A Surprise from Honda
RC51 MSRP: $10,999.00
I didn't take any pic of the RC51, because to me, it appears unchanged. Honda claims that the windscreen has been redesigned and the swingarm has been lengthened 16mm. When I sat on one the '00 Show, I said that seating position and tank made it fell "big and bulky". Even after shaving weight from numerous components, it still has a dry weight of 430 pounds.
Still, keep in mind, I have not rode several of the bikes I'm reporting on and this is merely a "stationary, seat of the blue jeans" viewpoint. Like other V-Twin sportbikes, the RC51 is a bike that requires a certain preference in riding style and performance. Claiming the 2002 AMA championship means very little now, with liter bikes from the other manufacturers joining the fray. I personally find it hard to believe that Honda will be able to hold off these new 1000cc bikes like they did the 750s. That's not to say that Honda doesn't have the financial and R&D resources to easily prove me wrong.
CBR954RR MSRP: $10,599.00
Several changes have been made to the 954, but I'm not quite sure who they are trying to appeal to or compete with. A new headlight configuration has a single, central H7 low/high beam surrounded by two additional H7 high beams and the tail light has been changed to one with LEDs.
The bike feels slightly lighter then the claimed 370 pounds, but not by much. It has a very comfortable seating position. It seems to feel like it's seating is a tad more aggressive or "sporting" then the Kawasaki 9R. It's the 9R that I feel would be the 954's direct competition. Neither the 954 or the 9R really compares to the R1 or GSXR 1000, yet it appears that at least Honda is trying with the 954's claimed 154 HP, which is more than I can say for KHI.
CBR600F4i MSRP: $8,199.00
Interestingly, the F4i weighs the same as the 954. Still, the F4i makes for a good all around riding 600. It won't be left in the dust by the other 600s, but on a good set of twisties, it might be towards the back of the pack when compared to the other manufacturers' similar offerings of the R6, GSXR 600 and Kawasaki's new 636.
CBR600RR MSRP: $8,599.00
Here what I call Honda's "Big Surprise". At least it was to me, but I don't really keep a close eye on the latest 600 class news and rumors. Available in March '03, the new CBR600RR raises the bar on it's competition. Though it has the same dry weight as it's F4i brother, there are numerous differences.
Starting off with the RR's larger front forks (45mm vs. 43mm) and front rotors (320mm vs. 296mm). The RR's rake angle is the same as the F4i's, but the trail is a single mm less (95mm vs. 96mm). The RR's wheelbase is also longer (54.7" vs. 54.5") and it's seat height is slightly taller (32.3" vs. 31.7"). Sadly, Honda did not have a CBR600RR available to sit on. The only one there was on a revolving display.
There are several other internal changes as well. The RR has a dual stage fuel injection and what they call a "three dimensional" ignition mapping. Swft might be able to tell us what that means, but I don't have a clue. Honda has this on all of their sportbikes.
Other differences were easier to spot. The underseat exhaust is said to be inspired from their RC211V MotoGP bike. It might look trick and function well, but I see it as a potentially pricey proposition (if not impossible) if one's interested in changing to an aftermarket exhaust system. Even if it's a slip on.
How the CBR600RR will stack up to the ZX-6RR, 636, R6 and GSXR 600 is anyone's guess. If I was a betting man, I'd think that this offering from Honda will have little trouble in dealing with the Gixxer and maybe even the R6. The 636 might be a more of a challenge, but it might take more than just the additional displacement to put the Honda down. As for the ZX-6RR (which probably won't be as easily obtainable as the Honda), that could be a completely different story.