The venerable 600cc supersport motorcycle. Few who know their way around a racetrack need any convincing about their excellent capabilities, and yet many who don’t wouldn’t be seen dead on one given the existence of “leader bikes” with more ccs, more horsepowers and more street cred when it’s time to bench race at the local biker spot.
It’s often said that the vast majority of riders will get around quicker on a 600 due to their light weight, sharper handling, less intimidating throttles and generally friendlier riding experience, but litrebikes are much easier to handle nowadays than they were in the past, with multiple power modes, traction control and impressively low weights themselves. So it’s unlikely we’ll see a resurgence in 600s on the road.
Still, Honda’s CBR600RR has been competitive in this tightest of categories since its debut in 2003, and the brand has announced an all-new model for 2021 to take things up a notch, bring things up to date with current electronics and possibly get back in the Euro emissions testing bureau’s good books (the CBR600RR has been unavailable in Europe and the UK since 2017, because it would’ve been too expensive to make it Euro-compliant.)
The 2021 600RR keeps its classic 599cc inline four engine configuration, but moves peak power up to 14,000 rpm on the tacho. New camshafts, valve springs and cranks make use of lighter metals. The throttle bores have been enlarged and the intakes and exhaust have been tweaked to boost peak power from 113 horsepower to 119.
The new fly-by-wire electronic throttle is just one input that goes to the bike’s ECU before it decides how hard to accelerate. The bike gets an inertial measurement unit to sense lean, pitch and how sideways you’re getting, and that feeds in with data from a dozen other systems to determine your final throttle opening. So the 2021 bike gets throttle modes, traction control, wheelie control, engine braking modes and lean angle-sensitive ABS.
It gets a full color TFT dash, LED lighting, a light-touch slipper clutch and a new look which Honda says also offers the lowest drag coefficient in the class. It misses out on a quickshifter, but you can get a bidirectional setup as a genuine accessory. In terms of curb weight, you’re looking at 194 kg (428 lb). Checking the Honda catalogue, that’s just 3.3 kg (7 lb) lighter than the 2017 CBR1000RR superbike, highlighting the narrowing gap between the 1000cc and 600cc classes in terms of rideability and explaining the widening gap in sales figures.
Honda Japan is setting the RRP at 1,460,000 Yen, which equates to US$13,828, without tax. Sales will begin in Japan on September 25, with other regions to follow.
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