Honda CBR600RR

  • MSRP: $9,799
  • Horsepower: 98.06 hp @ 13,600 rpm
  • Torque: 42.35 lbs.-ft. @ 11,300 rpm
  • Weight: 402.3 lbs w/fuel, 378.1 lbs w/o fuel
  • Superpole Time: 1:21.97 (Atlas)
  • ¼ Mile: 11.10 @ 128.99 mph
  • Top Speed: 161.19 mph
  • Overall Ranking: 2nd-place

As our reigning Supersport Shootout champion, the Honda CBR600RR enters the ring for ’09 with the belt around its waist and a target on its back. And a big target it was!

The only changes to grace the Winged Warrior this year consist of slightly updated bodywork that covers more of the engine and new colors. Nearly everything else remains the same. As you can tell the bike is still a contender and in our 2009 Honda CBR600RR video you can hear what our riders had to say about it and take a spin with us around Willow Springs as well. It is also worth noting that an extremely well-engineered ABS version of the CBR will be available for the first time ever on a production Supersport this year, though for our high performance-based testing the standard model was preferred.

One can quickly see why Big Red comes in as the previous champ. Its solid base set-up and ultra easy-to-use engine make it an extremely versatile machine. It was a favorite of many in the test, although equally as many think the Honda is starting to show signs of its age.

“The Honda has smooth power delivery,” says Sorensen. “This motor may not have the technology that the Yamaha and Kawasaki have, but it comes close. The Honda’s power is a little deceiving because of the seamless rev-range.”

“It had very smooth power, the most seamless of the group,” Garcia comments. “The only thing it could use is some more grunt in the mid-range. Compared to the rest it just doesn’t come off the corners the way I would like it to.”

The Honda is for sure down on power as compared to the competition and on the dyno it shows. Bringing up the back of the pack with 98.06 hp @ 13,600 rpm equates to some issues on the track, but on the other hand it does make very competitive torque numbers, producing 42.35 lb.-ft. @ 11,300 rpm. This translates into very smooth and easy-to-use power. Combined with the seamless transmission and great clutch feel, it was able to record an impressive 11.10 @ 128.99 mph, putting it second only to the fire-breathing Ducati on the quarter-mile. But come top speed testing at HPCC, that lack of outright HP started to show. Despite being the lightest of the bunch at 402-lbs with fuel, it could only muster 161.19 mph, putting it second-to-last and nearly five mph down from the class-leading, and 250cc-larger, Ducati.

“Kawasaki has definitely closed the gap on the defending class champion CBR,” comments Hutchinson, “though the CBR is still solid and very easy to use.”

While the engine had mixed reviews, everyone was on the same page when it came to the transmission. That page being the top. Every gear is engaged with a positive feel, clicking in smoohtly without being clunky – it’s as near to perfect as it gets. These smooth and positive shifts give the Honda top honors in this category.

“Honda has never had any issues in this department, always extremely smooth shifts, very positive,” says the 2-time AMA Champ of the transmission.

“Honda‘s transmission tightness made it an overall non-drama-smoothie,” adds Dhien.

But where the shifting was smooth as silk, the lack of a slipper clutch hurt its track prowess. It’s now the only bike of the bunch not to have a back-torque-limiting unit, and in this group it really shows. On more than one occasion when hammering for Superpole times the rear-end got out of line on corner entry, hopping due to the lack of a slipper.

“This was the CBR’s weak point. It did not have a slipper clutch and has a ton of decompression,” Garcia adds.”That made it great for backing it in, just not the best for going fast. Even so, shifting was spot on.”

As a whole not much else can the argued against the Honda on the racetrack. It may not be as focused and razor sharp as some of the competition, but it just plain does everything very well. It’s an extremely versatile machine.

“I loved the Honda at Streets of Willow, loved it!” exclaims Waheed. “It and the Kawasaki were up there as my two favorite bikes. It’s surprising how it continues to be this good when it’s one of the oldest here, but the boys at Honda really did their homework when they made the RR and it shows. It is standing the test of time.”

When Superpole came along, as luck would have it, Honda pulled the first spot out of the gate for Atlas. This never helps, though I still posted a very respectable 1:21.97. As for Sorensen, he went last on the Winged Warrior and set his fastest time of the session, throwing down a 1:22.49. While in outright supremacy it was at the back of the pack, when the two times were averaged it moved all the way up to second spot, behind the Yamaha, proving just how capable the Honda still is at the racetrack.

And when it came time to rack up some serious street miles, the Honda once again showed how utterly awesome of an all-around motorcycle it really is. When the miles got long and butts sore, everyone was drawing straws for good ol’ Big Red.

“Arguably the best bike for the street,” says motocross ace and new-born street rider Scott Simon. “Everything about this bike is just great! Positioning, turning, braking and the motor were all incredible. It is such a comfortable bike to ride and cruise down the freeway or go full throttle through canyons and drag your knee. By far the most versatile bike I have ridden. The power was exceptionally smooth, although there was always still plenty of it left to go as fast as you want. I’ll be excited when I can go get one of my own again.”

Both Dhien and Hutchison agreed with Simon and were instantly fans of the Honda on the roads. But there’s no doubt the Honda’s styling is starting to look outdated – one of the areas where it loses subjective points.

“Visually is the Honda’s biggest shortcoming for me,” says Kennedy. “I’m sure you’re not supposed to pick a bike based on its looks just like you’re not supposed to pick a football team based on its colors, but screw it, I can’t help it. Even though it’s smaller looking, I could still move around on it and the engine definitely pulled in the low and midrange. You get going quick, but call me shallow or whatever, I just want to look better doing it!”

Though it may be looking a bit dated, there’s no doubt the Honda still performs. Taking top scoring on the street portion plus coming home with second-place track scores, it’s easy to see that when Honda first released this bike they did their homework. It truly has stood the test of time. But low performance numbers — top speed and dyno — was enough to hold the Honda back to second position. Though considering the competition, that’s downright impressive from a bike of this age.