For 2007, the 20th anniversary of the Honda Hurricane, Honda is dropping the venerable, street-focused CBR600F4i and returning to their "one 600cc sportbike for all occasions" formula.
The 2007 CBR600RR has been thoroughly redesigned to appeal to track addicts and roadrunners alike, and when Honda invited us to sample the new version at Barber Motorsports Park in late November, we enthusiastically accepted. Sitting there in the pits, the bike looks seriously track-ready, with paddock stands and tire warmers and the shiny trailers of Honda and Dunlop in the background, and all the tire and bike mechanics in the foreground.
As I admire the new bodywork and finely honed mechanical bits, something catches my eye: two tabs on each side of the underseat exhaust's mounting bracket. Little nubs of molded plastic, they may be the least attractive part of the motorcycle, but they speak to me. A tailpack can be bungeed to these tabs, potentially making the Honda a perfect partner for a long weekend (or short week) of apex hunting. Waddling out onto the rain-soaked track under the watchful eye of the proud Honda Japan engineers, I secretly wonder how this bike would perform on a mountain road.
In their relentless pursuit of weight reduction, mass-centralization, and performance, Honda's engineers have taken a hatchet to their beloved '06 model, cleaving huge chunks of metal and plastic from the chassis, motor, and bodywork. The result is a stunning 16-pound reduction in dry weight - and in an age where the loss of a handful of pounds is worthy of a press release, this is big news.
The 599cc motor has the same over-square 67mm x 42.5mm bore and stroke dimensions as before, but this is where the similarities end. Honda claims 3.7 pounds of weight reduction, with an impressive 27.5mm reduction in length. Other changes include single exhaust valve springs, lightweight forged-aluminum pistons, increased compression ratio, a lightweight magnesium head cover, and more.
The motor inhales through a revised ram-air intake that mimics the RC51, first seen in 2000 and since copied by other manufacturers. The higher-volume airbox occupies much of the space normally occupied by the fuel tank, which was placed closer to the bike's center of gravity to sharpen its reflexes. Downstream, spent gases are exhaled via a new underseat exhaust that features titanium internal baffles. Although they remain coy about claiming increased horsepower, Honda does point to an improved midrange and what they believe is class-leading power-to-weight ratio as hallmarks of this model.
The newer, lighter, smaller motor fits into a newer, lighter, smaller, and simpler frame that consists of 4 cast sections (vs. 11 last year). The shorter engine lets Honda fit a longer, Unit Pro-Link rear swingarm (to improve rear suspension action) while still shortening the wheelbase by nearly an inch (to improve overall responsiveness). This is matched in front to a pair of 41mm inverted cartridge forks kept in check by a next generation Honda Electronic Steering Damper (HESD) that is 25 percent lighter than the one found on the CBR1000RR. Dual radial-mounted, four-piston calipers squeezing 310mm discs up front and a single 220mm disc in the rear handle the braking.
Honda sportbikes generally exude an engineered cool, with every line and every surface calculated and precisely rendered. The 2007 CBR600RR is a breakthrough, wrapped suggestively in tautly stretched bodywork that barely conceals the motor and delights the eye with sensuous shapes and expressive lines. Honda claims that the Formula 1-inspired bodywork, festooned with holes and air channels, also helps high-speed handling.
Of all the changes to the CBR, the most important to me may be the humblest - clip-ons are 10mm higher than last year. Honda has a knack for one-size-fits-most ergonomics, and this small change may be enough to satisfy dedicated sport-tourers who place the emphasis on "sport."
Like all CBRs before it, the 2007 RR feels hewn from a single ingot of alloy with quick, predictable, and confidence-inspiring handling. The motor provides consistent thrust with a noticeable improvement in the midrange when ridden back to back with the '06 model. Indeed, even in wet conditions, an enthusiastic throttle hand causes the bike to leap energetically, yet controllably, out of corners.
The day at Barber Motorsports Park progresses and my confidence in the bike and the Dunlop rain tires increases. The clouds part briefly in the late afternoon, dappling the shiny track with a golden light, lifting our spirits and amplifying the senses - one of those special moments that tourers are sometimes rewarded with after a drenching day in the saddle. And within that fleeting moment, the CBR is an extension of my will and a magnification of my motions as together we kiss apex after apex - just the kind of bike I want to have on a mountain pass. How it performs in real-world conditions will have to wait until I get a chance to bungee a seatpack onto those little tabs.
+ reflexes, midrange, ergonomics
- size (for larger riders), minimal storage under pillon seat
Distributor American Honda Motor Company Inc. powersports.honda.com
MSRP $ 9,499
Engine liquid-cooled inline four-cylinder, DOHC; four valves per cylinder, 12.2:1 compression ratio
Bore x Stroke 67 x 42.5mm
Carburetion Dual Stage Fuel Injection (DSFI)
Ignition computer-controlled digital transistorized with three- dimensional mapping
Transmission close-ratio six-speed
Frame cast, 4-piece, twin spar Fine Die-Cast (FDC) Frame
Front Suspension 41mm inverted HMAS cartridge fork, fully adjustable, 4.7 in (119.4mm) travel
Rear Suspension unit Pro-Link HMAS single shock, fully adjustable, 5.1in (130mm) travel
Rake/Trail 23.7° / 3.8in (97.7mm)
Brakes Front/Rear dual radial-mounted four-piston calipers with 310mm discs/ single 220mm disc
Tires Front/Rear 120/70ZR-17 radial, 180/55ZR-17 radial
Dry Weight 345lbs (156kg)
Wheelbase 53.8in (1,367mm)
Seat Height 32.3in (820mm)
Fuel Capacity 4.8 gallons (18 liters)
Fuel Consumption n/a
Color pearl white/silver, ultra blue metallic/silver,red/black, black