I’ve always loved the Honda CBR600RR — it looks great, has more modest power than other supersport motorcycles, and has always been touted as the “comfort” choice among the sporty six hundreds.
But now that the 2021 Honda CBR600RR has been released and I don’t have to look at rumours, here are three changes to it that would make it an awesome choice. In a nutshell: an IMU, a TFT display, and winglets!
On the other hand, the 2021+ revised CBR600RR is not available in most markets. You can’t get it in Europe anymore. And in the US, you can only buy the old spec, but with updated styling. You can get this version in Australia, but it costs more than a new litre bike, so few would opt for it (unless truly dedicated).
Anyway, here’s more about the 2021+ CBR600RR.
See the complete Honda CBR600RR buyers guide from 2003 to today.
Are you obsessed with motorcycles?
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Cornering ABS via a Bosch IMU (and all-new rider electronics)
I originally read a rumour published on Cycle World that the 2021 Honda CBR600RR would have cornering ABS, but it has now been confirmed.
Ever since I first heard of cornering ABS, I realised how useful it would be for road riding, and committed to trying to get one for my next road bike. I eventually settled on a 2017 BMW S 1000 R, an affordable option in this range of high-end bikes.
Motorcycles with cornering ABS have an IMU (an inertial measurement unit) that measures the way a motorcycle is leaning or pitching, and modifies the ABS signals. The goal is still to only use ABS in emergency conditions, but also not to change the direction of a motorcycle. It’s the next big thing in motorcycle safety. In a nutshell, cornering ABS means motorcycles stay upright even if you jam on the brakes while leaned over.
Since the 2020 Honda CBR1000RR-R has an IMU fitted already, it makes sense that it’d trickle down to other bikes eventually.
But no other motorcycles in the 600-cc class have cornering ABS so far. Even Kawasaki — who have always been pretty advanced with electronics on the ZX-6R 636 (they’ve had ABS 2013) — and who have an advanced IMU on multiple other motorcycles, don’t have it.
Bringing the electronics package to the CBR600RR means that ABS is now standard, too.
See here for other motorcycles with cornering ABS.
The Same Power (OK, 1 hp more)
The Honda CBR600RR has always been in the “not the fastest, but fast enough” category.
If you look at the power and torque curve of the 2021+ Honda CBR600RR, it does rise throughout the rev range… but it doesn’t have the sudden stratospheric jump at around the 6-8 000 rpm point that the Yamaha YZF-R6 does.
Torque builds more gradually with the CBR600RR. From 2 500-6 000 rm it hovers around the 30-35 ft-lb point (around 47 Nm). Then above 8 000 rpm, torque maintains a flattish 40-45 ft-lb (54-63 Nm) until it starts falling away around 12 000 rpm — which is as decent a place as any to shift.
Honda has kept this kind of torque delivery consistent between models.
For me, the predictable power delivery of the CBR600RR has always helped make the CBR600RR the most easy-to-ride of the 600 class. That’s if you exclude the marginal mid-range torque advantage of the Kawasaki Nina ZX-6R 636, which also cheats slightly with its capacity bump.
A TFT display
As much as I love analogue dials, a TFT display is a very useful way of showing complex information — particularly if you have an IMU fitted.
Also, a screen means that a user can configure what they want to see.
The TFT on the CBR600RR looks nice — with a big speed indicator, critical tachometer, and information about the ride aid settings.
Winglets! (…and great aerodynamics)
“Winglets” seem like the design trend of 2020 and 2021. The Panigale V4R, the Kawasaki H2, the BMW M1000RR… a whole host of super-fast motorcycles have been embracing winglets as a way of increasing downward thrust and traction.
But the CBR600RR is the first 600-class motorcycle — in fact, the first non-literbike — to use winglets.
I’m not sure you’ll really need winglets in day-to-day driving, but it does give you some bragging rights…
Coupled with the winglets, Honda are claiming the lowest drag coefficient in its class.
Finally, I really like the aesthetic improvements to the CBR600RR. The LED lights are an obvious improvement. It has always looked like a great motorcycle, and now it just looks even greater.
A couple of reasons why not get the 2021 CBR600RR
It’s not all roses. There’s a couple of good reasons why I wouldn’t get a Honda CBR600RR.
Firstly, the 2021 Honda CBR600RR is — where it’s available — very expensive. The 600-class of motorcycles was always a little more niche than the litre class. They’re even relevant for the streets, as their power is all high up in the rev range.
That price is so high that it’s not even going to be imported into the US market, despite meeting emissions regulations there. People say they want it, but Honda doesn’t believe they’ll vote with their wallets.
It’s easy to see why. In Australia (where you can’t get the base model CBR1000RR, only the SP), the base models of most 1000 cc-class superbikes are cheaper than the CBR600RR.
Secondly, the new CBR600RR is slightly heavier. That’s to be expected, now that ABS and electronics are a standard part of the bike. Weight is also a consequence of trying to meet emissions regulations.
Finally, I’m a bit disappointed to not see any changes in the engine. It’s not that I think they’re strictly necessary. It’s just that for the considerably higher price, I’d have been interested to see more value, rather than just more electronics which are becoming de rigueur in the market anyway.
Mostly, I’d have preferred for all these changes to have arrived in the 2021 Honda CBR650R, a bike that’s much more appropriate for the street. One can dream!