Honda CBR600 F4

Fast Bikes - - CORE TEST -

This is Boothy’s bike. He may well have been fastest new­comer at last year’s TT, but he sure as hell can’t look af­ter bikes ap­pro­pri­ately. Boothy bought it for a bar­gain, to be used as a mule for learn­ing the Moun­tain Course, and it’s been left out­side to gather de­tri­tus and for birds to poo on. I think the Na­tional Spider Web (NSW) con­ven­tion also held their an­nual gath­er­ing on this very bike.

Nearly two decades’ old and in fairly shabby con­di­tion, it’s no surprise that this CBR feels a lit­tle dis­jointed, and the brakes are a bit shit. A part of me thought – and hoped – I was rid­ing a Mo­toGP bike and the car­bon brakes would soon warm up like Mar­quez’s, but they didn’t. The F4’s brakes were of­ten spongy when new, and time hasn’t been kind to this setup.

The F se­ries was of­ten thought of as the per­fect mid­dleweight all-rounder, with am­ple sport­ing pedi­gree and a host of prac­ti­cal ac­ces­sories as stan­dard (grab rail, etc.). It’s a tad podgy but that shouldn’t de­ter pi­lots look­ing for a com­fier ride (and fre­quent pil­lions), as the CBR brags de­cent weather pro­tec­tion and still man­ages to hus­tle upon in­tro­duc­tion to bends. While the Honda lacks at­ti­tude and su­per­sport sharp­ness of pe­riod ri­vals, it still steers with pace and re­as­sur­ing neu­tral­ity, and is as nim­ble as they come. It’s ef­fort­less in change of di­rec­tion and feels lighter than many fresher steeds. It must be Honda’s mass cen­tral­i­sa­tion.

It’s cer­tainly more at home on open, more flow­ing roads where you’re not ask­ing for big lean hero­ics and overea­ger brak­ing. That said, as demon­strated with Boothy, stick a de­cent rider on board and fit some sticky rub­ber, and you can see why Ten Kate’s early years in World Su­per­sport were so fruit­ful. In­ci­den­tally, the F4 was the first CBR to ben­e­fit from a 5.5in rear rim, which al­lowed an ar­ray of

rub­ber op­tions and su­pe­rior mid-cor­ner sta­bil­ity.

In terms of road hold­ing, the Honda’s sus­pen­sion also shines through. With a fully-ad­justable of­fer­ing and bags of plush­ness, the CBR copes well with any UK road sur­face at less com­mit­ted speeds and, de­spite oo­dles of weight trans­fer, never be­comes an is­sue.

With its, erm, de­lec­ta­ble aes­thet­ics, 90bhp and a wheezy de­liv­ery the Honda strug­gles against this com­pe­ti­tion. And 36,000 miles new, it’s prob­a­bly had more cocks sat on it than a fowl butcher’s slab, al­though the F4s were never renowned for their midrange. It’s a very lin­ear ex­e­cu­tion that builds with pro­gres­sion and, not sur­pris­ingly, felt firmly out­classed in this com­pany.

This was the last of the carb’d mod­els be­fore the F4i was in­tro­duced. While the fu­elling is largely seam­less and silky smooth, many be­moan a flat spot in the midrange that’s eas­ily reme­died with a jet kit. The rest of the con­trols are light and in­tu­itive, which is par­tially re­spon­si­ble for just how easy the CBR is to pi­lot. There are no quirks or idio­syn­cra­sies, just a straight­for­ward rid­ing pro­to­col that some wrongly re­gard as mo­not­o­nous. Hon­das are syn­ony­mous with the old ‘just feed it petrol and check the tyres’ adage, and this CBR is a per­fect ex­am­ple. De­spite the rot­ten nuggets and shabby chic con­di­tion, the F4 could be an ideal first foray into sports­bikes for any­one.

Could do with a bit more colour.

Fa­gan found a few com­pli­ments for the Honda.

Lim­ber­ing up for the ac­tion.

Room with a view. Just not a very nice one.

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