2011 Supersport Shootout - Track [Video]
Can Suzuki's new Gixxer spoil the 600cc party?
2011 Honda CBR600RR $11,199
The winner of our 2008 Supersport shootout is back for the 2011 edition, and like the Yamaha, Honda’s CBR600RR is unchanged since we last tested it. Surely the economic downturn has had a big part to play in it staying the same all these years, but if international competition is anything to go by, then the trusty CBR is still holding its own just fine.
The same can be said about its performance in this test. It’s nice to see that the characteristic mid-range grunt from the baby CBR isn’t lost in 2011, and after riding the relatively gutless Yamaha, hopping on the Honda and feeling the torque was a welcome surprise. Editor Duke, too, was impressed, though his notes did include one caveat. “The CBR’s best asset is a strong midrange pull, but noise regs since 2009 have disappointingly flattened out its surge up top.”
Ah, yes, those pesky noise regulations of 2009 that plagued the Yamaha also negatively affect the Honda as well. Like Yamaha, to skirt around this issue, Honda incorporates a “power valve” to please the sound Nazis during the bike’s certification testing. The side effect, of course, is a loss of power at high revs, easily felt at the track when the CBR engine suddenly falls flat on its face north of 13,000 rpm.
Still, that didn’t stop the Honda mill from receiving accolades from all our testers. Pete praised the Honda’s fueling and linear power delivery, as its smoothness was very predictable.
Complementing the torquey CBR is a stable aluminum chassis that we’ve been fans of for a long time. Turn-in feels quick and light on the Honda. Credit there goes to the most aggressive rake angle of 23.5 degrees combined with the shortest wheelbase at 53.9 inches. It also doesn’t hurt that he Honda is the lightest of the bunch, with a claimed curb weight of 410 pounds, 11 pounds less than the Kawasaki ZX-6R, the heaviest of the quartet.
This combination of featherlight weight and racy geometry wasn’t lost on our testers. T-Rod noted the Honda steers really light, turns-in fast and holds a line well, a sentiment shared by Pete. “As in previous model years, the Honda CBR600RR offers supremely easy steering; and its wonderfully stable chassis ideally balances the feathery steering response,” said ol’ man Pedro.
Suspenders on the Honda are standard 41mm fully-adjustable Showa units in front and the company’s Unit-Pro Link suspension in the rear with a single, fully-adjustable Showa shock. We only had to make very minor adjustments in the morning to both units to suit the Streets of Willow track, and all four of our testers were happy with them throughout the day. The soft settings we placed on the suspension suited my riding style over the bumpy track as I was able to focus on my laps instead of fighting the bike over the ripples – an exercise that quickly leads to fatigue. To that end, Honda’s trick HESD (Honda Electronic Steering Damper) kept headshake at bay.
Honda’s decision to upgrade the CBR60RR’s calipers to the monobloc units found on the CBR1000RR was definitely the right move, as its braking abilities are very good. But when you consider the amazing binders on the Kawasaki and the Brembo units on the new GSX-R, we’d be hard pressed to call them the best in this bunch.
“The Honda brakes are well suited to the bike and offer plenty of stopping force and good feel at the lever,” Pete notes. For my tastes, lever travel was a little more than I cared for, but it was consistent, allowing me to prepare myself each time I reached for the brakes.
Ergonomically, the Honda is relatively comfortable for a sportbike. Handlebars are placed slightly higher than, say, the R6 and the pegs are also in a comfortable spot. Not that the CBR will be mistaken for a Gold Wing any time soon, however. A rider feels like they’re sitting on the Honda rather than in it. Regardless, the Honda and the Suzuki (which has the exact opposite effect when you sit on it) were the two machines we felt comfortable with straight away. After three corners the Honda felt like a bike I had ridden for months. Pete also shared these sentiments. “After only a handful of turns I was ready to lean the CBR aggressively into corners,” he enthused.
Despite ergo happy feelings from half our camp, our tallest rider needed time to adjust to the CBR’s cockpit. “The CBR’s seating position takes some getting used to,” notes T-Rod. “Perched on top and seemingly over the front end with the gauges below your chin under hard braking, it took a lap each time just to reacquaint myself with the Honda before I could think about going fast.”
That being said, the Honda is still a darling in our eyes. The attributes that made it a winner in 2008 — it’s mid-range punch and its agile chassis — are still features we love about it today, but as our 2009 test proved, time waits for no man or no bike. So while the Honda is impressive in its own right, it still loses out to the Kawasaki as it did two years ago and to the all-new Suzuki which has really stepped up its game.