The Honda CBR600RR remains one of the most user-friendly bikes, and further modifications pushed it closer to the class-leading Kawasaki.
2nd Place – 2010 Honda CBR600RR
It’s been unchanged for a while now and no matter how many new kids come to challenge, one thing stays consistent when it comes to Honda’s CBR600RR: the ease of which any skill level rider can hop on and instantly go fast remains unrivaled. The little CBR was clearly a front-runner in the first part of our Modified Supersport series and as the mods continued to be piled on its place in the pecking order only continued to gain ground on the class-leading Kawasaki.
Our Honda’s build was again handled by Jett Tuning owner, John Ethel, a long-time professional race mechanic and crew chief for many top riders. Ethel knows a thing or two about race-prepping a motorcycle, especially a Honda, so when we heard he would be the one handling the Double-R’s built from start to finish, we knew the CBR had a chance to be a formidable foe right from the get-go. And right we were…
Taking a look at the mods for Stage 2, like the rest of the bunch, Race Tech handled the suspension work. They fit the CBR with the same fork cartridge kit and custom-series rear shock as the competition, only designed specifically for the Honda and its chassis characteristics. The other mods for this round included a Dynojet quick-shifter and HRC kit air funnel set to aid in power production and delivery, while DP Sport brake pads and Galfer steal-braided brake lines were installed to beef up the binders to race-like levels. Honda opted to stick with the stock clip-ons, which give the rider a bit more comfort, while CG rearsets were installed to get the rider’s feet up and off the pavement. This rounded out the changes and when riding the Honda for the first time after the changes it was like rekindling a long-lost love.
Why was it like finding an old girlfriend? Well, because back in 2008 I rode this generation CBR to a top-10 finish in the Daytona 200 for a story I did while still at the late Cycle News magazine (RIP). When getting back on the modified Honda for this round of testing at Big Willow it felt like qualifying for the D200 all over again. The ultra-high rearsets (almost too high actually), snappy power delivery and clutchless up-shifting brought back fond memories of the Honda, visions of riding the high-banks and two hours of non-stop drafting battles danced though my mind as I ripped around Willow that morning. It was like I never left.
And just like it was back then, this Honda felt compact, well set-up and extremely easy to ride. The Race Tech suspension performed well on the CBR, as once we made the change to a heavier spring early in the day at Big Willow to stiffen things up a bit, she really came alive.
The Honda seemed deceptively fast to testers, but this time around it scored only the third-quickest with a 1:18.75 at Streets and 1:26.65 at Big Willow.
“The Honda front end is hands down the most rider-friendly and planted of the bunch,” Sorensen says. “It gives the rider lots of confidence charging into the corners with lots of feedback. We had to adjust spring rate on the big track to get the Honda to stay turned mid-corner in the high-speed turns, but this was no biggie and we were quickly going fast on the Honda right away.”
Neuer and Waheed also agreed, Corey saying that the Honda was “really easy to get pointed and turned!” He also added that the CBR was “super stable, easy to hold a line, and also easy to get set-up for corner-exit with very little effort.”
The ease of turning and stability was partially backed up in the data, with the Honda posting the highest lean-angle in Turn 10 at 49.5 degrees through the apex, this also equating to the highest lateral g-load, as the Honda stuck to the pavement to the tune of 1.12g through the tight corner. Similar findings held true for the technical Turn 2, as the Honda was the quickest at the apex with a best speed of 38.12 mph. It also had the second-highest max lean at 51.2 degrees and second-best lateral grip figure with 1.27g.
One area that did cause some issue on the Honda was footpeg ergonomics. The CRG rearsets that were installed for this round are beautifully-made, forged from high-grade aluminum and anodized black and red to give that really trick look, but their position, when set on its lowest setting, was still extremely cramped – even for those smaller riders. The shift lever was also very close to the footpeg, making it tough to get a foot underneath to pull up when downshifting, especially for those with size 9 or larger boots.
“I felt that Honda was a bit cramped and the seat seemed high to me,” continues Neuer. “The overall package and feel of the Honda is great. It’s very compact and easy to throw around, but those footpegs were just so high up it made riding the bike tough at first. Once used to them it got a little bitter, but it was still never comfortable. I know a lot of this is rider preference, but these seemed a bit too high for anyone.”
Braking, on the other hand, was an area where the Honda excelled. The DP Sport brake pad and Galfer steal-braided line combination mated to the stock master cylinder and brake calipers made for one of the most potent set of binders this side of a factory racebike. This was easily visible in the data, as the Honda had the highest max g-load under braking for Turn 10 at -0.86g, while it was also second-from-the-top entering Turn 3 with a maximum load on the rider of -0.82g, showing the Honda to consistently have the best brakes of the bunch in terms of measured ability.
The CRG rearsets that were installed this round caused problems with footpeg ergonomics while in its lowest setting.
Sorensen comments of the Honda’s brakes: “They worked well, with good initial bite and good power at the lever. They were really good in the first stage of the test and only got better. It’s hard not to like them.”
While the HRC kit velocity stacks and some additional tuning by Ethel milked a couple more ponies out of the peak rev-range without losing any in the middle, the Honda is far from the fastest bike of the bunch. With a mere 0.53g of max acceleration coming out of Turn 8, second from the bottom, the data showed the Honda to be lacking some in the acceleration department. This was also true for its top speed, as the Honda was the second-slowest down the front straight (120.58mph), the result of getting the second-lowest drive (0.72g) off the final corner; its front-straight speed was more than 8 mph adrift of the top-placing Yamaha. But while it may not be the fastest when cracking the throttle wide-open, it is one of the easiest to use, making it easier to have the throttle open longer.
As for what the riders felt on track: “The Honda is a lot like the Suzuki and is deceptively fast but it is not as docile in comparison, having more low-end grunt off the corners,” Sorensen remarks. “The Honda has a seamless power curve, pulling smoothly all the way to its now-16K redline. This motor was one of the most rider friendly of the bunch, not having to keep the revs way up high exiting the corners.”
Waheed says: “Engine power felt similar to a stock CBR only stronger. The early mid-range pull was still there and top-end felt better, too. It felt comparable to the Yamaha, but a bit down compared to the Kawasaki Zed-X-Missile.”
Whereas the Honda was top dog in Superpole at Streets for stage 1 of this series, and second at Big Willow, this go-round saw it fall to the clutches of the mighty Yamaha and Kawasaki at both tracks, posting the third-quickest times with a 1:18.75 at Streets and 1:26.65 at Big Willow. Both of these times were a mere half second adrift of the top-dog Kawasaki and both were extremely easy to achieve.
So while the CBR may not be the fastest in the hands of a professional when pushed at ten-tenths, the majority of riders at a majority of skill levels will undoubtedly be faster on the do-it-all CBR. And it’s for this reason that the mighty little Double-R finished second in our final scoring, the bike taking top honors in the subjective category, enough to bump it ahead of the Yamaha, which was stronger in the pure numbers-based objective scoring area, showing that performance, without control, is nothing.