2005 Honda CBR 600RR


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Buttonwillow Raceway, CA ~ "Like A Rock" is already taken, but I think Honda might want to try a similar campaign for their CBR-RR series of bikes. This is the thought that kept running through my head last week, as I flogged the 2005 CBR-600RR around the floor of California's central valley.

Honda's CBR 1000RR scored an unpopular win here in our 2004 Open Class Superbike Shootout. That victory was based largely on the 1000RR's overwhelming feeling of solidity and confidence. I say the win was unpopular, because the other three contenders in its class are clearly lighter, more powerful and quicker in a straight line.

However, thanks to its stability and ability to apply power out of rough corners without shaking its head or upsetting my injured right hand, that CBR 1000RR lapped quite a bit quicker than the (then new) ZX-10R & YZF R1.

Solid

Even though the 600RR has lost a claimed 9Lbs for '05, it leaves me with that same confidence and a belief that, like its bigger brother, its enhanced stability and confidence on rough surfaces will more than offset any remaining weight disadvantage.

To keep pace with the ever escalating levels of technology in the 600 Supersport Wars, Honda has endowed the new 600RR with a set of 41mm Honda Multi-Action System (HMAS) upside-down forks with radial brake caliper mounts, revised the intake ports and fuel injection tuning for a wider powerband, totally re-designed and lightened the frame by 3.5Lbs.

Riders who aren't into Tribal Flames or Racer Graphics will appreciate the new all-black paint option "A myriad of subtle changes and improvements propel the new bike another step up the sportbike food chain."

Honda further redesigned and lightened the sub-frame, redesigned and lightened the new cool-looking inverted-gull top triple clamp, simplified and lightened the exhaust system, simplified and stiffened the swingarm and rear suspension mounts, lightened the rear shock, coated the pistons with a new low-friction moly surface treatment, and replaced last year's Dunlop D208s with the much improved D218 tires.

In addition to the technical updates, they also revised the aerodynamics and bodywork to more closely resemble the RC211V. Riders who aren't into Tribal Flames or Racer Graphics will appreciate the new all-black paint option.

Then again, the Silver bike is quite attractive in its Honda Wing suit.

Ok, so nothing shocking here, just a continuation of the subtle refinement and improvement cycle typical of Japanese sportbikes. So, is there a noticeable difference between it and the '04 CBR 600RR? Surprisingly, the answer is a definite "Yes". The '05 model does indeed feel quite different than the '04. I was fortunate to be able to make mid-session swaps between the 04 & 05 bikes and though I probably had just as much fun on the 04, there was little doubt that the new bike has a much stouter midrange and a nicer turn-in when trail braking.

Surely, those new engine refinements are responsible for the improved power delivery. However, that cleaner turn-in is probably just as much a function of those new D218 tires, than it is to the new upside-down fork and chassis revisions. Midrange and improved manners are the two biggest differences between this bike and last year's model, but there are a myriad of subtle changes and improvements that propel the new bike another step up the sportbike food chain.

After the lunch break, Honda fitted Dunlop's next generation D208GP "A" (front) and D208GP-JLB (rear) DOT Race Tires. Not so long ago, streetbikes would quickly tie themselves into knots, when you switched from "street" to "race" tires. Now, they can all handle the transition with a minimum of fuss and fiddling. The CBR 600RR doesn't just handle the switch, it thrives on it.

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The bike's stellar manners don't change a bit with the sticky rubber, it just accelerates harder off the corners and allows a nice boost in mid-corner speed. Granted, the suspension settings were sorted and optimized by Doug Toland, and adjusted between our street-tire and race-tire sessions. However, no hard parts were changed, just simple adjuster fiddling, that anybody can do trackside.

The riding position is certainly racetrack extreme, but when you're on a racetrack, it all makes perfect sense. Transitions are handled with moderate effort and a nice stability that allows more aggression than most other bikes will tolerate.

After swapping the '05 for an '04 mid-session, Sean had little doubt that the new bike has a much stouter midrange and a nicer turn-in when trail braking.

"The new bodywork is flawless, with a thinner and more aggressive looking tail section that houses a tall racer-esque seat."

However, smaller riders have mentioned slightly "heavy" turn-in and transitions, so your mileage may vary depending on your level of aggression and personal strength. For me, it just felt like the usual nimble 600, remaining light and neutral at all times, only with a feeling of solidity the other 600s lack. Looks like a Shootout is the only way to accurately resolve this issue.

Uber fast guy Doug Toland has just breezed by under braking and in my fevered (and ultimately futile) attempts to re-pass him, I get a bit over-eager on the loud handle. We are exiting the esses onto the short straight leading to Buttonwillow's final corner and as the tire spins-up and the tail slews to my right, I'm suddenly sideways enough to have the suspension extend and though the bike gave a slight lurch and a little wiggle as it came back into line, it handled that situation with aplomb.

It's a shame Honda doesn't race in the AMA 600 Supersport class. However, their Formula Extreme CBR 600RR is one trick little effer!

On a lesser chassis, I might well have been writing about a freshly broken collar bone, however the combination of a steady throttle hand, well-sorted suspension and a rock-solid chassis allowed me to escape with nothing more serious that a wedgie and a slight loss of drive.

The next lap, I'm pleased to find a bold and distinct darkie decorating the exit of that corner. Doug may not be winning World Endurance Championships anymore, but he's still faster than hell, so a combination of discretion and simple cowardice allows me to break-off my chase and go back to evaluating the chassis.

Man-o-man, what a chassis this is! After recently riding the new R6 and spending the last couple of days testing the fantastic new ZX-6R in Spain (I'm somewhere over the Atlantic, as I type this,) I can honestly say that the `05 CBR 600RR has the best balance between maneuverability and stability that I've ever had the pleasure to throw a leg over. Of course, I've never thrown a leg over Jennifer Garner, so I can't really say the 600RR is the "Best in the World", but it is pretty freaking fantastic and from a pure handling standpoint, and no doubt the best streetbike I've ever ridden on a racetrack.

Miguel Duhamel's AMA Formula Xtreme
Championship Winning CBR600RR





"Does the rest of the bike measure-up to the chassis? It's pretty darned good for sure."

Does the rest of the bike measure-up to the chassis? It's pretty darned good for sure. The brakes offered all the retardation I could handle (and believe me, I know a lot about being retarded.) As is typical for non-linked Hondas, the front brakes are excellent.

However, my initial impression is that they might be just a tad softer and less progressive than the binders on Yamaha's 2005 R6, which is blessed with a new Brembo designed radial-master cylinder. In other words, the CBR's radial-mount 4-piston Tokico calipers are great, better than anything you could've wrapped a finger around a couple years ago, they're just a tad behind the Brembo equipped Yamahas, Ducatis and Aprilias.

The new bodywork is flawless, with a thinner and more aggressive looking tail section that houses a tall racer-esque seat. The tall tail might be a problem for those who are short of short inseam, but that's the case with all 600 supersports.

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