Take kitty out of the city and hear her roar

Honda’s star supersport bike feels oddly tame around town — but don’t be fooled.

THE HONDA CBR600RR is thought of by some as the greatest 600cc sports bike in history, mainly because it has won the Supersport world championship — a competition open to production bikes — seven times in the 10 years since 2003. So this latest version of the bike has a lot to live up to.

It looks pretty good dressed in the Honda Racing colour scheme and very much like its predecessor. This year, however, Honda has updated the bike with a new set of front forks and some engine tweaks to give it slightly more power in the mid-range. My model also came with antilock braking.

As I set off through heavy traffic, I  immediately discover that the bike is a tight fit for someone of my size — I’m 6ft —  though it is very quiet: at low revs the engine is barely audible. But despite my height, navigating through the central London traffic is easy because of the manoeuvrability of the bike  — changing direction is possible with little effort. So far, so good, but I am struggling to see why this bike is billed as the best best lightweight supersport machine available. Surely this is supposed to be more than simply a slightly characterless commuter bike that’s easy to ride.

The good news is that there is more to it than that. A lot more.

As soon as you take the bike out of the city fumes and onto country roads it becomes a different beast.

Suddenly I discover the CBR’s real appeal. If you want to ride around below 6000rpm, then this is a quiet, no-nonsense, sensible machine, but when you stroke it properly and keep the engine above 11,000 revs, you suddenly reveal the dark side of its personality — and I love it.

Gather speed and you notice that the steering begins to quicken and you can be fast both into and out of corners.

This is the difference between my Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade and the 600: the Fireblade is all about grunt coming out of the corner; this CBR600 is all about being smooth and fast through the turn.

The feel from the new front forks is excellent and the antilock braking works really well at any speed — totally confidence-inspiring. It makes you feel a better rider than you actually are.

I started out on what could have been a boring test, but once I got to know the bike, I discovered that really good things can come in small packages. So is it still the best 600cc bike you can buy? I can’t think of a better one.

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