2009 Honda CBR600RR Project Bike Part II

November 20, 2009
Ken Hutchison
Ken Hutchison
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The ulcers keep piling on for the warden of the MotoUSA asylum. With the inmates running rampant around the globe, Hutch has opted to get in on the madness more these days than in years past and is back in the saddle again.

2009 Honda CBR600RR Project Bike in action at Spring Mountain Motorsports Park in Pahrump  Nevada.
Hutchy returns to action aboard MotorcycleUSA’s latest project bike at Thunderhill Raceway.

As the results support, the 2009 Honda CBR600RR is great in stock trim. But we all know what happens once you get a hold of one of these new motorcycles: You want to trick it out, customize it to your specific needs and top it off with your own signature style. Some people like flashy bits while others like to address performance issues first. We opted to tackle both simultaneously. Here at Motorcycle USA we’re all track day junkies, so the bike has to perform. But we want it to look good too, so we made sure it’s something worth looking at.

Here’s a look at the bolt-on accessory parts we stuffed onto the CBR. We’ve got levers and rear sets from Vortex, along with an array of hard parts to make this motorcycle even better than stock. Adjustable Vortex Shorty levers ($72.99) are trick, milled from 6061 T6 billet aluminum. They are lighter and stronger than stock parts and give the bike a factory look while adding a touch of bling to set it apart from the crowd.

Vortex Adjustable rear Sets are an excellent addition to our 2009 Honda CBR600RR Project Bike.
Billet Aluminum Vortex Adjustable rear Sets are an excellent addition to our CBR600RR. They look spiffy and were simple to install after removing the busted-up stock pieces.

The real beauties are the Vortex Adjustable Rear Sets ($377.99) though. Also machined from aluminum, the rear sets offer improved ground clearance and a wide range of adjustability that allows you to customize the riding position to suit any rider. These components you can change quickly without much effort and they are a big improvement over the bland OEM components they replace.

Beyond the bolt-on goodies, this is where it gets interesting: The exhaust and ECU are indelibly intertwined. If you replace the exhaust it requires an ECU upgrade to get the most out of the new equipment. We’ve got a full stainless steel and carbon fiber Yoshimura RS-5 system (998.95) that makes the bike a wee-bit lighter, a bit more powerful and a lot better looking. Yoshimura has been around for years, the company has more AMA Superbike championships on their resume than about any other manufacturer, so we know their stuff will be good. Not only is the RS-5 system lighter than stock but combined with our Bazazz Z-Fi TC ($999.95), it equates to a 5 hp increase to 103.6 @ 14,700 rpm. Peak power now arrives 1,100 rpm later than it does in stock trim while torque production remains relatively similar at 43.1 @ 11,500rpm.

We fitted a complete stainless steel Yoshimura RS-5 exhaust with carbon fiber slip-on to our 2009 Honda CBR600RR Project Bike.
We fitted a complete stainless steel Yoshimura RS-5 exhaust with carbon fiber slip-on. It weighs 16-lbs with all hardware.

On the track, performance reflects the dyno results. The bike still pulls pretty hard but the noticeable increase in power further into the rev range seems to give a little more wiggle room when selecting gears. It’s safe to run that lower gear a little longer now – plus with the shorter gearing (from a Vortex sprocket, one of our aftermarket goodies) it’s good to have a little more to work with. Plus, its sounds bad-ass and feels more peppy in this state of tune. As far as the traction control and quick shift were concerned, well the TC was hard to feel. There’s a fine line between experimenting to see when the system kicks in compared to simply riding your ass-off and getting a sample every now and then.

Obviously, I would like to blow smoke and say it helped drop five seconds off my lap time but really what it did more than anything was give me confidence when dialing in some throttle at full lean. The braver I got the better the drives, so as far as peace of mind goes it did what it was supposed to do. We haven’t tossed it after four track days and every one of them was spent getting closer and closer to the edge. The quick shifter works but occasionally it would hang up on us. After discussing the matter with EDR Motorsports it turns out that the stock setting of the Bazazz Z-Fi TC system doesn’t quite jive with the CBR transmission, so they have a map that allows the engine to cut out a bit longer which dramatically improves the quick shifter performance. We plan to let EDR have a crack at squeezing a few more ponies out of our little baby too. They claim we should be able to see a 10 horsepower gain so we’ll see if they can pull it off in the next installment.

Hustling through the turns on the 2009 Honda CBR600RR was always pretty easy but with the addition of the go-fast goodies we stuck on this baby - it gets even easier.
Hustling through the turns was always pretty easy on the CBR600RR but with the additional go-fast goodies we stuck on this baby – it gets even easier.

Although it’s a little more work than simply bolting-on hard pieces, we also installed a set of Vortex 520 sprockets and am RK XW chain to go along with it. This is a common performance upgrade that pays dividends for the price. Tailoring your bike’s gearing to suit your needs, whether riding on the track or street, is an excellent way to get the most out of your engine regardless of displacement or accessories. We went with 15/44 gearing on our CBR and the first track we tackled was Spring Mountain Motorsports Park in Pahrump, Nevada.

