Honda CBR600 model history

Published: 12 July 2016

The much-loved CBR600RR is due to be culled in 2017 after a long and illustrious life that will have spanned exactly 30 years. It’s a special machine that has touched the hearts of many along the way.

As reported by MCN, the CBR600RR will be killed-off as the current bike isn’t able to meet the stringent Euro4 noise and emission regulations that will come into force next year.

It’s a model that has been one of the dominating forces in modern motorcycling, we look back at its model history that saw it change the face of the 600 class…

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1987-1990 CBR600F

H/J and updated K/L

The Jellymould is the bike that started it all back in 1987. Nicknamed so because of its all-encompassing curvacious fairing. It looked odd, but nobody complained after they rode it. With more power and less weight than the other 600s available at the time the CBR – which stands for ‘City Bike Racing’ – was the first proper 600 supersport machine. A new class was born...

What MCN said back then:
Chris Dabbs
“After several false starts over the last few years [Honda] have come up with a bike which promises to appeal to a broad cross section of riders.
“An almost perfect combination of power, weight and balance gives the CBR the sort of poise few other bikes have.
“The engine is powerful and smooth and the bike comfortable whatever your height. The brakes work brilliantly and I didn’t miss the suspension’s lack of fine tuning.
"The CBR600 is a worth replacement for the lovely little VF500FII and means the big H can take on the rest of the field as the middleweight class war hots up.” 

Specs

Engine 598cc, inline four, 16v, DOHC
Bore x Stroke 63x48mm
Power 82bhp@11,000rpm
Torque 43ftlb @ 8,500rpm
Wheelbase 1410mm
Rake 26 degrees
Trail 104mm

1991-1994 CBR600F

M/N and updated P/R

By the time its first overhaul came, Honda had established the CBR as a force to be reckoned with. For its first big update the CBR gained 8bhp and 3ftlb of torque thanks to a 2mm larger bore and a shorter stroke while also getting a new, stiffer twin-spar steel frame and new fairings. It all looked good for the CBR but faced heavy competition from Kawasaki’s ZZ-R600 and the Yamaha FZR600.

What MCN said back then:
Chris Dabbs
“Finally Honda’s success in slimming down the motor’s dimensions 20mm all round have made it more rigid and paid handling dividends that are as good as horsepower increases.
“Honda gave themselves a tough act to follow but I think they’ve managed it, the CBR has gone a long way towards getting my vote” 

Specs

Engine 599cc, inline four, 16v, DOHC
Bore x stroke 65 x 45.2mm
Power 90bhp @ 11,500rpm
Torque 46ftlb @ 10,500rpm
Weight 185kg
Wheelbase 1405mm
Rake 25 degrees
Trail 94mm

1995-1998 CBR600F

S/T and updated V/W

The battle was on. With Kawasaki’s new and sportier ZX-6R and Yamaha's Thundercat, Honda had to raise the stakes with the CBR again to keep it current. To do this they added bigger carbs and a ram-air system, taking the CBR to 100bhp with further revisions in 1997 taking it to 105bhp. A larger rear wheel also helped bring improved tyre choice. Referred to now as the Steely, due to its steel frame, the Honda never quite lived up to the hype at the time with many preferring the sportier alternatives.

What MCN said back then:
Richard Fincher
“Braking is improved, the fluid handling, which has always made the CBR600 a great road or track machine, is slightly better and the bike’s brilliant all-round usability remains unchanged.
“Honda hasn’t lost sight of what the CBR is about – just look at it as the latest and best version of one of the all-time greats.” 

Specs

Engine 599cc, inline four, 16v, DOHC
Bore x stroke 65 x 45.2mm
Power 105bhp @ 12,000rpm
Torque 49ftlb @ 10,500rpm
Weight 186kg
Wheelbase 1405mm
Rake 25 degrees
Trail 94mm

1999-2000 CBR600F

X/Y

The CBR was back in business. It boasted a new aluminium beam frame that helped the CBR shed 18kg over the Steely that came before it, and with it also came a stiffer chassis and fully adjustable fork to improve the handling. With a further 2mm on its bore size taking the CBR to 110bhp and improved four-piston front calipers to help it stop, the CBR had found its sporting edge once again.

What MCN said back then:
Peter Wilson
“The CBR turns an average track rider into a track god by letting you concentrate on your riding and not having to hunt around for the power.
“The new CBR600 is so much better than the bike it replaces that the old machine feels like a buzzy, under-powered and overweight has-been by comparison.
“Not many riders have complained about the older bike vibrating, but if you get off the 1999 model and straight on to the 1998 model, you notice that the old motor feels buzzy. It’s not that the older bike has a problem just that the new bike is so damn smooth.
“Honda has managed to keep the riding position exactly the same. It is very neutral making the Honda perfect for enjoying track madness or long-distance road touring – just as it always has been.” 

Specs

Engine 599cc, inline four, 16v, DOHC
Bore x stroke 67 x 42.5mm
Power 110bhp @ 12,500rpm
Torque 48ftlb @ 10,500rpm
Weight 168kg
Wheelbase 1395mm
Rake 24 degrees
Trail 96mm

2001-2006 CBR600F

1/2/3/4/5/6

With fuel injection replacing carbs to meet new emission laws, the CBR was introduced to the 21st century. It also got a new look, with twin headlights introduced giving the bike a sportier aesthetic. And while the engine never got any more power, it didn’t really need it. This version of the CBR was simply brilliant.

