Motorsports Network Road Test
1999 Honda CBR600 FR Road Test

1999 Honda CBR600 F4

Just twist the throttle - you won't believe it's a 600!
Amazing, incredible, this can't be a 600. These are some of the thoughts that may come to mind the first time you flick Honda's new F4 into a corner or wick it through the gears. For 1999, the Japanese manufacturers have pulled out the stops, once again, to redefine the performance envelope for 600cc sportbikes. Honda's all new contender, the 1999 F4, is no exception to the rule.

The liquid-cooled DOHC 16 valve engine is completely redesigned and features an oversquare bore and stroke of 67mm x 42.5mm. The intake tracks are angled at 40 degrees which helps contribute to a claimed 5 percent increase in power.

The RC45 inspired cylinder sleeves are made of aluminum composite and impregnated with ceramic and graphite for longer wear and better heat dissipation. Sliding within these sleeves are aluminum alloy pistons. Feeding air to the new lighter 36.5mm carbs is a new two stage ram-air system said to precisely balance air pressure within the carb floats and vacuum chambers. All this air passes through a new airbox with an increased volume of 6.5 liters. Spark is provided by four transistorized ignition coils controlled by an electronic ignition with 3-D mapping.

The new diamond-type aluminum twin tube frame shaves 15.4 pounds while offering increased rigidity. The aluminum swingarm passes through both the frame downtubes and the rear of the engine aiding overall handling and high speed stability.The 3.5" front wheel (5.5" rear) is mounted to a larger (43mm) fork with a 12mm wider span for added rigidity. Suspension components are fully adjustable and the adjusters are easy to get at. The 296mm front brake disks are grabbed by four-piston clad calipers fitted with sintered pads.The single rear disc measures 220mm.

All these new components combine flawlessly to create one stunning motorcycle, one which offers up huge doses of performance, comfort and excitement. Honda is known for building sport bikes that try to be all things to all riders. In the case of the F4, however, they took a definite bias towards sport. Gone is the traditional full bodywork, replaced by minimal panels leaving much of the bike exposed like its big brother the 900RR. You'll also find a smaller wind screen and less protection from the elements than previous F models. All this leads to a bike offering more character than previous models which were often characterized as exceptional yet lacking in character.

Around town, the F4 is easy and fun to ride. It carbeurates well, feels light and manageable, and draws great attention, at least in it's sexy bright yellow bodywork. There's lots of leg room, a comfortable yet firm seat and bars that allow a bit of an upright position. The positioning, shape and function of the controls are first class and add to the bikes overall comfort.

On the open road the F4 is quite comfortable with the only distraction being a bit of vibration through the bars and pegs. The shock and fork springs are on the soft side; damping is quite stiff.  This produces a taught and sometimes harsh ride. The track bred body work does a masterful job of flowing the wind blast around the rider, but that's all it does. The envelope punched out is no bigger than the rider so all the indirect wind swirls reach the rider making for cold going in Winter. The flat angled windshield was also clearly designed for track time, not for the street. As speeds increase you'll find lots of wind pushing at your neck and shoulders unless you tuck into the small envelope of still air provided by the windscreen. This combined with the relatively stiff seat are the only elements that will distract you on longer rides. This bike is clearly less comfortable on the open road than it's do-everything predecessors, yet it's sporting abilities are exceptional.

As mentioned earlier, the new F4 was designed with a distinct bent for sport riding and this is where the bike turns on it's magic - and in a big way. Handling is extremely stable and the bike hooks up like a train on tracks. The F4 is completely neutral in corners, a street-going sport riders dream come true. Choose any line you like and it will comply. Want to change lines mid corner, no problem. Brake mid corner and the bike continues in a neutral manner.

The front end sticks so well mind you, we wore the rear tire faster than the front. This led to our increasing front preload to get more weight on the rear to reduce wheel spin upon exiting corners hard on the gas.

The brakes on the F4 are simply flawless for street riding. They're extremely strong and have the best feedback of any bike we've ridden to date - bar none. We often found ourselves braking much earlier than necessary on back roads and, for fun, locking up both brakes and sliding to a stop around town. There's a lot of fork dive under hard braking, due to the bikes soft springs, but it just doesn't seem to affect the bikes handling as we expected it to. The package is so competent that it will accommodate any type of riding style. Like to brake hard then flick the bike into the corner? No problem. Like to trail the brakes into and through corners? Again, no problem.

But what's a stellar chassis without a smooth and rocketship like engine to power it? The new F4 engine is smooth, compliant and exciting to wring out as it produces a pleasing to the ear growl. It produces good low to mid range power, and a 750 like rush of power from about seven grand on up. How many 600s do you know of that will easily wheelie through 3rd gear? Just keep shifting, and the F4 keeps digging down deep to produce massive acceleration for a 600. The only caveat here is that the power surge weakens a bit from 12 grand to redline, which may rattle the boys on the track who need every rev they can get. It's simply no concern for street use where most riders will find themselves. This commendable engine performance coming from a test bike that had already seen track time complete with footpeg melt down from cornering. Scraping the pegs was not something we found ourselves doing on the street.

The seating position on the F4 is good for tall and short riders alike. The bars aren't so low they cause tremendous weight to be placed on your wrists and the bar angle seems more natural than in the past - no awkward inward wrist bend. One very nice, and easy to miss, feature is the bar weights which actually rotate the same direction as the throttle. How many times have you turned the throttle on a bike and found your self trying to turn the fixed bar weight at the same time? This is a very smart design, no more glove polished bar weights.

If we had to nit-pick our previously track tested F4, our list would include a bit too much vibration through the bars and especially the pegs, a tranny that felt a little sloppy for a Honda, occasional missed shifts from first to second, and steady mirrors that should offer a better view directly behind. Everything else is to love on the 99 F4. If your thinking of purchasing an F4 keep the following in mind.

The F4s overall package is so good that's it's damn hard to make it do anything wrong on the street. It will make you appear to be a better rider than maybe you actually are. If you can't ride this bike well, you simply can't ride well. There are simply no viable excuses when riding Honda's new F4.

Lots More F4 Info And Photos!

Honda: 1999 CBR600F4
Quick Specs: Ratings:  Poor Fair Good V/Good Excellent
Displacement: 599cc, inclined 4-cylinder Acceleration                   10
Drive:   6-speed, 525 chain Brakes                   10
Fuel Capacity:   4.5 Gal. (.8 reserve) Carburetion                 9  
Fuel Mileage:  mpg Comfort (overall)                 9  
Fuel Range:  140 miles Comfort (touring)               8    
Susp. Front: 43mm Telescopic, adjustable preload, compression, rebound Finish (quality)                 9  
Susp. Back: Pro-Link, adjustable preload, compression, rebound Handling (overall)                   10
Tire Front: 120/70 - ZR17 radial Stability (handling)                   10
Tire Back: 180/65 - ZR17 radial Suspension (overall)                 9  
Weight:   Dry - 373 lbs.

Fun Factor

                9  
Retail (US): $7,899

Overall Rating

                  9.5

 

Ups Downs
Excellent handling Missed shifts 1st to 2nd
Excellent and useable power A bit too much vibration
Excellent headlight .
Easy to read gauges .
Suspension adjusters easy to get at .

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