2006 Honda CBR600RR
Perhaps the most impressive note about the '06 CBR in our test is that it demanded zero changes to its suspension or geometry from any of our five test riders. Honda's tech Dan Shaver had the easiest job of the weekend!
Third Place (tie) - 82.8%
We hate ties around here, whether it's the ones we're forced to wear at weddings or in terms of ranking motorcycles. But the CBR's overall points score was identical to the ZX-6R, and so was its cumulative rank order, so we had no choice but to rate them equal.
The most amazing thing about the RR is its uncanny ability to perform for every rider regardless of weight, height or tires. Using stock ride heights, not once in two days did we mess with the suspension - we never felt the need to touch a clicker, and it was unique in that regard.
"I quickly got comfortable on the CBR," says Becklin. "Everything is where you'd expect and it invites you to get going immediately. The front end feels stable and planted, really inviting you to trust the front end when entering corners at speed."
"Cornering still remains the CBR's stronger suit," Chamberlain adds. "It offers up exceptional front-end feel and inspires confidence no matter what is thrown at it. Once in the corner, the Honda is one of the most stable of the group."
Roberti even went so far as to proclaim the CBR as having "the best front-end feel of the bunch, making me fearless carrying great speed into the corners."
With this in mind, the Honda vaults to the top of the list of bikes we'd recommend to non-expert riders. It's the easiest bike to go fast on, feeling naturally adept from the first corner. A highly experienced rider can wring out a better lap on some others, but a track-day newbie will feel more comfortable on the CBR. It's worth noting that Hutch, our guy with the least experience on track, got his second-best lap of the weekend on the RR.
"The bike is a perfect blend of precise handling and a manageable combination of power and gearing that worked very well for me at this track," he says. "It's very difficult to unsettle at speed." And keep in mind this is from a guy who has no shortage of laps around a racetrack. (Reluctantly, I have to admit that his lap on the CBR was quicker than my best lap of the weekend - damned MyChrons!)
The Honda is stable in the corners, with a solid and confidence-inspiring front-end feel. Footpeg clearance issues limited its corner-speed potential for our experienced knee-sliders.
The CBR may be the easiest to ride fast, but its outer-limit potential on a racetrack is a little behind its competition. Despite Kenny's strong run on the Honda, he was the only rider who got it into the top half of his best lap times.
One of its limits, literally, is the amount of lean angle it offers. Even our slower guys were regularly throwing sparks through the corners.
"I dragged the pegs longer and harder on this bike than all the others combined," says Kenny, whose opinion was shared by all. "It makes you feel like a hero, but at some point you will probably want to get some rear-sets on this bad boy if you plan to be a regular at your favorite track day." Bear in mind that this probably wouldn't be an issue for the majority of average riders.
Just as the slightly lower ground clearance impose limits in lap times, so too does its faintly constrained powerband. It has the shortest time above 100 horsepower among the other four-cylinder bikes, in addition to having the least peak power. Midrange tug is actually best of the 599cc bikes, but the situation isn't as good at the far end of the rev range.
"It has a decent midrange, but it tapers out on top," Donny B states. "It doesn't rev very quickly from 10,000 rpm and up - you have to keep your momentum up to get a decent lap in."
"The CBR's 600cc motor is its only weak link, and even it is not very weak," BC concurs. "Sure, it falls a little short in the peak horsepower numbers, but on a tighter track like Pahrump, midrange power becomes a lot more valuable. Pahrump requires the ability to drive out the slower corners, and the Honda does a pretty good job at that."
Getting that usable power to the rear wheel is a transmission that got the highest marks in the shootout, despite not having one of them there fancy slipper clutches.
"It's great to have a superior transmission, and that's one of the CBR's strong suits," says Kenny for the rest of us. "I never missed a shift and always felt precise no matter how clumsily I might have scratched at the shifter."
Roberti affirmed the RR's gear changes were very smooth, but for fast guys like him, "it really needs a slipper clutch." Chamberlain agrees, saying the lack of a slipper clutch at the track is "a huge disadvantage."
The cockpit of the CBR is a nice place in which to do track business. It has a rewarding snub-nose feel that places its rider over the front wheel, and its instruments are effective if a bit plain.
Sebastien Charpentier has been dominating World Supersport on a CBR600RR, so there's obviously loads of potential in the platform.
"The Honda's ergonomics are one of my favorites for track use," the effusive BC continues. "They sit you up high and over the front but not as extreme as the Yamaha or Triumph. The short reach to the bars is nice, and the hard seat I marked down for street use is now one of the best in the bunch. The tank feels a little wide between the knees, but it's hard to feel thin when you just stepped off the 749S."
It's probably fair to say the CBR600RR
would probably be ranked at the top if this test was conducted by riders with only a few years of experience. Depending on who you are (be honest!), the Honda might be the most cooperative steed on which to embark on your track-day career.
"The CBR is not going to do anything to blow you away," BC summarizes. "However, it does everything pretty well and provides you with confidence in doing so. A few more horses and a slipper clutch, and this thing would be battling for the crown."