The Honda CBF600S is a bike for all seasons, and all riders. Well, that’s what Honda reckon and they’ve certainly put together an appealing package of 600cc engine, easygoing handling, plus optional ABS braking and a pillion seat which can actually accommodate a normal sized person. Nice one.
But is the nicey-nicey Honda enough to compete with top value rivals like the Suzuki Bandit, SV650S, Kawasaki Z750, Honda’s very own Hornet or the Yamaha FZ6? Alastair Walker takes a ride on the mild side of life.
We get emails from many bikers at insidebikes, all asking the same question; I’ve just passed my test, which bike should I buy? Obviously, the logical answer is mine, and you should expect to pay £15,000 for it…with no guarantee whatsoever. But back in the real world, I usually recommend someone spends a year on a used Kawasaki ER500, CB500 Honda twin, or perhaps a 600 Bandit or SV650 Suzuki.
There are loads of reasons for recommending such machines, but the key factors are decent performance, reasonable insurance costs, rider comfort and they’re generally very reliable, requiring just one major service per riding season.
But some people want something brand new, which is fine because if you don’t know what you’re doing in the shark pool of used bike dealing, then you may well end up with someone else’s dodgy, badly maintained wreck. Brand new bike equals depreciation for sure, but there’s the peace of mind that the 2 year warranty offers and the bike feels spot-on, so you feel confident that everything works 100%.
This Honda CBF600S is aimed at that very type of biker, or perhaps the `born again’ who last threw a leg over a GPz600 Kawasaki, or perhaps a Honda CB750 back in the 80s. If you fall into that category, you will right at home on the CBF600S.
In truth, the first bike that sprang to my mind when I buzzed along the A442 near Bridgenorth on this CBF600S was my old CBX750F from the mid 1980s. Same `sit-up-straight-boy’ riding position, same 70-ish bhp lunge, with most power above 6,000rpm and the very comfortable half fairing which the CBX used to have too, plus the proper dashboard display. The CBF600S really does have all-round class; it gets on with the job in a laid back kinda way.
But this more than a `beginners’ bike; I could easily get on this CBF600S tomorrow and ride it to Barcelona, even two-up. In fact there’s optional luggage and heated grips available too. Or just razz along the lanes of Staffordshire on a sunny Tuesday evening, when the entire county’s Police are all happily staking out the local biker roads, in Operation I-Don’t-Like-Your-Face.
There again, the CBF600S is nice to ride along the motorway to work and once you squeeze the mirrors through the gaps in traffic, its steady power makes the daily commute less painful. This is a well packaged, top value bike you don’t have to make excuses for – until you get off it and look at the styling – Oh dear. What the hell were they thinking? I mean, there’s bland and then there’s just plain dull, which I think this bike definitely is. The CBF600 has none of the style that a Z1000 Kawasaki, a Bandit 600 or even a Honda Hornet 600 for me. Even a budget machine can look good when styling departments try, for example I reckon the Kymco Stryker 125 actually looks pretty decent, but Honda gets the wooden spoon on this one.
So does the indifferent styling matter? Only a novice biker (or a BMW owner) could ask that question with a straight face. All motorcycling now is fashion as much as performance; every hi-tech boot we creak around in, each carbon armoured glove we stuff into £400 helmets. Every facet of the leisure biking lifestyle is a bit of a pose if we’re honest.
But all this `fashion victim’ nitpicking shouldn’t undermine how capable the CBF600S is out on the road. Its twin disc brakes – adorned with expensive ABS anti-lock system – scrub off speed without upsetting the soft front forks too much. It tips into corners with an adroit precision that masks its 200 kilo weight very well. When you wind the thing up to 10,000 revs, it moves fast enough to get you banned and jailed in Blair’s brave new Britain.
What’s more, the thing sips fuel like a Yorkshireman waiting for someone else to buy the next round. On motorways, at 70-80mph, the four carbs meter their vapour at around 50mpg – a welcome contrast to the 40mpg I get from my own VFR800 at similar speeds.
Apart from unpleasant vibration at about 5500rpm, the CBF600S was incredibly easy to live with. The bike does everything you want without any fuss and you have to feel confident that the four cylinder 600cc motor is going to last well. The CNF600S is a bit like Budweiser I guess – not my fave beer, but I’ll drink it all night if it’s on a happy hour deal…
I liked the CBF600S, I honestly did. You can’t ask for too much from £5000 motorbikes. Yet it does most things very well, better than many of its rivals in fact. It looks better finished than the Hornet 600, or the SV650S Suzy – I think you could buy this bike, keep it for 2 years and not lose more than say £1500, which these days, isn’t too bad.
Yet the fact is, riding a middle-of-the-road bike is OK, until something fast, cool and sexy goes past – then you realise that life on a Ducati Monster, or a Kawasaki Z750, or a funky retro like the GSX1400 Suzuki, would be really, genuinely, wildly exciting. Once you’ve learned skills on the CBF600, built up some no claims bonus, then I’d say buy yourself something you’ve dreamed about, wished for and longed to own.
That addictive passion is what keeps most of us on two wheels, despite the hassles of biking and it’s also what’s missing from this bike, as functional and pleasant as it undoubtedly is.
Get Honda motorbike insurance for the honda cbf600s.
Engine……….599cc transverse, four cylinder, four stroke, DOHC, liquid cooled
Bore x Stroke……….65 x 45.2mm
Peak Power……….76bhp @ 10,500rpm
Torque……….62ftlb @ 5000rpm
Carbs……….34mm x 4
Frame……….Steel spine, engine as stressed member
Front suspension……….Non adjustable 41mm forks
Rear suspension……….Monoshock, adjustable for preload only
Front Wheel/Tyre……….120/70 ZR17 in
Rear Wheel/Tyre……….160/60 ZR 17in
Front brake……….Twin 296mm discs, 4 piston callipers, plus ABS anti-lock braking
Rear brake……….Single 240mm disc, 2 piston calliper
Fuel Capacity……….19 litres
Colours……….Silver or dark blue
Fuel gauge……….No, warning light on dash
Screen adjustment ……….Yes, by 50mm – hexagonal spanner needed
Accessories……….Top box, panniers, heated grips, alarm available
Estimated Fuel Consumption……….45mpg average
Estimated Top Speed……….125mph
Price……….June 2004 – £5199 OTR
Warranty……….2 years unlimited mileage