Launched alongside the CBR1000F at Suzuka in 1987 there seemed, at first, little to get excited about in the CBR600F. Conceived as a stop-gap antidote to Honda's various V4 disasters, there was no pioneering technology. It wasn't even the first 600 - that was Kawasaki's impressive GPZ600R in 1985. Also, controversial, all-enclosing bodywork quickly prompted a nickname of the 'jellymould'. None of that hinted at how significant the CBR would become.
CBR stood for 'City Bike Racing', Honda's idea for a bike on which you could commute five days a week - then win races on at the weekend. They achieved that and more. The CBR won all nine rounds of 1987's inaugural AMA 600 Supersport series while, in the UK, the CBR600 Challenge crunched fairings like the no one-make series had since Yamaha's infamous Pro-Am seven years earlier.
But it was also much more than a racer - what impressed most was its versatility. Here was a bike just as happy winter commuting or touring Europe. What's more it was a Honda, used proven technologies and was the same price as the Kawasaki. With hindsight, there's no wonder it took off.
But if the brilliance was Honda's 'bike for all reasons' concept, the masterstroke was in successively keeping the CBR ahead of the growing 600 pack. Updates were timely; whole new models shifted goalposts. Honda kept getting it right.
The overall result was one of the most successful and popular bikes of all time. For over a decade it was consistently a best seller. Around 250,000 CBR600Fs, including the later, less successful aluminium-framed models, were sold in Europe between 1987 and 2006.
In doing so, it set the template for the class for a whole generation and touched the lives of virtually every current rider. Motorcycling today wouldn't be the same without the CBR600F.
(The above text was taken from Practical Sportsbikes Magazine. www.practicalsportsbikesmag.co.uk)
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