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2009 Honda CBR600RR First Impressions


by Marc Cantin ,

The all-around sportbike
Our recent trip to the Roebling Road Raceway allowed us to sample the new 2009 Honda CBR600RR, a major upgrade from the 2008 model, both on the road and the track. While the previous 600RRs focused on being the best street bikes in terms of ergonomics, torque and rider-friendliness, they were left in the dust on the tarmac as sharper rivals turned in faster lap times during comparison testing.

The new 2009 Honda CBR600RR, a significacnt upgrade from the 2008 model

For the past two years or so, high-performance sportbike buyers have been looking for the fastest machine on the track, based on various media comparisons. The 2008 CBR600RR was the winner in many of these tests and the 2009 iteration will no doubt follow suit.

The new 600RR marks a nice evolution, even just one year removed from a complete redesign in 2008. No complaints on the track, where the latest RR should be able to resume its lap-time domination thanks to a number of significant improvements, including:

. A larger yet more aerodynamic fairing design incorporating new, oval-shaped turn signals with translucent lenses and orange bulbs;

. New pistons and cylinder heads along with an improved exhaust system;

. Honda's Electronic Steering Damper (HESD);

. And, most importantly, the world's first electronically-controlled combined ABS for sportbikes.

Torque is up between 7,000 and 12,000 rpm, with a 3.5-percent boost at 10,000 rpm -- enough to make a real difference in the city, on the highway and on the track. Peak power remains at 120 horsepower but is now available at a low 13,500 rpm, which gives you an extra 2,500 rpm before hitting the ignition cut-off, allowing you to maybe eliminate a couple of gear changes between corners on the track.

Moreover, ergonomics are nearly identical to those of the CBR1000RR, which shouldn't discourage touring enthusiasts. On the track, the riding position perfectly suits the rider. One journalist, who stands well over 6 feet tall, completely let go of the left handlebar while leaned over far enough drag his right knee on the ground. Yes, Honda's smaller track monster still offers decent comfort on the street and on the track!

Handling on the track and the street were near perfect, the 600 reacting instantly to all inputs and the engine building revs nicely on hard acceleration.  The new C-ABS brakes were perfect, acting silently and transparently when you needed the help. Of course, some elements need further ironing out, like the under-seat exhaust which decreases mass centralization -- the new craze of technicians and riders that makes the bike more agile by allowing easier transitions.

In the meantime, the 2009 Honda CBR600RR looks like the benchmark in this highly-competitive segment, delivering impressive performance and a perfect riding position on the track, increased torque for friendlier riding dynamics in the city, a convincing power boost north of 10,000 rpm, typical Honda quality and decent seating for riders of all shapes and sizes.

Photo Credit : Rob O'Brien, Honda