2013 Honda CBR600RR - First Ride Street Impression

Aging gracefully in the new world order

Before we get into the few new nuts and bolts comprising Honda’s 2013 mid-displacement supersport, let’s put into context what the Red Wing has already accomplished this year. Introducing seven new models for 2013 (CBR500R, CB500F, CB500X, CB1100, Gold Wing F6B, CTX700 and CTX700N) is no small achievement, and Honda keeps hinting there’s more to come.

Considering the time necessary for planning, developing, testing, constructing, etc., the process of creating these models began years ago. That many of these bikes are geared toward new-to-intermediate riders is no mistake. Honda’s making concerted efforts to entice as many people as possible to participate in the sport of motorcycling – a revisiting of the “You meet the nicest people on a Honda” strategy from 50 years ago.

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The cost of Honda’s new-rider focus is being levied upon the established enthusiasts of the sport, especially those of the 600cc sportbike variety. In recent memory OEMs were minting brand new 600s every four years, but the collapse of our world financial system and its lingering effects on everything from unemployment to motorcycle sales (600cc sportbike sales remain at historical lows) have created dire consequences and the CBR600RR is a prime example.

2013 Honda CBR600RR Action Left

2013 Honda CBR600RR Red Gauges

Four years after the original CBR600RR model’s introduction, the 2007 CBR600RR was an all-new bike featuring a redesigned engine, frame and bodywork. The new model handily won our 2008 SuperSport Shootout against the 600s from Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki and the 675 Triple from Triumph, but Honda’s flagship 600 supersport has since been only revised and so it remains with the 2013 model.

For 2013 the 600RR features more aerodynamic, MotoGP-inspired bodywork with a redesigned, centrally located ram-air intake system, a new Showa 41mm Big Piston Fork, and a revised shock with new damping settings. According to Honda, the aerodynamic advantages of the CBR’s new skin (a 6.5% decrease in drag) is the result of knowledge gained from the RC212V. While testing the CBR600RR, Honda found it had developed even more advanced aerodynamic improvements that were, in turn, incorporated into the RC213V.

2013 Honda CBR600RR Pair

The revised ram-air intake in conjunction with an improved ECU and fuel injection settings have reportedly increased mid-range power on the RR as well as enhancing throttle response at high revs. The larger damper piston inside the Showa BPF fork reduces internal pressures for more responsive fork action, while the new damper settings in the rear shock are said to improve overall performance.

What may have been overlooked is the fact that this year’s 600RR is marginally less expensive than its 2012 predecessor: $11,490 vs $11,540, respectively. A Repsol version that’s never before been offered on a 600cc CBR is available ($11,990) as is a C-ABS version that’s also $50 less than last year’s C-ABS-equipped bike.

2013 Honda CBR600RR Action Cornering

We’ll forego any the subjective commentary on the CBR’s new look and let you decide for yourself as YouTube viewers of the above video have already been robustly discussing: “Ugliest 600RR of all times,” “I own a 2003 Honda CBR600RR and love it, but this new one is fugly!,” “Repsol one looks good,” “It's a great looking nod to the past.”

2013 Honda CBR600RR Fork Adjustment

What’s most important on the new CBR is its Big Piston Fork. While not a new technology, the change is a welcome one to a bike we lauded in in our 2011 SuperSport Shootout as having “a perfectly damped fork and shock for the technical but bumpy Streets of Willow.”

Our brief street ride, including back-to-back stints on both 2013 and 2012 models, verified that the CBR’s front end is now even better at absorbing some of the harshest blacktop imperfections. Braking hard into a corner with minimal suspension travel left to cope with the ripples and cracks in the pavement, the Big Piston Fork was better able to absorb these sudden jolts than the 2012’s stanchions. Coupling with the shock’s revised settings only improves the CBR’s back-road prowess.

2013 Honda CBR600RR Shifter

As far as some of Honda’s other claims such as improved mid-range power and aerodynamic drag, we’ll have to wait until the upcoming track ride in couple week’s time and when we can strap one to a dyno.

Honda’s C-ABS is one of the best sportbike ABS systems we’ve sampled. Its function gives new meaning to the term transparency. Sure, it costs $1k more than the standard model (and it only comes on the all-red CBR), but if it helps you avoid a trip to the emergency room then it’s money well spent. It’s a technology we prefer having on the street, but it’s no excuse for not having a slipper clutch or traction control or even a GPI.

Quick Comparison Chart
  MSRP Slipper Clutch ABS Traction Control Big Piston Forks Ride Modes Steering Damper
Kawasaki ZX-6R ABS $12,699 x x x x x  
Kawasaki ZX-6R $11,699 x   x x x  
Honda CBR600RR C-ABS $12,490   x   x   x
Honda CBR600RR $11,499       x   x
Suzuki GSX-R600 $12,699 x     x x x
Yamaha YZF-R6 $12,699 x          

2013 Honda CBR600RR Action 06

While not a new model, the 2013 Honda CBR600RR is slightly improved for slightly less money. Compared to a few of its competitors, it’s missing some of the current technological catch phrases like TC and Ride Modes. But for purists not wanting electronic intrusion in their riding, and considering its quick and stable handling characteristics both on the street and track, the mid-displacement CBR could be the motorcycle of choice for many enthusiasts.

2013 Honda CBR600RR Specs
MSRP $11,490 - $12,490
Horsepower 97.0 hp @ 14,400 rpm (measured in 2011)
Torque 42.4 ft-lb @ 11,100 (measured in 2011)
Engine Capacity 599cc
Engine Type Liquid-cooled inline four-cylinder
Bore x Stroke 67.0mm x 42.5mm
Compression 12.2:1
Fuel System Programmed Dual Stage Fuel Injection (PGM-DSFI) with 40mm throttle bodies, Denso 12-hole injectors
Transmission Close-ratio 6-speed
Final Drive 525 O-ring-sealed chain
Frame Twin-spar aluminum
Front Suspension 41mm inverted Big Piston Fork with spring preload, rebound and compression damping adjustability; 4.3 inches travel
Rear Suspension Unit Pro-Link HMAS single shock with spring preload, rebound and compression damping adjustability; 5.1 inches travel
Front Brakes Dual radial-mounted four-piston calipers with full-floating 310mm discs
Rear Brakes Single-caliper 220mm disc
Front Tire 120/70ZR-17
Rear Tire 180/55ZR-17
seat Height 32.3 in
Wheelbase 53.9 in
Rake/Trail 23.5°/97.7mm (3.9 inches)
Curb Weight 410 or 432 lbs (C-ABS)
Fuel Capacity 4.8 gal
Electronics Optional Honda Electronic Combined ABS
Colors Red, Repsol Edition, White/Blue/Red
Warranty One year, unlimited mileage

Related Reading
2011 Supersport Shootout: Street - Video
2011 Supersport Shootout: Track - Video
2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout: Street - Video
2009 Honda CBR600RR C-ABS Review
2011 Naked Middleweights Shootout

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