Review: Honda CBR600F 2011

In June of this year my ‘99 SV650s was just about at the point where if it let me down one more time it was getting left at the roadside. It was time to upgrade.

I had two machines in mind, either a GSXR750 or a CBR600rr. I want to get my sportsbiking done before it’s too late, just creeping over the 30yrs mark and already starting to feel the groans of being out of shape, if I was going to be head buried in the dials I wanted to do it now.

After looking at some impressive offers from Suzuki on new gixxers (because they’ve not sold at all this year), and then checking the insurance (in excess of £800 3rd party fire and theft) I put the idea of the 750 to one side having a hunch that the RR was not going to be far off. It wasn’t.

Deflated I started to think where to go next before seeing a few new CBR600F’s. I was a tad confused, they have a similar sports look to them, despite people stating they are simply faired Hornet’s.

One came around at the right price at the right time and I went for it. It’s now been a few months down the line and after checking the clock yesterday I’ve now done just under 1,500 miles.

The good bits

It’s impossible to compare a relatively young inline-four to a decade+ old V-Twin. However, as you might expect, the larger CC of the SV650s is destroyed across the range by the CBR600FABS. It red-lines at around 13k (I still haven’t made it there), and has unbelievable torque throughout the power band with a slight, and it really is slight dip in the mids between 5-7k.

The Nissin blocks do an amazing job in the wet and dry, although I’m finding once they’re warm they become really snatchy. This could be a sign that I need new pads. Regardless, compared to the sometimes terrifying stopping distances of the SV in the wet, the CBR wins.

A single seat piece gives you direct access to the important parts (i.e. the battery) which for me is a bloody relief! The number of times I had to do things with the electrics on the SV, and you had to first dismantle cowlings, then the main seat was bolted into the chassis before removing the fuse box to get to the battery… it was a ball ache.

I have also been informed by two pillions that the riding position and seat is comfortable enough although after a few hundred miles going to the MotoGP this year I thought Cami was going to throw down her lid and vow never to go out again.

The not so good bits

Since having the CBR600F, I haven’t many things to grumble about but the ones that I do I think I to it’s detriment.

Falling down

No, I haven’t thrown it down the tarmac once, but it decided to do it all on its own. After cleaning it one afternoon, it blew over in the wind. Yep, that’s right. Now in fairness, I unfortunately live on a hill and the parking bay is utter bollocks because the camber is steeper than a ski jump and on the wrong side for side stands but regardless, take a look at the photo up to and you’ll see there’s not much of a lean going on there.

It’s resulted in a scuffed exhaust, me picking bits of hot tar out of it (still in progress), and scratched up engine casing – oh how I wish I had got those R&G covers after all. It also cause the anchor for the bar weight bolt to snap meaning I have a throttle bar weight which is in place by the rubber bung and little else.

Knees… errr… up, or down?

Riding the CBR600F can be quirky. As you’ll read everywhere, it was marketed as a sports tourer but there are a few things that mean that is just a stupid statement. The first thing is that the tank is quite tapered into the rider and at 5’11” I cannot seem to grip it comfortably with my knees. It’s like a bar of soap forever skipping out of reach. This means that you can often be stuck in the inbetweeny position of semi-upright touring and leaning in sports riding. Ultimately this does mean bloody sore wrists for me at times.

The seat itself is damn comfy though; providing you keep moving and that raises another problem.

At the end of July I did a track day at Donnington with the race school. It’s totally changed my riding style, understanding of bike performance and handling. This has meant that there have been a few times where I’ve gone to swing my ass over the side and start to get the knee down and then got stuck.

There is something about the seat shape that means you can’t slide across it, I can’t explain it but if you’ve ever ridden something more race setup you’ll know what I mean. The SV650s used to be pretty good for this.

Luggage goes where exactly?

So the CBR600F is meant to be a sports tourer. If this is truly the case it is an epic failure. I have a magnetic tank bag by Bellstaff that I have had for a few years now and doesn’t fit because of the quirky shape of the tank.

Honda themselves only do a rather useless tail pack which you may as well wear a backpack rather than put your purse and lipstick in the tail pack and none of my Cargo Nets have anywhere to fast the hooks too because of the sharp tail design of the under tray.

Givi have released a compatible box frame for it now which is sold at Givi prices but doesn’t seem to involve to much faffing with fitting.

All in all, I do love it and it is certainly lightyears ahead of the old SV650s, but I confess that after doing the track day I actually found the CBR600rr a lot more comfortable as a riding position. This could well be down to my height but being cranked over more with a tank that actually has sides to it, I found there was far less strain on my arms and wrists because I was able to balance myself out through the other anchor points more.