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2003 Honda 600RR Review

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Maximum ‘X’ – but no game.

By Nicholas Frankl

The new Honda 600 RR is possibly the fastest bike I have ridden on any road. No, it isn’t as quick in a straight line as a Hayabusha nor many other ‘monster’ machines. But 0-100 mph is no slower or faster in real terms than the rest of the super hot rockets available at the local store. No, it isn’t probably very fast off road (particularly with this set of Dunlop sports) – but then I didn’t get to that part of the canyons. Where the RR is the fastest is in its intangible ability to instill an immediate sense of confidence in almost any proficient rider. My first full day on the bike consisted of some of the most extreme riding available on any public roads anywhere on earth – leaving aside African and Arab war zones. I’ve ridden in the UK, Europe and even Australia and I can assure you that right on the door step in sunny southern California is some of the best asphalt ever paved for riding. The route back from Honda HQ in Torrance is a good general test of a bike’s commuter ability. The RR excels in the nip-n-tuck of urban survival. It’s tall, light and nimble and has an amazingly broad torque curve and excellent pick up from the traffic lights and multitudes of stop signs that seek to ‘calm’ traffic but are a total nuisance (does an Englishman actually have to come to dead stop at these pesky things??)

With a limited fairing the RR is less comfortable on the open highway. Whilst whipping along the I-101 and I-405 I thought back to the recent cross country Gumball 3000 rally and wondered (although not for too long) what a real endurance event it might have been with this little baby. With my six foot frame I couldn’t find a position that got me anywhere near out of the gulfstream. Head on the tank meant being so low I couldn’t see out of the Arai. Below 100mph the bike is fine and the actual riding position is fairly comfortable, with not too much strain on the wrists. The ‘problem’ is that the bike is so smooth and so sorted that, with ear plugs buried deep into your lugs, winding up to 110 and above is child’s play and could be costly too.

Honda will know all about these minor failings, it’s obvious that the bike wasn’t designed to be a great tourer – they have plenty of those on the fleet and non have RR decals on the tail. With my buddy Andrew ‘Aprillia’ Falk, we set off on a bright and warm Saturday to the back of Angels crest national park. It had been poor riding conditions for the past few weeks so we found many frustrated riders opening it up through the open curves, the rest stop having the first day of summer feeling about it. Having acquainted myself a little better with the RR and with about 40 mostly highway miles under my belt, I started off easy in the long and fast sweepers that cut a tortuous path through this national reserve. With the tires and tarmac warmed it was time for ‘9 mile’. This stretch of newly paved two-lane is maybe the best combination of fast and open sweepers linked by short, quick blast straights I have ever ridden. The fact that there are few, if any, bikes and even less cars is an even bigger bonus. The RR is damn fast over this type of ground. The brakes are right on with great initial feel and excellent retardation. But the biggest achievement by the engineers and designers can be felt and found in the Pro-link suspension. In a conventional rear suspension arrangement, the bottom of the shock mounts to a complex set of linkages between the swingarm and the bottom of the frame, while the top of the shock mounts directly onto a cross-member located high in the rear of the frame. In the Unit Pro Link suspension, the bottom of the shock mounts to a set of linkages on the bottom of the frame, while the top mounts to the swingarm, eliminating the mount on the upper frame cross-member. This isolates rear suspension forces to the swingarm, minimizing the transferal of forces from the shock to the frame and improving chassis stability. Compared to the F4i, the rider sits 70mm farther forward. The engine is shorter and located farther forward. The fuel tank is only mounted further back and lower in the chassis increasing stability and turn-in. Essentially you are riding a very mildly detuned AMA race bike. Don’t believe me? Well Freddie Spencer went round Las Vegas speedway test track just 2 seconds under the time set by Miguel Duhamel who was turning laps on his AMA-spec RR. What this means on the road is fast, reassuring road handling and incredibly ‘easy’ handling. I say’easy’ because the RR allows you go much faster than you most likely would on normal hard where and you find the entrance and exit speeds of familiar corner taking on new characteristics.

