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2003 Honda CBR600RRMSE Ratings

2003 Honda CBR600RRThe current crop of Supersport 600cc class represents a set of sport bikes that have been involved in a perpetual conflict for the last 15 or so years. Luckily for us, this prolonged battle has seen some evolutionary changes that for some companies h

AddedDate Added: 18th September 2003
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Editor Contributor's Review

Well, the new RR is different from the above successful family; it has been designed as race bike first, and shares technology direct from Val Rossi\'s GP bike, the current MotoGP dominating RC211V. Take a look at the rear swinger - look familiar? That\'s because it\'s the same setup on the RC211V - more on that later. The new 600RR also shares a common fuel injection set up as the RC, with duel fuel injectors injecting.
Now, lucky for us, Honda have seen fit to continue offering last years excellent F4i, to those who don\'t need or want the latest and greatest race rep. However, if you want to be on the cutting edge of sport bike technology, this RR is for you. Sure, it\'s not unusual to see racetrack technology trickle down to the street, but when was the last time you saw this years race innovations on this years street bikes? Never, my sporty and feisty friends - This bike is as advanced as it is focused.

Obviously this 600 class is a gossip filled cauldron and all I\'ve heard over the last couple of months from the Supersport faithful is "inverted" this, and "radial" that. Sure upside-downies look good but Conventional forks can offer advantages over inverted types, especially when you\'re talking about the beefy 45mm set on the new RR, up two mill\' from last year and the biggest on any production Honda 600. However the most innovative part about the RR is the rear shock set-up, now to be referred around the land as "Unit Pro Link".

Honda have taken a complete 180 stance over this side of development, they realized that most problems with current motorcycle geometry come from the rear not the front. On a conventional rear set-up the rear compresses under acceleration, specifically whilst twisting the loud handle out of a turn, this compression is using valuable shock stroke and should you encounter a small dip or bump, loss of traction can occur due to the aforementioned compression. The result? Highside City, and you are the Mayor. - An inverted fork set-up couldn\'t possibly save you from this one, tough guy.

Honda\'s answer comes in the form of a revised linkage that sees the top of the shock anchored to the swingarm, not to the frame. A few positive effects occur as a by-product of this thinking, the frame is less stressed and with a new manufacturing process that allows engineers to create hollow die-cast members that are lighter and airier, this less stress also results in less bracing, less bracing allows room for incidentals, like a lower gas tank, which in turn allows a bigger airbox. The knee bone is attached to the thighbone; the thighbone is attached to the hipbone.

Anyway, enough of this sleepy stuff let\'s go ride one. The venue is Fast Freddie\'s house of speed, Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I\'ve been here a few times so less effort was spent on track orientation, more on going as fast as my motor-neuron skills would allow me. Dunlop was present and the bikes were fitted with the D208 ZR OEM street tires for the mornings sessions, Honda were the consummate host and had them wrapped in hot, sweaty tire warmers to help with the total opposite in weather conditions here in the Nevada desert facility.

The bike felt quite small in stature, and I felt perched nice and high looking down onto the redesigned instrumentation. The tachometer is now central with the fuel bars and idiot lights either side. As I moved into the open pit area, I immediately went into tire scrub mode and swept the bike side to side to scuff up the virgin tread. The bike moved so well that I nearly fell over and then repeated the same thing on the opposite side with my counter correction. The bike is absolutely effortless in side-to-side transitions both at speed and with my silly, potentially embarrassing, tire warming pit stunts.

Off into the racetrack the bike was all that was promised and more. The Honda staff begged (or was it egged?) us to get on the throttle as early as we dare to demonstrate the rear suspension action and traction. Nobody dares MikeE and I soon had the bike overpowering the street tires, especially when race warm and with the consequent slides, one at triple digit speeds, soon had me hiding at the back of the pit garage pretending that I was looking for something (my nerve?) I don\'t remember being able to overpower the OEM tire on the last version, so let that be a strong indication on power difference. I was also dragging a peg in a couple of places so I had my personal technician (no, really) add a tad more preload, a smidgen of compression, and a dollop of rebound - all to thoroughly confuse the guy and impress him with my suspension tweaking vocabulary and cooking skills.

After a couple or three sessions of shagging street tires on the RR, I rode the older F4i as a back-to-back comparison. Now I really liked this bike especially after attending its launch at this same venue, this wasn\'t a tired 2001 by the way, it was a low mileage unit and was set up quite well for my (over) weight. At the track it\'s hard to get a true perception of speed, but riding the two together, the older bike just didn\'t have the same get up and go capabilities and wasn\'t as composed under braking as the new bike was, it was good to compare the two models back-to-back and to see and feel the progress made.

