A guide to buying a used CBR600F or a CBR650F. Or if you are really lucky, a used CBR650R!
That’s the word most often used to describe the CBR600F.
Second would be “all-rounder”. This is to contrast it with the more race-oriented 600s to succeed it, like the ZX-6R (in 599cc form), the YZF-R6 or Honda’s own CBR600RR (see the CBR600RR buyers guide).
Basically, the CBR600F was the “everyday motorcycle” that can do it all. You can ride it to the shops, take it out to the mountains, or even have good fun on a track day. It didn’t feel compromised; it did all those things well.
Nonetheless, when Yamaha released its R6 in 1998, they really showed what “no compromises” could mean.
Still, there was a place in many people’s hearts for the CBR600F, enough for Honda to try to bring back the concept for a while… finally succeeding in 2019.
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Why buy a Honda CBR600F?
The CBR600F is one of those iconic motorcycles that people recall fondly as being extremely “fun” in a variety of situations. Ask anyone who’s had one and they’ll fondly describe them as being a perfect balance: lightweight, manoeuvrable, with plenty of horsepower and yet comfortable, torquey enough down low to be practical in the city and stylish.
CBR actually stands for “City Bike Racing”. Never mind that CBR600RR stands for “City Bike Racing… Race Replica”, a contradiction. By the point the 600RR range was released (in 2003), CBR was more of a brand name than an acronym.
There are so many related motorcycles out there that I need to clarify what this is NOT: This is not a CBR600RR buyers guide or a CB600F buyer’s guide.
- The CBR600RR is the “race replica” version of the CBR600F, much more oriented towards the track, and not as street-friendly (with a more aggressive position, compact frame, and higher-tuned torque curve). They’re awesome motorcycles, even just to look at, let alone to fling around a track. But they’re of less interest to the average buyer (like me, and probably you), the vast majority of whom want something that can be driven daily.
- The CB600F is the “naked” version of the CBR600F. They actually share a lot of common features. I considered putting them together into one guide, but the complexity of doing that is that the years they were each released were slightly different, as were the engine tunings and specs. So I’ll write one separately.
If I had to pick which of the above motorcycles in the Honda 600cc range was most iconic and loved by the most people, it would be the CBR600F.
What’s a Honda CBR600F like to ride?
The Honda CBR600F never produces a stratospheric amount of torque, but it also doesn’t completely whimper down low. Its rise in torque is steady, very unlike other 600s that give you a rush of power 8,000 rpm and then scream their way to a redline of sometimes reaching 16,000 rpm. If that sound good (it kind of gives me the tingles just thinking about it), maybe you want a Yamaha R6!
Above is the torque curve of the CBR600F4i. It’s pretty indicative of how power is made in most of the CBR-F series.
Around town, the CBR is docile, but not weak. In general traffic rev ranges, it’s making about 30 lb-ft of torque. This is more than any 300cc motorcycle makes at its peak. It’s also about 2/3 of a much “torquier” motorcycle, like a Triumph Scrambler or your average mid-sized Ducati Monster. So, it’s fine!
Once you get the revs up to about 7,000 rpm, you’re basically at peak torque. And it’s not hard to get up there once you decided to rip it a little. From that point, you are rewarded with a large, satisfying plateau of torque and power (remember, power = torque x rpm), all the way to a pretty high redline… depending on your motorcycle of choice, of course.
The CBR600F was always comfortable. It doesn’t have handlebars, but the clip-ons aren’t too low. Have a look below at the model guide and you’ll notice that for most models here, the clip-ons are about the height of the top of the tank.
Go have a look at any sports motorcycle (like the R6) and you’ll notice it’s QUITE different.
The geometry of the CBR600RR is so different. It has lower clip-ons, higher foot-pegs, a more aggressive tank, and even a higher seat.
The more relaxed position means the F is just easy to manoeuvre in everyday life. You can take it to the shops, pootle about the countryside, or fly it along a twisting road with the same ease. The power-band makes you feel like you’re in control.
It also feels at home on the highway. The fairing is comfortable; you don’t have to race-tuck behind it like you do on an RR (or you might be forced to do, depending on your body). The engines rev at a docile 5-6,000 rpm, and there’s a peaceful feeling knowing that you don’t have to downshift to get into the torque band. You’re already there!
