Honda Supersport: Weekday commuter and race ready

BY JOE MICHAUD Motor Matters
Farm Forum

Performance bikes in the sub-liter class are marketed as Super Sports. That’s primarily due to the popularity of the World Supersport Series. Honda has built a huge midsize following due to their domination in this popular race class.

Over 20 years, Honda has won nine in-class Supersport World Championships and 10 Manufacturers World titles, most of them on variants of the four-cylinder CBR600 platform.

World Supersport regulations require the bikes to be homologated to the public. Chassis must remain basically stock and series-supplied tires are road legal. Allowable engine tuning is strictly controlled; bore, stroke, and displacement must remain as homologated. So, the bike your friendly Big Red dealer sells you is basically already a proven class winner. ‘Nuf said.

In 2003, the first CBR600RR was released as a race-rep version of the long-popular CBR600F series: The 600F series was street-oriented while the RR was “race-ready,” as the marketing goes. And it still is. The new CBR600RR has all the zooty sprinkles.

The RR is 599cc liquid-cooled inline four-holer wrapped in an aluminum twin-spar race-proven chassis. The 16-valve DOHC is rev happy with a punchy mid-range developed through the dual-stage Denso 12-hole fuel injectors. An intake control valve pressurizes the air box with cool, nose-mounted, ram air.

Suspension is trick with both ends fully adjustable for preload, rebound, and compression. A Honda Pro-Link is in the rear and the 41mm Showa at the front uses Honda’s Big Piston Fork Technology to provide better damping. Infinite adjustments can dial the bike in to any rider and road surface. Sweet.

Brakes are Honda superb. My tester had the upgraded “Combined ABS” system that measures rider input on the twin front 310mm discs and single rear 220mm disc and will apply the front or the rear, or sometimes both, depending on wheel speed and braking force.

ABS is a choice you must make on initial purchase. The C-ABS system on the Honda CBR600RR is integrated with the ECM/braking system with no external manual switch so track riders may feel the need to decline linked braking on occasions. But for me, it’s appropriate on a road bike that I can drive confidently so deeply into asphalt corners.

Radial-mounted mono-block calipers up front provide great linear feel and have an initial strong bite. I nearly caught myself out in some urban stop-and-go with a quick low-speed stab at the front but no harm/no foul.

Short wheelbase bikes can be twitchy. The RR uses the Honda Electronic Steering Damper to control any unpredictability in high-speed handling or low-speed maneuverability by providing proportional damping depending on comparative wheel speed.

The six-speed close-ratio gearbox dovetails well with the revvy engine output. Keeping the pot on the boil is easy with the smooth two-finger clutch. Shifts were generally consistent but finding neutral was initially vague if I rolled to a stop without sequential downshifts. I credit that to the initial low miles on my tester.

In the twisties, just keep the tach above 7,000 and enjoy the gearbox. On the freeway, 7,000-rpm in fifth gear is 70 mph. Sweet, considering the red line is 15,000.

Wet and ready, it weighs 410 pounds. Seat height is a comfy 32 inches. Fuel capacity is 4.8 gallons and I got close to 160 miles before the fuel light came on. At that point, I was glad to dismount and unwind my somewhat cramped body off the bike; the 53.9-inch wheelbase is a tight fit for me. The pegs are high, the bars are low, and the tank is wide. The windscreen is low and provides minimal protection from windblast. Headlights are good; mirrors provide the typical sport bike view of elbows and forearms unless you squirm.

Good points? It’s fast and predictable. It’s gorgeous in its MotoGP style fairing. It’s far more capable on a track than I am. I like ’em light and revvy and this CBR is both.

Downsides? I could use a tad more room. Maybe, raise the bars an inch or two. The seat is slick in jeans but better in leathers. If I had more interest in track days, this would be a killer bike but as daily transport, it’s not aimed at me.

Honda provides a transferable limited one-year warranty with unlimited mileage. Extended coverage is available. Pricing for a non-ABS bike is $11,799. Do you want the ABS? Figure $12,799. Dealer charges may apply.

Compact, light, a tribute to Honda’s understanding of mass centralization, riders will enjoy the revs of the four-cylinder engine. The chassis (an aluminum twin-spar design) is the basis of the CBR600RR’s laser-sharp handling. Buyers have a choice between its conventional triple-disc setup or opt for a special version with Honda’s revolutionary Combined Anti-Lock Braking System (C-ABS), the first ever on a production Supersport motorcycle. Motor Matters photo