One major difference, engine-wise, was the ability for the RR to over-rev. Peak power is a claimed 127 gee gee\'s at 12,500 RPM, however, peak rpm is a heady 15,000-RPM. It was a beautiful thing to be able to hold that gear, on tight corners and not need to grab a potentially unsettling extra gear, just let it eat for 2500 RPM. Also, if you down-changed an extra gear on a typical race-rep 600, you would have the back dancing around like a drunken fool at a wedding party, with the RR it would grumble under it\'s breath like a bridegrooms father, but let the party continue. That ability to rev comes from over a third of a pound in weight shaved off of the pistons, piston pins and new nut-less connecting rods. That\'s reciprocating weight-loss, my two-wheel-fiends; it\'s the best sort.

That party continued in a big way in the afternoon, under the watchful eyes of Dunlop\'s road race manager, Jim Allen. Sticky 208GP\'s were spooned on, warmed up and let loose (with us on board) on the nicely warming race track. Now, being used to the Michelins that I\'ve been running all year - it took me a little while to explore the limits of this strange (to me) tire. The RR responded very well to the abuse that I could dish out, no slides or dramas. These new 208\'s have a rounder profile so the differences to stock OEM\'s is starting to become negligible; you just get lots more grip - lots lots lots and lots more. The new RR couldn\'t be tide up in knots even with my ham fisted fumbling\'s. Someone obviously did their homework here - as promised it gets its power to the ground and is stable whilst doing so.

The fuel injection always smoothed out the handfuls that I was trying to squeeze out of the RR\'s newly designed engine too. The twin injectors per cylinder are positioned ala\' 211V with a lower one close to the intake, controlling low to midrange throttle inputs and the upper injector within the airbox that was reserved for when you wanted to get the party really rowdy. The two injectors were seamless in operation, with the lower unit contributing to the impressive and claimed 49.9lbs of torque. If you wanted to be lazy, you could lug this motor in top gear everywhere, almost like an open classer.

The motor itself has been shortened with the crankshaft moving upwards and forwards and with a corresponding move of the countershaft running close behind and beneath it. The bike handily employs a deep sump so that crank is never swimming against the tide of oil. This offered a redistribution of engine size and weight that it is responsible for good mass centralization. Everything, including the swingarm, has been moved forward thus helping to gain nearly three inches of extra swingarm length. Consequently, the rider is forward too by nearly 3 inches, your hip bones connected to your back bone, your back bones connected to your shoulder bone.

Getting going is good, controlled stopping is good too, the conventional brakes were pretty decent on my bike, and two stubby pinkies were all I needed to haul this bike down from an indicated 160mph out on the speedway banking. The rotors are each a dinner plate sized 310mm and the Honda tech\'s had said that they had investigated radial calipers, but for the Joe Public and even for factory rider Ben Boz, the stockers worked just as good, but more importantly felt better.

So, two fingers to radials it is then.

Anymore trick stuff? How about the headlamps? A first for production motorcycles, natch\'. Line beam headlights, the bulbs radiate light which reflects back from a reflector that then reflects forwards to the road. Zig-zagging beams to help you to zig-zag at night… cool beans. What about that exhaust? Luvverly. Looked pukka and sounded good too. Slightly higher pitched than the F4i but not annoyingly so. No additional crash bills with this zorst\', expect some clever aftermarket cans to compliment this feature too. The gas tank has a unique touch as well, only one third is visible above the frame line, the rest is nestled behind the newly configured engine. This narrow within-frame design eliminates side-to-side fuel slop, is the same capacity as the F4i, and is, of course, lighter. Finally, let\'s not forget the led rear light. Brighter, lighter and de rigueur.

Is there any downside to this bike? There may be. The forks were a little soft. Mine had max preload and I added a few clicks of compression, but to no avail. The squished flies on the fork leg were being squished almost all the way to the top, not very technical I know, but even when I had the audacity to put a zip tie on the leg it still confirmed that I was using all the travel. My main concern was bottoming out the fork under track conditions, be it at a race or track day and losing the front. Obviously it didn\'t happen, but I think I may lose that reserve once I had the title in my back pocket, especially as I\'m the wrong side of 200lbs with my Kushitani\'s on.
So, what do we have here? Well, quite simply it\'s a bike that was first conceived within six months of the RC211V\'s (immaculate) conception. It\'s a race bike masquerading as a street bike not \'tother way round. It\'s weight distribution is mirrored from the RC211V and is as perfect as you\'re going to get (Just ask Valentino and Nicky)

As far as the rear suspension is concerned, it\'s such a groundbreaking development that I feel pretty confident a similar version will be seen on the next generation of sportbikes (after the patents have run out, of course).
Honda has won 50% of the titles since this 600 class began and every rendition has won Daytona. This bike comes from very good stock so they\'re not expecting that trend to end any time soon.

The RC211V was built with one purpose in mind and was an unqualified success.

This 2003 CBR600RR shares the exact same philosophy, \'nuff said.

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