General buying guide for a CBR600F — Best models of CBR600F
These were always considered fast, sporty bikes. Thus, the majority have been raced, either on the street or on the track. They’re not monsters with torque, but they can be wheelied. And many of them have been crashed and left out in the sun.
The main two models of CBR600F you should buy are the CBR600F4 and the CBR600F4i (“normal” variant).
The CBR600F4 was the last of the carburettor-fed original models of CBR600F. The reasons for which it’s a good one to get is: it’s lightweight, it has a reasonable maintenance interval, and it has a lot of the gremlins from earlier models ironed out.
The CBR600F4i was very similar, but added fuel injection and came in a sport variant. Fuel injection means one less thing to service. On an old motorcycle that has been sitting (common for motorcycles of this vintage), having fuel injection means one less thing to clean and prepare before you go.
The 2019 CBR650R is the first re-incarnation of the CBR600F4i. It’s fast, sporty without being extreme, and not sedate. It has a broad, very usable power-band, and people LOVE riding it.
I actually don’t mind the 2011-2013 CBR600F, but it will be very hard to on-sell. So only get it if you can get a bargain.
If you’re interested in why I would love to buy a Honda CBR650R (if I could get a full-power one), read my full review of the CBR650R here.
Known problems with the CBR600F variants
There were a number of issues that most models of CBR600F shared.
Before buying any Honda CBR600F variant, do the standard checks I mention in my comprehensive used motorcycle checklist.
Apart from that, check these known problems have been addressed:ß
- Exhaust down-pipes: These tend to rust on the joins from 4-2 and then 2-1. Check the underside in particular. This happened most often on early models.
- Sticky petcock: The F and F2 had this issue, while the F3 or F4 did not (and obviously not the F4i, as it had no petcock due to being injected). Get a petcock off one of those to replace it in the carburettor.
- Hydraulic cam change tensioner: Many failed. Best fix is to replace them with a billet manual unit from APE Race Parts. The stocker was noisy and prone to failure while the manual unit is less expensive, easy to install and adjust.
- Regulator/rectifier: Reputedly ‘made of cheese’ on early Honda motorcycles. These keep failing particularly on the F to F3, so the best thing is to upgrade the unit completely. Check battery voltage at 5,000 RPM. If it’s not anywhere near 14.5V, the regulator is dead. You can easily fit a GSXR1000 or a Yamaha R1 rectifier in its place, buying one from eBay.
The Original Honda CBR600F (1987-1990) aka the Hurricane: Nice, but don’t buy it
Original specs for the Honda CBR600F “Hurricane”:
- Liquid cooled, 4 cylinder, carburettors
- Power: 64kW (86hp)
- Torque: 60Nm (44ft-lb)
- Wet weight: 199 kgs (439 lbs)
- Red-line at 12,500 RPM
- 6-speed gearbox
- 8,000km (5,000 mile) valve adjustment intervals
This was the motorcycle that started it all. It was fun, balanced, and well-loved, but… let’s not go into it too much as they’re hard to find and not really practical to buy.
What to pay for a CBR600F
Don’t buy one of these. The main reason is not the known problems, but the really short 8,000km (5,000 mile) mile valve adjustment intervals. What is this, a Ducati? Definitely opt for a CBR600F2 or later, as those will be much more enjoyable to ride (the interval changed to 26,000 kilometres (12,000 miles).
Further, an original CBR600F is very difficult to find now, and if you do, a well-kept one will be similarly priced (if not higher priced) than a later model. If you’re looking for a CBR600F and find one like this, unless it’s very attractively priced (like, less than $2,000) and intact. And even then, only buy it for the living room.
Honda CBR600F2 (1991-1994): Reasonable service intervals
Changes for the CBR600F2 from the CBR600F:
- Power: 73 kW (100 hp) @ 12,000 rpm
- Torque: 64 Nm (47 lb-ft) @10,500 rpm
- Wet weight: 206kg (454 lbs), meaning another 7kg (16 lbs) of weight
- Higher red-line of 13,000 rpm, up by 500. From redesigned engine, with slightly more over-square pistons
- Valve adjustment intervals increased to 12,000 miles from 5,000, after a change from rocker arms to shim-under-bucket assembly
- Smaller engine was 2 inches smaller, moving the rider closer & improving handling
- Increased carb size, 34mm vs 32mm previously
- Suspension improvements: Longer front forks (378 to 41mm) with preload adjustments and a fatter front tire
The Honda CBR600F2 was a motorcycle loved by everyone who rode it, and was considered to be the class-leading 600cc bike in both speed and handling. It ruled the roost until the ZX-6R appeared in 1995. Even then, usually Honda won.
