The 1988CBR came in one of two color schemes: Fighting Red with Pearl Crystal
White or Medium Gray Metallic with Granite Blue Metallic , The "HURRICANE" logo
on both colors was red , The wheels were also red , The exhaust system was
4-into-1 , The serial number began JH2PC190*JM100001
Some motorcycles raise the bar. Others rewrite the rules. In the 1987 sportbike
game, Honda's CBR600F, better known as the 600 Hurricane, was clearly one of the
Introduced along with its big brother the CBR1000F, Honda's 600 Hurricane was a
revolution. The reason was clearly visible in the Hurricane's aerodynamic,
full-coverage bodywork. Less visible was the technological paradigm shift that
blew away every other middleweight sportbike on earth and forever changed the
way sportbikes were designed and built.
Honda engineers wrapped the Hurricane's engine and chassis in full-coverage,
interlocking bodywork for more than aerodynamic reasons. Beneath the Hurricane's
slick plastic skin, engine and chassis surfaces appeared unfinished, almost
industrial. Development dollars saved on hardware beautification were spent
instead on components that would redefine sportbike performance.
While the Hurricane's double-downtube, box-section steel-tube frame may have
looked plain, the balance of agility and stability provided by its 54.6-inch
wheelbase and racy 26.0-degree rake was beautiful. The Hurricane's trio of disc
brakes were the best in the business, and at about 450.0 pounds wet, the bike
was 20.0 pounds lighter than its nearest rival.
Power came from a dramatically oversquare, liquid-cooled, twin-cam in-line
four-cylinder engine. With half the cylinder and head castings of the 500
Interceptor's V-4 engine, the in-line CBR mill was less expensive to produce.
The Hurricane engine redlined at 12,000 rpm and cranked out 85 horsepower at
eleven grand—enough power to make the Hurricane the first 600cc sportbike to
cover a quarter-mile in under 11 seconds.
As the magazines of the day discovered, no other sportbike could match the
Hurricane's marvelously balanced, accessible mix of horsepower and handling at
any price, let alone the Hurricane's affordable sticker. The esteemed Cycle
magazine dubbed the Hurricane "The best Japanese motorcycle we have ever tested"
in its May, 1987 issue.
The Hurricane's humane ergonomics and compliant ride proved that track-sharp
handling didn't have to hurt anybody but the competition. Backed by Honda's
investment in one of the richest contingency programs in history, Hurricanes
filled club-racing grids all over America, launching 600 SuperSport racing into
the limelight as one of the most popular and hotly contested road-racing series
in the world.
Perhaps more powerful is the enduring and endearing nature of Honda's original
CBR concept: the same basic concept found in the current CBR600F4. Other ideas
have come and gone, but CBR600s have been the best-selling sportbike in America
since the original Hurricane. From rookie sport riders to 2000 Daytona 600
SuperSport winner Kurtis Roberts, no sportbike has ever provided such
exceptional versatility as Honda's revolutionary CBR600.
Superbike magazine review 1987
If pushed you could sum up ^1 Honda's CBR600 in just one |"l word —smooth.
Smooth Ul power, smooth handling and | J an undoubtedly smooth ■ shape. The CBR
presents a performance package that's not just rounded— it's bloody spherical.
It offers a licence shredding 140-mph with 50mpg economy and handling sweeter
than a field of candy floss. All this from a bike that has its roots firmly
planted in the fields of traditional motorcycle design. No fancy engine layouts,
just a basic motorcycle that has been painstakingly refined to unleash
previously unrealised potential. In fact there's nothing particularly new in
essence about any part of theCBR600.
The engine's a conventional in-line-four, the frame's derived from the VFR 750
and the suspension could have been grafted off any one of a number of bikes. The
only innovation relevant to the CBR is its unprecedented level of achievement.
Every aspect of the Honda's performance is better, or at least equal to, any of
its similar sized siblings — including the much vaunted GPZ600.
The fact that it has taken Honda nearly two years —an eternity in Japanese
motorcycling terms to come up with a suitably superior design, says quite a lot
for Kawasaki s design prowess. It also speaks volumes about the public's
acceptance, and Honda's further interest, towards their V4 engine design when
you consider that the big Aitch have reverted to a conventional layout in order
to achieve their goal. With the arrival of the CBRs, Honda's claimed commitment
to the V4 looks like it's gone down the tubes faster than a bowl of greased
sushi. A race proven spin-off (though I can't remember the NR 500 ever winning
any races) that has lost its momentum and will no doubt stop altogether before
The reasons for this reversion to a more orthodox engine design are
all-too-obvious when you look at how the V4 lump has fared in its short-lived
existence. The biking public, however short-changed in the grey matter
department, have memories that rival an elephant's when remembering past
mechanical misdemeanours of a particular marque.
