When I first laid eyes on the 2019 Honda CBR650R, I was pleasantly surprised, impressed, and thankful. For too long the standard sporty middleweight category of motorcycles has been plagued with styling that ranges from dated to cheap to what were they thinking. The 2019 Honda CBR650R is none of these. Razor sharp styling derived from the CBR1000RR combined with LED lighting give this sporty middleweight style for miles with a look owners are sure to be proud of.
A few days riding seven of the most powerful sportbikes available on public roadways without incurring a single speeding ticket is next to miraculous. Johnny Law, wildlife, tourists, and sharing hotel rooms with one another are only a few of the occupational hazards we navigated when conducting our 2017 Superbike Street Shootout. The street-centric comparison may be representative of the actual lives most of these motorcycles will lead in the real world, but for us it’s a necessary precursor to where we prefer to be and where these bikes should actually be ridden: the racetrack.
Cresting the top of the steep incline leading onto Portimao’s main straight, I’m committed to keeping the throttle on the new 2017 Honda CBR1000RR to the stop. With fifth gear clicked, the front wheel starts to reach for the sky. Unfazed, the throttle stays pinned, ready for the wheel to eventually come back to earth. The wait feels like forever, and my view is increasingly filled with sky instead of tarmac. I can’t wait for the Honda’s wheelie control any longer, so a click to sixth gently brings the front Bridgestone back to the ground. The Fireblade flexes its muscles, tickling 180 mph down the straight. Then it’s time to scrub speed down the hill before hitting the dip signaling the apex of turn 1. The short chute to reach turn 2 is quickly gobbled up before a moderate amount of brakes are applied to navigate through the hairpin. From there, it’s another flick to the left, and we’re driving uphill towards the crest of turn 3, knee on the ground, rear tire spinning ever so slightly.
At the pace the 1000cc literbike field is advancing, it’s easy to overlook the middleweight 600cc sportbike class. For instance, few might have even noticed it’s been three years since Honda gave its CBR600RR a slight refresh. Tom Roderick rode the bike both on the street and the track, where he came back impressed but not overly enthusiastic about Honda’s middleweight supersport. With the march of time giving way to technologies like traction control, cornering ABS, inertial measurement units and apps that can adjust the bike’s attitude at the push of a button, we thought it was time to revisit the CBR600RR to see if time has given us a new appreciation for the simpler things in life.
This is a difficult position to be in for both me and Honda. We’ve a superbike shootout pitting the CBR1000RR SP against the likes of newer, technological-laden weapons from Aprilia, BMW, Ducati, Kawasaki and Yamaha, where the CBR is predisposed not to win that competition. But yet I’m about to give the bike a fairly glowing review with an individual score that may be higher than its shootout score.