It's been a busy time for the 2005 Honda CBR600RR. Loads of tyres and loads more power makes a man as happy as Larry
2005, a year in the life of...
I’ve just about gone as far as I can with the CBR. Anything further would either be shamelessly unnecessary or vastly expensive. I feel like the few changes I’ve made have taken what lord Honda delivered to me and enhanced the standard bike.
The brakes were too soft so I fitted Fren Tubo braided lines and stronger Carbon Lorraine pads. The power was too soft so I fitted the excellent Arata titanium system and filled the small underseat area with Dynojet boxes, all to get the maximum smoothness and power from the stock motor (see below). I’ve rattled through nine sets of tyres of ever increasing stickiness as the summer wore on and found the CBR cared little what boots it wore, so long as they gripped it turned. As the tyres got better it needed a steering damper to calm the bars down but apart from that everything is cool.
What else would I do? Nothing really. The standard chassis and suspension feels perfect to me. I’m well aware that you can keep making a bike better and no doubt some clever re-valving of the forks would give me better feel and turn-in for corners on the track. But what the great lord H gaveth was enough for the rate I ride at.
A couple of days riding our long term ZX-6R and R6 proved to me all I needed to know about the differences between the CBR and it’s main rivals. It might lose out a smidgeon of low to mid-range power (although less since the Arata exhaust) and Honda’s CBR600RR seat-making department clearly also make plastic seats for football stadiums. Apart from that the CBR’s rivals are both lardy-arsed boats as far as I can tell. While the Yam and Kawasaki are trying hard to be more things to more men (a smidgeon more power, more comfort and more wind protection) the Honda is concentrating on being the best sports bike it can be. At the time of writing I’m contemplating persuading my SuperBike compatriots that one more trackday together would be a great idea (and a great way of proving my point about the CBR as well).
I’m pretty pleased with the dyno charts. The three graphs show standard bike and exhaust (102.6bhp@13,450rpm), with the Arata system bolted on (111.7bhp@13,500rpm) and finally with Power Commander adjustments to the fuelling (113.3bhp@13,700rpm).
From 2,500 to 3,500rpm the trendy dip in power has been reversed, beyond that there’s little in it apart from a steady and inexorable separation between the graphs. You can see the effect of just bolting the pipe on, adjusting the fuelling also has helped it rev further and longer.
Modifications done: Dynojet Power Commander, quick shifter and ignition module, Arrow steering damper, tyres, oh lovely tyres
Nothing quite affects a bike like changing the tyres and the CBR has come a long way since the OE Dunlop D218s were ditched. Super sticky tyres might seem a big load of money for relatively low mileage but they fundamentally change the level of commitment you can use with a bike in a corner and on a bike like this that’s a massive bonus. For me the biggest difference is braking into corners and how much corner speed I can carry. Grippy tyres can often affect the handling of a stock bike, with its relatively soft suspension, but the CBR is undaunted and I encourage you get out there and try some (if you haven’t already).
This month it’s the turn of Metzeler’s Racetec treaded and Racetec slick tyres. The treaded type famously adorn all bikes in the British Superstock championship as a control tyre and the Northpoint Honda duo of Craig Jones and Cal Crutchlow have been using (and helping develop) them in British Supersport too. The slicks are aimed at club racers and track day riders but differ from normal race slick by being virtually identical to the treaded Racetec (in profile, compounds and available sizes).
The verdict is both types are confidence inspiring and trustworthy, with no hidden surprises in terms of side grip in corners or when getting on the power. Turn in is easy and a touch softer than more road-biased tyres, which can make the steering feel a little slower. The warm up time is fast which is important on track days too but, as I said first off, the biggest difference is how much corner speed I can carry. The only real difference I could tell you between the treaded and slick is the treaded rear was more likely to slide, no doubt because of the tread pattern breaking up the contact patch. It was all very predictable but I didn’t feel anything from the slick at all. I’ve also fitted an Arrow steering damper. Generally the CBR doesn’t need one I don’t think, definitely for normal road riding, but all this soft tyre testing I’ve had one or two moments when it would have helped. Certain corners on certain tracks make the bars waggle and I had one incident when the pads were knocked back in the calipers. The Arrow damper requires a 3mm hole drilling for a locating pin under the steering head bolt and bracket but apart from that it couldn’t easier to fit.
The Arata exhaust delivered the single biggest power hike I think I’ve ever seen on a bike now I’ve finally got it on dyno. The £900 Arata titanium system produced nearly a ten bhp rise over the stock pipe to 111bhp @ 13,500rpm. With the skilled labour Mark at BSD Motorcycle Developments, setting up the fuelling correctly with a Power Commander, we ended the day with a nice 113bhp @ 13,700rpm (it may well have been more if the temperature hadn’t been so high in the dyno room by then).
Arrow Steering damper (B&C Express 01522 794262 www.bandcexpress.co.uk) Arata Exhaust (Faster by Design 01388 773322 www.fastbydesign.co.uk) BSD Motorcycle developments (Dynos, Power Commanders and general highly skilled motorcycle cleverness 01733 223377) Dynojet Power commander, quick shifter (www.dynojet.co.uk 01995 600500)
It’s been a busy time on the CBR6, not least in the tyre department of SuperBike’s lock up. I’ve switched the Avon Vipers for a set of Pirelli Diablo Corsas left over from our tyre test (see the flashing banner on the home page). The Diablos are a good base setting tyre, which makes them a good reference point straight after the Avon’s. There’s little between the two as both have a neutral effect on the CBR’s handling and deliver a confidence inspiring foot print in the wet or dry. There’s little more to say about either of them than that. Both are reasonably priced, last well and are good enough for track use.