Thus, although the inherent problems are now mostlysolved, if one such lump had
been fitted to the CBR (apart from playing havoc with the Jap's system of model
acronyms) it would have burdened the bike with a questionable pedigree and could
have jeopardised their performance on the showroom floor. Once a punter's had
his fingers burnt as savagely as with the early VFs, he's going to be somewhat
circumspect about letting himself in for a second dose of similar problems—
however remote the factory may claim the possibility to be.
So it seems that the CBR has been designed to short-circuit any past memories of
Honda's mechanical shortcomings and to reassure doubtful purchasers that Honda's
new design is purely more of what they (the punters) already love and
But however conventional the concept of the CBRs may at first appear, you can
bet your bottom silver dollar that there's been some pretty unconventional hours
spent poring over the design brief in order to deliver the required balance of
performance and price.
Honda used two routes of development to achieve the desired GPZ-beating
performance. Although the engine is in a relatively high state of tune, there
must have been the temptation to tweak the lump so high it almost chirped.
This situation was knocked on the head when it was realised that it could lead
to an unwanted and potentially ruinous headache of more warranty claims. So in
order to achieve the consistently high level of performance they required, Honda
developed a superior system of aerodynamics.
Thus, however cute and cuddly the CBR's rounded edges and soft bulges may appear
at first, they're not just a styling exercise, but the result of Honda's
extensive research into creating the most efficient design possible within the
constraints of noise, power and comfort required to produce the new class
Apart from the aerodynamic angle, the all-enclosing bodywork manages to kill a
couple of other problem birds with the same solitary stone. Whilst undoubtedly
improving the airflow over the bike and rider, the extensive plastic also
removes the costly problems of tarting up the engine for public display, and
keeping noise emissions to a level acceptable to the ever-hungry government
Although it has been mooted that the CBRs weren't the first bikes to use this
concept of fully enclosed engines, I reckon that Honda's need for the plastic
veil is far greater than their Italian cousin's. If you take a look under the
sides of a CBR and then do the same to a Paso, you'll see what I mean. Under the
Honda's flanks lurks a powerplant with enough external plumbing to satisfy even
the most tripped-out Heath Robinson junkie, whereas the Duke looks almost as
pretty with or without its sides in place such is its classic design.
Just as the exterior of the CBR's engine is rather unsightly, the inside is
mechanically beautiful. Large, unrestricted spaces are apparent on either side
of the forward-inclined engine, all engineered to offer the least resistance to
air flowing into and out from the 12,000rpm redlined engine, and assist in the
engine's overall efficiency.
These internal aerodynamic refinements are joined by a plethora of mechanical
revisions, which together create one of the sweetest mills on the market. In
order to reduce the engine's power loss from internal friction and inertia,
Honda have studied every component, shaving each one down to give the finest
balance of performance and reliability. Nowhere is this development more
apparent than when you look at the width of compression rings on the CBR's
lightened pistons at just 0.8mm wide they could hardly be called wasteful. Other
changes include individual rocker arms and waisted valve stems running in
lighter valve springs, which it has been possible to use as a result of the
substantially lightened valve train.
The decision to return to an in-line-four powerplant must have heralded a
massive sigh of relief from Honda's frame designers. As, although the V4 was an
efficient design in isolation, its top heavy weight biasing — a result of having
two separate heads and valve gear — caused all kinds of weight distribution
problems for them to try to cover up.
The CBR's conventional, compact, short-stroking engine has allowed the frame
designers to mount the engine very low in the diamond frame, without restricting
ground clearance. This in turn has kept the bike's overall height as low as
possible which has had various beneficial knock-on effects.
The first of these is that the rider can now sit "in" rather than "on" the
bike's seat, thereby keeping as much of his/her anatomy tucked in out of the
wind and maintaining the high level of aerodynamic efficiency. The other benefit
of the low-slung engine is that it has lowered the CBR's overall centre of
gravity, thereby creating a very compact and quick-handling machine.
