A Hornet with a fairing and a sting in the tail!

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Motorcycle road tests: Honda CBR600F and CB600 Hornet

In my previous column, I told you all about the test day with Honda’s new 2011 machines – but I had so much fun on the little CBR 125R that I ran out of room to tell you about the other models!

So, to remind you, I’d started on the 125 (fantastic fun), moved up to the CBR 250R (functional), and now it was time to hop on to the big boys’ toys.

First up, the CBR 600F. Originally introduced in 1987, it went on to become Honda’s biggest selling model of the 1990s.

This all new model was designed to bridge the gap between the middleweight nakeds and supersport machines and offer the best of both worlds – the style and excitement of a full-on sports bike, but with the comfort and practicality to make everyday riding and commuting comfortable.

By Honda’s own admission the CBR 600F is a Hornet with a fairing. It has also been described in the motorcycle press as a Hornet in a party dress.

Now, far be it from me to be the type of person to lower the tone, but I do like a hot babe in a dress – and boy does this one have nice legs!

It’s a good looking machine, sleek and with clean lines. A seat height of 800mm and higher handlebars than a supersport bike make for a pretty comfortable riding position – it’s not sit-up-and-beg, but you’re not in a full-on racing crouch either. It’s designed to take the worst of the weight off the rider’s wrists.

While it is a very comfortable bike, if I’m being totally honest I was starting to feel it in the wrists ever so slightly by the end of my test ride – but I could just have unusually short arms!

It’s a fantastically easy bike to ride. Its inline four cylinder, 599cc engine delivers a little over 100bhp, with a great throttle response and good, powerful, torquey delivery throughout the rev range but which won’t catch you unawares when you open it up.

Having already been on two bikes before this one, and in an area that I didn’t know at all, I suddenly found myself in the luxurious position of knowing exactly where I wanted to go on this machine.

I found some fabulous winding roads that saw the bike put through its paces a little bit, and everything it was asked to do, it did with aplomb – it brakes solidly, leans solidly and comes out of those bends solidly and you never feel like it’s running away from you.

It handles equally well in busy urban traffic, and is big and imposing enough with enough of a throaty roar in low gears and at high revs to muscle its way through the queues.

It really is a great machine and I had the most fantastic time on it. At least I thought I did. Because then I went out on the Hornet.

The Hornet is one of the most influential bikes in its class and I have heard, and read, only good things about it. Being fairly new to all this motorcycling malarkey, I have also been advised by those far more in the know than me that it is the ideal bike for a novice.

I really, really wanted to have a go on it to find out what all the fuss is about. I had a go on it, now I know what all the fuss is about, and now I really, really want a Hornet!

Whereas all the other bikes I tested were new models for this year, the Hornet has had tweaks made to the makeover it was given four years ago, with new rear styling, an updated instrument panel and new colour schemes. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

It uses a detuned version of the engine in the CBR 600RR – an inline four, 599cc effort that throws out 100bhp.

Being a naked, it has the looks and style that just scream ‘MOTORCYCLE’ at you! And that oozes out of every aspect of the Hornet.

It was only after I’d ridden the Hornet that I realised what was missing from the CBR600F I’d tested just before it.

Take all the good things from the 600F and add the fact that the Hornet is much lighter – but not ridiculously so – and that just makes it feel like it’s getting somewhere that little bit quicker, as well as inspiring a little more confidence in the twisties.

There really is nothing wrong with the 600F – it’s solid in every respect, a great machine to ride and will suit everyone from those new to motorcycling to those who are far more experienced. But solid is the key word there. As adjectives go, it’s a bit like reliable. Or dependable.

And as I mentioned before, it is essentially a Hornet with a fairing. And if you want all that solid, reliable dependability, but with just a little bit more of a fun, raw edge that makes you grin from ear to ear, then the Hornet has to be the way to go.

For more information on all Honda’s models visit their website at www.honda.co.uk/motorcycles

More information about getting on two wheels is available from the motorcycle industry’s campaign aimed at recruiting more new riders. For details visit www.geton.co.uk