What to pay for a CBR600F2
You shouldn’t pay much — in the vicinity of about US$2,000 for a well-kept one which hasn’t been crashed and whose paint is in reasonable shape, with title and registration. Most you’ll find will NOT be in good shape and that’ll dictate how much you pay.
Honda CBR600F3 (1995-1998): More power, but heavier
The CBR600F3 brought with it a number of improvements, nothing huge over the F2, but significant. Power was increased slightly, but more importantly, he torque curve was flattened significantly.
Cosmetically the CBR600F3 looked the same as the F2, but it produced more power thanks to improved carbs, fuelling, ram-air induction and engine changes.
Changes for the CBR600F3 from the CBR600F2:
- Power: 77kW (105 hp) at 12,000 rpm
- Torque: 66Nm (49 ft-lbs) at 10,500 rpm
- Wet weight: 206 kgs (454 lbs),
- Bigger carbs, up to 36mm from 34mm
- Redesigned engine internals, with higher compression (12.0:1), low-friction coating on piston rings and bearings, and a revised ignition system, leading to red-line increase to 13,300 RPM (up from 13,000)
- Ram-air induction (for higher horsepower as wind picked up)
- New colour schemes: Black with white, Sparling Red or Purple with Yellow.
- Improved front rotors
- Fatter rear wheel
- Same weight!
In 1997, Honda improved on the CBR600F3 again with a few more changes
- Power increase of 3.7kW (5 hp): From a new muffler and ignition mapping. Total power brought up to 82 kW (110hp).
- Revised ignition and ram-air for a smoother throttle curve.
- Better suspension: Improved forks, shock and a resized chain
What to pay for a CBR600F3
Like the F2, you shouldn’t pay much — ballpark around $2,500 is about right, for one that hasn’t been crashed, whose paint is in good condition and whose service was done on schedule. Most you’ll find will NOT be in good shape and that’ll dictate how much you pay.
Honda CBR600F4 1999-2000: Lighter, and much-improved handling
This was the last carburettor-equipped CBR600F. This is probably the most popular model other than the CBR600F4i.
By this iteration of the CBR600F, most of the earlier gremlins were ironed out, too. They also managed to make it a lot lighter. With better suspension, braking, and lighter weight, the F4 handled a lot better than predecessors.
Specs of the CBR600F4 (and changes over the F3):
- Power: 79 kW (105hp), similar to the F3
- Torque: 69 Nm (49 lb-ft), similar to the F3
- Wet weight: 197kg (434 lbs), reduced from 206kg (454 lbs)… the lightest CBR600F so far! Mostly from frame changes.
- Higher red-line of 13,500
- Better suspension, with 43mm front forks.
- Better front brakes
- Bigger rear wheel (5.5 inches)
The weight savings came mostly the introduction of an aluminium twin-spar frame to replace the steel-framed predecessors.
The higher red-line came from an engine redesign, with shorter stroke and bigger bore pistons, for less overall mass.
What to pay for a CBR600F4
Like the earlier models, you shouldn’t pay much — ballpark around US$2,500 is about right, for one that hasn’t been crashed, whose paint is in good condition and whose service was done on schedule. Most you’ll find will NOT be in good shape and that’ll dictate how much you pay.
If you shop around or negotiate, you can find one for US$2,000. Don’t spend more than $3,000 unless it’s pristine; I guarantee you can get an F4i for that much.
CBR600F4i 2001-2006: The one to get!
This was the first fuel-injected CBR600F. It’s also probably the best value on the used market, and THE motorcycle to get. I almost regret writing this because it’s the one I want. Stay away from them, they’re mine! (Just kidding… I already found one.)