At Pahrump the Honda felt great. With the track’s short straight away and many second-gear corners the gearing seemed pretty spot on. It seemed we could keep the bike in second through fourth gear about the entire time. At Thunderhill Raceway, in Northern California, the gearing is pretty good as well. About our only complaint with this set-up is that it requires a shift on the ultra-fast Turn 7 bend and with the stock shift pattern it was tricky to pull off. The only option was to short-shift moments before tipping it in for the turn and that worked well, so long as you weren’t trying to hold anyone off.

The fun doesn’t stop there though: We also sent the fork and shock off to Race Tech ($1700). We have always professed that the CBR600RR has really good stock suspension, but it never hurts to have your fork and shock rebuilt by a qualified suspension tuner. Race Tech installed their 25mm Cartridge Fork Kit along with a Shock Gold Valve conversion and set it up for a 170-lb rider and the results so far have been stellar. Not only is tire wear about as good as you can get but the bike is even more impressive while hustling through turns. The faster you go the better the set-up feels and, for the most part, this bike is so easy and forgiving to ride that the last thing on my mind is how the suspension is holding up. And that’s a good thing when you’re trying to get the traction control to kick in.

We have to thank Cutting Edge Illusions for making our 2009 Honda CBR600RR Project Bike look so damn good.
We have to thank Cutting Edge Illusions for making our project bike look so damn good.

Now, all this hardware and software is fine and dandy but really, what’s the first thing most people notice when they approach a motorcycle? They see the bodywork and paint job. How sick you want your bike to looks depends on your own personal preference and in the case of our CBR, we wanted it to stand out in a sea of CBR600RRs. We enlisted the artists from Cutting Edge Illusions in Eugene, Oregon (541-359-3340) for the task of squirting a sick scheme over the top of our Sharkskinz bodywork.

It’s important to point out that the Sharkskinz body components are very clean and the craftsmanship top-notch from the moment we pulled it out of the box. It’s light and strong, both of which are important when it comes to choosing the composite bodywork that is right for your needs. The Sharkskinz ($960 for everything but a fender) are easy to prep for paint and the CE Illusions team wanted us to be sure to point that fact out. They go through great pains to make sure their canvas is impeccable before laying a coat of paint over it and the Sharkskinz is the type of bodywork they would like to see any time a customer is looking to add a touch of class to their ride. That’s high praise for race bodywork.

Cutting Edge Illusions took our Freddie Spencer theme to a whole new level.
Cutting Edge Illusions took what started out as a simple request for a Freddie Spencer retro theme paint job to a whole new level.

As you can see this red-white and blue color scheme is absolutely stunning. It was painted with inspiration from Freddie Spencer’s 500GP championship winning NSR500 color scheme – with a bit of pizzazz tossed into the mix. We showed CEI a few pictures of the classic Spencer bikes and turned them loose. The impressive part is the little details: We’ve got ghost flames in the red and white and purpose-built raindrops in the blue. Heck, they even painted the wheels – which we normally wouldn’t do – but they insisted that it would be a nice touch. And it does look cool but we have plans for those hoops. A set of BST carbon fiber wheels are on the way and as soon as we get them on we are going to find out if those high-tech hoops are for real or just for looks.

With all that effort CEI put in I hate to say that we managed to ding their masterpiece up around the controls while installing our Vortex clip-ons, as the levers banged into the bodywork. And the Yosh system started burning through the belly pan which taints their bitchin paint job even further. Sorry guys. As a result of the clearance issues, we put the stock bars back on and only used the Vortex levers. If you intend to go with clip-ons be prepared to cut out some of the upper fairing to provide clearance. We weren’t ready to go that route though. However, we did go the distance on the brakes.

A set of Goodridge braided brake lines ($107) and EBC XC Rotors combined with a set of EBC Double-H Sintered Brake Pads ($32.95-56.95) improved an already excellent braking system. The radial-mount calipers offer up even more consistent feel and much more aggressive stopping power as a result. It’s funny that the OEM pieces feel so good but once you get some aftermarket bits in place it shames the stock stuff. Especially in terms of outright feel. The power and consistency is fine but the ability to trail brake deep with confidence is worth the effort.

Hutchy returns to action aboard the 2009 Honda CBR600RR Project Bike at Thunderhill Raceway.
Without a doubt our Honda CBR600RR Project Bike looks bad-ass while underway during a Pacific Track Time track day at Thunderhill Raceway.

Of course the Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa tires ($280-rear) didn’t hurt this cause either. These are one of our favorite tires for track day use and it was a no-brainer when it can time to spoon this sticky rubber on our hot little Honda. Grip is excellent and durability is great from the Supercorsas. Add to the mix that we’ve burned up many, many laps on them over the years and it’s no surprise that all our test riders have extreme confidence in the front end while charging into turns. Without a doubt, our own fear is the limiting factor here – the tires can go deeper and faster than we can at this point.

In the end our 2009 Honda CBR600RR Project Bike / Reconstruction job has been a hell of a lot of fun. Plus, there’s still more to come. Like we mentioned earlier, there are BST wheels on the way and a scheduled trip to EDR Motorsports where the CBR-crazy dudes from P-town swear there’s more to be had from the Bazazz than what we got out of it. These guys know their way around a Honda, so we have no doubts we will see more out of this sexy beast.

Stay tuned for the next edition…