Until the introduction of the RR in 2003, Honda also produced a sport version of the F model, which came with a lighter flywheel, dual valve springs and altered cams which made it better for race tuning. It didn’t look too different from the standard model but did come with a dual seat unit.

What MCN said back then:
Jim Yeardly
“We all take things for granted sometimes. But occasionally something unexpected comes along to jolt us out of our complacency and makes us rethink our attitudes.
"I’ve just had one such experience. I’ve rediscovered one of biking’s pleasures, which I’d almost forgotten existed. It’s called the CBR600.
“I realise now why Honda built this bike. At first you feel you’ve been swindled, but get the engine up into the higher reaches of the rev range where it belongs and you start to notice the differences between it [the Sport] and the F version.” 

Specs

Engine 599cc, inline four, 16v, DOHC
Bore x stroke 67 x 42.5mm
Power 110bhp @ 12,500rpm
Torque 48ftlb @ 10,500rpm
Weight 168kg
Wheelbase 1390mm
Rake 24 degrees
Trail 96mm

2003-2006 CBR600RR

3/4 & updated 5/6

Things got serious with the RR, losing the CBR’s practical focus to become an all-out track weapon. It was the first truly track focused CBR, and was billed at the time as a mini RCV. It handled well and screamed to a 13,500rpm redline with a punchy 117bhp motor. In 2005, the RR picked up radial brakes, an inverted fork and a little more midrange. It was amazing on track, but not so forgiving on the road.

What MCN said back then:
Keith Farr
“Only the name remains the same. The rest is all-new, utterly gorgeous and transforming the way we think about 600s.
“Where the CBR will give Honda’s rivals an even bigger headache though, is in the way it handles. It just feels so ready from the first time you get on, with a delightful front-rear balance and suspension and tyres that go out of their way to talk to you.” 

Specs

Engine 599cc, inline four, 16v, DOHC
Bore x stroke 67 x 42.5mm
Power 117bhp @ 13,500rpm
Torque 49ftlb @ 11,000rpm
Weight 169kg
Wheelbase 1405mm
Rake 25 degrees
Trail 94mm

2007-2012 CBR600RR

In 2007, Honda addressed the poor midrange on the previous RR and gave the new model a central air-scoop that fed the physically smaller motor and gave it the extra grunt that it needed. The result was that it was far better on the road and still an outstanding track bike. In 2009, the RR was also the first sportsbike to be fitted with ABS.

What MCN said back then:
Adam Child
“Honda know what makes a good road bike, and the sums needed to make the CBR a winner weren’t that difficult to complete. Greater midrange drive will make the CBR a useable road bike for the experienced and less experienced alike.
"Shouting long and loud about its specs and what the bike is capable of will lead to the opening of wallets everywhere. Not only that, but it is a Honda, which stands for quality with safety and style and, of course, it’s been designed and built to be a winner.” 

Specs

Engine 599cc, inline four, 16v, DOHC
Bore x stroke 67 x 42.5mm
Power 119bhp @ 13,500rpm
Torque 50ftlb @ 11,000rpm
Weight 156kg
Wheelbase 1375mm
Rake 23 degrees
Trail 98mm

2011-2014 CBR600F

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the CBR600F was back, and with it came the practicality that the RR models were missing. It used a detuned engine from the RR, housed in an aluminium backbone chassis and made the CBR a more humble do-it-all bike again. It came with C-ABS and an inverted fork and while it never really had enough punch to knock you off your feet, it still made a great commuter bike with a sportier edge, building a bridge between the naked Hornet and the sporty CBR600RR.

What MCN said back then:
Trevor Franklin
“There’s no doubt in MCN’s mind – the new CBR600F is every inch a practical sports bike. For this reason alone, it could make a better bike for an awful lot of riders, especially those who ride outside of their limits but won’t admit or don’t realise until it’s too late. A hundred horsepower in a good package is more than enough to have fun, and the new CBR600F delivers that.” 

Specs

Engine 599cc, inline four, 16v, DOHC
Bore x stroke 67 x 42.5mm
Power 101bhp @ 12,000rpm
Torque 47ftlb @ 10,500rpm
Weight 198kg (kerb)
Wheelbase 1437mm
Rake 25 degrees
Trail 99mm

2013-2017 Honda CBR600RR

The final incarnation of the CBR600RR. With sales of 600s all but dead and ever tighter emissions laws from Europe, the CBR600 will finally cease production this year. With minor updates in for 2013 that saw it catching up with the competition, it finally got a Big Piston Fork and some tweaks to the C-ABS system and ECU. Largely though, it remained the same machine, which stands testament to the CBR’s legacy that it could remain a decade in production with no major overhaul.

What MCN said back then:
Tim Thompson
“The British market has taken its aging knees elsewhere; cramped, peaky 600s will for the foreseeable future remain specialist fare. But for those who still consider a compact 600 to be just about the ideal tool for British roads and tracks this, this most efficient and evolved sports bike could, even at £9500, be a new ultimate.” 

Specs

Engine 599cc, inline four, 16v, DOHC
Bore x stroke 67 x 42.5mm
Power 119bhp @ 13,500rpm
Torque 50ftlb @ 11,000rpm
Weight 196kg (kerb)
Wheelbase 1373mm
Rake 24 degrees
Trail 95mm

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