Changes and specs for the Honda CBR600F4i:
- Power: 81 kW (109 hp) @ 12,500 rpm; 3 kW bump over previous model
- Torque: 62 Nm (46 lb-ft) @ 10,000 rpm
- Wet weight: 200kg (441 lbs); slight increase of a few kgs
- Added fuel injection, using “dual throat” throttle bodies
- Higher red-line of 14,200 rpm (increase of 700)
- Sold in “Sport” and “normal” variants. Sport had a two part seat, no grab rail and no main stand.
- Modified chassis: Strengthened steering head, a swing-arm pivot point moved to the engine block, shorter wheelbase by 5mm
This is the model most people will be after.
The “dual throat” fuel injection system was a first for Honda. It was injectors joined in pairs, a design that Honda hoped would cure the snatchy issues of previous fuel-injected sportbikes, the RC51 SP-1 and the CBR1000RR FireBlade. The ECU was also upgraded against those machines, measuring throttle, cam and coolant, more streams of data to process.
The Sport variant
Honda also introduced a “Sport” version of the 2001 CBR. It had a few small performance upgrades, including
- Higher power higher up: By using dual concentric intake valve springs, to close the valve faster, Honda reduced valve float higher revs and allowed it to be tuned for more power. Valve lift was reduced slightly, valve seats strengthened and the flywheel lightened slightly.
- Cartridge forks with fully-adjustable suspension
- Lower fifth and six gear ratios
- Gold-painted cases to make it go faster
- Split seats for the rider/pillion (not one seat) and no grab rail — this is how you can identify it visually
- No centre stand! This is no commuter…
Both models were marketed in many places. Australia only got one model — thankfully, the Sport model.
After 2006, this line was actually temporarily retired, while Honda focused on the CBR600RR, which had been released in 2003.
The return of the CBR600F in 2011 was actually the release of a slightly different model that didn’t quite feel the same to most people.
What to pay for a CBR600F4i
This is the model of the CBR600F to get, so it’s the most expensive.
An early model in good condition is about $3,000. A later model in 2006 will set you back no more than $4,000, and that’s only if it has low miles (less than 15,000 miles or 20,000 kilometres).
If you don’t see one and are shopping around, you can pay a similar amount for a ZX-6R 636; those are more common, and good competitors. Bigger, and more powerful. However, the 636 does make its power higher up; it can feel pretty lazy below 7,000 rpm.
CBR600F 2011-2013: “The Faired Hornet”
Not released in the USA, but released to critical disdain everywhere else as a “faired Hornet”, though it was really fine. The problem is, what’s so good about “fine”?
The 2011 CBR600F was described as “horrible” or as “a Hornet with a fairing” (hey, that sounds fine!). But it was a fine sports motorcycle, one that was much more oriented towards street use than the CBR600RR or any other of the 600cc motorcycles on the market.
No, it didn’t produce north of 120 horsepower, nor did it rev as high. But it was usable, with more torque. The problem is… that’s hard to sell.
This says it all, from “Ash on Bikes”:
The 2011 Italian-built CBR600F isn’t quite created in the same vein as the old versions – those were all rounders that were also highly effective sports bikes, able to compete with more focussed supersports machines on the track right to the mid-noughties yet vastly superior as everyday machines. The new one doesn’t come close to the supersports bikes, but then they have moved on and become more hardcore than ever. It is though a fine all-rounder, with the bonus of a more relatively competitive price than before.
Specs for the 2011 CBR600F on paper
- 76kW (102hp) at 12,000 RPM; 7 horsepower less than the CBR600F4i
- 65Nm (48ft-lb) of torque at 10,500 RPM; 3 more than the CBR600F4i.
- 193 kg (425 lb) wet; 7kg lighter than the past
Seems pretty good, right? But people just compared it to other 600s (including the CBR600RR) and for that reason, claimed it came up short.
In reality, the CBR600F filled the same gap as the SV650S: a faired, comfortable sports motorcycle. It has a bunch of options including heated grips, ABS, a higher screen and luggage.
It also looks nice. But to my eye, it does look like the fairing was an afterthought.
CBR650F 2014-2018: Less power for some reason
The CBR650F was another evolution towards making motorcycles user-friendly. Like its immediate predecessor, it’s a faired CB650F, and a bit of a dud. Mostly because of the drop in power!