Next up were some Michelin Pilot Race, which, by comparison to the previous road tyres, make the CBR feel like it’s on slicks. The feeling of grip from them is top notch, particularly from the front. Legend has it Colin Edwards once tried the Pilot Races after a day tyre testing and declared that was exactly what he wanted for the front of his MotoGP bike. Despite the obvious track bias they are road legal and seem fine during the summer, but you have to bear in mind they are a performance tyre first and a road tyre second.
Apart from huge levels of grip the other plus point is the quick warm up time. It’s usual on a trackday to do two, often three warm-up laps before letting rip but the Pilot Races feel like they need no more than a lap, which is a confidence boost and a half (I should say, by way of a disclaimer, don’t come crying to me if you bin it after a lap, at least two laps is still wise). The down-side is all that softness means they wear quickly. I managed two trackdays from them before that road legality had vanished. Still, they come highly recommended from me (and Colin).
The Arata exhaust delivered the single biggest power hike I’ve ever seen on a bike. The £900 Arata titanium system has ‘hand-crafted pipes to create longer and smoother bends, allowing more flow and increased torque at low and mid-range while producing higher top-end horsepower gains’ – so says the press blurb. Simply bolting it on produced nearly a ten bhp rise over the stock pipe to 111bhp @ 13,500rpm. With the grateful and skilled labour of Mark Brewin at BSD Peterborough, setting up the fuelling correctly with a Power Commander meant we ended the day with a nice 113bhp @ 13,700rpm (it may well have been more if the temperature hadn’t been so high in the dyno room by then).
The real difference on the road is it now pulls from around 2,500rpm and is far more willing around the 4/5,000rpm mark which is just where it’s needed.
Like everything on the Honda CBR600RR the standard brakes are perfectly good enough. But after wearing down the stock pads after 3,000 miles (there was plenty of track riding among those miles) I figured ‘good enough’ wasn’t good enough.
Carbone Lorraine came up trumps with the SBK-5 sintered metal pad aimed at road and supersport use, the Diablo Corsa of brake pads, they claim plus:
High performance braking in wet and dry
Superb rider feel
Excellent lifetime, comparable or better than O.E.
Very low wear of disc
Ceramic coating on the back of the pad to reduce heat transfer to the brake fluid
They’re a superb upgrade from standard, particularly with braided steel hoses like those from French company, Frey Bentos. Sorry, Fren Tubos. I elbowed my way onto one of our test sessions and had Bob Gray data log just to see if sticky tyre, better pads and braided hoses make any difference. Earlier in the year I tested a stock bike and de-accelerated from 70mph at 9.61 m/s2 but with new pads and a new front tyre the CBR managed to stop at 9.97 m/s2. That represents a four per cent improvement. That doesn’t seem much but four per cent of 100metres is four metres (obviously) so If I only gained four metres at every heavy braking corner around, say Cadwell Park, I’m gaining 24metres, potentially.
It’s traditional for me to say “the only thing you really need to change on a modern sports bike is the shock” but I’m coming around to the idea that’s not true with the CBR600RR. After half a dozen track days I’m more than happy with the stock set up. I’m planning a trip to a suspension specialist but I’m fully aware there’s no point just pitching up and saying “my suspension needs sorting mate”, because the first thing I’ll get as a reply is “ what’s it doing wrong at the moment?” A question I could scarcely answer.
I suppose my only complaint is how hard the bike can feel for everyday use. The forks are fine and I leave them set as detailed below, come rain or shine, track or road. But the rear suspension is more difficult because it’s quite hard, particularly in the early part of the stroke. I took the trouble of setting off home one evening with the compression and rebound wound fully hard, stopping every few miles and turning the adjustor screws half a turn softer to see what difference it made. To cut a long story short, after about ten miles, I had the thing wound fully soft.
It’s still not quite right (the track focus of the CBR600RR doesn’t compromise much for pot holes, speed bumps and it’s been giving me back-ache) but that’s where it stays when I’m not on track now. Maybe more preload and the introduction of a little sag is the answer? Ignore the day to day stuff and the suspension does work just fine on the track. I tried going harder with the shock to stop it squatting under power (half a turn out from fully hard compression and rebound) but found that made the rear tyre work too hard.
So here are the settings I’ve ended up with; TRACK Front, rebound and compression one and a half turns out from hard with the preload as standard. Rear rebound and compression one and a half turns out from hard again with no adjustment to the preload. ROAD Front the same. Rear compression and rebound fully soft with no adjustment to preload.
Michelin (01782 401853 www.two-wheels.michelin.com)
Pirelli Diablo and Carbone Lorraine (Pirelli UK 0845 609949)
Arata and Fren Tubo (Faster by Design 01388 773322 www.fastbydesign.co.uk)
BSD (for Dynos, Power Commanders and general highly skilled motorcycle cleverness 01733 223377)