Honda CBR600 F4
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.