First, the changes:
- 64kW (86hp) at 11,000rpm, a drop of 9 kW/15hp
- 63Nm (46 ft-lb) of torque at 8,000rpm, slightly less torque
- Standard ABS brakes
- More advanced electronics (digital everything)
- Comfortable position (more so than even the VFR800)
- Stiffer suspension, despite less ability to adjust
Why did Honda decrease the horsepower? It’s so that they could offer a restricted version for A2 license holders in the UK. According to the rules in the UK, the original motorcycle can’t have produced over twice the horsepower. Torque stayed the same, but it got choked off near the top.
The CBR650F is one of those motorcycles that people describe as “fun”. Whenever I read “fun”, I often suspect it… it’s one of those marketing terms that seems more like an absence of “outrageous” or some other strong word. Visordown puts it as “civilised but exciting, mild-mannered when you want it to be, with bite when you want that”. “Civilised??” Motorcycle news says for commuting through traffic, you “wouldn’t rather be on any other bike”.
It’s described as having easy to use clutch, controls, riding position… basically an extremely neutral motorcycle, built on decades of experience.
The CBR650F is reasonably priced, fast enough to get you into trouble and a good commuter. In other words, it’s an all rounder, and designed to be so.
Unfortunately, the fact that it’s so middle-ground means that it has lost a lot of the cachet that earlier models had. Of modern incarnations of the CBR, the CBR650F is one of the most boring. For this reason, even while this model was available, I’d prefer the earlier 2011 CBR600F. The earlier CBR600F4i would be even better.
Bennetts gave the Honda CBR650F a scathing review:
… a high-revving inline four-cylinder all-rounder that had bags of sporting potential compromised by a relaxed riding position and too many cost corners cut in terms of equipment and spec level – right way up forks, two-pot sliding caliper brakes, feature-light dash, no rider aids. It was a nice bike, better than it should’ve been but not as good as it could’ve.
So either skip it or get the un-faired Hornet CB650F — the “original” experience of the same motorcycle.
There were some revisions to the CBR650F in 2018:
- Decreasing power for Euro4 compliance (losing 1 kW and a few Nm)
- Improving mid-range torque
- Improved sound, using a new intake and exhaust
- New front fork
I’m not saying the CBR650F is a bad bike. You could flog one to hell and back and have a lot of fun. I’m just saying — I wouldn’t actively pursue it if I had a choice.
CBR650R 2019-present: Return of the King
The CBR650R continues the same spirit as the CBR650F (and CBR600F), being a street-ready alternative to the more focused RR machines.
It’s also the motorcycle that I’d recommend if you can’t find a decent CBR600F4i. In fact, I wrote a whole guide to why I’d buy one! (Unfortunately, I couldn’t as it turns out Australia doesn’t import them in full power spec.)
Specs and changes for the 2019 CBR650R
- 70kW (94Hp) @ 12,000RPM: more power, and higher up, with a very similar torque curve; basically just due to higher rpm. Plus you get 5 more hp with ram air.
- 64Nm (47ft-lb) @ 8,000RPM, again, barely any change in torque
- 208 kg (458 lbs) wet weight on ABS version which is standard in most markets — 5kg (12 lbs) lighter than the CBR650F
- Slipper clutch with a lighter action (not that the CBR650F had any problems… people loved it)
- Styling revision, borrowing more from the CBR1000RR Fireblade
- More forward riding position; lowered clip-ons, but still “a long way short of a Fireblade”
- Beautiful, easy-to-read, large and colour electronics
- Traction control (not that you need it that much)
The CBR650R develops real power, closer to its CBR600R predecessors. But still falls short of high-revving, high-power 600cc sportbikes like the R6. And that’s intentional.
There’s a beginner-restricted version of the CBR650R with only 47hp. But it’s quite hard to de-restrict. Apart from some intricate work, you have to remove the computer to re-program it.
Bennetts loves how the new CBR650R in the mid-range for sports bikes.
It’s neither intimidatingly fast and ultimately reined-in, like a litre-class sportbike, nor furiously demented, like a nailed-on supersport 600. It’s the Goldilocks zone of performance.
Hope you liked this detailed buyers guide to the Honda CBR600 series. Leave a comment if you have more questions, or drop me a line to say thanks!