Riding the CBR crystallises Honda's homework into a statement of performance and
efficiency that underscores their commitment to building the ultimate road
sports bike. In the light of the extreme demands placed upon the CBR you could
be forgiven for expecting a bike with a racer-hard ride and an engine with
merely a trace of low end power. It's the very fact that the CBR hasn't either
of these traits that makes it so exceptionally attractive to any size and style
The handling, power and general civility contrive to inspire confidence and
tempt you to explore its almost unlimited fun capacity.
The bike's user friendly appeal starts from the moment you hit the starter
switch — the plumbing humming into life with all the drama of a cancelled opera.
This civility continues up to around 5000rpm, whereupon the exhaust emits a very
satisfying howl (reminiscent of the 400-4's) as the engine's stable door is
smashed open and 83 very well-fed horses make a dash for freedom via the
four-into-one's single orifice. You're really going to have to plead provocation
if you get stopped on this one. With over 140mph on tap and a fairing that makes
cruising at highly reprehensible speeds seem quite normal, you're going to get
plenty of practice explaining the joys of motorcycling to the jam sarnie brigade
if you tempt fate too often.
Apart from helping the engine push the CBR up to an oversuited, chin-on-tank,
speedo-indicated 145mph, the bike's efficient aerodynamics endow the Honda with
the ability to return truly astounding fuel consumption figures. Just under
50mpg was the lowest figure we recorded in the whole two weeks of thrashing the
CBR senseless to, from and on the test track. Truly impressive figures for any
bike, let alone a hyper sports 600. Rider protection afforded by the bodywork
was also good considering the sporting orientation of the CBR. Even the rider's
hands and feet are relatively well protected a luxury not available on some
bikes marketed as tourers.
Despite the CBR's light weight, it has been fitted with three of the best disc
brakes to be found on virtually any make of bike — Nissin four piston calipers
biting onto three heavily drilled discs. This set-up allows the 600 to stop
almost as fast as it accelerates. It was this trait in particular that I was
deeply grateful for when I was confronted with slow thinking, quick talking Mrs
Myopia pulling out of a side junction on the way back from the test track.
Avoiding tactics were out of the question, so all I could do was slam on the
brakes and hope for the best. The bin turned out to be a small dent in the CBR's
lustrous plasticwork, not a scratch on yours truly, but a large amount of grief
for the attempted murderess in her metallic box. I'm sure that if I'd been
riding almost any other bike I'd still be walking with the aid of crutches.
The brakes are so powerful and controllable you can keep them on the brink of a
full lock-up situation and still not lose control of the bike.
The CBR's streamlining has even extended as far as the rear view mirrors which,
whilst having all the attraction of a pair of melted wellies, are quite superb
in informing the rider of other banzai pilot's attempts to pass the Honda's
slippery flanks — something few bikes can achieve due to the unerring neutrality
of the Honda's handling.
This agility and stability are another result of theCBR'sthorough refinement
programme. Via the use of heavily drilled discs and light weight
wheels, Honda have been able to keep the CBR's unsprung mass to an absolute
minimum, thereby creating what is without a doubt one of the best handling
production bikes ever to have made it to our murky shoresi The only criticism in
the chassis department was that the forks felt slightly overdamped in normal
This foible could no doubt be ironed out by showing the CBR to a racetrack, but
for everyday usage a modicum of air and/or oil changes should sort the forks out
once and for all. Apart from this small glitch, the Honda negotiated everything
I could throw at it with nary a squirm from the fat Dunlops mounted on the CBR's
S-section spoke 17in wheels.
As you might have ascertained by now, I was very impressed with Honda's new
entry for the middleweight crown — a claim I think it justly deserves. The only
possible doubt that can be cast over its plastic livery, is just how long the
CBR will be able to retain this heady status?
Early reports of the cheaper FZ600 have shown that it excels in the handling
department, but lacks the engine refinement of either the CBR or GPZ. Whilst
these rough edges won't bother the dark visor and taped knee brigade it could
ultimately detract from the FZ's marketability something the CBR excels at. As,
although it's unquestionably a sportsbike, first and foremost, the Honda is far
more domesticated than the Yamaha, and thus, warranty claims allowing, may have
a wider appeal.
Whether or not this will prove to be the case is something I'm looking forward
to finding out in the near future. But until then don't hold your breath the CBR
is one beaut of a bike that should give any other 600 a good, if not better, run
for your hard earned ackers. PD