After running 9 mile up and down and meeting Jeff the ‘bikecam’on his 5 year old and very sorted Yamaha R1, we decided it was too early to quit and set off down the 101 to do some traffic splitting before exiting on Malibu Canyon and breaking for a Hamburger at the famous Rock Store. One Gatorade and a burger later and it was time to hit the very tight and twisty Malibu canyons. Jeff was just too quick, but the RR gave a good chase and kept Andrew and a Brazilian on an F4i well in shade.

The engine has also been significantly improved over the F4i. Pistons, pins, and connecting rods are lighter than those of the F4i, increasing overrev capacity with a 15,000rpm redline. Larger intake valves improve flow, with a new dual-stage tensioner preventing whipping of the cam chain at higher rpms. The sump is now deeper to minimize oil splash, resulting in less internal friction. The ram-air induction system supplies the motor with more air than that of the F4i, using a revised ducting system with larger ducts. Wind tunnel testing showed that larger outer ducts increase the required steering effort at higher speeds. Holes have been cut into the outer ducts on the 600RR to minimize that effect, a technique Honda has successfully implemented on GP bikes for years. They also look very cool and were a constant source of comments at the biker pit stops.

The increased redline of the newer motor required improved atomization of fuel. To accomplish this, Honda made use of a Dual Stage Fuel Injection System, borrowing technology from their Formula One automobile racing program. By placing a second showerhead fuel injector as far from the intake tract as possible, vaporization time is maximized, exposing it to the turbulent mixture of the intake flow. This also cools the airflow, resulting in a denser charge and yielding more power. The conventional injectors located in the main throttle body allow for razor sharp throttle response below 5,500rpm. Above 5,500rpm, the showerhead injectors deliver fuel an instant before the conventional injectors, allowing the RR to deliver strong power all the way to the 15,000rpm redline.

Exhaust gases leave through the new center-up exhaust of the CBR600RR, one of its most distinctive styling cues. In addition to visually enhancing the look of the bike by exposing both sides of the heavily reinforced swingarm, the location of the exhaust also provides almost limitless ground clearance and improved aerodynamics. It also allows greater latitude for changing the length of the pipe to fine-tune power characteristics. Other improvements over the F4i include larger 45mm forks; the largest used on any production Honda motorcycle and equal in diameter to those of the NR750. Brake rotor diameter was increased from 296 to 320mm. Several components were changed or replaced from the previous model in an attempt to drop weight, including a more compact wheel hub design, a new lightweight instrument panel, and a lightweight LED taillight. A new compact Line-Beam headlight system that makes use of high-illumination three-piece reflectors is also used, adding to the aggressive styling by reducing the width of the slits in the fairing. The RR is not just a great bike to ride fast. You can cruise along around town – making full use of it telepathic turn-in and handling skills. Other scribbs have described riding the RR to playing the Playstation. I would have to concur. It’s magic and as I mentioned probably one of the fastest bikes you can own and ride on a daily basis.

Thanks to:

Arai helmets

Intersport Clothing: 1 800 416 8255.

CBR600RR - $8,599


Engine Type 599cc liquid-cooled inline four-cylinder

Bore and Stroke 67.0mm x 42.5mm

Compression Ratio 12.0:1

Valve Train DOHC; four valves per cylinder

Carburetion Dual Stage Fuel Injection (DSFI)

Ignition Computer-controlled digital transistorized with three-dimensional mapping


Transmission Close-ratio six-speed

Final Drive #525 O-ring-sealed chain


Front Suspension 45mm HMAS cartridge fork with spring-preload, rebound and compression-damping adjustability; 4.7-inch travel

Rear Suspension Unit Pro-Link HMAS single shock with spring-preload, rebound and compression-damping adjustability; 4.7-inch travel

Front Brakes Dual 310mm discs with four-piston calipers

Rear Brake Single 220mm disc

Front Tire 120/70ZR-17 radial

Rear Tire 180/55ZR-17 radial


Rake 24.0 degrees

Trail 95.0mm (3.7 inches)

Wheelbase 54.7 inches

Seat Height 32.3 inches

Dry Weight 370.0 pounds

Fuel Capacity 4.8 gallons, including 0.9-gallon reserve


Emissions California version meets CARB 2004 emissions standards.

Available Colors Black, Pearl Yellow, Red/Black

Model ID CBR600RR