To put in all hands !
With the new CBF600, Honda is particularly targeting new bikers or those returning to motorcycling. Practicalities and ease of use have been the focus of attention, but the dream part has been preserved ? Test.
With the new CBF600, presented as a motorcycle accessible to all, Honda is particularly aimed at new bikers or those who return to the motorcycle after a long period of shutdown. Practicalities and ease of use have been the focus of attention, but the dream part has been preserved ?
On the four versions available – naked (N), faired (S), with or without ABS – we are testing the CBF 600S ABS here. The most expensive (7,500 €), of course, but certainly the most interesting because it is the one that best corresponds to its vocation as a motorcycle to do everything. And at this price level, competition is fierce: Kawasaki Z 750 at € 7,399, Yamaha FZ6 Fazer at € 7,451 () or Suzuki DL650 V-Strom at € 7,469 (…
Aesthetic judgments may be subjective, but this is not where the Honda makes the difference. Not that it is ugly or failed, but the CBF 600 does not trigger enthusiasm or curiosity among the bikers encountered during this test. More surprisingly, the finish is quite uneven: very pretty aluminum passenger footrest plates sit alongside the moderately adjusted plastics of the fairing and the visible joints of the mirrors are particularly unsightly..
Nothing catastrophic, but rather surprising on a Honda. Ditto equipment side: we find with pleasure a central stand (finally!) And hazard lights, but Honda persists in depriving us of gasoline gauge and places the starter at the carburetors, as in the good old days. When the saddle is raised, only the passenger seat is removable and the available space is rather rikiki: impossible to accommodate a U other than that offered by Honda. No tie-down hooks, but anchors for the optional luggage rack. A top-case and heated grips are provided as accessories. Honda is definitely playing it BMW in this area. But if the prices are up to par, it could be messy on an entry-level motorcycle !
By getting on the bike we discover something new in this category: like the Pan European, the driving position can be adapted according to the morphology of the driver. What has always seemed obvious in a car or on a bicycle, namely that a sturdy 6’8 ” does not sit like a 5’8 ” young lady, is only starting to be taken into account on motorcycles. We can therefore adjust the saddle vertically to a height of 30 mm and horizontally to 10 mm by using the supplied BTR key (as at Ikea!). It is neither simple nor quick, but in principle you only do it once. The handlebars can also move forward 10mm by flipping the brackets, a nice trick that doesn’t cost an extra euro, and the screen is adjustable by 50mm. But here again the adjustment is tedious, which is more open to criticism. Finally, let’s not sulk, it is really possible to find a good position, especially since the saddle, although hard, is very well designed. In fact these settings are mainly intended to make life easier for small riders, often badly off on modern motorcycles..
Once installed, a new yellow card for the dashboard which takes more or less the design of that of the Transalp, which does not make us any younger! The fuel gauge is forgotten and the engine temperature indicator is relegated to the far right, behind the gas cables, which makes it completely illegible. With the starter at the carburetors, good luck managing the cold engine, especially when you have tasted the benefits of injection in this area! Finally, the mirrors reflect the image of the pilot’s arms more than what is happening behind…
When starting, the clutch turns out smooth and progressive. The gears change effortlessly and quietly, this time for sure, we are on a Honda! Engine thrust is steady from low revs and it’s a pleasure to navigate the city. While the motorcycle is relatively heavy (202 kg dry), it is very easy to maneuver.
A1 motorway, direction Compiègne. The motor pushes in a linear fashion with a discreet but pleasant sound. No need to look for an angry second wind in high revs, because by reducing the power to 77 hp (instead of the 96 of the Hornet), the Honda technicians have flattened the torque curve and the power gradually reaches the revs. max. But this way of delivering performance without show off, like an invisible hand pushing you behind your back, is precisely a character trait of the 4-cylinder which has its charm, quite the opposite of the "potato" of the twin.
Evil tongues will be able to qualify this CBF as a lung or a soulless robot mixer, with its 77 small horses while the 600 often flirt with the 100. But let’s remember that less than ten years ago, with the same power, the Bandit 600 appeared to be a sporty roadster! In addition, many bikers will undoubtedly use this docile and well-trained engine more efficiently than a raging mill said to be "full of character" … Much more annoying, however: an unpleasant vibration occurs around 6000 rpm (130km / h in 6th). Suddenly, we naturally tend to seek refuge in illegal speeds (on the German portion of the A1). Especially since the protection is really excellent: the entire upper body is protected and the head is not subjected to much turbulence. No need to invest in a high bubble.
