Best bikes for under £5k: 2008-2009 Honda CBR600RR

Published: 21 June 2013

What was it like then?
Bad Honda. It was as if they’d axed Brucey from Strictly – a national treasure tossed aside as Honda ditched the much-loved and long-running CBR600F for a new kind of CBR. One with a ruthless track focus and a painfully thin seat.

The new-for-2003 CBR600RR was built around Honda’s latest obsession, mass centralisation, which placed every atom as close to its centre of mass as possible.

Recalcitrant sticky-out components were either lightened or  – in the case of centrestands and grab handles, previously considered CBR must-haves – jettisoned altogether. This way, decreed Honda, lay faster lap times, the new measure of a sports 600. 

The package emerging from this rebirth wasn’t as easy to love as the old bike, but it was fast. Compared to the raw Kawasaki ZX-6R and frantic GSX-R600 it floated across the ground.

It had an inner calm that seemed to slow things down and buy its rider time. In contrast, its engine was most un-Honda: a peaky little pig barely able to raise a squeal below 8000rpm.

During the following years there was an overdue move to upside-down forks in 2005, when it also got radially mounted front brake calipers and electronic steering damper. But, like all Japanese 600s, it had become too tracky for a nation increasingly looking for a less frenzied way to go riding.

Honda responded in 2007 with a beefed-up midrange and a flatter, buttock-friendly riding position (and gorgeous restyle). This was the 600RR’s moment. While the first RR had skittish steering and cramped riding position, this version was a superb road bike.

Its improved engine was fairly nondescript but the package was a dream to ride briskly in B-road Britain. Both wheels were planted while the competition ricocheted from bump to pothole.

Combined-ABS, Honda’s fly-by-wire linked anti-lock brakes, was introduced in 2009 as an option. C-ABS’s stroke simulator (really) and other hardware added 10 kilos to an already heavy 600 and, for many, over-the-top complexity too. It stops the CBR incredibly quickly, however, and is the least intrusive of ABS set-ups. It also adds yet another layer of refinement to the CBR; another layer of smooth, if you like.   

What is it like now?
A 2008 model – my pick of the RRs – is Honda’s take on a 600 supersport. For all its track focus the RR has adequate mirrors and bungee hooks and a riding position that doesn’t throw all your weight onto wrists.

Of course, to want a CBR600RR you have to like the idea of all modern Japanese 600s because the differences between them are subtle. You have to like, too, the fact that 180mph isn’t at the end of every casually twisted throttle – that speed has to be earned.

CBR600Fs used to dominate the small ads. Even medium-size dealers had a selection. Now the stock of used RRs is comparatively small. The good news is that a £5000 budget will easily secure a mint example with fewer than 10,000 miles.

Engines are unburstable but the lower the mileage on the rear shock, the better it will ride. A 2008 CBR600RR in red and black does it for me. 

Price for a good one: £4200 to £4900
ENGINE: 16v dohc 599cc inline four
POWER: 115.4bhp@ 13,500rpm
TORQUE: 48 lb.ft @ 11,250rpm
KERB WEIGHT: 196kg
WHEELBASE: 1373mm
TOP SPEED: 155 (est)
MPG: 39 (average)

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