blah. The Triumph had some wow factor but the CBR really stood out. I really like the stability and how solid it felt everywhere.”
Steer the CBR into a corner and you’ll be astounded by not only how quick it turns but by how planted it feels. Although it’s not quite as nimble as Yamaha’s R6 it’s certainly close as evident by its second-highest score in the corner entry category. So we were a bit surprised when the data showed that it posted a mid-pack side-to-side flick rate of 57.8 degrees/second through the slow off-camber Turns 8/9/10. We continued to scratch our heads when we saw the measurement taken through the faster Turn 11/12 chicane (taken in third gear) as it registered the slowest flick rate of 62.1 degrees/second. However it is important to note that the slow flick rate is most probably attributed to the fact that the Honda’s chassis is set-up so well that it doesn’t need to be maneuvered from side-to-side as quickly to navigate corners. Despite being one of only three bikes not to offer a slipper clutch, riders are hard pressed to notice. Still considering its price tag it would be a worthwhile addition.
“Swing a leg over the Honda and hit the track and you can't help but be astonished by how planted and solid the chassis is,” comments Atlas. “Both tires feel velcroed to the pavement in a way none of the other bikes are capable of.”
“For me the Honda is one of those bikes that is a great building block,” agrees Neuer. “It does everything really well and is a friendly motorcycle to ride. Check the tire pressure, pour in some gas and go fast. That’s what the CBR is all about.”
Through Turn 4 the Honda posted the highest corner speed (67.2 mph) and it was also second-fastest through Turn 13 and only 0.7 mph off the Ninja. Conversely, in the back section of the track it was fourth fastest some 1.4 mph behind the GSX-R750.
The Honda’s 599cc Inline-Four engine doesn’t feel quite as strong compared to the competition. With barely more than 100 horsepower being pushed out to the rear tire @ 12,700 rpm the Honda felt like it had the most lethargic top-end. Looking at the dyno shows that it is six-plus horses down on the Kawi, 10 down on the Triumph and a whopping 18 down on the 848 EVO. While over-rev is plentiful (15,300 redline) power tapers off so drastically that it makes it necessary to short shift slightly before redline. In measured torque the CBR was right there with the rest of the Inlines delivering 44.02 lb-ft at 11,300 rpm. The six-speed transmission performed great with a positive feel at the shift lever and zero issues with missed or hung-up shifts.
Punch the throttle at lower revs and like the Yamaha it takes some time to spool up and pump out some serious acceleration force. While it may not be the most entertaining, the Honda engine is certainly effective at putting the power to the ground as evident by its acceleration force of 0.66g off the exit of Turn 10 and 0.56g at the exit of Turn 13. This placed it in third position and fourth position respectively behind the big-bore motors of the GSX-R750 and Ducati 848. At the end of the first straightaway the CBR recorded the lowest top speed (121.9 mph), however it performed better down the back straight-away with a top speed of 110.2 mph—good for fourth-fastest.
“Power is laid down in a very linear and useable manner, but it lacks the top-end hit of the Kawasaki or Suzuki, or the low-end pull of the Ducati,” says Atlas. “And that’s what ultimately holds the Honda back if it had some more motor especially at high rpm it could do wonders for the bike.”
“The downfall for the CBR was its engine power compared to its competition,” agreed Ross. “It just did not have the same drive in acceleration or in top speed compared to the other 600s on the track.”
Braking has always been a strong point of the CBR but this time around no one was really that impressed with the Tokico set-up as evident by its second-to-last score in the subjective braking category. Although they deliver a high amount of
- Lightest curb weight in class
- Easiest bike to ride fast
- Excellent handler
- Weak top-end power
- Still no slipper clutch
- Needs stronger brakes to compete against the latest crop of competitors
outright power, the initial bite and feel at the lever were down a bit. We were very surprised when we saw the CBR registered the lowest braking forces as measured in Turn 1 (-0.88g) and 8 (-0.83g).
Despite the Honda’s slightly under performing engine it still set the second-fastest time in Superpole proving how effective the Honda is when pushed near the limit. This along with high scores in a number of the handling categories, as well as a few performance categories, allowed the Honda to return back to the front and secure the runner-up spot.
Engine: 599cc Inline Four
Bore x Stroke: 67 x 42.5mm
Valvetrain: DOHC, 16-valve
Final Drive Ratio: 16/42
Frame: Twin spar Aluminum
Front Suspension: HMAS 41mm 3-way adjustable, 4.7 in travel
Rear Suspension: Pro-link HMAS shock 3-way adjustable, 5.1 in travel
Front Calipers: 4-piston radial-mount Tokico
Front Discs: 310mm
Rear Brakes: Single Nissin 220mm
Tires: Dunlop Sportmax
Wheelbase: 53.9 Rake/Trail: 23.5/3.86
Seat Height: 32.3 Fuel Capacity: 4.8 gal
Weight Total: 411 Weight F/R: 211/201
MSRP: $11,199; $12,199 with ABS
Peak Horsepower: 100.65 @ 12,700
Peak Torque: 44.02 @ 11,300
1/4 Mile: 10.98 @ 128.8 0-60: 3.36
Braking 60-0: 126
MPG: 33 Range: 158.2 miles
Sound Idle: 75 Sound Half Redline: 94 @ 7500
Crankshaft: $786 Piston: $83
Clip-on Bars: $99.50/$99.50
Front Brake Lever: $42 Front Clutch Lever: TBA
Footpegs: $33.50 Footpeg Brackets: $62
Rear Brake Lever: $83 Shift Lever: $66
Radiator: $422 OEM Air Filter: $41
Mirrors: $60.50/$60.50 Turn Signals: $65