In the Ermenonville forest, a small straight road for several kilometers, bumpy and strewn with a good dose of gravel: the ideal place to test the ABS braking of the CBF! Because it is the other novelty of this motorcycle, a first for this category in this price range: it is equipped with an ABS. This is more of a marketing novelty than a technical one, since scooters like the Silverwing or the Piaggio X9 are already equipped for an equivalent price. But manufacturers hesitate, because bikers are rather reserved in the face of this driving assistance considered intrusive. Because for many diehards, accepting that ABS is useful would be recognizing that we do not know how to brake…
Let’s start by braking in a "normal" way, that is to say carefully considering the state of the road, the ambient humidity and the temperature close to zero. All flight school instructors know it: the average rider generally brakes well below the machine’s capabilities, quite simply by ignoring the grip limits. Which is quite normal on tricky ground. Noting the perfect stability of the machine, I decide to use the ABS properly, that is to say by grasping the brakes and applying fully! At the start, I did feel a few releases of the brake pressure, especially when going over bumps. It’s surprising but you must not relax and it decelerates quickly, very quickly! The motorbike remains in line until it comes to a complete stop. Often, in emergency braking, the fall occurs at the end, when the pressure should be released to avoid the blockage but, the obstacle approaching, the hand remains tight on the lever. With ABS, no problem: it brakes very dry at the end but the bike does not flinch. Quickly, I find myself doing several "death brakes" in complete relaxation. The system is really efficient and generates very little vibration in the lever and the pedal. Even the successions of bumps – a real nightmare for ABS developers! – do not fault it.
Finally, the question is not whether in absolute terms braking is more effective with or without ABS: on a circuit, a driver with his bearings will probably prefer braking without. But on the road, in an emergency and with poorly assessed grip, we will necessarily do much better with it. And freed from the fear of locking the front wheel, we will keep our cool to try to avoid it. A word of advice, however: find a proving ground to get used to applying the brakes fully and not be surprised by the braking variations generated by the system..
If only by its ABS, the CBF is therefore highly recommended for beginners because braking is undoubtedly the most delicate part of motorcycle riding. On the other hand, who will have driven with ABS only then be able to get used to conventional braking without putting themselves in danger? The question needs to be asked…
In terms of power and bite, the brakes are probably not the best in the class but they are surely the ones that the average rider will use most effectively. Finally, one can even wonder why Honda does not offer CBS combined braking with this ABS, as it does on larger displacement..
Around Compiègne, a few nice bends allow you to test the machine’s handling. The chassis, which uses the "backbone" chassis of the Hornet is very rigid and the bike does not wiggle in a turn. The surprisingly efficient fork erases inequalities well without softening. But the rear suspension is really tough. Honda is no longer talking about Prolink but Monoshock, and for good reason: there is no longer a link and the shock absorber directly attacks the swingarm. However, it is probably because of an unsuitable shock absorber problem that the rear bounces on bumps, causing loss of traction. Combined with the hard saddle, comfort is seriously compromised. Too bad, because it tarnishes a largely positive dynamic balance sheet.
Back on the motorway, the bike once again proves its good behavior at high speed: stability in sidewinds and good protection. You can really go far without fatigue, even at night thanks to the double optic which diffuses a powerful and well-distributed light. At the pump, the average consumption comes out at 7.2 l per 100. This is in the norm and the 19 liters of the tank provide an autonomy of about 250 km.
Several days of driving in Parisian traffic, in particular on the ring road and expressways, still make it possible to appreciate the benefits of ABS, in particular in these winter weather. Indeed, stuck in traffic, you can barely see the road and in the event of emergency braking, a car that disengages for example, which would be able to assess the level of grip of the road to adapt its braking? With ABS we know we can simply crush the handle and we will have done our best to avoid disaster. You gain a lot of serenity, even if you also have to be careful with overconfidence !
Finally, Honda was not wrong: the CBF 600 is indeed a motorcycle made to ride, not to be watched on a cafe terrace. It reminds a little of the Kawasaki ZR-7, which disappeared last year and not really replaced since. And despite an initial impression not particularly favorable, in use we get attached to this reliable, practical and efficient motorcycle. We can count on it and it can really be put in everyone’s hands. Because by changing the rear shock absorber for a good adaptable, you can even have a lot of fun on your handlebars. Too bad the details and appearance were not more careful, to preserve the famous part of the dream…
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